Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Quran Error –

Were Jesus’ Disciples Muslims? Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

The Quran makes the assertion that the companions of Christ were all Muslims:

And when Jesus sensed their faithlessness, he said, ‘Who will be my helpers towards Allah?’ The Disciples said, ‘We will be helpers of Allah. We have faith in Allah, and bear witness that we are muslims.’ S. 3:52 ‘Ali Quli Qara’i

And when I inspired the Disciples, [saying], ‘Have faith in Me and My apostle,’ they said, ‘We have faith. Bear witness that we are muslims.' S. 5:111 Qara’i

This implies that Jesus’ disciples would have held to the same beliefs taught by Muhammad, especially in regard to the person and work Christ.

Hence, since the Muslim scripture denies that God is a father to anyone, including Jesus, since he has no spiritual children,

And [both] the Jews and the Christians say, "We are God's children, and His beloved ones." Say: "Why, then, does He cause you to suffer for your sins? Nay, you are but human beings of His creating. He forgives whom He wills, and He causes to suffer whom He wills: for God's is the dominion over the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and with Him is all journeys' end." S. 5:18 Muhammad Asad

Some of the Jews have said that Ezra is the son of God and Christians have said the same of Jesus. This is only what they say and it is similar to what the unbelievers who lived before them had said. May God destroy them wherever they exist! S. 9:30 Muhammad Sarwar

And since it also denies that Jesus was crucified,

“and said, ‘We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God.’ (They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him-” S. 4:157 Abdel Haleem

This means that Christ’s companions would have also denied these things.

Moreover, the Quran further speaks out against worshiping or serving any one besides God:

Say (O Muhammad): “I am only a man like you. It has been inspired to me that your Ilah (God) is One Ilah (God i.e. Allah). So whoever hopes for the Meeting with his Lord, let him work righteousness and associate none as a partner in the worship of his Lord.” S. 18:110 Hilali-Khan

Your Lord said, "Call on Me and I will respond to you." Surely, those who are too arrogant to serve Me, they will enter hell, forcibly. S. 40:60 Quran: A Reformist Translation (QRT)

Hence, if the Muslim scripture were correct then none of Jesus’ disciples would have gone around preaching that Jesus is God’s Son who died on the cross, especially for our sins, and rose again. Nor would they have thought of ever worshiping Jesus, especially after his departure from the earth.

This brings us to our next point.

Judging the Quran by the Scriptures Revealed to the Jews and Christians

The Quran repeatedly asserts that Muhammad came to confirm the textual veracity and divine origin of the sacred writings which the Jews and Christians of his time possessed:

He descended on you The Book with the truth, confirming to what (is) between His hands (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi), and He descended the Torah and the New Testament/Bible (al-Injeela [the Gospel]). S. 3:3 Ahmed Ali

And this the Koran was/is not that it be fabricated from (by) other than God, and but confirmation (of) what (is) between his (Prophet Mohammad's) hands (tasdeeqa allathee bayna yadayhi), and detailing/explaining The Book, no doubt/suspicion in it, (it is) from the creations all together's/(universes') Lord. S. 10:37 Ahmed Ali

Here is how some other versions of the Quran translate this passage:

“… This confirms the existing Book (the Bible) and explains itself…” Muhammad Sarwar

“… it is the confirmation of prior revelations (Psalms, Torah, and Gospel) and fully explains the Holy Book (prior scriptures)…” Farook Malik

“… Rather (it) validates those (Books) which have been (revealed) before it…” Tahir-ul-Qadri Mohammed

“… it confirms and expands upon the scriptures that already exist _ (the Torah and the Gospels)…” Dr. Munir Munshey

“… It is a reflection of the truth that came before it, and an explanation of the Bible…” Bilal Muhammad

The preceding citations were all taken from this website.

