Muhammad and Apostate Christianity

 

 

Muhammad and Apostate “Christianity”

Richard Hollerman

We all know that spiritual influences may come from many different directions. Generally our parents’ view of God and religion has a great influence on the views of their children.  Church affiliation and TV programs can also have some bearing on what religious views we adopt. Friends are one of the chief factors in the formation of our religious views.

If we are honest, we must blame others, in part, for wrongful influences on us that would lead us into false doctrines and false religions. A child who is raised by devout Catholics will probably accept various false Catholic doctrines, such as prayer to Mary, devotion to the “Pope,” belief in one special church (the Roman church), worship through the Mass, and many other Catholic views. In other words, we can blame the Catholic Church, Catholic priests, Catholic literature, and a general Catholic atmosphere for instilling deeply-held Catholic traditions and beliefs into the heart of children.

What we have said about Roman Catholicism may be said of other religions as well. When devoted “Jehovah’s Witnesses” propagate their false teachings to their children and regularly take them to the local Kingdom Hall, those children normally grow up Witnesses. Mormon parents do the same. So do people of all religions.

I was raised as a Lutheran when I was a child and came to accept typical Lutheran doctrines and practices. Only when I began to question these at age fifteen and read my Bible as well as studying much literature, did I break free from Lutheran bondage. But the fact remains: We learn what Christianity is and what to believe from parents and religious leaders.

What about Muhammad?  Let’s discuss his formative years and how his beliefs and contacts with what he thought was Christianity has influenced Islam for the past thirteen hundred years.

We all know that Muhammad was born in Mecca in the land of Arabia and it was there that he began as a typical pagan Arab. He also learned something about professing Christians of his time.  One source says:

At the age of nine, Muhammad went to Syria with his uncle and had interactions with Christians. One important contact was with the Nestorian monk Bahira in Bosra, modern Syria who foretold to the adolescent Muhammad his future prophetic career.[1]

Waraqah ibn Nawfal was a Nestorian monk (Al-Jibouri 2007), Ebionite priest, Mecca’s priest or preacher according to some sources.

Waraqah is said to have believed in Muhammad as a prophet, but died as a Christian. After the early Sahaba (“Companions”) faced intense persecution, Muhammad sent 90 of his followers to Abyssi. (en.wikipedia. org/wiki/ Muhammad’s_views _on_Christians).

Immediately we see that Waraqah was a Nestorian, a false or aberrant religion similar to Catholicism or the Orthodox Church of today. Further, this compromising professing “Christian” was willing to confess that Muhammad was a prophet which must have fed Muhammad with a false view of his own importance and position before God. As Proverbs puts it: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (16:18).

What about the religions that dominated Arabia at the time? Paganism was the chief religious persuasion in the country and this had some influence on young Muhammad.  Another source tells us:

As in traditional African religions, the Arabs before Muhammad regarded certain springs, trees and stones, as the abode of good or evil spirits. Their religious practice was directed towards gaining the protection and support of the good spirits and defending themselves from the misdeeds of the evil spirits. Some of the Arabs also venerated the stars. Among the many divinities there was one called Allah, the creator of the worlds. At Medina and elsewhere there were important Jewish communities.

By this time the Christian faith had spread through Northern Europe, and had reached Asia, India and China. There were Christian kingdoms in Ethiopia and Southern Arabia. But there were few Christians in the region of Mecca and Medina, and these were mainly foreigners. (arabicbible.com/ for-christians/1313- christians-common- questions-about-islam. html?start=1).

Although there was a false “Christian” presence in the Mecca-Medina area, Muhammad knew little of the inner theology of this religion. And bear in mind that the brand of “Christianity” that he knew was a diluted and false form.

Many people today are under the impression that Muhammad did know something of Christianity and was acquainted with the Bible. But this is a false assumption:

Muhammad had no direct access to the Bible, which was perhaps just beginning to be translated into Arabic at that time but was not widely available in that language. The Christians whom Muhammad is likely to have met were largely ignorant of the Bible, and based their faith rather on the false “Apocryphal Gospels”; and the Qur’an itself says that Jews (? And Christians) who spoke to Muhammad about their scriptures, misrepresented them to him (4, Nisa, 48/46; 3, Ali ‘Imran, 72/78).

