Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Sharing Group Discussion on Blasphemy Laws

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The following was posted, by me, on The Sharing Group, on the 06th March 2016: “Considering developments in the Muslim world in the last few days, is there a place for blasphemy laws in a modern, secular state?  Are blasphemy laws in accordance to the values that the Prophet (s.a.w.) taught us?”

Brother Nick Orzech: I do not have an easy answer, but I will say that from my experiences, I have much greater respect for critical and scholarly rabbis in their approaches to religious law than I do for many of the fuquha’ these days.  My gut says no because the context is simply not there anymore and, frankly, that seems to be a part of the shari’ah that is contingent, in that it is subservient to the higher maqaswid which are simply not being met in many Muslim societies.  They say that only ‘urf rulings are subject to change with time but I find that to be a load of nonsense.  We do not need to throw out any of our texts and we should never ever do so, but we can be critical and scholarly in the way we study the diyn and assess how we can best work towards a just society based on the ideals of the faith.

Brother Christopher Santoro: Render unto Caesar …; the separation of church and state.  We should let secular societies determine what is best for them, and let religious organisations decide what is best for their own followers within a secular society.  Unless, of course, you believe that everybody must follow one specific religion, and only one specific branch of said religion, in which case there is nothing separating the two.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Perhaps we should define what exactly is blasphemy, and how the Prophet (s.a.w.) addressed it.

Brother Nick Orzech: I think a good parallel is the concept of apostasy and its associated rulings.  We all know what people like Shaykh ibn Bayyah and others have said about that, and even if a particular thing was considered blasphemy in the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) time, but it does not mean that it is the same in a modern context, just as apostasy is not a political act these days.  I guess a liberal interpretation of the source material would indicate actively preaching disobedience or rebellion against one of the parts of the orthodox creed.  Not simply private statements of belief to my understanding. Again, somewhat like treason or inciting stuff.

Brother Christopher Santoro: Agreed, but it is a fine line between secular laws that are beneficial for society overall, and religious laws that are not universally shared, or even necessary for a society to function.  For a very simple example, some religions prohibit eating pork, others prohibit eating beef, some have no prohibitions, and still others prohibit eating any kind of meat.  These dietary prohibitions, in my opinion, which play a role in religious belief systems, have no place in secular law.

Brother Domenyk Eades: Suppressing criticism on any matter not only provides the tools for corrupt religious leaders to manipulate public opinion, but also sends a message that Muslims are unable to defend their religion in an open environment.  It inculcates a mentality of “might is right”, which weakens the society morally and intellectually.  Having said that, I support limits on hate speech, i.e. the spread of propaganda against Muslims and other minorities, which is a separate issue.

Sister Shahbano Aliani: Shaykh Javed Ahmed Ghamidi says that there is no basis for a blasphemy law, or, in fact, an “islamic state” or a khilafah, or the imposition of shari’ah law.  I am not a scholar myself, but I do respect and defer to Shaykh Ghamidi’s opinion on many issues.

In terms of the sunnah, we know that the Prophet (s.a.w.) did not react with anger, hatred, abuse or violence when he personally faced such behaviour from others.  We are also told that when people abused him, and his companions asked him if they could retaliate, he forbade them from punishing such people. but we are also told that if one of his companions reacted with violence to such abuse towards his person, the Prophet (s.a.w.) forgave that companion.  Taking all this into consideration, it seems to me that a blasphemy law that punishes people, especially non-Muslims, for abusing the Prophet (s.a.w.) has little basis in the Qur’an and sunnah, and Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best.  But as Brother Domenyk Eades says, secular laws that protect freedom of speech must regulate hate speech and speech that incites violence.

Shaykh Javed Ahmad Ghamidi wrote, in his “Islam and the State: A Counter Narrative”, “It has been repeatedly pointed out by this writer that when in a Muslim society anarchy is created on the basis of religion, then the remedy to this situation is not advocacy of secularism.  On the contrary, the solution lies in presenting a counter narrative to the existing narrative on religion.”

He continued that the message of Islam is primarily addressed to an individual.  The directives it has given to the society are also addressed to individuals who are fulfilling their responsibilities as the rulers of Muslims.  Hence, it is baseless to think that a state also has a religion and there is a need to Islamise it, and that it must be constitutionally bound to not make any law repugnant to the Qur’an and sunnah.

It can be the dream of every person that countries in which Muslims are in majority should unite under a single rule and we can also strive to achieve this goal, but this is no directive of the shari’ah.  Neither is “khilafah” a religious term nor its establishment at the global level a directive of Islam.

The basis of nationhood in Islam is not Islam itself, as is generally understood.  At no place in the Qur’an and ahadits has it been said that Muslims must become one nation.  On the contrary, what the Qur’an Says:

The believers are but a single brotherhood: so, make peace and reconciliation between your two (contending) brothers: And recognise Allah that ye may receive mercy. (Surah al-Hujraat:10)

Thus, the relationship between Muslims is not based on nationhood; it is rather based on brotherhood.

If some Muslims of the world acknowledge themselves as Muslims, in fact, insist on this and adopt a belief or deed which is not approved by one or more scholars or the rest of the Muslims, then this deed or belief of theirs can be regarded as incorrect and even a deviation and departure from Islam, yet these people cannot be regarded as non-Muslims or disbelievers (kuffar) because these people adduce their views from the Quran and Hadith. For the ruling of God on such beliefs and deeds, we must wait for the Day of Judgement. Their proponents in this world in accordance with their own acknowledgement are Muslims, must be regarded as Muslims and must be dealt with in the same way as a Muslim is dealt with. It is the right of the scholars to point out their mistake, to invite them to accept what is correct, to regard what they find as constituting polytheism and disbelief in their ideology and also inform people about all this. However, no one has the right to declare them as non-Muslims or to ostracize them from the Muslim community because only God can give this right to someone, and everyone who has knowledge of the Quran and Hadith knows that God has not given this right to anyone...

Polytheism, disbelief and apostasy are indeed grave crimes; however, no human being can punish another human being for these crimes.  This is the Right of God Alone.

Centuries before the thinkers of the present age, the Quran had declared:

Those who harken to their Lord, and establish regular prayer; who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation; who spend out of what We bestow on them for Sustenance. (Surah ash-Shura’:38)

It holds and should hold the final authority in the system of state.  People do have a right to criticise the decisions of the parliament and point out their mistakes; however, no one has the right to disobey them or rebel against them.  Neither scholars nor the judiciary is above the parliament.

