The Shahada – Islamic Liturgy and Creed

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“There is no god but He: That is the witness of God, His angels, and those endowed with knowledge, standing firm in justice.  There is no god but He – The Exalted in Power, the Wise.”

                                                                                    (Qur’an 3:18)

            The recitation of a creed has proven throughout history to be the preeminent and indispensible element of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  In Judaism, the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4 remains the most important confession and prayer.  In Christianity, the Nicene Creed, and the Apostle’s Creed as predecessor, establishes the rule of orthodoxy and the test of faith.  The correlations between these three monotheistic religions and their normative creedal expressions are undeniable.  Undoubtedly, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one,” and “We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible” are both on par with the Islamic proclamation that, “there is no god but Allah.”[1]  Consequently, the first of the five pillars of Islam institutes orthodoxy with simplicity, establishes a liturgy of substantial historical/cultural weight, and initiates the faithful into a lifestyle of service to Allah.

             Fry and King (“Islamic Religious Practices: the Pillars of Faith” in Swartley) observe that the Shahada succeeds in refuting a slew of heresies that afflicted the Christian church with a single statement, [2] “There is no god but Allah.”  In a sense, the rigid monotheism of Islam in comparison to the Trinitarian doctrines of Christianity provides a firmer foundation for concise defense.  For the Muslim, there is no greater sin than violating the Tawhid or “oneness” of God; it is, in fact, unforgiveable.  This theological foundation serves to remind Muslims that their association to Allah through the Muslim faith constitutes something so substantial that it is impossible to comprehend it.[3]  As such, there is no need for the often complicated theological deliberation that arises in the Christian creeds in order to defend Trinitarian doctrine. 

             The Shahada continues, “And Muhammad is the Prophet of God.”  Where Christians may have agreed with the previous statement of God’s unity and singularity, they must certainly depart with the implications of the remainder.  Islam does not teach that Muhammad is divine, or that he should be worshiped.  Indeed, such a thing would be a violation of the Tawhid.  However, they see Muhammad as the final and greatest prophet of God.  Therefore, in Islam a confession of Allah must also necessarily point humanity to the only place where full knowledge of God can be obtained, the uncorrupted revelation given to the prophet Mohammad in the Qur’an.  Kung summarizes, “It is of the greatest conceivable simplicity and in fact can be rendered with two words.  The first word is Allah… the second word is Muhammad.”[4]

             Cornell explains that the Shahada maintains such a centralized role within Muslim theology that it even dictates the liturgy.  Each of the five canonical prayers and the call to prayer itself include a recitation of the Shahada.[5]  The Great Confession is ideally the first thing a Muslim hears at birth and the last thing a Muslim hears before s/he dies; it precedes Muslims into battle, and in peace it is proclaimed throughout the city.[6]  As such, the Shahada shapes the religious expression and experience of the Muslim.  Surely, the other pillars demonstrate that Islam demands submission, but the confession remains the primary component of the “mental make-up” of all Muslims.[7]

             Finally, the Shahada constitutes the energizing sentiment behind the Islamic lifestyle.  Braswell points out that the confession identifies not only a theological locus in the belief in God, but also accountability to God through action.[8]  Turner explains that, “Even the most cursory glance at the Koran and its stance on the question of belief and submission should be enough to convince the reader that Islam is something to be obtained through conviction.”[9]  The Shahada represents both an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual submission to God and an adherence to the piety and righteous walk demonstrated by the prophet Mohammad.  Consequently, the Shahada is in a sense the lense through which Islamic theology and devotion are filtered.


[1] See Swartley 88-89, Cornell 9-10, Kung 238-239,

[2] Keith E. Swartley, ed. Encountering the World of Islam, (Atlanta: Authentic Media, 2005), 89.

[3] Vincent J. Cornell, ed. Voices of Islam, Vol. 1 Voices of Tradition, (Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2007), 9.

[4] Hans Küng, Tracing the Way: Spiritual Dimensions of the World Religions, (London: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002), 239.

[5] Cornell, Voices of Islam, 10.

[6] Swartley, Encountering the World of Islam, 90.

[7] Colin Turner, Islam: the Basics, (New York: Routledge, 2006), 101.

[8] George W. Braswell, Jr. Islam: Its Prophet, Peoples, Politics, and Power, (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1996), 60.

[9] Turner, Islam: the Basics, 101.



  1. Since God is not an ‘object’ in the world available for critique, I believe that when something “true” is believed and professed about God then this can only have come by revelation of some sort.

    I could recite the above with no problem at all.


  2. Tony,

    I would certainly have no problem proclaiming the first part of the Shahada, though; I have definite problems with acknowledging Muhammad as the prophet of God according to the Muslim tradition. The more I get into studying Islam – the more I am stricken by two realizations: /1/ How horribly the American people have allowed themselves to be duped about Muslims, /2/ how similar Islam is to the Judeo/Christian tradition.



  3. Well I do think that Islam holds a monotheistic view, but IF God is Triune then just as clearly they reject God as 3 in 1.

    So when one says there is no god but He – could they be referring to God the Father? And if so can they know the Father outside of His Son with whom they reject?

    It simply turns on which revelation is correct the Christian or the Muslim.


  4. Quickbeam,

    I think you bring up the most important kind of issue that divides Christianity and Islam. I am reading the Qur’an, and there is a fair amount of vitriol aimed at any who would not claim that the revelation of Muhammad is the genuine progression of Allah’s message for humanity generally, and at Jews/Christians specifically (2:87, 89-130).

