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:

سُوۡرَةُ المَائدة
مِنۡ أَجۡلِ ذَٲلِكَ ڪَتَبۡنَا عَلَىٰ بَنِىٓ إِسۡرَٲٓءِيلَ أَنَّهُ ۥ مَن قَتَلَ نَفۡسَۢا بِغَيۡرِ نَفۡسٍ أَوۡ فَسَادٍ۬ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ فَڪَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ ٱلنَّاسَ جَمِيعً۬ا وَمَنۡ أَحۡيَاهَا فَڪَأَنَّمَآ أَحۡيَا ٱلنَّاسَ جَمِيعً۬ا‌ۚ وَلَقَدۡ جَآءَتۡهُمۡ رُسُلُنَا بِٱلۡبَيِّنَـٰتِ ثُمَّ إِنَّ كَثِيرً۬ا مِّنۡهُم بَعۡدَ ذَٲلِكَ فِى ٱلۡأَرۡضِ لَمُسۡرِفُونَ (٣٢)

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:

سُوۡرَةُ الاٴعلی
إِنَّ هَـٰذَا لَفِى ٱلصُّحُفِ ٱلۡأُولَىٰ (١٨) صُحُفِ إِبۡرَٲهِيمَ وَمُوسَىٰ (١٩)

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 Qur’an 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.):

سُوۡرَةُ الاٴحزَاب
لَّقَدۡ كَانَ لَكُمۡ فِى رَسُولِ ٱللَّهِ أُسۡوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ۬ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرۡجُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلۡيَوۡمَ ٱلۡأَخِرَ وَذَكَرَ ٱللَّهَ كَثِيرً۬ا (٢١)

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:

سُوۡرَةُ المُمتَحنَة
قَدۡ كَانَتۡ لَكُمۡ أُسۡوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ۬ فِىٓ إِبۡرَٲهِيمَ وَٱلَّذِينَ مَعَهُ ۥۤ إِذۡ قَالُواْ لِقَوۡمِہِمۡ إِنَّا بُرَءَٲٓؤُاْ مِنكُمۡ وَمِمَّا تَعۡبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ ٱللَّهِ كَفَرۡنَا بِكُمۡ وَبَدَا بَيۡنَنَا وَبَيۡنَكُمُ ٱلۡعَدَٲوَةُ وَٱلۡبَغۡضَآءُ أَبَدًا حَتَّىٰ تُؤۡمِنُواْ بِٱللَّهِ وَحۡدَهُ ۥۤ إِلَّا قَوۡلَ إِبۡرَٲهِيمَ لِأَبِيهِ لَأَسۡتَغۡفِرَنَّ لَكَ وَمَآ أَمۡلِكُ لَكَ مِنَ ٱللَّهِ مِن شَىۡءٍ۬‌ۖ رَّبَّنَا عَلَيۡكَ تَوَكَّلۡنَا وَإِلَيۡكَ أَنَبۡنَا وَإِلَيۡكَ ٱلۡمَصِيرُ (٤) رَبَّنَا لَا تَجۡعَلۡنَا فِتۡنَةً۬ لِّلَّذِينَ كَفَرُواْ وَٱغۡفِرۡ لَنَا رَبَّنَآ‌ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ ٱلۡعَزِيزُ ٱلۡحَكِيمُ (٥) لَقَدۡ كَانَ لَكُمۡ فِيہِمۡ أُسۡوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ۬ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرۡجُواْ ٱللَّهَ وَٱلۡيَوۡمَ ٱلۡأَخِرَ‌ۚ وَمَن يَتَوَلَّ فَإِنَّ ٱللَّهَ هُوَ ٱلۡغَنِىُّ ٱلۡحَمِيدُ (٦)

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:

سُوۡرَةُ الصَّافات
فَلَمَّآ أَسۡلَمَا وَتَلَّهُ ۥ لِلۡجَبِينِ (١٠٣) وَنَـٰدَيۡنَـٰهُ أَن يَـٰٓإِبۡرَٲهِيمُ (١٠٤) قَدۡ صَدَّقۡتَ ٱلرُّءۡيَآ‌ۚ إِنَّا كَذَٲلِكَ نَجۡزِى ٱلۡمُحۡسِنِينَ (١٠٥)

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:

سُوۡرَةُ آل عِمرَان
مَا كَانَ إِبۡرَٲهِيمُ يَہُودِيًّ۬ا وَلَا نَصۡرَانِيًّ۬ا وَلَـٰكِن كَانَ حَنِيفً۬ا مُّسۡلِمً۬ا وَمَا كَانَ مِنَ ٱلۡمُشۡرِكِينَ (٦٧)

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.


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