If, at some place, a Muslim government exists, it is generally asked to implement the shari’ah.  This expression is misleading because it gives the impression that Islam has given the right to a government to forcibly implement all the directives of the shari’ah on people.  The fact is that the Qur’an and ahadits do not give this authority to any government.  The shari’ah contains two categories of directives.  The first category comprises directives which are given to individuals and the second category comprises directives which are given to a Muslim society.  The first category relates to directives which are between an individual and God.  In these directives, a person is not responsible before any government; on the contrary, he is responsible before God.  Hence, no government, for example, can force a person to fast or go for hajj or ‘umrah, or to circumcise himself or to keep his moustaches trimmed or in the case of a woman to cover her chest, refrain from displaying her ornaments or to wear a scarf when going out.  In such matters, a government has no authority beyond urging and educating people except if there is a chance of rights being usurped or excesses being committed against the life, wealth and honour of people.  The Qur’an has Explicitly Said that among the positive directives of religion, a state can only forcibly demand from them to offer the prayer and pay zakat.  The Qur’an Says:

But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surah at-Tawbah:5)

So, after their belligerence is stopped, it is incumbent upon the state to leave them alone and not try to enforce anything on them.  As for the second category of directives, they are only given to a government because it is a government which represents a society in collective affairs.

If religious scholars demand from those in authority to obey them, then they certainly will be justified.  In fact, it is their duty in their capacity of scholars to make such a demand.  It should be clear that this demand is the demand to follow the shari’ah.  Implementation of the shari’ah is not the right name for this demand.
Here is Shaykh Ghamidi’s statement on the blasphemy law: Islamic Scholar Attacks Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Sister Shahbano Aliani, Shaykh Javed Ghamidi is quite thorough in his refutation of the validity of the blasphemy laws.  Why is it that more people in Pakistan are not relooking it?

Sister Shahbano Aliani: Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, a space seems to have opened recently, and I pray that Mumtaz Qadri’s execution is a good sign.  Historically the following may be some reasons:

Firstly, the extremists have struck fear into the hearts of people.  After Mumtaz Qadri murdered Salman Taseer; and Sherry Rahman, another former politician, was accused of blasphemy for her criticism of the law; people who had an informed position, especially public figures, were afraid to take a stand on the issue.  Shaykh Ghamidi had to leave for Canada with his family after a bomb was found at his residence.  A close associate of his was murdered subsequently.

Secondly, some of the ‘ulama are deliberately confusing people by equating criticism of the blasphemy law with criticism of the Prophet (s.a.w.).  This is because the blasphemy law allows them political power which they otherwise do not have.  The Pakistani people never vote the right wing religious political parties into power in any significant numbers.  This is a very interesting and often overlooked fact.  With apologies to my Indian friends, we have never had the Pakistani version of the BJP being voted into power ever.

Thirdly, ordinary people do not know the details of the law as it has been formulated and implemented in Pakistan, and the details of a counter narrative such as the one Shaykh Ghamidi presents, even though this stuff is not too complicated. they tend to identify with positions that fit crudely with their identities of “us” and “them”, or else remain confused and silent. for instance, some people think only liberals criticise the blasphemy law and since they believe liberals are America-lovers, unpatriotic or foreign agents, they take the opposite view without being informed.

Fourthly, since the late seventies, the time of the Soviet-Afghan War and the Iranian Revolution, up until recently; the Pakistani military, the most powerful institution in the country, has supported and actively cultivated extremist groups for its campaigns in Afghanistan and Kashmir.  This is a well-known fact. as many of us know, the US gave its full support to this strategy in its initial phases.  Political parties, that are not religious but secular, populist, have also formed alliances with extremist groups during elections and other times to get votes and for other expedient reasons. the funding for many of these groups and right wing religious propaganda and indoctrination has come from Saudi Arabia.  I sense a shift in this decades old nexus and military strategy since last year.  There has been a crackdown on terrorists, terrorist attacks have declined sharply, Pakistan refused to join the Saudi campaign against Yemen, and now Qadri has been executed.  I pray there is, indeed, a shift.  I am neither a historian, nor a political scientist or scholar of any discipline, but this is my perspective based on observations and some study.

Brother Ariffin Yeop: There is no Islamic state anywhere on earth at present, not in the footsteps of the Beloved Prophet (s.a.w.).

Brother Ahsan Razvi: The blasphemy law is very ambiguous in nature.  There are different opinions between the ‘ulama and the fuqaha’ to what constitutes blasphemy.  For the sake of the argument, let us take the example of blasphemy law in Pakistan, 295c of the Pakistani Penal Code.  This law is loosely worded and there are no save guards, and on top of that, it is an offence that could lead to capital punishment.  There is anarchy because of the failure of system, that is, failure of Parliament, the judiciary and bureaucracy.  This gives the government of the day a lethal weapon to divert the attention from the real issues like food, water, shelter and security.

The solution is that there has to be a law to curb hate speech or incitement to violence like in any other moderate country, a law that could work as deterrent.  I think a law under which religious sensitivities of both the majority and the minorities are protected.  Now, whether one is to call it a blasphemy law or by some other name, is a separate matter.  The conversation has to take place on what is considered sensitive or sacred.  Muslims surely hold Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) in high regard, and there should be discussion what could be the boundaries.  In India, we have Section 153a of the Indian Penal Code that works pretty much the same way to cut down hate speech and bigotry.

153A. Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony. —
(1)   Whoever —
(a) by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise, promotes or attempts to promote, on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, caste or community or any other ground whatsoever, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, or

(b) commits any act which is prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities, and which disturbs or is likely to disturb the public tranquillity, or

(c) organizes any exercise, movement, drill or other similar activity intending that the participants in such activity shall use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, or participates in such activity intending to use or be trained to use criminal force or violence or knowing it to be likely that the participants in such activity will use or be trained to use criminal force or violence, against any religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community and such activity for any reason whatsoever causes or is likely to cause fear or alarm or a feeling of insecurity amongst members of such religious, racial, language or regional group or caste or community, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.

Offence committed in place of worship,

(2) Whoever commits an offence specified in sub-section (1) in any place of worship or in any assembly engaged in the performance of religious worship or religious ceremonies, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to five years and shall also be liable to fine.

