Monday, November 13, 2017

Only 1 Quran? Hafs and Doori Quran Variants


In this video, Ishmael demonstrates what many apologists who have studied Islam have been saying for decades. The Qur'an has many versions with different readings. Muslims make the same worn out argument that the Qur'an has never been changed, that it has remained the same for 1400 years since the time of Muhammad. The main weakness in this argument, is that the textual evidence that comes from Islam itself will not support such a claim. What is encouraging about Ishmael, who is a former Muslim, is that he not only shows the differences in the English translations of the Qur'an, but he also reads Arabic and shows the differences in the Arabic texts of two Qur'an versions: the Hafs and the Doori versions. Please pray for Ishmael as he is doing tremendous work in this area and continues to shed the light of Christ to our Muslim friends. While we oppose the ideology of Islam, which is unbiblical and dangerous, we need to show love to Muslims. I have taken the word ISLAM to mean "I Sincerely Love All Muslims". The Lord Jesus Christ commands us to love, even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Answering Islam 11: Where Does the Bible Call Jesus the "Son of God"?

Here's Episode 11 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "Where does the Bible call Jesus the 'Son of God'?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

Where Does the Bible Call Jesus the Son of God?

Christians and Muslims disagree about the identity of Jesus. Christians claim that Jesus is the divine Son of God, but the Qur’an denies this. In Surah 9, verse 30, Allah maintains:
The Jews say, “Ezra is the son of Allah”; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah.” These are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before. May Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!
According to this verse, when Christians call Jesus the Son of God, we’re imitating “those who disbelieved before.” We’re imitating the pagans.

But this is just nonsense, because Jesus was identified as the Son of God by an unparalleled cloud of witnesses. Let’s consider a few of these witnesses.

Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. And in Matthew 3, when Jesus comes out of the water, the Spirit of God descends as a dove and a voice out of the heavens declares, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

A voice out of the heavens says, “This is My beloved Son,” which means that the voice was the voice of the Father. But how do we know whom the Father was talking about? How do we know he wasn’t talking about John the Baptist or someone else? Well, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven and landed on Jesus. Notice: the Father and the Holy Spirit together identify Jesus as the Son of God.

And Jesus repeatedly identifies himself as the Son of God. At his trial, for instance, in Mark 14, the high priest asks him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answers, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

So, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in complete agreement that Jesus is the Son of God.

In Luke 1, the Angel Gabriel says to Mary,
Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
Jesus is to be called “Son of the Most High,” according to Gabriel, chief spokesman of the angels.

What about the prophets? John the Baptist was a prophet, according to both Christianity and Islam. In John 1, he tells his followers about Jesus and says, “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

That’s the testimony of the prophets. How about Jesus’ apostles?

At the end of John 1, the Apostle Nathanael says to Jesus, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”

In Matthew 16, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Now if Jesus were just a prophet, this would have been a really good time to rebuke Peter. Instead, Jesus says to him, “Blessed are you . . . because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

In Matthew 14, Jesus walks on water during a storm. After stepping into the boat, the wind stops, and the disciples bow down and worship him, crying out, “You are certainly God’s Son.”

But it’s not just his male followers who call him the Son of God. In John 11, Lazarus dies, and Martha, the sister of Lazarus, meets Jesus on his way to raise Lazarus from the dead. We read:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
Martha and the Apostles and John the Baptist were all Jews. But even some of the Romans called Jesus the Son of God. When Jesus died by crucifixion, there was an earthquake, and the Roman centurion and those who were with him shouted, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Interestingly, demons would call Jesus the Son of God, as he was casting them out of people.

Now think about the diversity of witnesses we have. The Father identifies Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus identifies himself as the Son of God. The Holy Spirit identifies Jesus as the Son of God. The Angel Gabriel identifies Jesus as the Son of God. The prophet John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus’ Apostles identify him as the Son of God. Martha identifies him as the Son of God. The Romans identify him as the Son of God. Demons identify him as the Son of God.

Everyone who could possibly identify Jesus as the Son of God identifies him as the Son of God. Six hundred years later, Muhammad comes along and tells his followers that Jesus was not the Son of God. And this proves that Muhammad was a false prophet.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Answering Islam 10: How Does the Quran View Women?

Here's Episode 10 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "How does the Qur'an view women?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

How Does the Qur’an View Women?

Individual Muslim men might be very loving towards their wives. My friend Nabeel’s parents had a beautiful relationship, and so do many other Muslim couples. But there’s definitely a problem in the Muslim world.

In 2009, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development released a report on Gender Equality and Social Institutions. They rated countries around the world based on the opportunities women have for education and employment, laws to protect women from physical violence, the percentage of women who are married and/or divorced by age 16, and so on. And they found that eleven of the twelve countries with the highest levels of discrimination against women were Muslim-majority countries.

A similar study in 2014, conducted by the World Economic Forum, using their own criteria, concluded that 19 of the 20 worst countries in the world, in terms of the gender gap between men and women, were Muslim-majority countries.

When you have a problem like this, you have to ask, “Why do so many Muslim countries have the same problem—namely, high levels of discrimination against women?” And what these countries have in common is their belief in the Qur’an.

Let’s look at three verses so we can see the source of the problem.

Surah 2, verse 282 of the Qur’an is a long verse dealing with contracts. But there’s an interesting part in the middle of the verse that says:
And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (one of the two women) errs, the other can remind her.
The Qur’an says that, if two men aren’t available as witnesses, then get a man and two women. Here we find the Islamic principle that the testimony of a woman is worth half the testimony of a man. Why is this? Muhammad explains in Sahih al-Bukhari, where he says that the testimony of a woman is only half as reliable as a man’s testimony because women are intellectually deficient. They’re stupid.

This view of the reliability of a woman’s testimony has made it enormously difficult for Muslim women to testify against men in court. According to the New York Times, human rights workers have noted that as many as half of the women who report being raped in Pakistan are charged with adultery.

Another disturbing verses is Surah 2, verse 223, where Allah tells Muslim men:
Your wives are a tilth for you; so go to your tilth when or how you will . . .
We don’t use the word “tilth” much nowadays. A “tilth” is a patch of ground that you plow so you can sow your seed. The Qur’an says that women are a tilth that you approach whenever and however you want.