The Quran further exhorts people to use the Bible to judge whether the Quran is truly a revelation from God:

If you are in doubt regarding what We have sent down to you, then ask those who have been studying the book from before you. The truth has come to you from your Lord, so do not be of those who doubt. S. 10:94 QRT

It even commands Christians of Muhammad’s day to judge by the Gospel which Jesus passed on to them, since it was still in their possession:

And We sent after (following) on their tracks with Jesus, Mary's son confirming for what (is) between his hands from the Torah/Old Testament (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi min al-tawrati), and We gave him the New Testament/Bible (al-Injeela) in it (is) guidance and light, and confirming to what (is) between his hands from the Torah/Old Testament (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi min al-tawrati), and guidance and a sermon/advice/warning to the fearing and obeying. And the New Testament's/Bible's people (ahlu al-Injeeli) should judge/rule with what God descended in it, and who does not judge/rule with what God descended, so those, they are the debauchers. S. 5:46-47 Ahmed Ali

Here is how another translator renders v. 47:

Let, then, the followers of the Gospel judge in accordance with what God has revealed therein: for they who do not judge in the light of what God has bestowed from on high - it is they, they who are truly iniquitous! Asad

Since the only Gospel which the Christians at that time possessed would have been what they had recorded in the pages of the NT, this presupposes that Muhammad thought that the NT writings, specifically the canonical Gospels, were the authoritative revelations which God had given the Christians to rule and live by.

This is further confirmed by the earliest extant writing on Muhammad’s life which was written by a Muslim scholar named Ibn Ishaq in the eighth century AD. In it, Ibn Ishaq cites John’s Gospel as being the written account of the very Gospel which God gave Jesus to pass on to his followers!

“Among the things which have reached me about what Jesus the Son of Mary stated in the Gospel which he received from God for the followers of the Gospel, in applying a term to describe the apostle of God, is the following. It is extracted FROM WHAT JOHN THE APOSTLE SET DOWN FOR THEM WHEN HE WROTE THE GOSPEL FOR THEM FROM THE TESTAMENT OF JESUS SON OF MARY: ‘He that hateth me hateth the Lord. And if I had not done in their presence works which none other before me did, they had not sin: but from now they are puffed up with pride and think that they will overcome me and also the Lord. But the word that is in the law must be fulfilled, "They hated me without a cause" (i.e. without reason). But when the Comforter has come whom God will send to you from the Lord's presence, and the spirit of truth which will have gone forth from the Lord's presence he (shall bear) witness of me and ye also, because ye have been with me from the beginning. I have spoken unto you about this that ye should not be in doubt.’

“The Munahhemana (God bless and preserve him!) in Syriac is Muhammad; in Greek he is the paraclete. (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], pp. 103-104; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Notice how this Muslim author quoted John 15:23-16:1 without ever questioning this Gospel’s veracity.

In light of the foregoing, this means that Christians are expected to judge what the Muslim scripture says concerning the beliefs and teachings of Jesus’ disciples by consulting the writings of the NT.

And since Q. 5:47 plainly teaches that any Christian who fails to judge by the revelation of the Gospel is no better than an evildoer, we have therefore decided to do as the Quran says, lest we be found to be rebels who refuse to submit to God’s commands.

The Proclamation of the Gospels

The Gospels are quite clear that the disciples confessed that Jesus is the Son of God in contexts where they saw glimpses of his divine identity.

For instance, Nathanael made this confession right after Christ had told him that he had already seen where he lay even before Philip had called for him to come and meet with Jesus:

“Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote —Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ ‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. ‘Come and see,’ said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.’ ‘How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.’ Jesus said, ‘You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.’ He then added, ‘Very truly I tell you, you will see “heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on” the Son of Man.’” John 1:45-51

The reason why this astonished Nathanael is because he knew that it wasn’t possible for Christ to have physically seen where he was sitting since the location was too far for it to be within the sight of where Jesus was.