So it is generally agreed by Muslims and non-Muslims that Muhammad did not obtain any clear knowledge of the Gospel from the Bible or from Christian informants. But Muslims believe that God revealed directly to Muhammad what the teaching of the previous prophets had been, and that God gave Muhammad the same message in perfected form. So Muslims will answer , “Yes, Muhammad knew the Gospel”.

Non-Muslims, observing that what the Qur’an says about Jesus and the Gospel is substantially different from the teaching of the Bible are compelled to answer, “No, Muhammad did not know the Gospel, he was misinformed by the ignorant Christians whom he met. (See also Q. 23 & 80).

Notice especially that the professing “Christians” that were known to Muhammad failed to even know the Bible well. They were influenced by false apocryphal writings that differed from the Holy Scriptures. Muslims also wrongly assert that Muhammad was taught something of the Word of God by Allah through Gabriel the angel, but, of course, this is a false claim.  Since there are manifold differences between the view of Christ in God’s Word and the view of the Messiah in the Quran, we can see that Muhammad really didn’t have a true knowledge of Jesus.

Muhammad thought that Jesus was merely a virgin-born prophet and messiah. This is why Muhammad denied such a basic fact as Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection!  He denied Christ’s Sonship to the Father. He denied Christ’s pre-existence and activity during the whole Old Testament period since the creation. Muhammad had a huge misunderstanding of Christ Jesus!

What else can we know about Muhammad’s early years and his belief in one God, plus his relationship with the Jews and professing Christians?

The evangelism and preaching by Christians is the primary #1 cause of the rise of Islam. Arabs were “late bloomers” when it came to rejecting polytheism and adopting monotheism. While much of the world had rejected polytheism, Arabs, like late blooming adolescents finally gave up their eternal history of paganism…. thanks to the direct influence of Christians.

Muslims today believe the myth that Muhammad introduced monotheism to the area around Mecca and Arabia in general. The truth is that Muhammad got tired of the Christians constantly preaching monotheism to him fellow Arabs, knowing in his heart, that they were correct in their criticism of Arab paganism. There can be little doubt that Christians, in their evangelism of the are around Mecca, charged the Arabs with paganism and polytheism. Christians criticized those worshipping 260 pagan gods at the Kabah and offered Christianity as a far superior monotheistic religion. In his heart, Muhammad knew the Christians were right and had a better religion of monotheism. But some Muslims today, are totally ignorant of the fact that monotheism was widely preached before, during and after the rise of Muhammad, by the Christians. It was a well known theology and the Arabs were familiar with it. Amazingly, today Muslims criticize as polytheists, the very one’s who taught Muhammad about monotheism! (bible.ca/islam/ islam-causes.htm).

As we can see, Muhammad’s beliefs of monotheism were not unique. While Arabians did worship 260 false gods at the Kabah in Mecca, there was the presence of Jews and “Christians,” though both were perverted examples of these religions. Muhammad had poor representatives of Christianity to interact with and observe, thus his views on this were perverted and consequently wrong.

Several comments may help to give us a further conception of the religious situation in Arabia in the seventh century:

1.The Meccans had numerous contacts with Christians. (Muhammad’s Mecca, W. Montgomery Watt, Chapter 3: Religion In Pre-Islamic Arabia, p26-45)

2.Meanwhile the seed of monotheism had been sown all along the Arabian Peninsula. … The time was ripe for a religious revival. (Islam and the Arabs, Rom Landau, 1958 p 11-21)

3.Muhammad was only one of several preachers of monotheism in the Arabia of his day. (Islam: Muhammad and His Religion, Arthur Jeffery, 1958, p 85)

4.”The religious situation of Arabia, and particularly of Mecca, as it was at the end of the sixth century, there must have been many serious-minded men who were aware of a vacuum and eager to find something to satisfy their deepest needs.” (Muhammad at Mecca, W. Montgomery Watt, 1953, p 23-29)

5.In brief, in the sixth century after Christ, the majority of the people of Arabia were still pagans, but monotheism was spreading steadily. The time was ripe for the Arabs to abandon their superstitions in favour of a more spiritual and monotheistic conception of God. (The Life and Times of Muhammad, John Bagot Glubb, 1970) (Ibid.).