The historical background of this verse, according to Sunan Abu Dawud, is that when Muslims moved to Medina, they began marrying women from Medina, and the women of Medina didn’t want to have sex in certain positions. One woman told her husband not to come near her if he wanted sex in these positions. She said, “Stay away from me if you want me to do that.” The issue was brought to Muhammad, and Allah’s response was Surah 2, verse 223: “She’s your tilth, your field for sowing your seed; plow her however you want.” Notice, the wife has no right to refuse her husband’s sexual desires.

Let’s consider one more verse. Some women aren’t as quick to obey their husbands as Allah and Muhammad demand, so what are Muslim men supposed to do about rebellious wives? Allah answers in Surah 4, verse 34:
Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them.
If your wife doesn’t obey you, you warn her, banish her to a separate bed, and beat her until she does what you say.

A study by Human Rights Watch reports that more than 85% of Afghan women are victims of physical, sexual, or psychological violence or forced marriage, and that more than 60 percent are victims of multiple forms of violence? Why? Because of the Qur’an.

According to Allah and Muhammad, women are stupid; they’re the property of men and have to submit themselves fully to their husbands’ sexual whims; those who don’t are to be beaten into submission. Numerous studies show the real-world impact of these teachings. And yet we’re told, by politicians, reporters, and Muslim groups that the discrimination against women in Muslim countries has nothing to do with Islam. But as long as people refuse to confront the actual problem, women in Muslim countries will continue to suffer.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Answering Islam 9: Is the Qur'an Good for the 21st Century?

Here's Episode 9 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "Is the Qur'an good for the 21st Century?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

Is the Quran Good for the 21st Century?

One of the biggest problems in Islam is that, according to the Qur’an (Chapter 33, verse 21), Muhammad is the pattern of conduct for Muslims. Muhammad had sex with a nine-year-old girl. He bought, sold, and traded slaves. He married the divorced wife of his own adopted son. He ordered his followers to assassinate people for making fun of him. He beat his wives. He had sex with his slave-girls. And he said that he had been commanded to fight non-Muslims, simply for being non-Muslims. This is not someone that people should be imitating, but the Qur’an tells Muslims to imitate Muhammad. So the Qur’an is bad for the 21st century just for making Muhammad a role model.

But it gets worse when we look at specific teachings in the Qur’an.

According to the Qur’an, Muslims are the best people in the world. In Surah 3, Verse 110, Allah says to Muslims:
You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind . . .
Well, what about Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims? Surah 98, Verse 6:
Verily, those who disbelieve (in the religion of Islam, the Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad) from among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) and Al-Mushrikun (those are idolaters) will abide in the Fire of Hell. They are the worst of creatures.
Non-Muslims are the worst of creatures. Muslims are the best of peoples. The last thing we need in the 21st century is this kind of division. Here are the best people (the one’s who imitate Muhammad) and here are all the other people, and they’re the worst creatures in the world. They’re lower than cattle.

Not surprisingly, given the inferiority of Jews and Christians in the Qur’an, Muslims aren’t supposed to be friends with us. As we read in Surah 5, Verse 51:
O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other.
This doesn’t mean that Muslims are simply to avoid us. Muslims are commanded to actively persecute unbelievers. Surah 48, Verse 29 declares:
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves.
Those who are with Muhammad (i.e., Muslims) are severe against whom? Unbelievers. They’re merciful to whom? Only to their fellow Muslims.

Similarly, in Surah 9, Verse 123 Allah commands Muslims:
O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.
Muslims are specifically commanded to fight Jews and Christians (the “People of the Book”) in Surah 9, Verse 29. Allah commands his followers:
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
Notice that every criterion for fighting us in this verse has to do with our religious beliefs or practices. Muslims are commanded to fight us until we pay them not to fight us.

So the Qur’an is very bad for non-Muslims. We are to be violently subjugated in the name of Allah.

But the Qur’an is also bad for Muslims themselves, and I don’t just mean that it’s bad for them because it keeps them from knowing and understanding the truth about Jesus. It’s bad for them because Muslims often get killed by their fellow Muslims, and this is because the Qur’an commands Muslims not only to fight against unbelievers, but also to fight against hypocrites.

Surah 9, verse 73, says:
O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them.
The word for “strive hard” here is a form of the word “jihad.” Muslims are commanded to wage jihad against hypocrites—Muslims who claim to follow Muhammad but aren’t really following him.

It seems like every few days we hear about Sunnis blowing up Shias, or Shias blowing up Sunnis. And every time, world leaders say, “You see, the terrorists aren’t real Muslims, because they’re killing their fellow Muslims. And Muslims aren’t allowed to kill their fellow Muslims.” Now it’s true that Muslims aren’t supposed to wage jihad against true Muslims, but we’ve already seen that the Qur’an commands them to wage jihad against hypocrites. And that’s what’s going on when Muslim groups launch terrorist attacks against each other. Jihadis don’t kill Muslims they regard as devout followers of Muhammad. They kill Muslims they regard as hypocrites. But no matter what Muslim group you’re in, there are always going to be other Muslim groups calling you a hypocrite, so Islam isn’t even safe for Muslims.

It’s not good for Muslims. It’s not good for non-Muslims. Muhammad isn’t a good role model. The Qur’an definitely isn’t a good book for the 21st century.

Zakir Naik, Muhammad, and the Comforter: An Examination of John 14:16

One of Dr. Zakir Naik's favorite topics is "Muhammad in the Bible." Dr. Naik claims that when Jesus spoke about the "Comforter" in John 14:16, he was referring to Muhammad. But there's a problem for Dr. Naik here. Jesus said, in John 16:7, that if he goes away, he will send the Comforter. So Jesus is the one who sends the Comforter. According to Islam, however, Muhammad was sent by Allah. So if Jesus sends the Comforter, and Allah sends Muhammad, and the Comforter is Muhammad, Jesus must be Allah!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Answering Islam 8: Are There Scientific Mistakes in the Qur'an?

Here's Episode 8 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "Are there scientific mistakes in the Qur'an?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

Are There Scientific Mistakes in the Quran?

One of the most popular arguments for Islam is what we might call the “Argument from Scientific Accuracy.” Muslim apologists claim that the Qur’an contains numerous scientific insights that couldn’t have been known by Muhammad apart from divine revelation and that were only verified centuries later. Now I’ve debated Muslims on this argument, and I find it very strange, because the Qur’an is a scientific disaster. Everything Muhammad could get wrong, he got wrong.

