Islamic Theology and Revelation

QUESTION: Islamic Theology and Revelation

ANSWER:

Christians and Muslims believe that God exists, that He has revealed His will through prophets, and that all humans are accountable to Him. But the similarities largely cease here, for while Muslims affirm that God has revealed His will through prophets and enclosed that revelation in scripture, they deny that the Bible is a trustworthy source of that revelation, and instead affirm other sources of revelation.

Muslims believe that God graciously sent messengers to every nation to teach them submission to God and to warn them against false religious teachings and practices (Qur’an 16:36; 35:24). Moses and Jesus are considered prophets of Islam, as well as Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob (3:67; 61:6; 2:136). Muslims are expected to honor these prophets and their respective books (4:136). The religions that predated Muhammad are understood as having been originally Islamic and their prophets Muslims (15:10).

Islamic Theology and the Qur’an
Muhammad is seen as the successor of the prophets of old (Qur’an 61:6), their books containing prophecies about him (7:157). Many Muslims even believe the Bible contains prophecies regarding Muhammad, most significantly Deuteronomy 18:15–18 and John 14:16. These prophets’ missions were geographically and temporally limited, while Muhammad is considered to be the one prophet for all humankind (7:158; 34:28), and the last of the prophets (33:40). As a well-known Hadith illustrates: “Allah’s Apostle said, ‘My similitude in comparison with the other prophets before me, is that of a man who has built a house nicely and beautifully, except for a place of one brick in a corner. The people go about it and wonder at its beauty, but say: “Would that this brick be put in its place!” So I am that brick, and I am the last of the Prophets.’”1

Not only do Muslims ascribe superlative status to Muhammad, they ascribe such status to the Qur’an as well. The Qur’an is the incomparable, infallible, and final revelation from God (Qur’an 17:88–89), confirming all previous revelations (10:37; 46:12). Unlike the previous revelations, such as the Bible—deemed to be textually corrupted and confused by human interpretations—the Qur’an is inscribed on a tablet in heaven (85:21–22) and is kept incorruptible by God: “We have, without doubt, sent down the Message [the Qur’an]; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption)” (15:9).

Islamic Theology and the Hadith
The other primary source for Islamic theology today is the Hadith. The Hadith are traditions of the teachings, rulings, and actions of Muhammad and his early and chief companions. From these traditions are derived the Sunna, which are the actions of Muhammad that are viewed as exemplary.2 Muslims believe these two sources are inspired and authoritative. They provide the two lenses through which Muslims see all of reality.

Khurshid Ahmad describes the Qur’an and the Hadith as follows: “...[T]he teachings of Islam have been preserved in their original form and God’s Guidance is available without adulteration of any kind. The Qur’an is the revealed book of God which has been in existence for the last fourteen hundred years and the Word of God is available in its original form. Detailed accounts of the life of the Prophet of Islam and his teachings are available in their pristine purity. There has not been an iota of change in this unique historic record. The sayings and the entire record of the life of the Holy Prophet have been handed down to us with unprecedented precision and authenticity in the works of the Hadith...”3

Notes:

Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Hadith 735. http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/fundamentals/ hadithsunnah/bukhari/056.sbt.html#004.056.735 (accessed August 14, 2004).

2 Faslur Rahman, Islam, 2nd ed. (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1979): “The difference between the two is that whereas a Hadith as such is a mere report . . . the Sunna is the very same report when it acquires a normative quality and becomes a practical principle for the Muslim” (45); “this authority of Muhammad refers to the verbal and performative behavior of the Prophet outside the Qur’an” (50); and “to his Companions his life was a religious paradigm and as such normative” (52).

3 Khurshid Ahmad, ed., Islam: Its Meaning and Message, 3rd ed. (Leicester, UK: The Islamic Foundation, 1999), 43.

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