    In short, the Qur’an teaches that it has supremacy over the teachings of Judaism and Christianity, because of its prophet Muhammad. Obviously, we as Christians cannot abide by such a view of Christ or Scripture.

    However, my point remains – there is a shocking amount of similarity between the three monotheistic religions. Some of it is due to the worldview of monotheism, and some of it seems to be a shared anthropology or ethic.



  5. quickbeam,

    You’re totally right of course. I didn’t mean that a Trinitarian doctrine of God is the same as Islamic monotheism; I simply am trying to approach their faith sympathetically.

    I often think that “liberal” (for want of a better term) christians who are not big on the Trinity and divinity of Jesus are much closer to the radically transcendental God of Islam than the transcendent/immanent God of Christianity.


  6. Ah, creeds. The beauty of confessions.
    When I lived in Pakistan, my town’s masjid (mosque) was only a block away. I heard the loud cheap static-ridden creeds and prayers at least 5 times a day. It was treated much like bad traffic noise by those around me who ignored it better than I could.

    I China, my campus had similar loud speakers daily reminding the comrades of their duties to the party.

    To me, the drill of creeds to separate people is very unattractive. The above discussion reminded me of the bizarre nature of creeds: You had to be careful to be theologically correct when Tony slipped by implying that he totally gets the Muslim heart but Shawn had to jump in and say, whooops, wait, remember, their theology is wrong. Heresy, heresy !


  7. You know, really, I know what transcendent/immanent means, but how does this really make a difference outwardly. Keep in mind that forms of Hinduism and immanent “gods” (incarnations and boddhisattvas) and many don’t. Really, how different is the hopeful prayers of a Muslim than you Christians? Does the magic of your stories and theology really change what the heart does?


  8. That’s funny, I was under the impression that I was demonstrating /1/ How badly Americans (especially American Christians) have been mislead about the “heresies” of Islam, and /2/ how similar Islam is to the Judeo/Christian tradition (especially and beginning with the Shahada). Something must have been lost in translation; I’ll try again – points /1/ and /2/ above (both times) demonstrate an ongoing interest I have in the interfaith dialogue that could be happening between the three monotheistic religions.


  9. I am a muslim.(very average—not a scholar)

    God(Allah) is genderless–neither male nor female nor both (male and female in one). The “He” is simply a shortcomming of the human language. This is a good definition—God is One, Indivisible Unique. God is the Creator, all else is the created. God is independent of his creation, but all creation is dependent on him.
    We do not reject Jesus Christ(pbuh) but believe him to be a Prophet of God—rather than Son of God.
    I have been unable to understand Christianity and its doctrine of trinity so I cannot comment on it, But (IMO) there is commonality between Judaism and Islam. for example, neither religion believes in the doctrine of “original sin” so that human beings are considered inherently good. Both religions have “Law” for example, the (God-given) right to justice. Both religions have an active interpretive tradition so that the (holy)text does not remain “static” (Judaism=Talmud and Rabbinical works, Islam=Hadith and Tafsir)


  10. Kat,

    First, thank you for visiting the site and posting. It’s a pleasure to have you with us!

    Second, I think the commonality you express between Islam and Judaism is well articulated. I also think, though, that such commonalities exist between Christianity and Islam. The Five Pillars are a great place to begin. Each of the Pillars (confession, adoration/prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimage) have corollaries within Christianity. In some instances (monastic prayer for instance), the correlation is nearly exact.

    Third, within the theological context of monotheism, these similarities are easy to see. However, as you have pointed out, most Muslims do not have an inclination toward any kind of Trinitarian theology. As such, I think the similarities suffer a serious degradation. Obviously, Christians guard Trinitarian theology fiercely, and it colors the dialogue that can be had between Christians and Muslims – which seems very unfortunate to me.

    Fourth, I have been ruminating over the “real difference” (in a philosophical sense, not a theological one) between the way Christians worship Christ as the Son of God (in a Trinitarian sense), and the way Muslims venerate Muhammad as the last great prophet of Allah. Perhaps, you would be willing to offer your perspective?




  11. Thankyou for your question, and for the opportunity to participate.
    “Muslims venerate Muhammed(pbuh) as the last Prophet.”
    We believe that God sent Prophets to all mankind, biblical as well as non-biblical. The First Prophet (and muslim) was Prophet Adam (pbuh). (“muslim” in the Quran is used in the sense of “one who submits” (to God)and not neccessarily as “followers of Prophet Muhammed(pbuh)”–and that is the connotation in reference to Prophet Adam(pbuh) and all other Prophets.) The label “Prophet” means “messenger of God” rather than implying “Prophesy/foretelling the future”
    Among the messengers of God, there are ranks. The foremost is “Rasul”–one who brings the law. the next is “Nabi”–one who brings a message but no law. and there is another category which is that of wisdom teacher–they follow and teach the message brought by the Prophets. Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) was a “Rasul”. The Quran says all Prophets are equal—however, some have more responsibilities than others. In my opinion, what is great about Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) is that he was an orphan who grew up to be a bussinessman.(a very normal person) who accomplished something extraordinary—The office of Prophethood is not an easy one and he went through pain and sufferring (as did other Prophets before him.)As someone who strove, to the best of his ability, to “submit to God”, we, as muslims, have an example to emulate. However, our admiration and love can go overboard sometimes–that is why it is important to remember that the Prophet(pbuh) was a human being like you and me.
    Dialogue–Religion can raise passions—however, I don’t have any problems with mutually respectful dialogue done in the spirit of aquiring knoweldege.


  12. Kat,

    You said:

    “Dialogue–Religion can raise passions—however, I don’t have any problems with mutually respectful dialogue done in the spirit of aquiring knoweldege.”