The Qur'an claims that semen is formed between the backbone and ribs (Surah 86, verses 6-7), that the earth is flat (Surah 88, verse 20), that there are seven earths (surah 65, verse 12), that the sun and the moon chase each other around the earth (surah 36, verses 38-40), that human embryos are blood-clots (surah 22, verse 5), that the sky would fall on the earth if Allah didn't hold it up (surah 22, verse 65), and that stars are missiles that Allah uses to shoot demons who try to sneak into heaven (surah 37, verses 6-10, and surah 67, verse 5).

But I don’t want people to think I’m making things up, so let’s read a few verses. Passages about stars being missiles are interesting. Surah 67, verse 5:
And indeed We have adorned the nearest heaven with lamps [lamps are the stars], and We have made such lamps (as) missiles to drive away the Shayatin (devils), and have prepared for them the torment of the blazing Fire.
Stars are missiles that drive away demons. How does this work? Surah 37, verses 6-10:
Verily! We have adorned the nearest heaven with the stars (for beauty). And to guard against every rebellious devil. They cannot listen to the higher group (angels) for they are pelted from every side. Outcast, and theirs is a constant (or painful) torment. Except such as snatch away something by stealing and they are pursued by a flaming fire of piercing brightness.
Demons who sneak into heaven to steal some information are “pursued by a flaming fire of piercing brightness.” Muhammad explained in the Hadith that this refers to shooting stars. When you see a shooting star, it’s because Allah or the angels caught a demon trying to steal something and hurled a star at the demon.

Now this is silly on multiple levels. Shooting stars aren’t really stars. They’re rocks that burn up when they enter the earth’s atmosphere. And how many Muslims really believe that when a rock hits the earth’s atmosphere, it’s to stop a demon from getting away with valuable information? Muslims today know more about stars than the author of the Qur’an did.

Let’s look at another passage. Surah 18, verses 83 to 86:
And they ask you about Dhul-Qarnain. Say: “I shall recite to you something of his story.” Verily, We established him in the earth, and We gave him the means of everything. So he followed a way. Until, when he reached the setting place of the sun, he found it setting in a spring of black muddy (or hot) water. And he found near it a people.
Dhul-Qarnain was apparently Alexander the Great. But whoever he was, the Qur’an says that he traveled so far West, he found the place where the sun sets. The sun sets in a muddy or warm pool.

Modern Muslims are embarrassed by this passage, so they say that what it really means is that Dhul-Qarnain saw the sun’s reflection in a pool, and it appeared to him as if the sun was setting in the pool. This obviously isn’t what the text says. But it’s important to note that Muslims who want to explain the passage this way are claiming to understand the Qur’an better than Muhammad, because Muhammad himself claimed that the sun sets in a pool. Let’s read Sunan Abu Dawud 4002. This is a sahih narration.
It was narrated that Abu Dharr said: “I was riding behind the Messenger of Allah while he was on a donkey, and the sun was setting. He said: ‘Do you know where this (sun) sets?’ I said: ‘Allah and his Messenger know best.’ He said: ‘It sets in a spring of water.’”
Notice, this hadith doesn’t say anything about Dhul-Qarnain, so it’s not telling us about what he saw. This is Muhammad telling one of his companions where the sun goes when it sets, and Muhammad says that it sets in a pool. So the obvious meaning of the Qur’an is confirmed by Muhammad, and Muhammad and the Qur’an are simply wrong.

When we put the Quran’s scientific claims together with the scientific claims in the hadith, we get a really silly picture of the universe. Muhammad believed that there are seven earths, all of them flat, stacked on top of each other like pancakes, except with a long distance between them. Out on the edge of the top earth, which is our earth, is a pool where the sun sets. There are also seven heavens above the earths, and they’re like domes that will fall on us if Allah doesn’t hold them up. In the lowest heaven are the stars, which Allah uses to hurl at demons. And all of this is sandwiched between a giant fish at the bottom and eight giant goats on top. What did Muhammad get right?

Muhammad’s view of human reproduction is just as bad. According to Muhammad, semen forms between the backbone and ribs (that’s wrong), then it joins with the female semen (wrong), and whichever parent’s semen is discharged first determines which parent the child will resemble (wrong). The child spends forty days as a drop of sperm (wrong). Then the child spends another forty days as a clot of blood (wrong). Then the child becomes a lump (wrong). Then the child becomes bones (wrong). Then the bones are wrapped with flesh (wrong). After the final shape is determined, Allah finally decides whether the child will be male or female (wrong).

So here again, what did Muhammad get right? If this is the greatest evidence for the prophethood of Muhammad, we can only wonder why anyone believes in Islam.

Allahu Akbar! Muhammad's War Cry

"Allahu Akbar" is an Arabic phrase that means "Allah is greater." In Islam, the expression signifies that Allah is greater than anything else, especially the gods of unbelievers. Muhammad himself would shout "Allahu Akbar" when attacking non-Muslims, including the Jews of Khaybar. In this video, I respond to attempts by CNN, the Huffington Post, and the New York Times to ignore the violent history of the phrase.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Answering Islam 7: Are There Historical Mistakes in the Qur'an?

Here's Episode 7 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "Are there historical mistakes in the Qur'an?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

Are There Historical Mistakes in the Quran?

During the time of Muhammad, lots of stories were circulating in Arabia. Some of these stories were true, and some were false. Historians can often separate true stories from false stories by examining the evidence. They use the historical method. They ask, “What are our earliest sources for this story? Do we have multiple sources or just one? How reliable are these sources?” Things like that. But Muhammad didn’t know anything about historical investigation, and so he just couldn’t tell the difference between true stories and false stories. Let me give you a few examples to show you what I mean.

In Surah 18, Allah tells us that Alexander the Great traveled so far West, he found the place where the sun sets. Not only can I guarantee you that Alexander the Great never found the place where the sun sets, we know that this story was a popular story during Muhammad’s lifetime. The story was even circulating in a Syriac work titled “The Glorious Deeds of Alexander” towards the end of Muhammad’s life.

Earlier in Surah 18, we read about the “Companions of the Cave”—a group of people who supposedly went to sleep in a cave and woke up three hundred years later. This myth goes back to Bishop Stephen of Ephesus around the middle of the fifth century.

According to Surah 19, Jesus began preaching as soon as he came out of Mary’s womb. This story comes from the sixth-century Arabic Infancy Gospel.