Brother David Rosser Owen: Law 153 of the Indian Penal Code, on which the Pakistani blasphemy law was based, was enacted by the Viceroy’s Council of British India as a means of dealing with the generators of sectarianism and the communal violence that tended to follow.  It was not intended to replicate the UK’s Blasphemy Act, which in any case only applied to the beliefs of the Church of England.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: In Singapore, we do not have a blasphemy law.  What we do have is a Maintenance of Religious Harmony Act.  This act of legislation makes it a criminal offence to deliberately offend the sensibilities of the religious, but the insult has to be deliberate.  Fair comment, dissension, differences of opinion, and variances in creed within the same religious tradition are not covered under the act.  That is the sensible way to go.

The problem with blasphemy laws is that they are far too easy to abuse for a political or sectarian agenda.  They are also problematic since they are inherently against the tradition of free religious discourse in Islam.  Within the Hanafi madzhab, the blasphemy laws were enacted from the Abbasid times to address the wanton heresy of some quarters to prevent the people being agitated.  But even then, the perpetrators were always brought before the qadhi and given an opportunity to explain themselves, and if required, to repent.

Nowadays, blasphemy accusations are invitations to mob violence.  That is inherently haram.  Also, we live in an age of general ignorance of religion, who is there to decide what is or is not an actual blasphemy?

Brother Ahsan Razvi: I think it is Section 295a of the Indian Penal Code, not Section 153.  I stand to be corrected.

295A. Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

Whoever, with deliberate and malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of any class of 273 [citizens of India], 274 [by words, either spoken or written, or by signs or by visible representations or otherwise], insults or attempts to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of that class, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to 4[three years], or with fine, or with both.

Brother David Rosser Owen: Could be.  I no longer have a copy of it to check with.

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Integral Age Theory

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

There is a reason why the birth of Christ (a.s.) is se on the 25th December, and the Annunciation on the 25th March.  This is based on the belief in the Integral doctrine, or the integral age.  Integralism is the belief, common in ancient Judaism, that prophets died on the same day that they were born, or the day they were conceived.  This has been carried over to Islam, in the birth and death of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.).  Thus, the prophets were said to have lived entire years.  “Integral” is derived from the Latin “integer”, meaning “whole”.

It was the belief of many of the early Christian that Jesus (a.s.) was crucified on 25th March.  Based on integralism, that would mean he was either conceived or born on the 25th March.  The consensus then was that it was the conception, because that was what the angel Gabriel announced:

Luke 1:26-38
26 When the sixth month came, God Sent the angel Gabriel to a city of Galilee called Nazareth, 27 where a virgin dwelt, betrothed to a man of David’s lineage; his name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  28 Into her presence the angel came, and said, “Hail, thou who art full of grace; the Lord is with thee; Blessed art thou among women.”  29 She was much perplexed at hearing him speak so, and cast about in her mind, what she was to make of such a greeting.  30 Then the angel said to her, “Mary, do not be afraid; thou hast found Favour in the Sight of God.  31 And behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call him ‘Jesus’.  32 He shall be great, and men will know him for the Son of the Most High; the Lord God will Give him the throne of his father, David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob eternally; 33 his kingdom shall never have an end.”  34 But Mary said to the angel, “How can that be, since I have no knowledge of man?”  35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon thee, and the power of the Most High will overshadow thee.  Thus, this holy offspring of thine shall be known for the Son of God.  36 See, moreover, how it fares with thy cousin Elizabeth; she is old, yet she too has conceived a son; she who was reproached with barrenness is now in her sixth month, 37 to prove that nothing can be impossible with God.”  38 And Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be unto me according to thy word.”  And with that the angel left her.

Going by this, that would make the date of Jesus’ (a.s.) birth the 25th December.

It is absolutely nonsense this belief that the dates of Advent and Christmas were formerly pagan holidays.  They were picked based on the day Christ (a.s.) was thought to have been crucified.  One of the main proponents of this idea was the Church Father, Tertullian.

It was Tertullian who is thought to have forwarded the belief that Jesus (a.s.) was crucified “in the month of March, at the times of the Passover, on the eighth day before the calends of April,” as written in his Adversus Judaeos.

In the Roman calendar, the calends referred to the first days of the month.  It is from this word that we get our word for calendar.  So, if Jesus (a.s.) was crucified eight days before the calends of April, that would mean he was crucified on the 25th March.

That being said, modern Biblical scholars are unanimous that Tertullian was mistaken.  The four canonical Gospels all state that Jesus (a.s.) was crucified on a Friday, at Passover, during the reign of Pontius Pilate as governor.  We know that no Friday, at Passover, fell on the 25th March during those years; Tertullian was mistaken.  But that being said, that was what was believed for a long time.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

I Still Celebrate Christmas as a Muslim

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

It is this time of the year that I am reminded that as a convert to Islam, I am of Portuguese Catholic heritage.  Christmas is very much part of my heritage and my culture.  I see no harm in having the Christmas tree, no issues with the visits, the food, the exchange of presents and greetings.  I am not in need of Muslims telling me this or that is haram, or shirk, or of pagan origins.  I ignore them and move on.  The world is full of voices, and noise.  We discern which is which, and listen to the voices, and shut out the noise.

If people are looking for genuine dialogue, however, I point out my reasons: that everything is halal unless there is proof that it is haram in fiqh al-mu’amalah, and that the mere performance of one haram act does not make the entirety of something haram.  If we go by that logic, some go to the mosque to look at girls and steal.  Should we ban mosques then?  Some people misbehave during the dzikr.  Should we ban dzikr?

I believe, as Muslims, Christmas is also our celebration since it is a commemoration of our prophet, Jesus (a.s.).  When the Prophet (s.a.w.) went to Madina, after the hijrah, he found the Jews fasting in ‘Ashura, to commemorate Moses (a.s.) guiding them across the Red Sea.  He said, “We have more right to Moses,” and started fasting.  As Muslims, we have more right to Jesus (a.s.), and he is our prophet.  We follow what he brought, and we remember his message: That God is One.

As for the trees and decorations, these are cultural manifestations of the season.  It cannot inherently be haram simply because the non-Muslims do it.  The Qurayshi idolaters also commemorated the hajj.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) did not ban the hajj.  It is part of the sunnah to take that which is good and leave that which is bad.