    I hope that means you’ll stick around, and continue contributing to our growing little community at theophiliacs. We certainly value dialogue around here.

    I appreciate your comments, because I am really unsure just how much of our global population appreciates that orthodox Muslims (Sunni) make up 90% of the Islamic constituency. I, of course, have gone out on a limb here, but I am assuming that your presence and dialogue on this site are indicative of your orthodox leanings.

    One last question for now: All prophets are equal, though some, as you have explained, are given greater responsibility. My own understanding is that while Jesus may be seen as “Rasul” to many Muslims, there is a prevailing belief that his message has been corrupted over time. What exactly are the corrupting circumstances that Islamic scholars point to in the early Christian church?



  13. Shawn,

    Jesus Christ(pbuh) as Rasul—This is true. He was given a revelaton which the Quran calls the “Injil”.(Not the NT we have today–which, came about in the 4th cenury)—However the Quran refers to him with an interesting title—that of Masih (Messiah=annointed with oil). In the Quran he is addressed as Messiah Jesus, Son of Mary.
    Corruption of Injil—The Quran says the pursuit of (all) knowledge is important in order to understand the Quran–Therefore, the latest theories (Q hypothesis….) of the history of the development of the Bible are acceptable to Muslims and ,Muslim scholars. Though the Roman Church and its history has influence in the west, The Eastern Churches and various other Christian groups were influential in the Middle East region. The history of Christianity is seen through the doctrinal struggle between Roman and Eastern interpretations.

    The message of Prophet Jesus(pbuh)— He was a Jew (In Judaism, the Jewishness of a child is determined through the mother and Mary was Jewish)sent as a Prophet to the Jewish people and as other Jewish Prophets before him, taught that God was One. He also taught of spirituality, compassion and mercy. These aspects of his message are found in the Quran.

    Not sure if I answered your question?…..


  14. Kat,

    I also am very grateful for your dialogue. And I know this conversation has been mostly between yourself and Shawn, who is much more knowledgable of Islam than I myself am. Nonetheless I wanted to ask a few questions.

    You said that the NT didn’t come around until the 4th century. While you are correct that it was shaped into a canon at a later date, the books themselves were all composed by around the turn of the century, such as the Gospel of John, and some as early as 30 years after Jesus’ death, such as the genuine letters of Paul. All that to say I would disagree with it being implied that the books themselves are 500 years post-Christ.

    And you say that you support the academic study of the Bible. Do you also support such study of the Q’uran, or is it too sacreligious to approach the Q’uran in such a way? Is its inspiration a matter of faith regardless of academic critique or is academic critique redundant because of the divine origins of the Q’uran?

    And a final question totally unrelated to the previous ones. If Allah sent prophets to many/most peoples, how do these prophets fit into faiths such as Hindu where there are many gods?

    Thanks again, this is all a learning experience for me so I hope you don’t understand my questions as accusatory.



  15. Tony

    Thankyou for your(interesting)questions. (Do keep in mind I am not a scholar)

    NT—Yes you are correct. If I could explain further—The Quran mentions an “original” revelation given to Prophet Jesus called the “Injil” (which has since been lost.)The word “Injil” is gramatically singular not plural. The NT contains 4 Gospels (among other writings) which were canonized around 4th century. There are other “non-canonical” Gospels since early Christianity. While all of them may contain some truth (and wisdom), they have been changed.—they no longer represent the Injil sent to Prophet Jesus (pbuh)—however, that does not mean they (all Gospels)are not worthy of respect. I do not mean to argue–I am ok if you disagree.(Shawn’s question pertained to the opinions of Islamic scholars–that is why I answered as I did)

    Historical-Critical study of the Quran—“Is its inspiration a matter of faith”—Yes it is, however, “faith”(trust) in Islam does not mean “Blind Faith”—this is not encouraged by the Quran–which says that we (human beings) have been endowed with intellectual abilities so that we would make use of them.—that is why the pursuit of knowledge is important.
    Though not a lot is known of the early life of the Prophet(pbuh) the origins and history of Islam since its emergence is well documented–in fact too well–by muslims, non-muslims and those hostile to Islam. A historical/scientific method of sifting through all this was necessary since very early in Islamic history. A method of recording and authenticating a chain of evidence was developed. More or less, muslims are aware of the history of the Quran. There are many non-muslim scholars who are also aware of the history as well as the sensitivity of the subject and are willing to approach it with respect. There are other scholars who are unaware of many aspects of Islam and therefore make claims that sound unscholarly to muslims. Sloppy scholarship is hard to respect.

    Many Prophets/Hunduism—The concept of Judgement and Justice is strong in Islam. The Quran says we have been given gifts—we are created Good—this is our inherent nature. We have been given the intellectual ability to understand right/wrong, true/false and spirituality. We (mankind) have been given guidance in the form of revelations and wisdom teachings and we have been given teachers to explain this guidance–Prophets and wisdom teachers. With all this–we should have the capacity to have right intentions that result in right actions. Therefore, at Judgement, for those who did wrong actions, the excuse that “I did not know” isn’t going to work.
    I am not familiar with the history of Hinduism–but from what I understand, the original Indian religion had wisdom teachings called the Vedas. Some of the Vedas were considered “shruti” or revelation. The Vedas talk of One God–Brahma, the Supreme and the Creator.


  16. Shawn,

    The reason that the three faiths are similar to each other is because Christianity drew from the Jewish tradition and Islam drew from both.

    Historically all of North Africa was Christian with over 3,200 bishops but the burden of high taxes imposed by the emperors of the Byzantine empire and the Vadals allowed the people to be more receptive to the message of Isalm. Those that weren’t naturally found themselves in the house of war and perished.