The story of a bird teaching Cain how to bury his brother in Surah 5 comes from Mishnah Sanhedrin. The legend of Mary giving birth under a palm tree in Surah 19 comes from an apocryphal work called the History of the Nativity of Mary and the Savior’s Infancy, written in the early 600s. The account of Jesus giving life to clay birds in Surah 5 comes from a second-century work called the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

It seems that Muhammad simply took the stories that were popular during his lifetime, gave them an Islamic twist, and included them in the Qur’an. What’s interesting is that even the pagans of Mecca were better at recognizing fiction than Muhammad was. Surah 6, verse 25 of the Qur’an says:
When they come to you to argue with you, the unbelievers say: These are nothing but fables of the men of old.
So according to the Qur’an itself, pagans were telling Muhammad that the stories in the Qur’an were known fables. They were myths. They were fairy tales.

From a Christian perspective, the most important historical error in the Qur’an is the claim that Jesus wasn’t killed and wasn’t crucified. In Surah 4, verses 157 to 158 we read:
They [“they” here are the Jews] said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”—but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.
Now there are multiple historical problems with this passage.

According to the Qur’an, Jews were boasting that they had killed “the Christ.” “Christ” means “Messiah.” I’ve never heard a Jew boast about killing the Messiah. The only people who would boast about killing Jesus were people who regarded him as a false Messiah.

The verse also says that Jews were boasting about killing “the Messenger of Allah.” Here again, the only people who would boast about killing Jesus were people who regarded him as a false prophet, not people who regarded him as a messenger of God.

Then we have the claim that Jesus wasn’t killed and wasn’t crucified. This is an amazingly inaccurate claim, because historians and New Testament scholars agree that Jesus’ death by crucifixion is one of the best-established facts of ancient history. And I don’t just mean Christian scholars. Even atheist and agnostic historians are certain that Jesus died by crucifixion.

Atheist New Testament scholar Gerd L├╝demann declares that “Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.” John Dominic Crossan, of the infamous Jesus Seminar, says that there is not the “slightest doubt about the fact of Jesus’ crucifixion under Pontius Pilate.” There are lots of Muslims nowadays who like to quote Bart Ehrman, because he criticizes the New Testament. But Ehrman writes: “One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate.”

These scholars aren’t simply saying that Jesus may have died or that he probably died. They’re saying that Jesus’ death by crucifixion is indisputable, that there’s not the slightest doubt about the crucifixion, that it’s one of the most certain facts of history. And again, these aren’t even Christian scholars.

So the Qur’an clearly contains historical errors, not only because it denies Jesus’ death by crucifixion, but also because it contains numerous fables, even stories that were recognized as fables by the pagans of Muhammad’s time. This makes it very difficult to accept what the Qur’an says about history.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Jihad Returns to New York City

In support of ISIS, Sayfullo Saipov, who immigrated to the United States from Uzbekistan, rented a truck from Home Depot. On October 31, 2017, he drove the truck down a Manhattan bicycle path and plowed it into a crowd of people before crashing into a bus. As usual, politicians and reporters are convinced that the attack had nothing to do with Islam, Islamic terrorism, the Qur'an, or Muhammad's teachings.

Answering Islam 6: What Are the Main Differences between Islam and Christianity?

Here's Episode 6 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "What are the main differences between Islam and Christianity?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

What Are the Main Differences between Islam and Christianity?

Christians and Muslims agree on a number of issues. We agree that there is one God—all-powerful, all-knowing, and merciful. We agree that God has sent messengers into the world, and that people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David were mighty prophets. Concerning Jesus, we agree that he was born of a virgin, that he performed miracles, and that he is the Messiah.

But there are some fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity, and we can break these differences down into three categories: theology, ethics, and evidence.

Let’s start with theology. According to the Bible, God is a Trinity. The Bible calls the Father “God”; it calls Jesus “God”; and it calls the Holy Spirit “God.” And yet the Bible consistently affirms that there’s only one God. This is the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity. The Qur’an declares that Allah is not a Trinity and that anyone who calls Allah a Trinity is a blasphemer.

In both the Old and New Testaments, believers (Jews and Christians) refer to God as their Father in heaven. The Qur’an repeatedly declares that Allah is a father to no one. This is why you don’t hear Muslims calling God “Father.” The highest relationship you can have with Allah, according to the Qur’an, is a slave to master relationship.

The Bible says that God loves everyone. The Qur’an says that Allah doesn’t love unbelievers; he doesn’t love the proud; he doesn’t love ungrateful sinners; he doesn’t love those who exceed his limits; he doesn’t love the extravagant; he doesn’t love mischief-makers. Allah doesn't love most people.

And this difference in God’s love leads to another important theological disagreement between Christians and Muslims. In Christianity, God loves us so much that he enters the world as Jesus of Nazareth to become the perfect sacrifice for our sins. When Muslims hear this, it makes no sense to them, because they have no concept of a God who loves people enough to do something like that.

Allah’s deficient love leads to the second category of disagreement between Christianity and Islam: the ethical disagreements.

Jesus commanded his followers: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Notice, as Christians, we have to love others. Why? Because God loves them. But as we’ve seen, Allah doesn’t love unbelievers. So the command in Islam is not, “Love your enemies”; it’s “Fight those who do not believe in Allah.”

The emphasis on love in Christianity affects all our relationships. In Ephesians 5:25, the Apostle Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Jesus was crucified for the church, and Paul tells husbands to love our wives the same way. In Christianity, husbands are supposed to love our wives so much that we should be ready to be crucified for them. In Islam, Allah says that you can beat your wife into submission. Very different attitude towards wives, and this ultimately goes back to differences in God’s love in Christianity and Islam.

The third category is evidence. In Christianity, we have good evidence for what we believe. I grew up as an atheist. I started studying Christianity because I wanted to refute a Christian I knew. I understood from reading and discussions that the Apostles based their faith on Jesus’ resurrection, so I started studying the resurrection, in order to prove that Christianity was false. What I found was that every shred of evidence we have tells us that Jesus died by crucifixion. We know this from ancient Christian writers, ancient Jewish writers, and ancient Roman writers. And every shred of evidence we have tells us that Jesus was alive again later. He appeared to more than 500 people at one time. The historical facts just can’t be explained without a miracle.

But Jesus’ resurrection takes us even further. If Jesus was raised from the dead, he must have God’s stamp of approval. God confirmed Jesus’ message by raising him from the dead. So now we have to believe what Jesus claimed about himself, and Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God who came into the world to die on the cross for the sins of others. I realized this as an atheist. I realized that if I wanted to go where the evidence pointed, I had to believe what Jesus said.