As for the exchange of gifts, it is a sunnah.  The Prophet (s.a.w.) accepted gifts from non-Muslims, and he gave gifts.  He accepted the brides from Muqawqis, and he accepted the dates from Salman al-Farisi (r.a.) before his conversion.

As for the food, when the Christians gave them food, the companions asked the Prophet (s.a.w.) if they should eat, and he said, “Pronounce the Name of Allah, and eat.”

As for the exchange of greetings, if we believe, as some foolish Muslims do, that mere exchange of wishes nullifies the shahadah, can non-Muslims “accidentally” become Muslims by merely wishing us?  Obviously not.  Everything is by intent.

This is my position.  People can choose to accept, or they can choose to reject. I am unconcerned.  In the meantime, Merry Christmas in advance.

Jesus (a.s.) on Desire & Patience

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

According to Imam Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (r.a.), Jesus (a.s.) said, “You will never obtain what you desire except through patience with what you despise.”

How "Iesus" became "Jesus"

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

The English alphabet was invented in spurts and stages as different civilisations borrowed ideas about writing from their peers.  The practical effect of this is that some letters are older or younger than others, the youngest of them being the letter “J”, which did not appear until some time in the Middle Ages.

The letter “J” was originally a modified “I”.  These long “I”, J-looking things would have still been pronounced as “I” for a while, but at some point, in the Middle Ages, they took on that “J” sound we are familiar with.  Once that process began, all sorts of “I” words were given the new, trendy “J” sound for no real reason.  The most notable of these was the name of Jesus (a.s.), who was previously known to English speakers as “Iesus”, and “Yeshua” way before that.  This was more in line with the Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic.  And that is how “Iesus” became “Jesus”.

Allah (s.w.t.) Commanded Jesus (a.s.) & His Followers to Follow Muhammad (s.a.w.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Imam al-Hakim (r.a.) recorded that ibn ‘Abbas (r.a.) narrated that Allah (s.w.t.) Inspired Jesus (a.s.) Saying, “O Jesus, believe in Muhammad, and whosoever form your ummah finds him, should believe in him.  If I had not Created Muhammad, then I would not have Created Adam.  If not for him, I would not have Created Paradise and Hell.  When I Made the Throne on water, it started to shake.  I Wrote ‘Laa Ilaha Illa Allah Muhammadar Rasulullah.’  Due to which, it became still.”

Imam al-Hakim (r.a.), in al-Mustadrak asw-Swahihayn, said, “This hadits has a swahih chain.”

The Prophet (s.a.w.) Accepted & Gave Gifts to Non-Muslims

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

In this season, do not allow some Muslims to convince us that it is haram to receive gifts from our non-Muslim family and friends.  That is not the sunnah.  There are many ahadits that demonstrate that the Prophet (s.a.w.) accepted gifts from non-Muslims.  These ahadits are swahih.  For example, it is recorded that the Prophet (s.a.w.) sent Hathib ibn Abi Balta’ah (r.a.) to the Christian ruler of Alexandria with a message for him, and the Patriarch accepted the letter, honoured Hathib (r.a.), and made his stay comfortable.  The Patriarch then sent him back with a garment for the Prophet (s.a.w.), a mule with its saddle, and two slave girls as gifts.  One slave girl was Umm Ibrahim (r.a.), and the other one, the Prophet (s.a.w.) gave as a gift to Jahm ibn Qays al-‘Abdari (r.a.).  The slave girls were both eventually freed.

Jesus (a.s.) & the Dead Dog

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Jesus (a.s.), the son of Mary (a.s.) was walking with his apostles when they passed a dead dog by the side of the road.  One of them said, “What can be worse than the corruption of the unclean dog!”

And Jesus (a.s.) replied, “His teeth, how brightly they shine.”

Imam al-Atsir (r.a.) on Jesus (a.s.)

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Shaykh Abu al-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Muhammad (r.a.) was better known as Shaykh ‘Ali ‘Izz ad-Din ibn al-Atsir al-Jazari.  He was an Arab or Kurdish historian and biographer who wrote in Arabic and he was from the famous ibn al-Atsir family.  Shaykh ibn al-Atsir (r.a.) lived a scholarly life in Mosul.  He often visited Baghdad and for a time, travelled with Sultan Swalah ad-Din’s (r.a.) army in Syria.  He later lived in Aleppo and Damascus.  His chief work was a history of the world, al-Kamil fi at-Tarikh, “The Complete History.”

Shaykh ibn al-Atsir (r.a.) wrote, in al-Kamil, concerning Jesus (a.s.), “The learned have differed concerning his death before his being raised up.  Some say, ‘He was raised up and did not die.’  Others say, ‘No, Allah Made him die for three hours.’  Others say, ‘For seven hours, then He Brought him back to life.’  And those who say this are expounding His Saying:

… “O Jesus!  I will Take thee and Raise thee to Myself ….” (Surah Ali ‘Imran:55)

And when the Jews seized the person who had been Made to resemble him, they bound him and began to lead him with a rope and say to him, ‘You were raising the dead.  Can you not save yourself from this rope?’  And they were spitting in his face and putting thorns on him; and they crucified him on the cross for six hours.  Then Joseph the carpenter asked for him from the governor who was over the Jews, whose name was Pilate and whose title was Herod, and buried him in a grave which the aforementioned Joseph had prepared for himself.  Then Allah (s.w.t.) Sent down the Messiah from Heaven to his mother, Mary (a.s.), when she was weeping for him, and he said to her, ‘Verily Allah has Raised me to Himself and nothing but good has befallen me.’  And he gave her instructions, and she gathered the disciples to him and he sent them through the earth as messengers from Allah and he ordered them to convey from him the Message Allah (s.w.t.) had Commanded him.

Then Allah (s.w.t.) Raised him to Himself and the disciples scattered where he commanded them.  The Messiah’s (a.s.) Raising up was three hundred and thirty-six years after Alexander’s conquest of Darius.”

It is important to note that Shaykh ibn al-Atsir (r.a.) was only conveying what he had gathered.  We have historical evidence that Pontius Pilate may have been the governor of Ideorum, what the Romans called Judea.  Herod Agrippa, the usurper was a distinct person and an enemy of the prophets.  Also, “Joseph the carpenter” here, refers to Joseph of Arimathea, not Joseph, the supposed spouse of Mary (a.s.).

