Debate: Do the gospels portray a consistent picture of Jesus? (voting period)

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How consistent are the gospels? Can we rely on them to present the character of Jesus accurately? Follow my recent debate here as I challenge my opponent – Otakujorden that they aren’t at all consistent.

I do not wish to offend any Christian with this debate, such is not my intention. I hope those that read it will enjoy it and find it quite interesting. Thank you.

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A statement on the different stages of life

Jesus said to the disciples, “Man is created into the world in four stages, in three of which he feels secure and in the fourth of which he is ill-disposed and fears that God will forsake him. In the first stage, he is born in three darknesses: the darkness of the belly, the darkness of the womb, and the darkness of the placenta. God provides for him in the darkness of the cavity of the belly. When he is brought out of the darkness of the belly, he falls upon milk which he does not advance toward on foot or leg, or obtain with his hand or move strongly toward, but he is forced to it and rewarded with it until flesh and blood grows upon him. Weaned from milk, he falls upon the third stage: food provided by his parents, who earn it either lawfully or unlawfully. When his parents die, people take pity on him, one person feeding him, another giving him a drink, another sheltering him,and another clothing him. When he falls upon the fourth stage and has grown strong and erect and had become a man, he fears that he will not be provided for, so he attacks people, betrays their trust, robs their belongings, and carries away their wealth, fearing that God Almighty might forsake him.”[1]

– excerpted from: The Muslim Jesus by Tarif Khalidi, The sayings and stories, no.86

An elaborate description on the general stages of a mans life and how one can fall to become a criminal. It gives the understanding that a persons downfall is as a result of despondency towards God’s gratuity. I read it and thought it to be profound in its meaning. Though the saying dates from the 9th century AD, it has deep relevance to the society and environment we are in now and the situations that we face – a rise of materialistic desires  and forgetfulness the Creator etc.

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References 

[1] Abu ‘Uthman al-Jahiz (d. 255/868), al-Mahasinwa al-Addad, pp. 82-83. Cf. Abu Hayyan, al-Imta’ wa al-Mu’anasa, 2:127; and al-Bayhaqi, al-Mahasin wa al-Masawi, p. 309. (Asin, p. 537, no. 105; Mansur, no. 236; Robson, pp. 50-51). Cf.Ibn Abi al-Dunya, Kitab al-Qana’a wa’l Ta’affuf, in Mawsu’at Rasa’il, 1:57, excerpt no. 126; Ibn ‘Asakir, Sirat, p.170, no. 193.

The fasting Jesus: from Muslim literature

As I continue to read Tarif Khalidi’s book, The Muslim Jesus, I come across wonderful saying and spiritually uplifting stories. As it is the month of Ramadan, the following are sayings and stories, I present from the book regarding Jesus and fasting. I have excerpted them less concerned about their authenticity, but in confidence that they will be of some inspiration.

Jesus said, “If it is a day of fasting for one of you, let him anoint his head and beard and wipe his lips so people will not know he is fasting. If he gives with the right hand, let him hide this from his left hand. If he prays, let him pull down the door curtain, for God apportions praise as He apportions livelihood.”[1

If you want to fast as Jesus did, he would fast all the time and lived on nothing but barley. He always wore [garments of] coarse hair, and wherever he would be at nightfall he would plant his feet and keep praying until he saw the break of dawn. He would never leave a particular place before praying two rak’as. If, however you want to fast as his mother the Virgin did, she used to fast for two days at a time then eat for two days.[2]

It is told that Jesus spent sixty days in intimate conversation with his Lord without eating. Then the thought of bread occurred to him and his intimacy was interrupted. At once a loaf of bread appeared in his hands, so he sat down and wept for the loss of intimacy. At that moment, an old man cast his shadow upon him and Jesus said to him, “God bless you, friend of God. Pray to God for me, for I was in a trance and the thought of bread occurred to me, and so my trance was interrupted.” The old man prayed, “O God! If you know that the thought of bread has occurred to me since I have known you, do not forgive me. On the contrary, if anything was brought before me, I would eat it without any thought of it.”[3]

