This conversation was begun by a Muslim who wanted to defend Islam after I said that Islam had no proof of its validity. It is an interesting conversation since it covers different subjects including God's self-revelation, evidence, miracle, Muhammad, beating your wife, and science. It is long but worth the read.
You will note as you read that I quote the Qur'an and the Hadith. This is because the quotes are already on the CARM website, and I was simply cutting and pasting the material in.
Kareem: How does God reveal Himself to us?
Matt: We would have to ask Him or look to evidence that would be supernatural.
Kareem: What is the evidence that needs to be looked at?
Matt: You tell me. If God were to reveal Himself, what might we expect?
Kareem: Depends on HOW God would reveal Himself? And HOW do you expect God to reveal Himself?
Matt: I am simply asking that if God were to reveal Himself to us, what kinds of things would it be fair to expect with this revelation? Let's explore this together first, okay?
Matt: I propose that if God were to reveal Himself to us, that the revelation would be extraordinary in quality, agreed?
Matt: I further propose that it is reasonable to assume that God's self-revelation might very well be accompanied by miracles, agreed?
Kareem: I don't consider it reasonable that God would reveal Himself, but if this was a possibility then yes, it would accompanied with miracles.
Matt: Okay, one more point, then. I think it is safe to say that what God revealed about Himself would not always be accepted by all people, agreed?
Kareem: Agreed and History is a witness
Matt: If this is reasonable, then could we not look into history for examples of the extraordinary and miraculous "revelation" of God that, of course, has not been accepted by all people?
Kareem: Yes, we could.
Matt: Then where do we have--in history--an account of this happening?
Kareem: Do you want me to answer?
Matt: Is there anyone or anything that claims to be the revelation of God that is accompanied by extraordinary occurrences and miracles?
Kareem: I have more than a few examples . . . Yes there is . . .
Matt: Does Islam fit our reasonable expectation?
Kareem: Definitely . . .
Matt: How so?
Kareem: Islam fits beyond our reasonable expectation.
Matt: How so?
Kareem: Do you have time? Because I can go on forever. But I will keep it short.
Matt: Can you give me some reasonable accounts of the extraordinary events surrounding the supposed revelation of Islam along with the miraculous?
Kareem: Of course.
Matt: Please just cite one occurrence at a time and let's look at them.
Kareem: Ok, the first thing about Islam is that it speaks about history and also speaks about the miraculous events of many prophets, it is totally in line with those prophets miracles as reported by other scriptures and doesn't distinguish between any of them. All are highly respected and honored in Islam. To give you examples . . . The Qur'an confirms Prophet Abraham was thrown in the fire and came out untouched . . . MIRACLE! Prophet Moses whereby the command of God parted the see and Him and His people escaped the Pharoah . . . MIRACLE! Prophet Jesus was born of Virgin mother who was Pure and never touched by a man . . . MIRACLE! Prophet Jesus spoke to his people from his cradle about His Messengership . . . MIRACLE! Prophet Jesus cured those who were born blind . . . MIRACLE..!!!
Matt: All the Qur'an has done is claim miracles from people already written about in the Jewish Old Testament. What miracles are there recorded in the Qur'an? Or, what miracles are there concerning Muhammad as are recorded in the Qur'an?
Matt: Okay, then, if you state that the extraordinary and the miraculous are evidence of God's self-revelation in Islam, then is it not also fair to say that this is evidence of the self-revelation of God in Christianity since Christianity has the extraordinary events of fulfilled prophecy, the virgin birth, Jesus' many miracles, as well as His death, burial, and resurrection? In fact, doesn't Christianity have even more claims of the extraordinary and miraculous about Jesus than Islam does about Muhammad or itself?
Matt: You mean, that the extraordinary and the miraculous work for Islam but not for Christianity? Why?
Kareem: Very easy to say, but on examination you will find that is not true.
Matt: What is not true?
Kareem: You see, my dear friend, in Christianity there is only one holy scripture, that is the Bible. In Islam there is two, the Qur'an and The Hadith.
Matt: The Bible is, my dear friend, 66 separate writings and written over 1,600 years and by 40 different people and in 3 different languages and on 3 different continents.
Kareem: The Qur'an is the word of God, as revealed word for word by Angel Gabriel, untouched and still in its original form.
Matt: How do you know this? I have studied the Bible, and I know that it is reliable historically and that it has been transmitted to us reliably. I also know that the eyewitnesses wrote what they saw Jesus do. Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. This is what they saw. Do you deny that they wrote this?