    I don’t ever see any one being able to overcome the Trinity on the one hand and accepting any claimed revelations after Jesus. That many may move in the direction is certainly possible but they won’t have any connections to Christianity.


  17. I’ve been thinking on a few other things with respect to Mohammedanism. If you read Christian writers from the 7th century they didn’t view it as a different religion. They viewed it as a heresy and an attack against the Byzantine form of gov’t.

    Mohammed preached Christian doctrine of immortality of the soul, responsibility for actions in this life, all believers are brothers and equal before God, the unity and infinite majesty of God, His justice and mercy.

    Mohammed tried to simplify religion.
    He denied the Incarnation which was only one step further then the Arians which populated those lands prior to him. Once that doctrine is denied, its easy to drop the Trinity, and the sacramental structure and priesthood.

    On the political front free man were in debt by imperial taxation, and there was still slavery. Those who accepted Islam was rib of their debts, usury was forbidden.

    The only reason Islam hasn’t had a resurgency before now was because it loss political and material wealth in past centuries. Now that it has those its is on the increase.


  18. quickbeam

    I do not mean to offend—if I have caused offense I apologise. Nor do I intend to convert anyone to Islam, at the same time, I am not interested in converting to Christianity—that was not what I meant by dialogue—rather, the possibility that we can find things in common that will enhance our understanding of our holy books. The term “Mohammedanism” is offensive because it implies a religion developed by Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) or that the followers of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) worship him—Neither is true (to us). Muslim(“one who submits”—to God) is a preferable label—as is Islam (“submission”–to God)
    It is true that in many aspects, Islam is a very simple religion—However, it also has depth and nuance. –and Tawheed(Unity of God) exemplifies this aspect. When muslims talk of equality of all mankind (man and woman, rich and poor…etc)it springs from the idea (Tawheed) that there is only One Creator—the Supreme—all else is the created. Therefore, Man is (equally) inferior to the Creator. To say one man is more superior to another is to destroy Tawheed–because only God is the most supreme.—However, it may seem that facts do not support equality—for example, some people are rich, some are poor—so how can they be equal? If God has blessed some people with wealth–they have the extra responsibilty of sharing this wealth with the less fortunate–those that do not have wealth, are exempt from this responsibilty. (and at Judgement, they will be Judged accordingly)
    The concept of Tawheed also creates an interesting understanding of governance. If all men (and women) are equal, How do we understand the position of “Leader” (of a community or nation)? Again—it is tempered by the idea of responsibility. A leader is not one who is “superior” but one who holds the responsibility of “trusteeship”(Khalifa) of the community. It is his(her) duty to discharge this responsibilty in an effective and just manner for the benefit of the community.
    Thankyou for your efforts to understand Islam. I hope we can have fruitful dialogue.


  19. Robert Wright’s book “The Evolution of God”, speaks of the cultural evolutionary advantage of religions changing to monotheism. But I think this commonality of Monotheism between Christianity and Islam can be overplayed. (ah, yes, for Kat, I am an atheist) It all depends on the designed nature of the one-god as to how the religion treats those who do not believe or follow that one-god.

    In the USA we have federalism (and other checks) to tame the mono-government idea. I think religions evolve these checks too. But Christians and Muslims in dialogue make a big deal of the “same god — the same one-god” shared value, but I think the checks on this top-down model are more important.

    Kat, how does the Islam you know speak of atheists? (if you have time)


  20. Sabio,

    Would you also say, then, that you believe the supposed singularity of purpose in proclaiming religion false among the community of atheists to be overplayed? If your taxonomy is true of monotheists or religion generally, is it also true of “evolutionary” counter-cultures like atheism? (I, incidentally, am not arguing that your taxonomy is false, I am just curious about whether you apply it universally).



  21. Kat,

    No offense taken by me. I didn’t suspect that you were trying to offend anyone and its not my board to hand out any censure even if I was.

    Mohammedanism in the context I was using it was what Christian writers referred to it in the 7th century not today. And yes I would use that term to imply a religion developed by the Prophet Muhammad. That is as far as I can discern a historically true statement. I’m not implying that Muslims don’t trace their linage back to Ismael, nor that Muslims worship Muhammad. I’ll respect you wish and refer to your faith as Islam.

    It is not much different then the statement “Not the NT we have today–which, came about in the 4th century)”. Essentially your saying that the NT as currently held by all Christians is false. I’m not offended by the statement, I recognize that’s what you believe, but it is however historically incorrect.

    If your drawing this conclusion from the statement on Barnabas 163, I understand, but that is a book from Gnostic sources not Christians.

    If your taking it from the Muslim Gospel of Barnabas written in the 16th century then we can close the discussion, since dialog would not be possible for me.

    By simplified I didn’t mean that it lacked depth, just that its approach held an appeal to those in the middle ages which was easy to grasp and provided economic benefits to submitting to it.


  22. Quickbeam
    Thankyou for informing me about the NT—I will try to be more careful and clear in my wording.

    You have made some facinating connections in your post—if you could explain further…?
    You seem to have made a connection between “religion developed by Prophet Muhammed”(pbuh)–with “Trace their lineage back to Ishmael”….?
    You also seem to have made a connection between “NT as currently held by Christians is false” and the Gospel of Barnabas.—Muslims believe (because of the Quran) that the “Injil” (Greek-Evangel)is a revelation. The teachings that have survived have been “changed” over time—but since they also retain some wisdom/truth, they should be respected. (However all Gospels–not just the 4 canonical—contain wisdom.)—-Hopefully this was less offensive and more clear?–To respect knowledge (of all kinds) is a consistent theme in the Quran.
    “Gnostic sources not Christian”—I am interested in all sources of wisdom—but if you could define “Christian”?