Jesus exhorted some of his companions as follows: “Fast from the world and break your fast with death. Be like him who treats his wound with medicine lest it oppress him. Remember death often‑for death comes to the man of faith bringing good with no evil to follow; but to the evil man, it brings evil with no good to follow.”[4]

References 

[1]The Muslim Jesus by Tarif Khalidi , The Sayings and Stories no. 4 –  ‘Abdallah ibn al-Mubarak (d. 181/797), al- Zuhd, pp. 48-49 (no. 150). Cf. al-Ghazali, ihya’ Ulum al-Din, 3:287; Ibn ‘Asakir, Sirat, p. 175, no. 201 (Asin, p. 389, no. 55; Mansur, no. 137; Robson, p. 46).

[2]The Muslim Jesus by Tarif Khalidi, The Sayings and Stories no. 146 –  Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi (d.373/983), Tanbih al-Ghafilin, p. 125 (asin, p. 557, no. 139; Mansur, no. 39; Robson,pp.74-75).

[3]The Muslim Jesus by Tarif Khalidi, The Sayings and Stories no. 209 –  Abu Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 505/1111), Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din, 3:81 (Asin, p.362, no. 22; Mansur, no. 107; Robson, pp. 63-64). 

[4]The Muslim Jesus by Tarif Khalidi, The Sayings and Stories no. 280 –  Abu Muhyi al-Din ibn ‘Arabi (d.638/1240), al-futuhat al-makkiyya, 4:663 (Asin, p. 584, no. 194; Mansur, no. 225; Robson, p. 60)

Faith in God, its an absolute no brainer

I read this a while back online and still remember it. It is a discussion between a student and his professor about having faith in God. I found it quite enjoyable to read so thought I’d add it to my page.

The discussion, enjoy:

Professor: Do you believe in God?
Student: Absolutely, sir.
Professor: Is God good?
Student: Sure.
Professor: Is God all powerful?
Student: Yes.
Professor: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him. Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn’t. How is this God good then? Hmm?

(Student was silent.)

Professor: You can’t answer, can you ? Let’s start again, young fella. Is God good?
Student: Yes.
Professor: Is Satan good?
Student: No.
Professor: Where does Satan come from?
Student: From … God …
Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Student: Yes.
Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Student: Yes
Professor: So who created evil?

(Student did not answer.)

Professor: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don’t they?
Student: Yes, sir.
Professor: So, who created them?

(Student had no answer.)

Professor: Science says you have 5 Senses you use to identify and observe the world around you. Tell me, son, have you ever seen God?
Student: No, sir.
Professor: Tell us if you have ever heard your God?
Student: No , sir.
Professor: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smell your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?
Student: No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.
Professor: Yet you still believe in Him?
Student: Yes.
Professor: According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says your God doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.
Professor: Yes, faith. And that is the problem Science has.
Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Professor: Yes.
Student: And is there such a thing as cold?
Professor: Yes.
Student: No, sir. There isn’t.

(The lecture theatre became very quiet with this turn of events.)

Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, super heat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat. But we don’t have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can’t go any further after that. There is no such thing as cold. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it.

(There was pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre.)

Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Professor: Yes. What is night if there isn’t darkness?
Student: You’re wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light. But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and its called darkness, isn’t it? In reality, darkness isn’t. If it is, were you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn’t you?
Professor: So what is the point you are making, young man?
Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Professor: Flawed? Can you explain how?
Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, Science can’t even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it. Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?
Professor: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.
Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?

(The Professor shook his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument was going.)

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavour. Are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher?

(The class was in uproar.)

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor’s brain?

(The class broke out into laughter.)

Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol, Science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

(The room was silent. The Professor stared at the student, his face unfathomable.)

Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on faith, son.
Student: That is it sir … Exactly! The link between man and God is faith. That is all that keeps things alive and moving.

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Who ate the third loaf of bread?