Kareem: The Hadith is what the Prophet said, and are his traditions collected by those around him who met and sat with him and were transmitted correctly, they have been preserved through generations and have been divided by their strength in the chain of narration. There are over 300,000 of them
Matt: You trust the Hadith?
Kareem: This is the equivalent of the bible, yet they have undergone far greater scrutiny and this itself is a great science. To understand the Qur'an we need Hadith, and to understand the Hadith we need the Qur'an. Both are hand in hand and cannot be separated! Do I trust hadith?
Matt: May I quote some Hadith to you to see if you believe what it says?
Matt: Allah made Adam 60 cubits high (generally a cubit was 18 inches. Therefore, Adam was 90-feet tall). The Prophet said, "Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits tall. (Hadith, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 543, Narrated Abu Huraira.) Do you believe that Adam was 90-feet tall when God made him?
Kareem: There are Sahih (reliable) Hasan (slightly less) Daieef (weak in narration) and then fabricated. They have been preserved. You see? Its not that simple . . .
Matt: Do you believe that Adam was 90-feet tall when God made him? Are you there?
Kareem: Firstly, we need to check the strength of the narration, then we need to check that this is the correct Arabic translation (remember hadith are preserved in Arabic) then we need to see, how did the people understand cubits in the time of the Prophet peace be upon him, and so on . . . and this is done by the Scholars of Islam, I cannot do that. I have no knowledge But, if we were to take it literally, then yes, but I am no scholar, so do not hold me to that
Matt: Okay, that is fair. Do you also believe this, then? The devil peed in an ear? "It was mentioned before the Prophet that there was a man who slept the night till morning (after sunrise). The Prophet said, 'He is a man in whose ears (or ear) Satan had urinated,'" (Hadith, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 492).
Kareem: . . . and only scholars have the authority, who understand Qur'an, and Tafsir (Qur'an interpretation) and the Sciences of Qur'an and the Hadith, And the Science of Hadith, and the principles of jurisprudence, and are well versed in Arabic language and so on. Again my dear friend, you would need a scholar to interpret that for you, but I would say that it is metaphorical, not literal, but again only scholars can interpret that correctly,
Matt: Okay, then please let me quote the Qur'an: "As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly) . . . " (Qur'an, 4:34). Do you agree with the Qur'an that it is sometimes okay to beat wives?
Kareem: I fear my Lord for the Day of Judgment, lest I say interpret something wrong and misguide you or others, if I have no knowledge of something shall remain silent, as the Prophet has said . . .
Matt: By contrast the Bible says of wives, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her; 26that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word," (Eph. 5:25-26).
Matt: Shouldn't you find out if this is what Islam says?
Kareem: Yes I agree with the verse, but . . .
Matt: Then you agree it is okay to beat wives? Is it also okay for wives to beat their husbands?
Kareem: We do not take the verse literally.
Matt: Then you do not take it for what it says?
Kareem: Again, this is part of the problem with those who look for mistakes, taking everything literally. I already mentioned that the Qur'an cannot be taken on its own, Qur'an and Hadith go hand in hand.
Matt: I have merely quoted the Qur'an and the Hadith to you. If you want to go examine those texts and get back with me, that is fine.
Kareem: Now the Qur'an in this verse talks 3 stages which are important to go through. To keep it short I will avoid going into the first two, but I can if you wish, the last stage is that you beat the wife, (lightly). Now, how do we beat the wife? do we strangle her? do we punch her? do we kick her? How do we know? For this we look to the hadith.
Matt: Beating lightly or beating hard--either one is still beating.
Kareem: How was it allowed in the time of the Prophet?
Matt: Which do you think is a better way to treat your wife--with a little beating or with love the same way Jesus loves His church?
Kareem: And this was never, never supposed to cause her pain, rather it is to show her your displeasure. Well you see my friend there are many many things to consider, its not so black and white.
Matt: How can beating your wife NOT cause her pain? Again, which do you think is a better way to treat your wife--with a little beating or with love the same way Jesus loves His church?
Kareem: Firstly, I am guessing that you have not looked into the many many verses in the Qur'an commanding (not recommending), commanding the Believers to love, respect, honor, your wife. Secondly, the Qur'an deals with reality, practical daily reality . . . and reality is that we live in a time, where a wife can be very disobedient to her husband.
Matt: I am not stating that the Qur'an doesn't have those verses. But, I am curious about the one that states it is okay to beat your wife. If it is okay to beat your wife, then is it okay for a wife to beat a husband in Islam, or are they not equal in Islam?
Kareem: What do you if your wife (and I hope you are not married, if you are then I don't mean this in disrespect, only an example) is sleeping with someone else? Islam deals with reality, practical reality. It is a way of life with a solution to every problem.