Islam just doesn’t have anything like this. The main argument offered by the Qur’an is that the Qur’an is so wonderfully written, it must come from God. And this is one of the strangest arguments ever offered by any religion. Even if the Qur’an were the most amazing book ever written, this wouldn’t make it the Word of God. It would just mean that the Qur’an had the best writer in history. But in fact, the Qur’an isn’t the most amazing book ever written. Far from it. Let me quote what the Iranian scholar Ali Dashti wrote in his book Twenty Three Years:
The Qur’an contains sentences which are incomplete and not fully intelligible without the aid of commentaries; foreign words, unfamiliar Arabic words, and words used with other than the normal meaning; adjectives and verbs inflected without observance of the concords of gender and number; illogically and ungrammatically applied pronouns which sometimes have no referent; and predicates which in rhymed passages are often remote from the subjects. These and other such aberrations in the language have given scope to critics who deny the Qur’an’s eloquence.
So the main argument of the Qur’an fails miserably, and other arguments for Islam are even worse. This means that there’s no good evidence for Islam, but we have very good evidence for Christianity. And since Christians have proof for what we believe, this confirms our theology and our ethics whenever our theology and ethics disagree with Islam.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Answering Islam 5: What Are the Basics of the Islamic Worldview?

Here's Episode 5 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "What are the basics of the Islamic worldview?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

“What Are the Basics of the Islamic Worldview?”

We can often learn something important about a religion just by examining its name. The name “Christianity,” for instance, draws attention to the importance of Christ in Christianity. Similarly, the word “Islam” tells us something about the religion preached by Muhammad. “Islam” is Arabic for “submission” or “surrender,” and, in its religious context, the term refers to submitting one’s will to “Allah” (the Arabic for “God”). The word “Muslim” means “one who submits” (to Allah).

So we can already tell that Islam’s going to have a lot to do with submitting to God. And Muslims who preach Islam in the West emphasize this when they preach. They say, “Islam just means submission to God. You want to submit to God, don’t you? Well, then, Islam is the religion for you.” Now if the message of Islam were simply, “Submit to God,” Christians and Jews would agree. We want to submit to God. But the message of Islam isn’t just that you must submit to God; it’s a message about how you must submit to God.

According to Islam, you submit to God by doing certain things and by believing certain things. And Islam has two convenient lists for us—a list of the most important deeds (called the “Five Pillars”) and a list of the most important beliefs (called the “Six Articles of Faith”).

The five pillars of Islam (the five most important practices) are shahada, salat, zakat, sawm, and hajj.

“Shahada” means “testimony.” To become a Muslim, all you have to do is recite the words “La ilaha illa Allah; Muhammadu rasul Allah.” (“There is no god but Allah; and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” By reciting this “testimony of faith,” or creed, a person formally submits to Allah and Muhammad.

“Salat” refers to prayer and worship. Muslims are required to pray five times per day. These prayers are memorized recitations in Arabic that are accompanied by specified bodily positions (standing, prostrating, and sitting). Muslims perform ceremonial washings called “ablutions” before prayers, and they pray facing the “Kaaba,” which is a cube-shaped shrine in Mecca.

“Zakat” refers to alms-giving, which is required of all Muslims except for those who are extremely poor. Muslims have to give 1/40 of any monetary wealth they’ve held for an entire year, along with various percentages of agricultural products, livestock, and other goods.

“Sawm” is Islamic fasting, which is especially associated with “Ramadan,” the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. When fasting, Muslims are required to abstain from food, beverages, and sexual intercourse during daylight hours (so, from dawn till sunset).

The “Hajj” is the pilgrimage to Mecca. Every Muslim who is physically and financially able must take a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in life. The communal Hajj takes place annually during the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar. Muslims circle the Kaaba seven times, run or walk back and forth between the nearby hills of Safa and Marwah, pelt walls with pebbles to symbolize stoning the devil—things like that.

So Islam requires submission to Allah, and Muslims demonstrate their submission by performing these five deeds.

Muslims are also required to believe certain things. These are summarized in the Six Articles of Faith: belief in Allah, belief in angels, belief in inspired books, belief in prophets, belief in the day of judgment, and belief in predestination. And these beliefs aren’t just some kind of intellectual assent to the existence of God or the existence of angels—they require belief in what Islam teaches about God, angels, and so on.

So, belief in Allah isn’t just belief that God exists. It’s belief in the Islamic view of God—most importantly that Allah is one, with no division in essence or person. The oneness of Allah (a doctrine called “tawhid”) is so central to Islam that denying Allah’s oneness is the worst sin a person can commit in Islam. It’s the sin of “shirk”—associating partners with Allah.

The second article of faith is belief in angels. In Islam, angels are created from light and are incapable of disobeying Allah. So there are no fallen angels in Islam. “Iblis,” or Satan, is one of the “jinn.” Jinn are created from fire rather than from light and may rebel against Allah.

Then there’s belief in Allah’s revealed books. The Qur’an affirms the inspiration, preservation, and authority not only of the Qur’an but also of the Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospel.

Muslims have to believe in Allah’s prophets. Counting Muhammad, the Qur’an mentions 25 prophets by name, though there are numerous unnamed prophets as well. The most respected prophets in Islam are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad.

Belief in the Day of Judgment includes belief in a general resurrection of the dead, followed by a final reckoning. After hearing their deeds read from a scroll, faithful Muslims will enter “Jannah” (the “Garden,” or Paradise), while unbelievers and hypocrites will be thrown into “Jahannum” (referring to hell).

Belief in Predestination is interesting. Some passages of the Qur’an suggest that human beings are ultimately responsible for their own actions. But passages indicating Allah’s complete control over human actions are clearer and more common. If you do right, it’s because Allah wanted you to do right. If you do wrong, it’s because Allah wanted you to do wrong. Allah controls everything we do.

So, those are the basics of Islam. There are a lot more beliefs and practices in the Muslim sources, but these are the beliefs and practices that are most significant.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Answering Islam 4: Did Muhammad Use Religion for His Own Interests?

Here's Episode 4 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "Did Muhammad use religion for his own interests?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

Did Muhammad Use Religion for His Own Interests?