Thus we can see that Muhammad wasn’t the first to bring monotheism to the country, for Jews and professing Christians had been there for a long time. As we mentioned before, the brand of “Christianity” that Muhammad became aware of was a perverted, diluted, and compromising kind.  This gave him a perverted view of Christianity that he freely placed into his Qur’an:

The false doctrine of the Roman Catholic church, which started in 606 AD, drove Muhammad away from Christianity. It is well known by anyone who has read the Bible that praying to Mary, adoration of Mary, the assumption of Mary into heaven, the perpetual virginity of Mary are not found in the Bible. Perhaps calling Mary “mother of God” was the single most repulsive and confusing thing Muhammad saw in what he thought was true Christianity. Muhammad evidently thought that the trinity consisted of the Father, the Son and Mary. Koran 5:116, represents Christians as worshipping Mary as the third member of the Trinity, when in fact the only ones worshiping Mary, based upon the record of history, were the pagan Arabs who worship her idol in the Kaba. But the confusion started with the Roman Catholic church who, although they didn’t worship Mary at that time (they do today), they went around calling her “mother of God”. Historically, no one before 300 AD ever referred to Mary as the “Mother of God”.

1.”The passage of the Qur’an which suggests that the Trinity consists of Father, Son, and Virgin Mary is doubtless a criticism of some nominally Christian Arabs who held this view.” (Muhammad at Mecca, W. Montgomery Watt, 1953, p 23-29)

2.The strictness of Mohammed’s monotheistic attitude became increasingly severe. He went much farther than Eastern Christianity, whose Christolatry and Mariolatry he regarded as idolatry. Not even Judaism withstood the test of his monotheistic zeal. He regarded the Jewish reverence for Ezra as on the same level as the Christian adoration of Jesus (9, 30). (Mohammed: The man and his faith, Tor Andrae, 1936, Translated by Theophil Menzel, 1960, p13-30)

We probably feel like weeping when we see how false doctrine formed Muhammad’s view of Christianity and this had a tremendous influence on the coming centuries.

The view of Mary was a leading false doctrine that Muhammad was given. As we read Scripture, we see that Christ’s mother was merely a human being, humble and pure, residing in Nazareth of Galilee. Our last glimpse of this Godly woman was in the upper room where she was gathered with the 120 disciples during the ten days before the day of Pentecost (Acts 1). No reference to her is found in the following books of the New Testament! Yet the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and others came to accept numerous false beliefs about this simple Galilean woman, the mother of Jesus. Scriptural truth cannot sustain the blasphemy of saying that she is the “Queen of Heaven” as in Catholicism. We can see why the worship of her and devotion toward her is called Mariolotry!

How shocking to think that Muhammad thought that Christians actually worshipped a Trinity made up of the God the Father, Mary the Mother, and Jesus the Son!  This is pagan teaching and belief—and certainly not Biblical!  While Mary was the earthly mother of Jesus (in His flesh), she was not the “Mother of God” as it would be generally understood. This again is a false teaching, promoted by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and others. What would the Qur’an be today if Muhammad had not obtained false information about Christianity, then his followers in the next generation placed these false conceptions into the Qur’an!

We mentioned the Nestorians. How did this form of Christendom influence Muhammad in a negative way? We apologize for the following long quotation, but this will serve to explain further:

Nestorius died around 451 and is the father of Nestorianism. This false doctrine teaches that Christ was two separate persons, one divine and one human. The Bible teaches Jesus Christ was one person with two natures. The United Pentecostal Church International, for example, teaches that when Jesus prayed, he was praying to himself. This assaults the common sense more than it contradicts the Bible! Muhammad would likewise not be impressed with a religion that not only considers Mary “the mother of God”, but that Jesus is a “schizo” split personality that goes around talking to himself. Between the false doctrines of the Roman Catholic church and the outrageous heresy of the banished Nestorians who were driven from civilization into Arabia, not much wonder Muhammad what he thought was Christianity! The devil always uses false doctrine to turn people away from the truth!

