Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Brief Introduction to the Qur'an: The Structure of the Qur'an
11/25/2008 - Colin SmithThis is the first part of a very brief survey of the Qur'an. In this series, I intend to provide a framework within which the Christian can study the Islamic scriptures and begin formulating his or her apologetic. In this first part, I will quickly outline the basic structure of the book. Subsequent parts will deal with how the Qur'an handles material familiar to Christians from the Old and New Testaments.
The Qur'an is not so much a systematic book of history, doctrine, and exhortation, but rather a collection of sayings, speeches, and law compiled over a period of time. It consists of one hundred and fourteen suras, which can be regarded like chapters, each of which is subdivided into ayat, comparable to verses in modern editions of the Bible. The suras vary in length from three or four ayat (e.g., suras 91, 108, and 110) to the longest sura, 2, which has two hundred and eighty-six ayat.
The suras are not in chronological order, and their proper order is a matter of scholarly dispute, though there is little argument that some fall within the Meccan period of Muhammad's life, and others fall within the Medinan period. The standard presentation of the suras is, generally, from the longest to the shortest; however this does not represent the chronological order, and no Muslim would deny this fact. Given that the Qur'an was revealed (as Muslims believe) in stages over a period of time, it is natural that the thematic content of each sura would depict the time in which it was written. On this principle, one can presume that the earlier suras would be more emphatic concerning the nature of Allah, asserting His unity and uniqueness over and above the pagan gods, and the later suras would have a greater emphasis on the Muslim community, with much more legal and disciplinary content.
Each sura has a title, usually drawn from the text or the theme of the sura. The purpose behind these titles seems to have been largely mnemonic, since each pertains to a distinguishing aspect of the sura that would, perhaps, make it memorable. For example, sura 19 is called Maryam, or "Mary." The mother of Jesus is not the only subject of this sura, which goes on to relate, among other things, stories pertaining to Abraham and Moses; it is the story of Mary, though, that makes this sura unique. Stories of Abraham and Moses abound in the Qur'an, but Mary's story is seldom, if ever, repeated elsewhere. Sura 16, on the other hand, is called Nahl, or "The Bee," and it has a general theme of Allah's supreme authority over all nature, and his giving of signs to demonstrate his control over all things and provision for his creation. In the course of the discussion, the bee is set forth as an example of a creature that Allah has created that provides a source of nourishment and healing for men in the form of honey (ayat 68-69). The reference to the bee was probably considered unusual and memorable, and hence the sura took its name from these few ayat.
Many editions of the Qur'an have a title bar at the top of each sura indicating its numerical order, its name, an indication of its chronology in terms of Meccan or Medinan, and a count of the ayat in that particular sura.
All suras, except for sura 9, begin with what is known as the bismillah: bi-smi llahi r-rahmani r-rahim, which can be translated, "In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful." This phrase may well date back to the time of Mohammad, and its omission from the ninth sura might simply be explained by the fact that the first aya of that sura indicates the words following are from Allah, thus making the declaration of the bismillah unnecessary.
If you have been following the videos and discussions pertaining to Islam on this site, you will know that for Muslims, the Qur'an is the word of Allah, given directly to Mohammad through the agency of the angel Gabriel. For the Muslim, therefore, anything the Qur'an teaches is the final authority on that subject. This is important to bear in mind as we consider how the Qur'an presents stories familiar to us from the Old Testament, which is the subject of the next installment.
Closing Statements from Duke University
11/21/2008 - James WhiteHere is a brief clip from my encounter with Dr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah at Duke University last evening. The evening was very short (less than two hours), but it may well be a preview of things to come, as Dr. Shah wants to do more in-depth debates in the future! I am excited about what 2009 will bring.
Unbelievable: Both the Radio Program, and the Comments
11/21/2008 - James WhiteHere is the video from the Unbelievable Radio program with Justin Brierley on the Premier Radio Network in the UK (http://www.premier.org.uk/unbelievable). Abdullah al-Andalusi (Abdullah from London, as I referred to him before, or, Mujtahid2006, by his YouTube moniker) and I did the program, Justin Brierley hosted. You can see my little video camera down in the bottom of the screen to the left, but this is a better view since Yahya Seymour had a better angle. Well, sort of a better angle. The lights cast a shadow across my eyes, making me look wonderfully evil. Or wonderfully tired. Or both. In any case, my video cut Abdullah in half, and the audio did not sync up with the video, so I'm grabbing Abdullah's video and putting the Unbelievable URL across it. So here you go, the radio discussion from London from Thursday, 11/13/08.
Now, I was looking at some of the comments left by Muslims on this video on Abdullah's version. These are so bad, so...incoherent, they really speak for themselves. Someone named mustafagtgt wrote some doozies:
According to Mr. White, God was seized of his knowledge, seized of his power, seized of his independence, seized of his sovereignty and seized in essence became Godless! If a Christian first ponders on the implications of God becoming a human then it will be evident enough that God seized to become God.Then we have this insight from tolerancelastic:
Did you guys notice how Mr. White tried to avoid the entire dilemma of the Trinity by attacking Islam and the Quran? James White and other Christian apologetics are hypocrites. David (the guy who wears glasses) is another example.