There are several different ways to view Muhammad. Muslims, of course, believe that he was a prophet of God. Among those of us who reject Muhammad, there are some who claim that Muhammad knew that he was deceiving people. They believe that he was an imposter who manipulated people into serving him. I happen to believe, along with many others, that Muhammad sincerely believed that he was a prophet. The general criterion I use here is the same whether I’m evaluating Christianity, or Islam, or any other worldview—it’s that, if a person is willing to die for what he’s saying, he probably believes it. In other words, liars make poor martyrs. There are lots of liars in this world. If you put a gun to someone’s head over a lie, they’re generally going to admit that it’s a lie. People who are willing to die for their claims are usually people who wholeheartedly believe in what they’re dying for.

Based on the number of battles Muhammad was in, and the various dangers he faced, I believe that he really thought he was a prophet. So I don’t believe that Muhammad was intentionally using Islam for his own interests.

However, there are a number of passages in the Qur’an and the Hadith, which prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Muhammad’s revelations were influenced by his desires. Let me give you four examples.

First, Surah 4, verse 3 of the Qur’an says that Muslims can marry up to four women. But we know from references in Bukhari and other sources that Muhammad had at least nine wives at one time. So why did Muhammad get more than four wives when the Qur’an says that Muslim men can only marry four women? Well, Muhammad received a special revelation, Surah 33, verse 50, which says that he, and he alone, could have as many wives as he wanted. Now I don’t know about you, but when the guy who’s receiving the revelations starts getting special moral privileges—namely, more sex partners than anyone else—I start getting awfully suspicious.

Second, Muhammad had an adopted son named Zaid, who was called Zaid bin Muhammad—Zaid, son of Muhammad. One day, Muhammad went to visit him and was greeted by Zaid’s wife, Zaynab, who was very beautiful, and who was wearing very little clothing at the time. When Muhammad saw her, he supposedly received some sort of revelation telling him that he was going to marry her, even though she was already married to his adopted son, and Muhammad walked away praising Allah. When Zaid found out that Muhammad was attracted to his wife, he divorced her, so that Muhammad could marry her. Muhammad was worried about what people might think if he married Zaynab, but then he began receiving revelations to justify the marriage. This is when he received Surah 33, verse 37 of the Qur’an, which says that it’s okay to marry the divorced wives of your adopted sons. I’ve never met a person who struggles with this problem. I’ve never met someone who struggles with whether he should marry the divorced wife of his own adopted son. So this verse has no purpose other than justifying what Muhammad did.

Third, Muhammad's wife Hafsa once came home early and caught Muhammad in her bed with another woman—his slave-girl, Mary the Copt. Seeking to avoid further conflict, Muhammad promised that he would stop having sex with his slave-girl. But a little later, Muhammad started having sex with Mary again. How did he justify his sexual relationship with Mary when he had taken an oath to stop having sex with her? Well, he received a revelation. Surah 66, verses 1-2 of the Qur’an, where Allah says:
O Prophet! why do you forbid (yourself) that which Allah has made lawful for you; you seek to please your wives; and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Allah indeed has sanctioned for you the expiation of your oaths and Allah is your Protector, and He is the Knowing, the Wise.
Notice, Muhammad swears, “I’ll never have sex with my slave-girl again.” Then he starts having sex with her, because Allah told him to break his oath. Very interesting.

Fourth, one of Muhammad's wives was a woman named Sauda. As Sauda aged, she became unattractive and extremely overweight, and Muhammad decided to divorce her. Terrified of being abandoned in her old age, Sauda hatched a plan. She knew that Aisha was Muhammad's favorite wife, and that Muhammad would like to spend even more time with Aisha. So Sauda told Muhammad that, if he would keep her as his wife and not abandon her, she would give her sex night to Aisha. This arrangement would allow Muhammad to spend twice as much time with Aisha as he spent with any of his other wives. Muhammad was happy with the arrangement, and so was Allah. Allah praises Sauda, in Surah 4, verse 128, for coming up with this solution after fearing cruelty and desertion from Muhammad.

So Islam’s message to women is this: If your husband’s going to abandon you in your old age, just give up some of your rights and let him spend more time with his favorite wife. This will keep him from divorcing you and abandoning you.

Over and over again, Muhammad’s revelations are just too convenient. The Qur’an is supposed to exist eternally in heaven, and yet parts of it have more to do with satisfying Muhammad’s desires than with guiding humanity. Even Muhammad’s wife Aisha noticed this. In Sahih al-Bukhari, Muhammad receives one of his morally convenient revelations, and Aisha says to him, “I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires.”

So, I personally believe that Muhammad was sincerely convinced that he was a prophet. But the evidence is clear that his desires influenced the revelations he was receiving.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Answering Islam 3: Was Muhammad a Prophet?

Here's Episode 3 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "Was Muhammad a Prophet?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

“Was Muhammad a Prophet?”

Lots of people down through history have claimed to be prophets. There are people in the world today who claim to be prophets. But their messages contradict each other, so they can’t all be speaking for God. This means that we have to examine their messages to see who’s really speaking for God. And there are three main possibilities we have to consider. First, the person might be getting revelations from his own mind. He might be deliberately inventing revelations, or he might be insane. But it’s clear that some so-called revelations have a purely human origin. Second, the person might be getting revelations from demonic sources. He’s actually receiving revelations, these revelations just don’t come from God. They come from somewhere else. Third, someone who claims to be a prophet may genuinely be receiving revelations from God, in which case we should believe him.

So it’s important to examine Muhammad’s claims in light of these three possibilities. Did his revelations come from his own mind? Did they come from demons? Did they come from God? Let’s think about the evidence.

When we ask ourselves what evidence there is that Muhammad was getting his revelations from his own mind, we find that Islam really seems like a religion that came from the mind of a seventh-century Arabian caravan trader, because Islam is basically a collection of teachings and practices that were present in Arabia during Muhammad’s time. Jewish monotheism had spread into many communities in Arabia, along with biblical and non-biblical stories about Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. Teachings about Jesus and Mary that were popular in certain Christian cults were being taught in Arabia, things like Jesus speaking at birth, Jesus giving life to clay birds, Mary giving birth under a palm tree, and so on. The Sabians, who are mentioned in the Qur’an, prayed at all five of the times Muslims pray during their daily prayers, and they recited a creed—“La illaha ilallah.” Muslims recite this creed today. Many of the polytheists of Arabia performed ablutions (these are ceremonial washings); they took an annual pilgrimage to Mecca; they circled the Ka’aba; they kissed the black stone that supposedly fell from heaven. All of these teachings and practices became a part of Islam, which means that Islam is exactly the sort of religion we would expect to arise in seventh-century Mecca. So we have good reasons to think that Islam had a human origin—the mind of a man deeply affected by the teachings and practices that surrounded him.