Saturday, 23 December 2017

The Sharing Group Discussion on Prophetic Infallibility

بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ

Brother Nick Orzech posted this, on The Sharing Group, on the 09th March 2016: “While educated and relatively well versed in a good amount of Sunni orthodoxy, my own beliefs tend towards the heterodox, a fact I have no problem admitting.  And I also share many beliefs that are traditionally seen as Shi’ah.  While I have been a Muslim officially for a couple of years now, I come from a background in Hermeticism and Judaism, particularly Jewish mysticism and Rabbinic literature.  I have a great love of the Hebrew scriptures, and am fully aware of the complications in their composition and compilation, and was wondering what some of your opinions are concerning them as well as the Jewish scholarly tradition surrounding them.  I am currently very deep in Jewish mystical and rabbinic literature, as I am finishing a minor in Jewish Studies in Palestine, and it has refreshed my intense love of the Hebrew scriptures that has been more dormant since my infatuation with Islam began.

That being said, I have spoken with some individuals, in this group actually, that see the Qur’an as functioning essentially as a Midrash on the previous scriptures which, for the most part in their present form, comprise a single Kitab, or the full Scripture of God.  This would seem to mesh quite well with the articulations of some like Dr. Lumbard, in his essay in The Study Qur’an, yet brings up a number of issues, not the least of which being the doctrine of Prophetic Infallibility, which I have been told is a later scholarly construct to fit Islam into a set dogma and creed.  Again, I have my own nuanced understandings of the usefulness of articulations of correct belief.  Generally speaking, I have incredible respect for the Jewish tradition and would like to see people take the same approach with Islam as the rabbis have with their tradition, in which a huge plurality of views is welcomed and accepted; and free thought not stifled as a challenge on dogma.  Any thoughts on the relationship between the Qur’an and previous scriptures, the degree of said scriptures’ intactness, or any of the other topics included in this rant?  I understand the orthodox positions, and I am not looking to be scolded as a heretic.”

Brother Nick Orzech: Also, opinions on Hermeticism and any other scriptures are more than welcome, but the Abrahamic tradition is useful to look at as a coherent whole.  Any ideas on the assertion that most of Islamic scripture is taken from Jewish sources, such as midrash and Talmud?  This is something that both vexes and interests me.

Brother Ibrahim Alevi: What kind of Hermeticism?

Brother Nick Orzech: Hermetic corpus, at one point, Kybalion and associated writings, but I am mainly interested in the more traditional tractates.  I usually read them in conjunction with Nag Hammadi stuff as well.

Brother Ibrahim Alevi: What do you think of Freemasonry and Thelema in regard to Hermeticism?  I definitely think Neoplatonism, which is related to Hermeticism, can be reconciled with Islam.

Brother Nick Orzech: I am not an authority on Freemasonry, but Thelema is, of course, rooted in Hermetic teachings as mediated by Golden Dawn philosophy and mashed up with a bunch of other esoteric or neo-pagan doctrine.  I agree it can be reconciled, but I am interested in how such texts can be viewed within an Islamic framework.  As scripture?  Wisdom of the ancients?  Wahy?

Brother Marquis Dawkins: While nowhere near as versed as you, my thoughts are that the Qur’an constantly refers back to the previous scriptures and affirms them as true and from God, no matter how much some Muslims love tossing around the “corrupted” label when some of the scriptures seem not to mesh.  I tend to see more correlation than opposition in between the scriptures.

Brother Nick Orzech: It does say that “they distort it with their tongues”.  That seems pretty clear to me that it is a doctrinal distortion more than a scriptural one.  Still, the problems of discontinuity still come up with prophetic infallibility, which is see as a useful doctrine, but taking away from the power of having a human messenger.  That is one of the reasons the Hebrew prophets were so great and compelling in my eyes.

Brother Marquis Dawkins: On that I agree.  I also think that is more of a cultural or doctrinal distortion than a scriptural one.  To me, the error of the prophets indeed reveals their human sides and weaknesses.

Brother Nick Orzech: I am trying to figure out the history of the doctrine of infallibility in the ‘aqidah.

Brother Marquis Dawkins: Regarding Islamic scriptures as taken from Midrash and Talmud.  It is an assertion made before several times.  One of the most glaring proofs is the famous ayat of 5:32:

On that account: We Ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person ― unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land ― it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.  Then, although there came to them Our Messengers with clear Signs, yet even after that many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (Surah al-Ma’idah:32)

Almost word for word, it can be found in the Talmud.  Also, the story of ‘Isa (a.s.) and the clay birds can be found in the Gnostic gospels.

However, rather than say that Muhammad (s.a.w.) “copied” them – which, to me, is slanderous - I would more say he was Revealed universal truths that were, indeed, Revealed previous to him.  As the end of my favourite Surah says:

And this is in the Books of the earliest (Revelations) ― the Books of Abraham and Moses. (Surah al-‘Ala:18-19)

Brother Nick Orzech: I certainly understand this explanation, but it is much more than that as well, with everything from the crow in the Cain and Abel story, to the angels bowing before Adam(a.s.) coming from Rabbinic or apocryphal texts.  Does this mean that these were revealed to sages of these other faiths or that they were just lost from the original revelation, which is not quite as likely, as we can tell where and approximately when they come from)?

Brother Marquis Dawkins: I believe it could be a mix of both.  And that these things were Mentioned in the Qur’an Gave them both relevance and restoration.

Brother Nick Orzech: I have heard it postulated that just as the great awliya’ are granted with non-legislating prophethood, so too were the saints of other faiths and it is from these men that many of the teachings stem.  But that gets into the very nature of prophecy and Revelation in the first place.

Brother Nikolas Dingus: Salam, from the Shi’ah perspective, I know some of our a’immah have quoted ceaselessly from the life of Jesus (a.s.), and, indeed, some of the sayings our a'immah are thought to be pulled nearly directly from the New Testament.  Imam asw-Swadiq (q.s.), it is said, for example, has quoted the preaching of Christ (a.s.), as found exactly in the Gospel according to Mathew.

Brother Nick Orzech: Yes, and supposedly, ‘Ali (k.w.) had memorised the entire Torah, or so I have heard.  Fascinating. I love the a’immah of the Ahl al-Bayt.  O, this also gets into the controversy of the crucifixion, which I personally believe in.