A man once accompanied Jesus, saying to him “I want to be with you and be your companion.” They set forth and reached the bank of a river, where they sat down to eat. They had with them three loaves. They ate two loaves, and a third remained. Jesus then rose and went to the river to drink. When he returned, he did not find the third loaf, so he asked the man: “Who took the loaf?” “I don’t know,” the man replied.

Jesus set forth once more with the man, and he saw a doe with two of her young. Jesus called one of the two, and it came to him. Jesus then slaughtered it, roasted some of it, and ate with his companion. Then he said to the young deer, “Rise, by God’s leave.” The deer rose and left. Jesus then turned to his companion and said, “I ask you in the name of Him who showed you this miracle, who took the loaf?” “I don’t know,” the man replied.

The two of them then came to a body of water in a valley. Jesus took the man by the hand and they walked upon the water. When they had crossed over, Jesus said to him, “I ask you in the name of Him who showed you this miracle, who took the loaf?” “I don’t know,” the man replied.

They then came to a waterless desert and sat down upon the ground. Jesus began to gather some earth and sand, and then said, “Turn to gold, by God’s leaves,” and it did so. Jesus divided the gold into three portions and said, “A third for me, a third for you, and a third for whoever took the loaf.” The man said, “It was I who took the loaf.” Jesus said, “The gold is all yours.”

Jesus then left him. Two men came upon him in the desert with the gold, and wanted to rob and kill him. He said to them, “Let us divide it into three portions among us, and send one of you to town to buy us some food to eat.” One of them was sent off, and then said to himself, “Why should I divide the gold with those two? Rather, I shall poison the food and have all the gold to myself.” He went off and did so.

Meanwhile, the two who stayed behind said to each other, “Why should we give him a third of the gold? Instead, let us kill him when he returns and divide the money between the two of us.” When he returned, they killed him, ate the food, and died. The gold remained in the desert with the three men dead beside it. Jesus passed by, found them in that condition, and said to his companions, “This is the world. Beware of it.”[1]

– Excerpted from the book: The Muslim Jesus by Tarif Khalidi.

The story is seen as a moral fable of longstanding deep interest in many cultures, from late 9th century AD.

Reading the book, this particular story stood out to me. The main theme of the story is about greed and deceit and I saw it could relate to our times. It has much to say about the way we live, how we crave for worldly things. How easy it is to let our materialistic desires define our own character and actions. I find it concerning to see society like this, particularly the youth today, having the latest phone, jacket, expensive hair cuts etc. this is what defines most of them. And if they don’t have that then they have an identity crisis.

Looking at how people are so caught up in the world, gaining wealth and influence and ‘respectability’, one can understand why the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) discouraged liking this life and this world too much. As we can read in the Qur’an, one of my favourite passages regarding worldly matters:

“Competition in (worldly) increase diverts you until you visit the graveyards. No! You are going to know. Then no! You are going to know. No! If you only knew with knowledge of certainty, you will surely see the Hellfire. Then you will surely see it with the eye of certainty. Then you will surely be asked that Day about pleasure.”[2]

The story may be a fable; one might question the authenticity of the story. However, I think one can spend his time more effectively by reflecting on the essence and deep meaning of the story.

References

[1] Abu Bakr ibn Abi al-Dunya (d. 281/894), Kitab Dilamm al-Dunya, in Mawsu’at Rasa’il, 2:49, excerpt no. 87. Cf. al-Ghazali, IIIya’, 3:267 (Asin, pp. 383-384, no. 54; Mansur, no. 136; Robson, pp. 97-99); al-Makki, Qut, 1:255 (Asin, pp. 387-388, no. 54 quater; Mansur, no. 26); al-Thriushi, Siraj, pp. 79-80; Ibn ‘Asakir, Sirat, p. 95, no. 82; al-Abshihi, al-Mustatraf 2:263-264 (Asin, p. 385, no. 54 his and pp. 386-387, no. 54 ter; slight variation).

[2] Qur’an 102

What are you looking at?