But we should also look to see if there might be something darker at work. Here we find plenty of evidence suggesting that forces beyond Muhammad were involved in his teachings.

We know from Muslim records that when Muhammad began receiving revelations, his first impression was that he was demon-possessed. We also know that after his experience in the cave, he became suicidal and tried to hurl himself off a cliff. According to the earliest Muslim sources, Muhammad was tricked into delivering a revelation from the devil; these are the so-called “Satanic Verses,” where Allah gave Muslims permission to pray to three pagan goddesses. Muhammad revealed these verses as part of the Qur’an, but he later came back and said that Satan had deceived him. We also know from Muslim sources that Muhammad claimed that he was a victim of black magic—a spell that gave him delusion thoughts and false beliefs.

So, Muhammad’s first impression of his revelations was that he was demon-possessed; his revelations made him suicidal; and even Muslim sources claim that he delivered a revelation from the devil and that he was a victim of black magic. It seems that we don’t just have evidence that Muhammad’s revelations had a human origin; we also have evidence of spiritual problems.

The question now is whether there’s any evidence that Muhammad’s revelations came from God. Now the Qur’an offers two main arguments for Muhammad’s status as a prophet. The first is what I call the “Argument from Literary Excellence.” The claim here, which we find over and over again in the Qur’an, is that the Qur’an is so wonderfully written, it must be from God. So Muhammad’s main argument is that the poetry he was delivering was so wonderful, it could only come from God. There are two main problems with this argument: One, even if something is wonderfully written—so wonderfully written that it can’t be imitated—this tells us absolutely nothing about whether it’s from God. If we can’t write poems like T. S. Eliot, or plays like Shakespeare, or books like Charles Dickens, this doesn’t mean that Eliot, and Shakespeare, and Dickens are prophets of God. It would only mean that they had unique literary styles. Two, I’ll go ahead and say it, the Qur’an is awful. I’m someone who reads a lot, and I’ve never read a book as awful and boring and disorganized as the Qur’an. I agree with the late philosopher Antony Flew who said: “To read the Qur’an is a penance rather than a pleasure.” He said that reading the Qur’an is penance; it’s a kind of punishment. So the Argument from Literary Excellence fails completely.

The second main argument for Islam is the “Argument from Biblical Prophecy.” The Qur’an claims that there are prophecies about Muhammad in the Torah and the Gospel. What’s the problem here? Well, according to both the Torah and the Gospel, Muhammad was a false prophet. The criteria for a true prophet laid down in both the Torah and the Gospel rule out Muhammad, so we can’t even take this argument seriously.

Other arguments for Islam are even weaker, which means we have no good evidence that Muhammad’s revelations come from God. But we do have good reasons to think that at least some of his revelations had a purely human origin, and that others may even be demonic. We can only conclude that Muhammad was a false prophet, and that anyone who wants to follow the truth will have to look somewhere other than Islam.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Answering Islam 2: Who Was Muhammad?

Here's Episode 2 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "Who was Muhammad?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the text of the video:

Who Was Muhammad?

It’s kind of difficult to be certain about most of the details of Muhammad’s life, because the historical sources are so late. Our earliest detailed biographical source on Muhammad’s life is Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, which was written more than a century after Muhammad died. And we don’t even have what Ibn Ishaq actually wrote. We only have an edited version by Ibn Hisham. And Muslims don’t even pay much attention to Ibn Ishaq. The sources they use to learn about Muhammad—their main Hadith collections—were written two to three centuries after he died. So we’re dealing with some very late material.

But if we take the Muslim sources at face value, the story of Muhammad’s life goes something like this.

He was born around 570 AD in a city called Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia. His father, Abdullah, died before he was born, and his mother, Amina, died when he was six years old. After the death of his grandfather, Muhammad was raised by his uncle Abu Talib, leader of the Banu Hashim clan.

While he was still young, Muhammad began working in the Meccan caravan trade, which put him in contact with diverse religious traditions. When he was 25, he married a wealthy widow, Khadijah, who was 15 years older than he was. With more leisure time, Muhammad developed the habit of retreating to a cave on Mount Hira for prayer and reflection, as was common for the polytheists of the Meccan Quraish tribe. So it seems that Muhammad was very interested in religious matters long before anyone believed he was a prophet.

During one of his yearly retreats, Muhammad became convinced that a jinn or a demonic spirit had possessed him and had ordered him to recite some verses. The verses said:
Read! In the name of your Lord Who created, Who created man from a clot of blood. Read! And your Lord is Most Generous, Who taught by the pen, Taught man what he did not know.
These words are now found in the Qur’an, Chapter 96, verses 1 through 5. So this is when Muhammad started receiving revelations that would eventually become the Qur’an. But again, he didn’t think that they were revelations at this point; he thought that he was possessed by some sort of poetry demon. He was 40 years old at the time, and he was so embarrassed at the thought of being possessed by a jinn or a demon that he tried to hurl himself off a cliff. But whatever it was that gave him the verses stopped him from committing suicide.

Muhammad ran home to his wife Khadijah and her cousin Waraqah, and it was Khadijah and Waraqah who persuaded him that he wasn’t possessed—he was a prophet of Allah. Muhammad soon began preaching Islam to friends and family members, and later to the public. But his messages became increasingly inflammatory. He condemned of the religious beliefs of the polytheists of Mecca, and he mocked their gods. Not surprisingly, the Meccans eventually started persecuting Muhammad and his followers, and after his wife Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib died, Muhammad decided to flee the city of Mecca.

His new city, Medina, was a little over 200 miles north of Mecca. After forming alliances with various non-Muslim groups, Muhammad began robbing the Meccan caravans. These attacks eventually led to a series of battles with Mecca—the Battle of Badr, the Battle of Uhud, and the Battle of the Trench. As war booty poured in, so did new converts. The growing Muslim army allowed Muhammad not only to subdue Mecca, but to subdue the rest of Arabia as well.

Unfortunately for Muhammad, after attacking a Jewish settlement at Khaybar, a Jewish woman whose family had been killed by Muslims offered to cook dinner for Muhammad and some of his companions, and the prophet of Islam accepted her offer. But the food she gave him was poisoned. Muhammad spit the food out, but according to Muslim sources, the poison caused some sort of internal damage, which led to severe pain and ongoing medical problems. Muhammad suffered an agonizing death a few years later in in 632.