Brother Nikolas Dingus: I would agree that I consider myself heterodox as well.  Much as you came from a Jewish background, I came from a background well-enmeshed with Christian mysticism so many of my ideas in mystic activity translated quite well with the ideas of Sufis and many Shi’ah thinkers.  Indeed, some Sufis wrote about the significance of the symbolism of the Cross, even if it is not a symbol of Jesus’ (a.s.) crucifixion.

Brother Nick Orzech: Funnily enough, I was raised Catholic, my first love was just with Judaism.  I have found myself quite at home in Sufism as well, despite also adhering to many Shi’ah beliefs.  I would love some references to the Sufi literature on the cross if you can find any.

Brother Nikolas Dingus: Interestingly enough, in the Shi’ah ahadits collection, Tuhaf al-‘Uqul, by Imam ibn Shu’ba al-Harrani (r.a.), contains a section on both God’s Words to Jesus (a.s.), as well as a collection of maxims of Jesus (a.s.).  These maxims include the Beatitudes nearly word for word, which seems to me to suggest that there was some sort of trust for the Gospels in maintaining Jesus’ (a.s.) words.

Brother Nick Orzech: That is very interesting.  I would love to read this any other source you can suggest.  I have heard that many accept the Gospels as, albeit flawed, sources, even in their mystical and seemingly problematic teachings, which are really no more shocking than the sayings of the awliya’.

Brother Nikolas Dingus: Here is a link to Tuhaf al-‘Uqul.

Brother Nick Orzech: Much appreciated, brother.

Brother Tim Saunders: I would be interested to know if you have come across Dr. Gabriel Reynolds’ work and whether you have read the following especially?  I have not but it looks an intriguing thesis to suggest that the Qur’an is actually inexplicable without knowing the contextual scriptural discourse in which it emerged.  The idea that Muslims are, therefore, mistaken to interpret the Qur’an without reference to Christian and Jewish scripture puts the cat amongst the pigeons nicely.

Brother Nick Orzech: I have read some of it, but not very much.  I just found a PDF and am going to do more research.  Thank you very much.

Brother Tim Saunders: You are welcome.  Let us know what you make of it.  Any chance you can upload the PDF here?

Brother Nick Orzech: I certainly will, and here it is: The Quran in Its Historical Context.

Brother Tim Saunders: Thanks, although that is his other book, not the one about the biblical subtext.

Brother Daniel Frayer: Brother Nick, I have got a not-dissimilar perspective.  I have spent much more time in Christian and apocryphal texts, and then rabbinic texts, than with Muslim ones, as I became Muslim only a little over a year ago, and spent years with the other works.  I have got a few comments:

I have a very hard time with what is now the standard view of tahrif and naskh.   The Quran views previous scriptures very positively, and anything like tahrif seems to me due to the outlier sectarian milieu in Arabia, rather than a pan-Jewish, such as the ‘Uzayr (a.s.) question; or pan-Christian, such as the mother of ‘Isa (a.s.) as a member of the Trinity; effort at distortion.

Textual evidence for the consistency of the Tawrah from before the advent of Islam through the present is at least as good as for the Qur’an, and the ahadits do not give me the impression that Muhammad (s.a.w.) viewed contemporary scrolls as distorted.

The matter is quite different in the case of Christianity, and with the exception of some Protestant denominations, Christianity has not placed a focus on the inerrancy of the text of the New Testament nearly as much as Jews and Muslims have for their respective scriptures.  The continuity is generally argued to be in tradition and authority, not text.  I am very curious what the Qur’an Intends by the word “Injil” and I do not find traditional accounts satisfying.

I am still learning about, and coming to terms with, Qur’anic narratives with parallels in other texts, canonical or no.  The Qur’an does say that Revelations are sent in the language of the people to whom they are sent, and I naturally think of the development of the Jewish maxim that the Torah was given in the language of men.  The Quran was in Arabic, and uses idioms, narratives, and metaphors that were familiar to the Arabs.  Asking for the route of transmission that led to this familiarity, I think, is unjust to the nature of Revelation - certainly when coming from Jews or Christians, for whose texts multiple more ancient parallels may be found.

Brother Nick Orzech: I agree 100%.  Thank you very much for your input!  What is your view on the topic of prophetic inerrancy?  This is a very nuanced topic as well, but I know you are well versed in many writings relevant to this discussion.  Blessings on you, brother.

Brother Daniel Frayer: Personally, I appreciate the Jewish notion of prophetic status more than what I understand is the Muslim one: namely that a prophet is sinless and inerrant when in the state of prophecy, but “merely” saintly when not.  The only prophet who was perpetually in this state upon becoming a prophet was Musa (a.s.).  Plus, the prophetic imagination, circumstances, and audience dictate what was communicated and so “inerrancy” is very nuanced.  Islam, I believe, once a prophet, always a prophet, so there is less room for flexibility.

To be honest, I hold with Wittgenstein that language is a sort of game, and only makes sense insofar as both “players” think that they are playing the same game.  If a prophet uses symbolic language, and his audience knows it is symbolic, and what the local idioms and grammar are, they are at least close, although people may misinterpret the symbols.  On the other hand, people who are removed in terms of idiom, vocabulary, grammar, politics, culture, and nearly every other relevant way, it is hard to know how they might even agree on a definition of “inerrancy”, much less apply it.

The application may be less than the ideal, but we see something along these lines with the Jewish traditions of seventy faces of the Torah, or eilu v’eilu.  When one reads early tafasir and other literature, one gets the impression that this flexibility, completely sidestepping interpretative inerrancy, was built into Islam from its genesis, and we have lost it rather recently.  I have got very sparse evidence to back that up, though.  Surely Allah (s.w.t.) Knows best in this and all matters.

Brother Nick Orzech: I would love to bring some degree of open discussion to the study of the Qur’an, just as the rabbis did with the Torah.  I have met some rabbis here that have blown my mind and it has been very inspiring to say the least.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: From Adam (a.s.) to Muhammad (s.a.w.), there were 124,000 prophets, but only one prophethood.  As such, it stands to reason that the essential message is the same.  There are passages and rules that were abrogated by later Revelation.

Revelation should be understood in the context it was Revealed in.  And it stands to reason that later Revelation refers to earlier Revelation, and by default addresses misconceptions that may have crept into it.  The Qur’an, in many places, presupposes knowledge of earlier Scripture.  It Mentions events, people and places.  For those who are aware, if affords greater depth of understanding.