Matt: No disrespect taken, thanks. Yes, I am married. If she did do this, I would not beat her. Would you say that if a husband commits adultery, would it then be okay for the wife to beat him? Can you please answer that?
Kareem: And about a women beating a man, you would need to consult the scholars. You see, sleeping around is just an example.
Matt: So then, it is definitely okay for a husband to beat his wife, but it may not be okay for a wife to beat her husband? Is that what you are saying?
Kareem: In an Islamic society, both adulterers (man and women) would be killed in public as a means of lesson for the rest, as you can appreciate this cannot carry on in society destroying families (the backbone of every nation). Again, you make it sound like beating without mercy, this is not true. You must look to the hadith for description.
Matt: I understand what you are saying. But, I find a profound inequality between men and women in the Qur'an. I did not say it was beating without mercy. I simply said "beating." The Bible does not allow us to beat our wives. But the Qur'an allows you to beat your wives.
Kareem: And bear in mind this is the LAST, I repeat LAST resort, there are two stages before that which is sufficient.
Matt: Which is more loving in this respect--the Qur'an or the Bible?
Kareem: The questions isn't so black and white, my dear friend. So there is no concept of punishment in the bible?
Matt: I did not say there is not mention of punishment in the Bible. But, the Bible tells us to love our wives--not to beat them. Again, which is more loving regarding the wife--the Qur'an or the Bible?
Kareem: Can you also quote me some verses from the Qur'an about loving your wives? Then we can compare and I can answer your question. It is not reasonable to quote a verse form the Bible about loving the wife, and then one verse from the Qur'an about hitting the wife and then asking the question, "which one is more loving?" Rarther you must also quote some verses from Qur'an about loving the wife (and also from hadith - very important to get a clear picture) and also from the Bible about loving the wife and then compare . . . this is if we are sincere, and God is always with the sincere.
Matt: If the Qur'an says to love your wife, that is good. But, the Bible never says to beat your wife. Since the Qur'an allows for beating your wife, then that is what Islam teaches. That is not what Christianity teaches. Again, which is more loving regarding the wife--the Qur'an or the Bible?
Matt: Why will you not answer this question?
Kareem: I have just explained why the scales are not clear. What does the bible say if your wife has committed adultery? Or she is disobedient to you?
Matt: The Bible says we have the option of divorce. But it does not say to beat her. I see you will not answer the question about which teaches better treatment for wives--the Qur'an or the Bible. I understand why. Perhaps we should move to the subject of sincerity. Okay?
Kareem: Again, its not that simple. You tend to see it as black and white, and with Islam that is just not always possible
Matt: I understand, but the fact is that the Qur'an teaches it is permissible to beat your wife where the Bible does not. The Bible teaches us to love our wives the same way Jesus loves the Church.
Kareem: Again, if you can also provide me with the verses from Qur'an about treating wives with love and also from the hadith, then I can maybe answer your question
Matt: Would Jesus, if He were married, have beaten His wife? Of course He would never have done such a thing. Therefore, Christian men are not permitted to beat their wives.
Kareem: That is speculation and we would never know the answer because He did not marry (May Peace be upon Him).
Matt: Yes, it is speculation. But can you see Jesus beating a woman? ever?
Kareem: Again that is speculation. We can never know. May Peace be upon Him.
Matt: Very well, about the issue of sincerity--can we address it?
Kareem: Yes we can, but I would love to return to issue of love and wife at some point with you if that is ok. If not today, then another time . . .
Matt: Of course. Is being sincere in your repentance before God enough to please God and attain forgiveness of sins?
Kareem: No. There are more conditions than that.
Matt: What are they?
Kareem: There are three or four, from the top of my head I can answer, if you want exact then I can quickly look it up if you don't mind waiting. But they are 1. To recognize that you have done wrong 2. To sincerely ask God's forgiveness 3. and while asking forgiveness to sincerely believe (for that moment at least) that one will never do such again
Matt: Okay, I understand. I have some questions for you, okay? Can Allah do any wrong?
Kareem: No, Allah is above all imperfections.
Matt: Okay, Is Allah then the standard of what is right and wrong?
Matt: He is the measure of what is truly right, correct? It is wrong to lie because it is against God's nature to lie? Would you agree?
Matt: Good. I am glad we agree.
Matt: If God is the measure of what is right and He tells us to not lie (as an example) and if we lie, then do we not offend God?
Kareem: We can not offend God, God does not need us we need him, if we lie this is a burden upon only our own souls and for that we will be held accountable.
Matt: You mean that if God says something that is true and we contradict Him, that it is okay to do that?