    “close the discussion” —it is possible that discussion may not progress. I have had the opportunity of having some interesting discussions regarding Islam and Judaism —but then—it is possible that the two religions have more in common with each other than they do with Christianity?

    I would agree that there is an appealing simplicity to Islam—–Even a child can understand the 5 pillars!!


  23. Sabio
    “how does the Islam you know speak of atheists?”
    The question seems very general making it difficult to answer–also the term “athiest” is difficult to define.
    Generally speaking—In history as well as today, the treatment of “non-muslims” depends on the social and political situation a country finds istelf in.
    In the Quran, muslims are encouraged to treat “unbelievers” and “People of the Book” with tolerance (unless they fight you–in which case self-defense is acceptable) (Surah60-v 7-9)
    Personally—I have had the opportunity of having dialogue with some athiests who were (sincerely) interested in the Quran. This intereaction led me to believe that there may be some athiests who, while rejecting a particular concept of God, are nevertheless spiritual seekers. This reminded me of the story of Prophet Abraham(pbuh) in the Quran. Prophet Abraham(pbuh)rejects the prevailing concept of God and by using his intellectual facilities comes upon the conclusion of monotheism.—One could say, that the journey of Prophet Abraham(pbuh) led him from paganism, to atheism, to being a spiritual-seeker and finally to monotheism. The Quran asks muslim to follow in the footsteps of Propht Abraham(pbuh) in the sense that we must try to understand the Divine both intellectually and spiritually.


  24. @ Kat (I love your writing style — do you have a blog?)

    Could you help me understand this verse:

    Thou seest many of them turning in friendship to the Unbelievers. Evil indeed are (the works) which their souls have sent forward before them (with the result), that Allah’s wrath is on them, and in torment will they abide.
    — Surah 5:80

    PS – do you have a favorite english translation of the Quran (and is it available electronically?)


  25. @Sabio,

    I’m sorry, I’ll try to rephrase.

    You state that the commonality between monotheistic religions can be overplayed. Do you think the commonality among atheists (namely that religion is false in a detrimental way) is also overplayed? Is how atheists treat those who disagree with them a watermark about their atheism in the same way that you identify how “religion treats those who do not believe or follow that one-god” as an indicator? What kind of checks do you think are going to “evolve” in atheism in order to keep people like Dawkins and crew in order?

    Again, sorry my first question was so difficult to follow.



  26. Kat,

    First off are you familiar with Muslim Gospel of Barnabas? If so have you determine that it is a 16th century forgery?

    Kat: “NT as currently held by Christians is false” and the Gospel of Barnabas.—Muslims believe (because of the Quran) that the “Injil” (Greek-Evangel)is a revelation. The teachings that have survived have been “changed” over time—but since they also retain some wisdom/truth, they should be respected.

    QB: See there isn’t any real difference btwn saying the currently NT is “changed” since that would make them corrupt. They are either inspired by God or they are not.

    It would be like me telling you that the Quran was changed over time because most of the sahaba were unable to read or write and the tablets they copied on became worn and difficult to pass on the correct message. And this corrupted the message over time.

    Kat: “Gnostic sources not Christian”—I am interested in all sources of wisdom—

    QB: Gnostic means secret or hidden wisdom. However the first Christians didn’t with hold any wisdom or knowledge for the people and the Gnostics were rejected from their churches. Their religion died out in the late 2nd century, but their teachings have survived and resurface from time to time. If your familiar with the New Age movement they have adapted some of these teachings.

    Kat: but if you could define “Christian”?

    QB: Well that’s what creeds are helpful for knowing what is essential for belief and want is not. Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant in general accept this creed as a statement of their belief as to what a Christian holds to be true.

    Nicene Creed

    “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
    And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, and born of the Father before all ages. God of God, light of light, true God of true God. Begotten not made, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.
    And was incarnate of the Holy Ghost and of the Virgin Mary and was made man; was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and was buried; and the third day rose again according to the Scriptures.
    And ascended into heaven, sits at the right hand of the Father, and shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, of whose Kingdom there shall be no end.
    And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the Son !! The Eastern Orthodox reject this phrase), who together with the Father and the Son is to be adored and glorified, who spoke by the Prophets and one holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
    I confess one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”


  27. I was not generally saying that the commonality between monotheistic religions can be overplayed — I was saying that the ONE-GOD aspect is overplayed. Imagine that one classifies animals as furry or not furry. Is that more meaningful than carnivore vs. herbivore? I think that perhaps other characteristics, especially as taken in the big picture are more meaningful.

    All atheists do not think that “religion is false in a detrimental way” — all atheists do not believe in any god, that is it. Many, as you say, feel that religion is totally bad and detrimental. I, as you know, disagree with that. Religion to me does many things — its superstitious thinking is a large part, of course, but it is used to support community, morality and much more — good and bad. Ideas, false or true, can be used both in good and bad ways.

    Remember, atheists have suffered at theist hands for centuries. Theists have been huge enemies of Science (and many scientists have been theists). So Atheists don’t have to be “respectful” of theists — nor vica versa. Remember, Atheists can’t run for office by law in 6 states (I think).

    “Militant” Atheists treat theists who disagree with them with arguments. Militant Muslims, Jews and Christians use guns and bombs ! The militancy is completely different.

    Dawkins does not need held in check — what exactly do you feel needs to be checked about him? He is not asking for outlawing religion, is he? I am not indiscriminate in my distaste for religion like he is, but I think his voice has a vital role.