1.”the Eastern [Nestorian] Christians believe in one God with three attributes, instead of three persons.” (George M. Lamsa, The Short Koran, p15)

2.Although most of the Arab tribes of the Syrian desert became nominal Christians, however, their new religion seems to have been little more than skin deep. It was doubtless difficult for a people who held such strong views on the honorable duty of revenge to absorb the spirit of a religion which commanded them to love their enemies and to turn the other cheek to aggressors. Unfortunately, in 420, a monk called Nestorius preached a new interpretation of the Incarnation, which was condemned as heretical by the Council of Ephesus in 431. As a result, the Nestorian Christians migrated in considerable numbers to Persia, where they established themselves chiefly in the Euphrates valley as far south as the head of the Persian Gulf. (The Life and Times of Muhammad, John Bagot Glubb, 1970)

3.Under the dominion of Byzantium they achieved power and wealth in the role of a ‘buffer state’ and adopted the Christianity of their rulers. In A.D. 195, another branch, the Lakhmids, established the kingdom of Hira near the ruins of ancient Babylonia. While serving as a ‘buffer’ for Persia, many of its people remained pagan under the non-proselytizing policy of Persian Zoroastrianism.’ Nevertheless some important elements among the Lakhmids became Nestorian Christians. (Islam and the Arabs, Rom Landau, 1958 p 11-21)

4.The influence of Christianity was brought to bear upon Arabia both from Syria in the northwest and from Mesopotamia in the northeast. In the sixth century A.D. the Arabic kingdoms of the Ghassanids in Syria and the Lakhmids in Mesopotamia were allied respectively with the Byzantine and the Persian empires and were strong centers respectively of Monophysite and of Nestorian Christianity. From these regions and in this time if not also earlier, Christian ideas spread on into the farther reaches of Arabia.

A careful study of the relevant data particularly in the Qur’an shows that Muhammad had a very considerable store of knowledge of Judaism and Christianity, and that it was of the sort which he would have been most likely to obtain through oral channels and personal observation over a long period of time. He was specially impressed, it seems, with the fact that both the Jews and the Christians were People of a Book, and it was his desire likewise to provide his own people with a Book which would be to them what the Torah was to the Jews and the Bible to the Christians. (The Archeology Of World Religions, Jack Finegan, 1952, p482-485, 492) (Ibid.).

It should be pointed out that Muhammad didn’t know the Bible and didn’t own a Bible. It is reported that he didn’t even know how to read and write.  In other words, he was ignorant of God’s Word and the truth that is to be found in God’s Word.  As Jesus said to the Father, “Your Word is truth” (John 17:17). Therefore, he lacked the truth of God in regard to the Lord Jesus and many other topics. For example:

1.    He thought that Abraham offered Ishmael on the altar instead of Isaac, as Scripture says (Genesis 22).

2.    He did acknowledge that Mary was a virgin at the time of Christ’s birth, however he was unaware that Jesus existed (from all eternity) before His birth from the womb of Mary (John 1:1-4).

 

3.    He thought that Jesus was “messiah” and “teacher,” but he denied that Jesus was Deity in the flesh.

 

4.    He didn’t believe that Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world, but taught that Judas or another died in Jesus’ place (1 Corinthians 15:3).

 

5.    He consequently didn’t believe that Jesus was resurrected from the grave three days after His death (1 Corinthians 15:4-11).

 

6.    He taught that Jesus would return in judgment, but he didn’t think that His coming would be with “flaming fire” to destroy the universe (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10; 2 Peter 3:7-14).

7.    He thought that Christ would dwell on earth for 40 years, have children, and then die—whereas Scripture teaches that He will be the living one who will be worshipped through all eternity (Revelation 1:17-18; 5:13-14).

If you are like me, you also grieve that part of the reason that Muhammad had success and taught what he did, and produced the Qur’an as he did, was because of his perverted view of Christianity. The understanding that he had was a distorted view that differed greatly from the truth found in Scripture.  Peter said that “the untaught and unstable distort [or twist]” the Scriptures, “to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16). As we can see, such a warning directly relates to people like Muhammad and his teachings!

Because of this misunderstanding, we blame (in part) those religionists who sinfully claimed that the Christianity they lived and taught was right and true. Instead, it was perverted and greatly misunderstood. They were partially to blame for Muhammad’s many misunderstandings and the false teachings that ensued.

Because of his wrong views, Muhammad placed in the Qur’an false views in regard to the Bible in general and specifically in regard to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He thought that Christianity worshipped God the Father, Mary the Mother, and Jesus the Son. He got it all wrong—with tremendous implications for today!