Kareem: Of course not. But we have a free will to choose and we will be held accountable.
Matt: Then when we lie, we are contradicting the very character of God, correct? If I insult you, are you offended?
Kareem: We cannot contradict God. We can only disobey Him.
Matt: If I were to call you all sorts of names and call you a liar and steal from you and do you great wrong, would you be affected by this at all?
Kareem: If you insult me yes
Matt: Is God unaffected when we defy Him?
Kareem: According to human nature, yes.
Matt: Is God not made aware of our defiance and at least in this awareness He is affected?
Kareem: God is unaffected.
Matt: You mean the mind of Allah is unaware of our defiance and sin against Him?
Kareem: Again, we are God's slaves, not the other way around.
Matt: If we are slaves, then we are not free. But, that is another topic. If we offend God, is He not aware in His mind of the offense?
Kareem: No of course not, Allah is closer to us then our jugular vain, He is The All Aware, The All knowing. He knows when even a leaf falls of a tree. He is aware, and knows everything.
Matt: Good, I am glad you agree. If this is so, then has God not harbored in His own mind that which is contrary to His holy nature? The fact that God is aware of sin means that He has been affected in that He is aware--to say the least. If God were not affected, then He would have to be unaware of our sins.
Kareem: But is not offended, I will relate to you a hadith which I am paraphrasing . . . If all of Mankind and Jinnkind, were to worship Allah they can not increase Allah in anything and If All of mankind and Jinnkind were to not worship Allah they cannot decrease Allah in Anything.
Matt: How then could God not be affected in some way by our sins since He knows them and must be aware of them within His own nature? I see no problem with that Hadith, but it is not relevant to my questions. How then could God not be affected in some way by our sins since He knows them and must be aware of them within His own nature?
Kareem: God being aware, and God being affected are two separate separate things.
Matt: I would agree to a point, but being aware of something is to be affected by it since the awareness is in itself a reality within God and that reality within Him has an affect, otherwise, it does not exist.
Kareem: As far as God is aware we have authority to say this because we have this in revelation.
Matt: The point is this: If you sin against God, God is aware of it in His mind. This sin is unholy and contrary to His holy nature. By God's awareness of it, He is affected, in some way, by this unholiness that He is aware of.
Kareem: How God feels, when we sin is something else, we need revelation to say this, we cannot speculate in the air and treat God like a human and give Him human qualities. God is MUCH, MUCH, HIGHER than this,
Matt: Therefore, God is affected. And, since God is infinite, the sin against God is of infinite value, or should I say, infinite punishment.
Kareem: Again we need revelation to tell us this, to give us the authority to declare this . . .
Matt: If you break God's Word, you have sinned against Him. How can your own efforts please an infinite God of infinite holiness?
Kareem: If you violate his Law, yes. We have Law, and we struggle to stick by the Law, and not to violate it, and by this we seek His pleasure. We are tested by this Law as a measurement and the Law is comprehensive.
Matt: Correct. But God is infinitely holy and righteous.
Matt: If you break His law, what makes you think that you can please Him by your own good works since you have already offended Him?
Kareem: Because from revelation we know that can seek repentance if we err and this comes with conditions. Not empty repentance and repentance, as I mentioned before, is also a great science in Islam.
Matt: I have another question for you. Should you appeal to God to be pleased with you based upon your own efforts.
Kareem: Yes. We must always ask God to forgive us and accept the best of our deeds so long as we are sincerely striving to stick within his boundaries.
Matt: So then, what is in us is good enough to please God? Even though we are sinners?
Matt: Then let me follow through with this. You are telling me that a person who has sinned against God can please God even though God is infinitely holy, and the sinner is finite and unholy? Is that what you are saying?
Matt: Wow. You must have a high opinion of your own abilities. I do not believe that I, a sinner, can please an infinitely holy God. I do not believe that what I can offer to God is sufficient to please God because I am a sinner, and He is not. The difference between God and myself is infinite. Why would I believe that I could bridge that gap of infinity by my own deeds? Yet, you believe this is possible--to please an infinitely holy and perfect God even though you are not infinite, not holy, and are a sinner before Him?
Kareem: No man is infallible. Everyone sins and God is Most Merciful and will forgive sins (but the conditions--you are forgetting repentance is also a science, your not looking at it in black and white terms again I hope). God will forgive as long as ask forgiveness while we are still alive . . . But once death has overtaken us, the door of repentance is closed and what we have on our records is what we have on our records. And now according to your definition, you can NEVER please God, (according to your definition), so you are doomed to His Anger and can never Please Him, that makes you in big trouble, if you can never please him, then why try???