    Is that what your question was?

    Perhaps atheism is the next evolutionary step after Monotheism — getting rid of one imaginary god at a time. Is that what you are asking. But the problem is, we don’t want to give up the baby with the wash. So the various voices, if allowed to act freely, may preserve that — on both sides.

    Was that your question? Hope one of those hit it.


  28. Sabio,

    There were of course those unfortunate slaughters in the millions by the atheist Russian state, or Pol Pot, etc… Either way, the secular and/or atheist State has killed millions and millions more than the Christians. This is, of course, not at all to justify any Christian violence, which is detestable.

    But keep telling your stories if it makes you feel better about demeaning people’s beliefs.


  29. Wait, adhunt, your sacred book calls me a fool and says I will burn in hell and you hold it in high regard. Who is demeaning people’s beliefs. I hold no such disrespect for you ! There is no comparison.

    Concerning, who killed more, I care not — government is the real criminal, to tell you the truth.


  30. Sabio,

    There you go again assuming that if an Evangelical has said it, then all of Christianity believes it.

    Many modern historical Jesus scholars believe that Jesus’ talk of “Gehenna” is far more connected to the predicted destruction of Jerusalem than it does an eternally burning bon fire. And it has by no means been universal teaching that there are real physical fires that people burn in. Come on, you read C.S. Lewis on your way out, he didn’t believe in fires (where would we get all the wood?) did he? Similarly, most catholic soteriology borders on universalism, though that line should never be crossed.

    I’ve certainly been called worse than a fool by an atheist!


  31. @ adhunt: Though at least 80% of your Christian world believes in these fires, we can leave that out. Christians won’t associate with atheists and it is no rarely the other way around. When Atheists put their beliefs on signs Christians take huge offense but when Christians put up signs, it is considered normal. (Here is the USA).
    Anyway, that may be off point. My point is, when I state clearly what I think of your beliefs, without calling you a bad person, a fool or the like, you still accuse me of “demeaning” your beliefs. Dude, when you speak plainly and honestly about my beliefs I could consider it exactly the same, but I don’t. The point being. Since you hold your god to be holy, we can’t talk bad about him or it is taboo and terrible. But since I don’t hold my beliefs as holy, you can say what you like.

    Don’t you see, that is the whole affect of calling something “holy” — you are saying, “Keep your fricken hands off this! Don’t criticize. ”

    Your outrage is wrapped up in your holiness. Can you not see that?

    @ reed — I will take your question as playful and ignore.


  32. To get back on the Islam track.
    Let’s ask Kat what Muslims would do if someone spoke badly of their main prophet or drew a picture making fun of him. In Britain, the law went into effect banning speaking of sacred things of anyone’s precious faith went into effect. People have already been sued for speaking poorly against Islam.
    Poor England, it is loosing ground quickly.
    Do you guys want everyone tip-toeing too?


  33. Sabio,

    Whoah man, slow down. You can be as critical as you want. But what I can’t stand is the “foundational stories” that atheists tell to legitimize their broad generalizations.

    One among them is that religious people bomb people that disagree with their religion. It has been the case in some instances to be sure. But as I tried to point out, the secular and atheists states have been far more violent and totalitarian in their scope. So I am just popping a hole in the atheist balloon, which is what you do on this blog all the time!

    Again, I’m not threatened by you lack of belief in “my god,” and I don’t harbor any resentment or bitter feelings toward you for it. What I can’t stand is innaccurate generalizations that, yes, demean Christians. As if your off hand little comments intended to do anything but.

    So spare me your holier than thou attitude. I’ve never called you a fool, a bad person, an inevitable piece of firewood or anything like it. The worst I have said is that you tend to be ignorant of nuanced Christian theology and prone to generalizations based off of personal experience.

    So Christians get pissed when atheists put up signs. What does that have to do with this or that? I was discriminated against at a job by an atheist boss, but you don’t hear me associating you with her do you? Likewise, unless I am bombing atheist hangouts, getting upset about atheist signs, or otherwise being interested in the free expression of individuals I disagree with, I would appreciate not being thrown into your generic batch of Christianity.


    btw – I am not outraged. I live in the second most liberal Mainline denomination where bishops can say ridiculous heresies and get away with it. I study with atheists in my classes who say all sorts of wonderful things, I am very close friends with a “Christian” who denies the Virgin Birth and divinity of Christ. My tolerance for “unholy” speech is higher than you think.


  34. Sabio
    Thankyou for your very kind words.

    as to your question……
    Thou seest many of them turning in friendship to the Unbelievers. Evil indeed are (the works) which their souls have sent forward before them (with the result), that Allah’s wrath is on them, and in torment will they abide.
    — Surah 5:80
    Your choice of Surah is interesting. The previous Surahs (2,3,4) occured at the time of the battle of Badr and Uhud. This was a time of shifting geopolitics (both on a larger scale between the Persian and Byzantine Empires–and on the local scale between the various tribes and communities in Mecca/Medina area). Verse 3 of this Surah(5) is said to be one of the last revelations before the Death of the Prophet(pbuh). Surah 5 can be seen, more or less, as a summary of some of the points brought up in Surah 2,3,4–and this particular verse(80) has a general as well as specific meaning. The specifics relate to the situation surrounding the battles–Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) tried to make peace treaties with the surrounding tribes as well as the various empires and Churches. (The dispute/Battle was between Meccans and the Medina Community)Many tribes accepted the treaties (of neutrality) but there were some among them (from the People of the Book)who betrayed the treaty. The wider meaning of this verse refers to those People of the Book who betray their religion by picking only those parts that are “convenient” and ignoring the rest (thus breaking their covenant with God–explained again–somewhat in verses 112-115). There were some Christians/Churches who extended their hands in friendship to the Prophet(pbuh)and verses 82…etc refer to these People.