Sister Julie Petre: Out of curiosity is there any difference or similarities between the Qur’an and in the bible translations and traditions of the Aramaic Christian church?

Brother Nick Orzech: I do not think as much the Bible translation, but parallels have been drawn with Syriac liturgical hymns and stuff but most such claims are not taken seriously, and the research is flawed.  Naturally, there is some similarity as such documents are also products of the same oral tradition in a close environment, but it is not simply lifted from such texts as some have claimed.

Brother Daniel Frayer: There is recent work that purports to demonstrate how vocabulary, and even the alphabet, of the Qur’an is reliant upon Syriac, perhaps even more so that earlier peninsular Arabic.  I am not an expert and so, cannot comment on the linguistic arguments, but gather that the idea has not been widely received within traditional or even just native Arabic-speaking circles.

Brother Tim Saunders: The question for me, Brother Terence, is that although one must assume that the Qur’an is a sufficient scripture for its immediate historical context, is not its universal scope diminished by reading it in isolation from prior layers of scripture that form a composite prophetic tradition in which for example the Torah and Injil and Quran inter-illumine each other?  This, even if the Qur’an is given primacy?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Consider a good steak dish.  The Qur'an is like that well-cooked steak.  You could conceivably just have that steak in isolation, and it is tasty and nourishing.  But a true connoisseur would want his dish with the sides, the salad, the nice glass of red wine, the dessert and the soup.  But we respect the fact that some people just want steak and think the soup may be contaminated with perennialism.

Brother Tim Saunders: And not forgetting lemon cheesecake and black coffee for desert.

Brother Nick Orzech: Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis, I am sorry to push on this matter, but what is your view then on the doctrine of infallibility?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: It is part of our creed to believe in it.  Wherever in previous Scripture contradicts this, it is to be rejected.

Brother Nick Orzech: I see.  Thanks!  Would you happen to know if there is firm proof for this from the ahadits literature or if it is a construction of the ‘ulama?  From my understanding, it is based on reason.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: By reason, the prophets were the vessels of the Divine Message, the heralds of truth.  They may commit mistakes, but they cannot be perpetrators of sins and creatures of their desires.  So, Noah (a.s.) did not get drunk and sleep naked in public.  Moses (a.s.) did not engage in genocide against the Midianites.  Lot (a.s.) did not commit incest.  Abraham (a.s.) was not guilty of idolatry or adultery.  Jacob (a.s.) did not steal his brother’s birthright.  David (a.s.) did not commit adultery and genocide.  And so forth.

From a historical perspective and textual criticism, there are a lot of discrepancies in the texts pertaining to this, and there is no evidence of any genocide by the Israelite.  In fact, Israelites were themselves another Canaanite tribe and they all lived side by side before eventually merging.  In all the cases where there were issuances of incest and rape, the progeny all happened to be enemies of the ancient Israelites.  This is not a coincidence.  Vast portions of the Old Testament were rewritten as political propaganda.

From a textual perspective, there are verses of the Qur’an we avail ourselves to.  The first example of this type pertains to the status of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.):

Ye have, indeed, in the Messenger of Allah, a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the praise of Allah. (Surah al-Ahzab:21)

And by extension, the rest of the prophets.  An example is this:

There is, for you, an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham, and those with him when they said to their people, “We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship besides Allah: We have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred ― forever ― unless ye believe in Allah and Him Alone”: but not when Abraham said to his father, “I will pray for Forgiveness for thee, though I have no power (to get) aught on thy behalf from Allah.”  (They prayed), “Our Lord!  In Thee do we trust, and to Thee do we turn in repentance: to Thee is (our) final Goal. Our Lord! Make us not a (test and) trial for the disbelievers, but Forgive us, our Lord!  For Thou art the Exalted in Might, the Wise.”  There was indeed in them an excellent example for you to follow ― for those whose hope is in Allah and in the Last Day.  But if any turn away, truly Allah is Free of all Wants, Worthy of all Praise. (Surah al-Mumtahinah:4-6)

The Qur’an Establishes the exalted rank of the prophets.  It is thus unbecoming to believe that they were guilty of grievous sins.  No pious person would countenance such a thing.  If a prophet can lie and cheat and steal, then he has an integrity problem.  Would anyone have reason to believe anything he says?

Brother Nick Orzech: I am only saying that every Jew and Christian believes such things and they hold the prophets in very high esteem.  I do not seek an argument on the matter, and I respect you and your knowledge greatly.  I am familiar with these classical explanations, but I find the human experience and example of the Biblical view of prophets extremely powerful as well.  As I said, I am not sure on the matter, and, insha’Allah, I will be Guided.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Not every Jew and Christian believes that.  Even as a Catholic, I did not believe most of the Bible.  There were textual discrepancies, obvious errors with the chronology, anachronisms and contradictions.  And we have over 10,000 fragments of manuscript.  These errors are not evident in the English translation, but for a person who knows Aramaic, Hebrew and Koine Greek, they become very obvious.

Brother Nick Orzech: I am aware of these things and have studied Biblical higher criticism and the history of ancient Israel extensively.  I am also aware of the power that such things take on in the lived teachings of a religion and I have found it very beautiful.  Also, the idea of any human being without sin by default does not sit well with me.  That being said, I tend to operate within an Islamic framework in which such things are assumed and find great use in it as well.  As I said, I am not in a polemic mode, only a contemplative one.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: Being without sin, ma’swum, does not mean being without fault.  So, the prophets were sinless, but they were not faultless.  Like us, they made mistakes, they got angry and they had their bad days.  Sin, however, is the deliberate defiance of Divine Injunction.

Brother Marquis Dawkins: That's an excellent way to understand infallibility.

Brother Daniel Frayer: Brother Terence, I am curious about this. In the cases you list, what we may perceive as grievous sins in defiance of Divine Injunction was done in response to divine injunction, or in absence of it, with the possible exception of a literal reading of David's adultery, for which Judaism has a mitigating tradition - but I do not remember it.  Is it not possible that such actions should be viewed in this context?  A good example that we could agree upon is Ibrahim’s (a.s.) attempted murder of his own son, which to any outsider is about as grievous as it gets.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: In the case of Abraham’s (a.s.) sacrifice of Ishmael (a.s.), the Qur’an Corrects the story from the Bible.  And it is more that the switching of sons.  In the Biblical narrative, Isaac (a.s.) was tricked.