Hence, Nathanael’s reaction implies that Christ was basically claiming to be omnipresent and omniscient, a point brought out more clearly a little later in the Gospel:

“Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and WE will come to him and make OUR home with him.’” John 14:23

“‘Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about my Father. In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.’ Then Jesus’ disciples said, ‘Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.’ ‘Do you now believe?’ Jesus replied.” John 16:29-31

“The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.’” John 21:17

However, in order for Christ to possess both of these attributes he must be God in essence since only God is omnipresent and omniscient.

Here is another time where the disciples testified to Christ being God’s Son:

“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! I AM (ego eimi). Do not be afraid.’ ‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.’ ‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’ And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” Matthew 14:22-33

Jesus’ followers worship him in recognition of his being the Son of God who is also the divine I AM that has complete power over the winds and the seas. This is an authority that the OT ascribes to Yahweh:

“who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea;” Job 9:8

“Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.” Psalm 107:23-30

On another occasion, the disciples were asked whom did they think Jesus was in contrast to whom the people thought he was. Simon Peter was given the answer by way of revelation from God:

“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but MY Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’” Matthew 16:13-19

According to Jesus, it was the Father himself who revealed to and through Simon that Christ is the Son of the living God.

This shouldn’t surprise us since all three of the Synoptic Gospels (i.e. Matthew, Mark and Luke) record two instances where God himself testifies that Jesus is his beloved Son:

“And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’” Matthew 3:16-17 – cf. Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:21-22

“And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’ When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, ‘Rise, and have no fear.’ And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.” Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-7; Luke 9:28-37

On another occasion, one of Christ’s female disciples confessed that he was God’s Son in relation to his being the Resurrection and the Life:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’” John 11:23-27

Jesus went on to resurrect her brother who had been dead for four days in order to provide supernatural verification for his divine claims:

“So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you ALWAYS hear me, but I said this ion account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” John 11:41-44

In light of such divine statements, and in the aftermath of Christ’s physical bodily resurrection, the disciples came to acknowledge and confess that the One who had come to live in their midst was none other than their Lord God:

“Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.’ Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’ Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God (ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou)!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’ Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:24-31

Thomas’ confession, which Christ blesses and accepts, echoes the words of David in the Psalms who made a similar profession:

“Awake and rouse yourself for my vindication, for my cause, my God and my Lord (elohay w’adonay)! Vindicate me, O LORD, my God (YHWH elohay), according to your righteousness, and let them not rejoice over me!” Psalm 35:23-24

Here is how the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, commonly referred to as the Septuagint [LXX], renders this text:

“Awake, O Lord, and take heed to my case, my God and my Lord (ho theos mou kai ho kyrios mou), to my cause! Judge me, O Lord, according to your righteousness, O Lord my God (kyrie ho theos mou), and let them not rejoice against me!” Psalm 34:23-24 LXX

Thus, the only way that a monotheistic Jew like Thomas could proclaim that Jesus was his Lord and God is if he believed that Jesus was/is Yahweh Incarnate!

Thomas wasn’t the only one to testify that Christ is God who had come in the flesh:

“To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 9:5

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though existing the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be taken advantage of, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For BY him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created TRHOUGH HIM and FOR HIM. And he IS before all things, and BY HIM all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:13-20

For in him the whole fullness of Deity (theotetos – that which makes God what he is by nature) dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is he head of all rule and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10

“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:13-14

“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ… For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:1, 11

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… And again, when he brings the Firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all the angels of God worship him.’ Of the angels he says, ‘He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.’ But of the Son he says,Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’ And, ‘You, Lord [the Son], laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.’” Hebrews 1:1-3, 6-12

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into existence through him, and without him nothing came into existence that has come into existence. In him was Life, and the Life was the light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into existence through him, yet the world did not know him… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-5, 9-10, 14

Here we have Jesus’ own disciples and their followers proclaiming that Christ is the God who made and sustains all creation by his powerful word, is the exact representation of God’s own substance, possesses the entire essence of God bodily, i.e. as a man, reigns over the entire creation forever, receives worship from all of God’s heavenly host, and redeemed and purified a people from their sins by his own blood!

We are not through just yet since the disciples had a lot more to say, as we shall see in Part 2.