    Quran–As with all wisdom teachings, the verses of the Quran have a basic meaning and they also have a deeper spiritual meaning(—I have explained the basic in the above verse). Like the Torah/Hebrew, Arabic is a semitic language and is based on a system of “root words/letters”–this creates a depth of meaning and nuance. –Much of this is lost in translations–one example is the word “unbeliever”—This is why it is best to read the Quran with tafsir(commentary). Yusuf Ali translation with tafsir is good but it does have some bias that can be balanced with Pickthall translations (though they do not come with tafsir). The one available online is M. Asad. He has done a good job with both tafsir and semantics but some muslims feel he may be a bit harsh in some areas such as his treatment of the “People of the book”—He is a Jewish convert to Islam and comes from a family of Rabbi’s. (Translations of the Quran are themselves considered tafsir(commentary) because the bias of the translators comes through.) other translatons available online without tafsir are Yusuf Ali, Pickthall and M. Shakir. (–there is another one also but its tafsir is not considered mainstream)
    “mainstream”—There is only ONE Quran. All muslims all over the globe use the exact same Quran (in arabic). There are many translations, interpretations and commentaries. Among the spectrum of beliefs in Islam, it is helpful to divide into 3 groups. (The division is inclusive of both Sunnis and Shia) On one end of the scale are the Sufi (mystics)–many scholars are from this category—the other end of the scale are what I term as the “Puritans”—they have a stricter interpretation of Islam. In the middle are the “mainstream”—more or less the average muslim who strives to the best of his ability to understand and practice Islam. Within the mainstream, some muslims are more progressive on some issues and more conservative on others.


  35. Sabio
    Tip-toeing around Islam—I can understand your unease. I hope the stiuation we are in is a temporary one brought on by unusual circumstances. There is some undeniable social tension in Europe. It is not helped by ignorant voices calling for “clash of civilization”, “Eurabia”, and other such ideas. Ignorance can only be dispelled by knowledge—but for this to occur, there needs to be a space for the voice of knowledge to florish—it cannot in an atmosphere of hate and suspicion.
    Tip-toeing around Islam is not good for us muslims either—it stifles creative thinking that can lead to improvements. So I hope that there will come a time when we all can live more harmoniously and we muslims can concentrate on dialogue conducive to improvements rather than spending so much time on defending our religion from misunderstandings.


  36. QB

    Gospel of Barnabas—I am not familiar with it—I scanned through it many years ago. In current scholarship, I think it is generally accepted that there is a 16th century forgery of the Gospel of Baranabas.

    NT–“They are either inspired by God or they are not.” Generally, the Quran discourages a simplistic/black and white approach to thinking. Since I will not be able to agree to either of the above propositions regarding the NT, it may be best for us to drop the subject?

    I don’t have problems with peoples beliefs regarding the Quran. (I may have a little problem with scholars making unsubstantiated claims…..) but generally speaking—I don’t expect non-muslims to believe that the Quran is a “revelation”….etc


  37. @ adhunt: Of course you are right. Generalizing is rarely productive. Your and my exchange is based on your short reaction to my response to Shawn. It seemed out of proportion. In my statement about militant Atheists, I was answering the apparent charge by Shawn that “Dawkins is out of order” and needs to be kept in check. Dawkins is labeled a “Militant” Atheist. I was showing how the term is radically different that when the world “militant” is used for Jews, Muslims or Christians. I was not playing the “who killed more” card. You saw it as a hackneyed Atheist foundation argument. Sorry, not intended that way.

    It seemed to me, that Shawn is often offended by my the my atheism. That is why I was asking for his clarification. I think you would agree that many Christians are offended easily. Indeed I do find you very easy to discuss things with as long as we both don’t see each other as being generics. Hard to do, eh?


  38. I think I understand the implications of the historical background you are giving to the Surah. Islam, like Christianity, has large percent of believers who take their own scriptures out of context and misuse them. The problem with scriptures, is that they are treated as holy and thus it is easy to stir common folk up to grab these misuses with zeal. But I see how you interpret the verse and how it could be used less exclusively.

    Thank you for your translation guide. I built a reference page 4 months ago and I think the University of Southern California On-line Koran would match your recommendation of Pickthall + Yusuf Ali. Unfortunately, it is unsearchable and has no commentary. Can you suggest an actual site that has the commentary right next to verses? I would love to read the Koran with commentary like you gave us, next to the verses. As you know, like the Bible (which is at least in chronological order), without context, it is impossible to really grasp.

    Sufi Islam (which you wrote of) has always fascinated me. As I left my rigid Christianity, I explored mysticism and found many voices I could sympathize with. Tell me, I watched a film called, Monsieur Ibrahim which I found incredibly moving. My take was that Ibrahim was a Sufi and that when he spoke of his Quran, he was using it allegorically to refer to his heart. Did you see the film? Did you enjoy it? For me, it was like reading Karen Armstrong’s book on Mohammed, which was so sympathetic, it made me feel like I could easily become Muslim — but then I am easily moved emotionally by such things.

    Do you consider yourself “moderate” (by your taxonomy) or do you lean more Sufi? Ironically another intro I had to Sufism was by a cognitive scientist who write a theory of mind with which I agree — Robert Ornstein (apparently a Sufi, himself).

    Do you have other suggested books or websites? Thanks, Kat !