Genesis 22:2-8
2 Then God Said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love — Isaac — and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”  3 Early the next morning, Abraham got up and loaded his donkey.  He took with him two of his servants and his son, Isaac.  When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had Told him about.  4 On the third day, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.  5 He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there.  We will worship and then we will come back to you.”  6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son, Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife.  As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”  “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.  “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”  8 Abraham answered, “God himself will Provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”  And the two of them went on together."

In the Qur’an, Ishmael (a.s.) was told of a Divine Vision and willingly submitted:

Then when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said, “O my son!  I see, in vision, that I offer thee in sacrifice: now see what is thy view!”  (The son) said, “O my father!  Do as thou art Commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so Wills, one practicing patience and constancy!”  So, when they had both submitted (to Allah), and He had laid Him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We Called out to him, “O Abraham!  Thou hast already fulfilled the dream!” ― thus, indeed, do We Reward those who do right. (Surah asw-Swaffat:103-105)

This changes the tone of the story from attempted murder to submission.

Brother Daniel Frayer: Brother Terence, the literal text of the Bible can be read like this, but the Jewish tradition is the same as the Muslim, with the agreement hinted at in “And the two of them went on together.”  On the other biblical narratives, on the other hand, drinking was not prohibited; Lot was tricked.  I will have to look up David and Bathsheba again, but I believe that itis possible as well to give it an interpretation as a mistake rather than defiance.

Brother Terence, after thinking more about this matter, we may be closer to agreement than was apparent yesterday.  A literal reading, especially in translation, of the Bible, certainly can leave the reader with the impression that prophets committed flagrant sins.  On the other hand, the Jewish tradition of interpretation is ancient and rich, and that is probably the best place to look to see how, for example, the stories of Lot or David are read.  A brief look at a few this morning showed that in some cases, the prophets were in the right, such as David (a.s.), and in some, what they did was allowed in theory but considered disliked, such as Lot (a.s.).

Brother Marquis Dawkins: Well David (a.s.) and Bathsheba was a lesson in humility and covered various subjects from lust to adultery to murder and its consequences.  As tragic as it was, it was a lesson for all of us in example.  And the Qur’an actually Alludes to it in a roundabout way.  However, there is Jewish debate if it actually happened or not, as it is recorded in the books of Samuel but not the books of Chronicles.  So, there is a debate on the reliability of the story, or if it was a later interpolated slander by someone who viewed the House of David in an unfavourable light.

Regarding Lot (a.s.), I am curious as to what action he did that was disliked?

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: He slept with his daughters.

Brother Daniel Frayer: Right, and the rabbis have argued that Noahides are permitted to marry their daughters, even though it is strongly disliked.  There is also the tradition that the three of them, or at least the daughters, believed that the world was destroyed, and they were all that was left, but that speaks more to psychology rather than permissibility.

Brother Marquis Dawkins: Well in regard to Lot (a.s.) and the Biblical story, in truth, it was not his fault per se.  Perhaps the drunkenness was, although there was no prohibition - that came during the time of Musa (a.s.) first - but his daughters plotted to get him so drunk that he would not remember any of it:

Genesis 19:35
35 So, that night too, they gave their father wine to drink, and the younger went in and slept with him, and still he knew nothing of it when she lay down, or when she rose up.

And scripturally, those descendants, the Moabites and the Ammonites, were vanquished during the time of the Canaan Conquest and the rise of the First Kingdom.  So, I would not hold that against him personally.

Brother Terence Helikaon Nunis: I cannot accept that line of thinking.  Textual analysis itself shows that the passages are problematic.  The text is clearly unreliable.  In fact, passages pertaining to history have been found to be extremely unreliable.  Archaeologists, for example, do not use the Bible as a primary source of dating.  And it is only the Protestant tradition that has people actually taking these events to have literally happened.

And putting that aside, from a Muslim perspective, we do not accept the story that a prophet and a Rasul could be so drunk as to be unaware, and then fornicate with his daughters, meaning the sins of adultery, and incest, which are both clearly against halacha’.

Brother Daniel Frayer: Archaeologists certainly do not take the text seriously, but I do not see them using the Qur’an as a baseline either, so it does not seem a crucial point.  From which point of view are the texts as texts problematic?  Modern textual criticism has plenty of theories about “problems” in the text, but just as we Muslims cannot accept the conclusions of textual criticism of the Qur’an, I do not know why we'd accept them of the Tawrah.

And as for Halacha, I will humbly disagree, but am certainly open to enlightening correction.  What the Tawrah describes in that scene would be in gross violation of both written and oral Torah - both getting drunk to the point of losing proper reason and incest.  But Lot (a.s.) was not a Jew, and the Torah was not yet revealed.  Noahide halacha’ is much more lenient in nearly every aspect than Jewish halacha’, or Muslim shari’ah, for that matter.  It does not prohibit drunkenness or incest between a father and daughter, although both are considered strongly disliked.

We are in strong agreement that all of the prophets came with the same essential message, and I imagine that we should be in at least some agreement that they were given differing laws at differing times to their respective communities.  Is it not conceivable that, just as positive commandments have varied, permissibility has also varied?  I am reminded of trite Facebook posts arguing from the Gospels that ‘Isa (a.s.) prayed like a Muslim more than like a Christian, but none discussing his drinking wine, which would be considered scandalous by many Muslims.

Brother Marquis Dawkins: I agree with the statement about halacha’.  It technically did not exist until the time of Musa (a.s.) when the Torah and halacha’ were Revealed.  I mean I suppose you could say the halacha’, laws of God, was written in the hearts of men as Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Romans and that most certainly applied to the anbiya’ and mursalin of old.  It is why Yusuf (a.s.) refused to disobey his earthly master when the masters wife tried to bed him and so forth.

Brother Daniel Frayer: Brother Marquis, Noahide halacha’ does prohibit relations with a married woman, so Yusuf (a.s.) was not going above and beyond here.  It seems to me that this conversation can be anchored to 3:67:

Abraham was not a Jew nor yet a Christian, but he was true in faith and bowed his will to Allah's (which is Islam) and he joined not gods with Allah. (Surah Ali ‘Imran:67)

Ibrahim (a.s.) was neither Jew not Christian, nor a Muslim in the modern usage; but a hanif.  His creed was more universal, and his shari’ah presumably simpler.