Because of his wrong and partial views on Christianity, many teacihngs that we find in the Qur’an regarding these things are wrong. This means that over one billion (as many as 1.3 to 1.5 billion!) Muslims are getting a false and perverted idea of what the Bible teaches. How sad! Probably very few Muslims actually read the Bible—God’s Word—thus all they know about the Bible and Christianity is perverted and grossly inadequate, even wrong.

Because Muhammad had no example of true Christianity, he received a totally wrong idea of what following Jesus meant. He didn’t see a simple and pure following of Jesus. He didn’t see a non-resistant, non-materialistic, non-institutional people who lived a way of life that differed markedly from what he had formerly known. He wasn’t exposed to a Christianity that took the Sermon on the Mount seriously.

It must be that Muhammad assumed that he knew something about true Christianity—and he flatly rejected it.  He could see that it was false. And hopefully we also can see that it is false.  It doesn’t take very much spiritual discernment to notice how the various Orthodox Churches (including that which is in Egypt) or Nestorian Churches (in the Middle East) differ from primitive New Testament Christianity.

This is not meant to be a malicious discrediting of the Christianity dominant in that part of the world in the seventh and eighth centuries, although we have shown the fallacies in this. Muhammad should have known. He referred to “the people of the Book” repeatedly (Jews who had the Old Testament Scriptures and professing Christians who had the whole Bible), thus he knew something about the Bible although it was not a personal acquaintance of his. If he was going to accept parts of the Bible (Adam and Eve, Noah, Moses, etc.), he should have taken the trouble to find out more. He should have sought out a Bible he could have understood and maybe he should have learned to read, himself.  He should have discovered what Christianity was like 600 or 650 years earlier (at the time of the apostles) and what both Christ and the apostles believed and taught. But he didn’t.

I find it interesting that Muhammad (in the Qur’an and the hadiths) condemns Christians and Jews, calling them “the people of the Book,” but he also calls them “unbelievers” or “disbelievers.” By this he means that they don’t believe in Allah nor in Muhammad, the one who claimed to be Allah’s prophet. Thus, they are considered “unbelievers.” Today Muslims know that Christians don’t accept the Qur’an, thus they consider them “unbelievers” in not believing this book that they consider sacred.

I say that this is interesting and ironic. Why? Scripture would call Muslims “unbelievers.” Why? Because they don’t believe in the God of the Bible, who has a Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (John 20:30-31).  Further, they don’t believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who created all things, who was conceived of a virgin, who lived a sinless life, who died on the cross for our salvation, who was raised for our justification, and who is coming back to this earth to judge the living and the dead.

Thus, they call us “unbelievers” when we call them “unbelievers.” The difference: They would say that we are worthy of death because of our unbelief (of Allah and Muhammad), and the Bible would say that they are worthy of spiritual death because they remain in the guilt of sin and refuse to accept Heaven’s remedy for their sins (Romans 1:32; 6:23). But we allow God to do the judging and condemning, whereas many Muslims want to take it upon themselves to do the judging and condemning. How different!

Hopefully this has raised our awareness of a few of the radical differences between Christianity and Islam, and hopefully we can see something about how history in ancient Arabia resulted in a worldwide religion of our day with some 1.3 to 1.5 billion adherents! Let’s remember that the New Testament (that came over 600 years before Muhammad) must take priority over the Qur’an and must judge the Qur’an. If there is any difference or conflict, we know that the New Testament is correct and the Qur’an is false.

Let’s proclaim Jesus as our Savior and Lord, as the very Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16), and show the world what real Christianity is! Let’s not only teach and proclaim the true Christ of Scripture but also live Jesus before the watching eyes of the world—and our Muslim friends. Let them see the difference between the Biblical Christianity that we live and the false, compromising, and hypocritical Christendom that we and they so often find in the world.

(We invite every sincere Muslim reading these words to obtain a copy of the New Testament for yourself.  We can help you if you need aid in obtaining such a book. Then read the New Testament carefully to discern the truth of God. Begin with the Gospel of John, go to Matthew, then read Romans and the other books. If you do this, God will show you the One who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father [God] but through Me” [John 14:6].)

 

   

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