How Can an Educated Muslim Believe This?
I have a third question for my Islamic friends, particularly the educated ones, those that have done degrees in law, medicine, dentistry, engineering, science, mathematics in the West. Some have gone to Oxbridge, some have gone to Ivy League universities in America, some have gone to the Sorbonne in Paris, there are educated Muslims in the West, some of them born in the West, some came to study in the West, but there are educated Muslims. We have to remember that when the Western world was in the Dark Ages under medieval Roman Catholicism Islam had its Golden Age. So I appeal to the educated, thinking Muslim, please consider this question carefully.
Islam likes to claim that a 5th Century forgery of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas – there’s two of them, but the later one, the 5th Century – was the true gospel and the ones that are the orthodox in Christianity – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – are false ones. Even liberal higher critics, higher critical scholars who simply study the Scriptures as history and literature do not accept any 1st Century authenticity to that later Thomas gospel. But we also have higher critical scholars in Islam. They are called “Orientalists”.
Now Orientalists are not allowed to teach or to publish in Muslim countries, generally speaking. There might be some exception I’m not aware of, but certainly their lives would be threatened by the Muslim brotherhood or something like this. In Saudi Arabia they would bemore than arrested. These are academic theologians; they are critical scholars; they study the Quran, the Hadith as history and literature with an academic eye, looking for things like source criticism, form criticism, the same tools higher critical scholars have applied to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. They’re Orientalists. They simply ask questions. They’re not studying the Quran as doctrine per se or as revelation, they’re simply looking at it as literature the way critical scholars look at the Bible, really, as literature.
I know I study the Bible as both doctrine and as literature and history. The Orientalists raise some questions. I’m not talking about Christians phrasing questions or about Jews raising questions, I'm talking about educated, westernized Muslim scholars – professors, people with doctorates in Islam – usually from Cairo, Egypt who are now to be found at Oxford, Cambridge, the Sorbonne, Princeton in America, and so forth, and prominent universities, prominent professors, academically credible scholars, the Orientalists – your scholars. They ask questions simply about the historicity and literary origin and development of the Quran and Hadith. One question would be, “How can the Quran say that every night when the sun becomes tired it descends into a muddy pit and rises again the next day?”
Remember, during its Golden Age, Islam were the astronomers of the era. Ptolemian astronomy dominated the world and it was largely dominated by Islam all the way until the time of Galileo and Copernicus and Kepler. Certainly if Allah is God, and Allah created the universe, and Allah created the sun, and if Allah told the angel Gabriel to give the Quran to Mohammed, Allah would've known the sun does not set into a muddy pit every night when it gets tired, This looks like an ancient Near Eastern fable, a superstition, but it’s a question that should be asked. It’s the question that should be answered but that is a question that I will leave to Muslims to answer. My question rather concerns the relationship between the Quran and the Katub, the Bible.
The name of the mother of Jesus was not “Mary” but “Miryam”, and the sister of Moses’ name was also “Miryam”. They were both named “Miryam”. But they live 1,300 years apart, 13 centuries separated, Miryam the sister of Moses from Miryam the mother of Isa – Yeshua. And so your scholars, the Orientalists, these academic theologians who study the Quran in Arabic who are at the most prominent universities in the Western world because the Islamic world will not allow them to publish what they teach, ask the question, “If 1,300 years separated Miryam the sister of Moses from Miryam the mother of Jesus – Isa, Yeshua – why does the Quran say they are the same woman?” Isn’t that absurd? I'm not trying to offend you, but isn't it ludicrous? How can the Quran correct the mistakes in the Bible if they’re thirteen centuries apart? We have other archeological evidence showing that Moses long predates Jesus. Nobody questions it. No Muslim scholar in the world would question it today. The Wahab wouldn't question, yet the Quran says it's true.
According to the book of Esther in the Hebrew Scriptures, Haman was a senior court minister in the ancient Persian court in Susa. He was an Agagite, a descendent of Amalek according to the Hebrew Scriptures accepted by Jews and Christians. The Babylonian captivity of the Jews was followed by the Persian conquest of Babylon. We’re talking about five centuries before Christ. Yet we are told in the Quran that Haman was a minister in the court of Pharaoh. There were no pharaohs in the 5th Century before Christ as such. The period of Pharaoh was long over. In the Scriptures Pharaoh goes back to the time of Moses, not forward to the time of Esther and Mordecai.
These are fundamental inconsistencies out of harmony not only with the Jewish and Christian Scriptures but out of harmony with established, recognized history, supported by the archaeological record, things that Muslims today do not believe themselves. Yet the Quran teaches them. Who dares to raise these questions? Is it me, a Christian? No, I'm simply looking at what the Orientalists say, your own scholars. How can an educated person, how can a dentist, how can a civil engineer, how can a physician, how can a barrister, how can a chartered accountant, how could a computer engineer, how can a mathematician, how can an educated, thinking person who went to a university like Princeton or Cambridge or the Sorbonne believe the sun sets every night when it gets tired into a muddy pit?
I don't believe all Muslims are ignorant fundamentalists. I saw a film on television, a documentary, where there were people in Pakistan – rural Pakistan – whose wives were sick and they would not allow their wives to be treated by a physician unless the physician was a female. And in some cases the women would die for wont of medical care because they would not allow a male physician to treat or examine their wives. Now of course, in the West, educated Muslims would balk at such things as primitive. I'm not speaking about primitive Muslims on the frontier on the Punjab, I’m speaking about Muslims who live in Birmingham, or who live in Nottingham, or who live in Manchester, or London, or Los Angeles who went to a prominent university who are engaged in a prestigious profession. How can you reasonably believe that Mary the mother of Jesus and Miryam the sister of Moses are the same woman when they are over 1,000 years apart? The Orientalists don’t believe it.
It’s no wonder their publications are banned throughout the Islamic world. You’re not allowed to ask those questions in the Islamic world. If you want to ask academic questions about Islam, you have to come to the free world. I have heard Muslims like Achmed Didot try to pull apart the Jewish Christian Bible based on higher critical arguments used by liberal Christian scholars. I was supposed to debate Mr. Didot in Johannesburg in the town hall, but he had a stroke and I went to his house and I shared my faith with him unsuccessfully. He tried to share his faith with me, also unsuccessfully, but I've heard his arguments. He draws on Christian liberal higher critics. All I am saying is apply the same standard. Take academic approaches to literary criticism to form criticism, the source criticism, to historical analysis and apply those same tools that Didot applies to the Bible, to the Quran and you will find something that any thinking Muslim would say lacks credibility. You are an educated Muslim. How can you believe this?