James white has a big ego because after these debates he always makes his own little rebbutle videos and then posts them on Youtube.
notice how James White keeps throwing in words such as "essence", "nature", "person" etc. this is a clever strategy. he thinks his point is proved just because he phrases his statements using certain words. but when you examine carefully, it just doesn't stand to logic.And finally, this classic from stingray2525:
i mean, James White says that Jesus was fully God and fully man. and he expects us to believe in that nonsense! lol well, i say James White is fully human and fully monkey.
no brother, you are wrong! you have given too much credit to james white.Further evidence of my assertion that comboxes should be called IIAs....Internet Ignorance Aggregators.
a monkey can spend his whole life, grow old and die with the assurance of having hair on his head, while james can only give that assurance to others to not cause any accidents to people who might get blinded by the reflection of the light bouncing from his shiny head
sorry james, just thought you should know it is unfair for the monkey to be put on the same plate with you.
Cross Examination with Shabir Ally, Monday in London
11/20/2008 - James White
Shabir Ally: In Defense of Double Standards
11/19/2008 - James WhiteHere is a clip from the Monday debate where I gave strong evidence of the inconsistency of Shabir Ally in his constant dependence upon the most radical, left-wing "Christian" scholarship for all of his assertions regarding the New Testament. He does not adopt the same scholarship when it comes to the Qur'an, of course, and it is this use of double standards that, for many clear-thinking believers, renders his arguments null and void. I quoted...Shabir Ally on the point. You see, back in 1996 when Shabir debated Robert Morey, he made a very strong and clear pronouncement that you can't wear two hats when arguing against the Qur'an, one the hat of a Christian, and one the hat of a "Western scholar." Listen:
The mythological consistent Muslim. Does such a thing exist? I am uncertain. I think if there is one, he will have to be one who never even talks about the New Testament, and hence, never engages in serious scholarly debate and dialogue. I say this because I believe there is a fundamental flaw in Islamic theology and history, and the modern Islamic apologist is forced to live within the parameters of that error. Specifically, his sacred text is ignorant of the contents of the Old and New Testaments (relying, it seems clear, upon an oral recitation of stories therefrom rather than from the text itself) while at the same time claiming consistency with them! As a result, the modern Muslim must find a way to attack the earlier texts when it is made clear that his own is inconsistent at this point, but, to do so, he must use the very same kind of argumentation that refutes his own scriptures. A part of me truly feels sorry for the Muslim who is trapped in this situation, but the only way out is to recognize that Muhammad was in error, the Qur'an is not a divine revelation, and to "come back" to the earlier divine revelations that reveal to us the divine Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Now, Shabir actually offered a defense of his use of double standards. I'm not sure anyone fully understood it. I surely did not. The audience didn't look like they were following him either. But in essence, here is what he said. Try to follow this reasoning. James is telling me that Muhammad and the Qur'an are wrong. But, I believe in God because I believe in Muhammad and the Qur'an. So, if James is right, then I must become an agnostic if I reject Muhammad and the Qur'an. So, it is fine for me to examine Christianity as an agnostic (i.e., assume the worldview behind naturalistic materialism and the most radical form and redaction critics) because to become a Christian I would have to first become an agnostic. Follow that?
Of course, the clear thinking person would realize that his argument would, if it is consistent, have to work this way. For me, James White, to become a Muslim, I would first have to reject the New Testament witness to Jesus. To do so, I would have to adopt the destructive criticisms of naturalistic materialism that assumes, from the start, that since most of what calls itself divine revelation is false, all that claims to be divinely inspired must be merely the thoughts and opinions of men, the result of natural processes, not supernatural ones. Therefore, I would have to apply the same standards to the Qur'an, and hence agree with Wansborough and Crone and Cook and Ibn Warraq, etc., in finding the Qur'an to be an edited, redacted piece of literature, filled with incoherent passages, without an over-arching organization or context. I would have to join Professor Muhammad Sven Kalisch from the University of Munster who recently noted that his own studies have led him to conclude he cannot be certain about the historical existence of Muhammad. There is surely less evidence for the Muslim to garner in defense of the life and history of Muhammad than for Jesus, and since I would have had to have rejected Jesus by these standards, I surely would have to reject Muhammad as well. Hence, Shabir's argument would force me to reject both Christianity and Islam, would it not?
So once again we are faced with the insoluble problem of the inherent double standard of Islamic epistemology and apologetics. By definition (Surah 112:3) Islam denies the central affirmations of the Christian faith. This cannot be changed. Therefore, Islam must attack the only foundation upon which its Scripture can actually stand, and in doing so, is self-refuting.
Closing Statements, Prophet or Divine Son of God Debate
11/15/2008 - James WhiteThough I did not get much video (other than most of Sami's opening statement), I do have the audio of Thursday's debate, so, I here provide the two closing statements with the nice picture the Brazier's provided me with their uber-super-duper digital camera. I think these statements exemplify the contrast of the entire debate.