So to put all of this together, we can divide Muhammad’s life into three main periods. There’s the time before he claimed to be a prophet; this would be 570-610. There’s his time in Mecca after he claimed to be a prophet; this is 610-622. And there’s his time in Medina as a prophet; this is 622 until his death in 632.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Answering Islam 1: Why Should We Learn about Islam?

Here's Episode 1 of "Answering Islam," where I answer the question: "Why should we learn about Islam?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the text of the video:

“Why Should We Learn about Islam?”

Christians sometimes wonder, “Why should we learn about Islam?” There are lots of reasons that people in general, but especially Christians, should be learning about Islam. Let’s consider five of them.

First, numbers. Islam is the second-largest religion in history (after Christianity). There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. That’s over a fifth of the world’s population. There are currently more than 1200 mosques in the United States, and more than 6000 in Europe. And according to many sources, Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world. So Islam is big, and it’s getting bigger. When that many people believe something, it’s a good idea to learn what they believe.

Second, Christians can’t communicate the Gospel clearly to Muslims without understanding what Muslims believe, because the Qur’an distorts the meaning of Christian claims. For instance, Christians claim that Jesus is the Son of God. But when we say, “Jesus is the Son of God,” Muslims think we’re claiming that God had sex with a woman and produced Jesus as an offspring. They believe this because the Qur’an says, “How can Allah have a son when he has no wife?” (Surah 6, verse 101). Now, when Christians call Jesus the Son of God, we’re not talking about God having sex and producing an offspring. No Christian has ever meant that. But that’s what Muslims think we mean, because the Qur’an says that’s what it means to call someone the Son of God.

There’s a similar problem when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity. According to the Qur’an (Surah 5, verse 116), Christians believe in a Trinity made up of God, Jesus, and Mary. Here again, no Christian has ever believed this. But there are Muslims who think we believe in a Trinity made up of God, Jesus, and Mary, because of how the Qur’an distorts Christian doctrines. So if we don’t know what Muslims believe, we won’t understand how they’re misinterpreting what we say when we preach the Gospel.

Third, Muslims are trained to challenge the core doctrines of Christianity. Jesus taught his followers lots of things, but when they preached the Gospel in the Book of Acts, they preached that Jesus is the divine Son of God, who died on the cross for sins and rose from the dead—deity, death, and resurrection. These are the three core teachings of the Christian Gospel. Islam denies all three of them, and so Muslims are taught to challenge Christians on these issues. Muslims are taught to attack Christianity where it matters most. If Christians don’t know about Islam, we won’t know how Muslims are going to challenge our beliefs, and we won’t know how to challenge their beliefs.

Fourth, many Muslims are so confident that Islam is true (because they’ve been told all their lives that it’s indisputably true) that they can’t seriously consider any alternatives to Islam. My best friend in college was a Muslim. That’s why I started studying Islam. We talked about Christianity for a couple of years, but he was so confident that Islam was true, he really wasn’t taking Christianity seriously. It was only after we began looking at some of the problems with Muhammad and the Qur’an that he realized, “Maybe what I’ve been told about Islam all my life isn’t true. Maybe I need think through all this more carefully.” He’s a Christian now. He’s one of the speakers for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. So giving Muslims some facts about Muhammad and the Qur’an is crucial, and we can’t give them these facts unless we know what the facts are.

Fifth, Islam thrives in an atmosphere of ignorance. I’ve met lots of converts to Islam over the years. But I’ve never met a single person who converted to Islam after carefully studying Islam. When I meet a convert to Islam, and I ask, “Why did you convert to Islam?” it’s almost always because the person was given some false information. The reason so many people fall for this false information is that there’s a general atmosphere of ignorance about Islam, which allows Muslim preachers to say pretty much whatever they want, because no one’s going to correct them. These preachers are then free to adapt their message to the values of their audience. In the West, we believe in women’s rights, so the Muslim preacher says, “You believe in women’s rights? Muhammad was a champion of women’s rights. He was probably the greatest defender of women who ever lived.” People in the West usually have a high respect for science, so the Muslim preacher says, “The Qur’an is filled with scientific claims that could only be verified centuries after Muhammad’s death. Science proves that Islam is the truth.” In an area where no one knows much about Islam, many people believe what they hear from these Muslim preachers, and they convert to Islam. The only way this is going to stop is if we get to a point where we know enough about Islam to refute false claims. When a Muslim preacher says, “Muhammad was a champion of women’s rights,” hands need to go up to question him about Qur’an verses that refute him.

So Islam is already a massive religion, and it’s growing rapidly; Muslims often don’t understand the Gospel because they’re misinterpreting our claims based on the Qur’an’s distortion of our claims; Muslims have been taught to criticize core Christian doctrines; many Muslims can’t take the Gospel seriously until their own beliefs have been challenged; and people are converting to Islam based on false information—all of these are reasons for Christians to learn about Islam.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Four Things We Learned about Islam from "The Walking Dead"

Following the introduction of a Muslim character at the end of Season 7, the Season 8 premier of “The Walking Dead” introduced the show’s second Muslim character. But when the writers started explaining the Quran to us, it wasn’t long before they made some standard blunders. Let’s take a closer look.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

How Islam Can Help Prevent Sexual Abuse Scandals

The Independent recently published an article titled, "How the Teachings of Islam Could Help Us Prevent More Sexual Abuse Scandals," by Qasim Rashid. For once, I actually agree with Qasim Rashid. So, in this video, I present ten ways Islam can help prevent sexual abuse scandals.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Jesus Calls Zakir Naik "Satan"!

Zakir Naik and Ahmed Deedat popularized a silly argument claiming that the "Sign of Jonah" would be that Jesus would miraculously survive crucifixion. However, when we read one of the chapters where Jesus talks about the Sign of Jonah, we find Jesus calling Peter "Satan" for claiming that Jesus would not die on the cross. If Jesus called Peter "Satan" for rejecting his death by crucifixion, how can Naik and Deedat expect us to believe that Jesus was telling his followers that he would survive crucifixion?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Nabeel Qureshi, Muhammad, and Aisha

I spent years discussing Christianity and Islam with my friend Nabeel Qureshi before he became a Christian. Since I kept his written defenses of Muhammad, I thought it would be nice to share some of them. In this video, I share Nabeel's defense of Muhammad's relationship with Aisha.