‪‪”What are you looking at? Because when you’re looking at yourself in the mirror you’re looking at the appearance, at what you present to others. You’re not looking at your own self; you’re not even looking what is inside. A difference between the ones who forgot God and the ones who remember Him is, in the morning, the first thing the ones who forgot God are accustomed to, is the water to look clean on the outside. And the ones who remember God are familiar to the water to purify themselves from the inside. And it shows on the surface.” – Tariq Ramadan

I found this quote floating around on the internet in a blog entry and YouTube, and its been attributed to Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan to have said it. Whoever the author may be it is a wonderful sentence we should reflect on.

We are engrossed so much in our materialistic desires and physical appearances, that we’ve made them our own gods; distracted from the real matter of what our hearts and minds have turned into. And instead of blaming ourselves and doing something about it, we blame society for it. But the funny thing is, we are the society.

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My Thoughts on Robert Morey and his ‘Nuke the Kaba’ Plan

Just when I thought I’ve read the worst of anti-Islamic writings on the internet, yet again I have stumbled onto another article which is truly amazingly stupid (apologies but there’s no other way to put it, its just stupid). I am of course referring to Dr. Robert Morey’s article: How Should a Christian Respond to the Death of Osama bin Laden? In which he wrote:

“First, as I wrote in my book, How to Win the War Against Radical Islam, the war against the Muslim Jihadists will be long and costly and will not be won until we bomb the Kabah in Mecca. Islam is based on a brick and mortar building that can be destroyed. They pray to that building five times a day, make a pilgrimage to it, run around it, kiss a black rock on the wall, then run between two hills and finally throw rocks at a pillar. What if that building, the Kabah, was destroyed? They could not pray to it or make a pilgrimage to it. The old pagan temple of the moon-god, al-ilah, is the Achilles’ heel of Islam. Destroy it and you destroy Islam’s soul.”

It is amazing how Robert Morey (a Christian Scholar) sees this as an acceptable idea to advocate. How did he ever reach this conclusion? Where or who did he get this radical idea from? These are just some of the questions I would want to ask him. He is convinced destroying the Ka’ba would prove a great loss to Muslims and would destroy Islam’s soul, as if the Ka’ba cannot be rebuilt. The Ka’ba has been rebuilt and reconstructed and re-erected many times even according Islamic sources, one can find examples in narrations of hadiths[1]. Even the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself contemplated the reconstruction of the Ka’ba, but unfortunately it did not happen in his lifetime[2]. And one would disagree with the thought of Islam’s soul being the Ka’ba, a Muslim believes rather that the absolute foundation and core of Islam is the oneness and absolute attributes of the Creator.

Not only is this suggestion of his radical, extreme and hate-filled, Robert Morey is also wrong in his knowledge of what the Ka’ba represents for Muslims. Muslims do not pray to the Ka’ba in Makkah as he wrote it, Islam teaches to pray to God almighty in the direction of the Ka’ba. The Ka’ba is not the object of worship; this is very clear from Islamic sources. And Muslims do not believe they are worshipping some kind of Moon-god, the Ka’ba is not attributed to that idea. One can find a number of verses from the Qur’an to disprove Morey’s Moon-god accusation. For example: Allah created the Moon[3], the Sun and universe, and He is unique in His attributes not equivalent[4] to His creation.

It doesn’t take much time to refute these accusations Robert Morey has put forward, in fact it would take a learned individual no longer than 15 minutes to disprove these  types of argumentations. They are extremely weak arguments; one simply needs to do some basic study to know this.

It is truly, deeply disturbing to me that Robert Morey, an academic scholar, entertains an idea of violence simply by justifying it by his misrepresentation of Islam. This clearly shows his intellectual dishonesty and that he has an anti-Islamic agenda. As for the rest of his article, it isn’t much helpful either; one may be amazed by his ideas and proposals. It is for such reasons that I do not now for a moment consider Dr. Robert Morey a trustworthy, reliable academic. His thoughts prove to be just as extreme and radical as terrorists, they are clearly not the answers we are looking for if we desire peace and unity and social justice.

[2] Sahih Muslim: Book 7, Hadith 3078 (English reference)

[3] Qur’an 21:33

[4] Qur’an 112:4