  39. Hey Guys,

    Here is a Christian who thinks that trying to understand Muslims is pointless if you are not trying to convert them. He says, “We can understand and respect people all the way to Hell …”

    I wonder what various Muslims think about Christians in this regard (Kat?). Can Christians go to heaven who never acknowledge Allah or Mohammad as his prophet even if they know the full story. Many exclusivists Christians feel all Muslims will go to hell.

    Here is an example of what I was trying to say before the “Theophiles” accused me of insensitivity and did not address my main point.

    Imagine three believers: a Hindu pluralist, a Christian exclusivist, a Muslim pluralist and a Buddhist pluralist. I content that the pluralism is a more important classification scheme here than monotheism. So that the Muslim has more in common with the Hindu and the Buddhist than he does with the Christian exclusivist. Just being a Monotheist, is not that strong of a common trait.

    Mix those up any way you want, make the Christian a pluralist or the Hindu a exclusivist — they all exist.

    All to say, I think that one’s view of others is more crucial than one’s view of the Divine. I know that sentence sounds harsh for propositional theists, but I know you guys are flexible in both of those realms.

    What do you think — and before arguing against me, if you think you can make my argument stronger, please feel free to do that before you attack.


  40. “Quran misunderstood”–It is the easiest and simplest explanation to give to a non-muslim. (Most people usually aren’t looking for complicated explantions on a subject they barely understand)
    “large percentage take it out of context”—Considering the situation we find ourselves in, I can understand this perception. Most muslim scholars, institutions, and countries have condemned terrorism. All the groups within the 3 categories I mentioned (Sufi, mainstream, and Puritan) have also condemned terrorism.
    M Asad (The Message of the Quran)is available at or or can use the links from M Asad’s biography at wikipedia.
    BBC website has interesting links (such as
    Once you understand the “basics”(major concepts such as Tawheed, Taqwa, Iman, Khalifa…etc) You can move on to classical Islamic philosophy if you wish—it is fascinating in its diversity and creativity.–Ibn Arabi–has some interesting things to say about spirituality, Al-Gazzali– wrote about the intellect(2 aspects of the intellect)–its relation to “self”/consciousness and how we can/should understand religion/spirituality)
    If you are a biginner—the Quran itself has interesting things to say about a diversity of subjects–for example, its explanations of “self”(Nafs=Arabic/Quran, Nefesh=Hebrew/Torah)–its origins and nature.
    There is also Micheal Sells book, “Approaching the Quran”. Much is lost in translations—In english, there are times when the Quran sounds angry—but when read/recited in arabic, the tone is one of compassion and sadness. Sells also brings out the original balance of the arabic in terms of grammatical gender—this brings out a softness and harmony that can be missed in translations.
    How to read the Quran—As you already noticed, without a chronology within the Quran, it can be read from Surah 1, 114, 113 onwards or read from surah 1, 2, 3…etc. These shorter surahs (114…etc) can act either as summary points or as introductions to major themes–such as the nature of God…etc. The Quran itself informs the reader how it should be read. One should have a questioning mind open to seeking knowledge, One should not hurry through but stop and contemplate often. The verses of the Quran should not be “broken up” (or rearranged) each verse builds on another and each surah builds on another–all working as a whole in unity.
    I did not see Monsieur Ibrahim but did read Karen Armstrong. It is a good book to reccommend. It does not quite represent the muslim perspective, but as you said, it is well-researched, sympathetic yet neutral and brings an interesting point of view.

    I would place myself squarely in the middle of the spectrum. Since many scholars are Sufi or have studied Sufism—their views do filter down to any educated muslim.

    happy reading…………


  41. @ Reed
    Thank you.
    It is these non-standard perceptions of what I call the “deep intellect” that draws me to so of the stuff of Peter Rollins. Though I am not in the least drawn to the Christian story in it, there seems to be much more at play. Perhaps this is what you hint at.

    I totally agree with your analysis of others, I think.

    But as for what you hint at for yourself, I am unclear. For it sounds like some Calvinist variant (not that I know much about that), which says “faith” is a gift from the god and not something mustered up by the believer — I actually think I have heard something similar in some Vaishnivite theology with Darshan being one of the vehicles. My experience is that almost any theological variant, at a deep level, can be found manifest in most rich religious traditions.

    But in enters the free will vs. determinism thing. And indeed, as you say, the majority of Christians look at salvation as a consequence of “my belief” sort of thing and if that is a mistake, would you then feel that they are not truly under your god’s grace. Darn, why does this salvation stuff have to be so tough.

    So how about us folks that don’t worry about salvation. Is this really such a bad thing given all the obvious pitfalls out there and all the confusion. Shouldn’t the heart be much simpler? Since an atheist could hold a plurality view, as far as community and hold a humble view of mind in terms of the limits of human reason, and a compassionate view of morality based on any number of ethical models. Couldn’t they, in a deep way, be closer to the type of Christianity you value, Reed, than say the average non-PoM Evangelical and all the cultural cafeteria Christians. Could they be like the boy in the Last Battle who Aslan welcomes over to his army but who was always felt by others to be a terrible enemy of Narnia?


  42. @ Kat
    Thank you for the recommendations, I will expanded my reference post.
    Ironically, while looking around for Muslim reference sites, I ran upon this site which protests Muslim extremists “laying claim to the religion [of Islam]. But then, on the same page, they have their Dua’a (supplication) of the Week which you can listen to in beautiful song-chanted Arabic on the site. To me, it is amazing how beautiful people can make something so horrible sound.

    And remember Abraham said: “My Lord, make this a City of Peace, and feed its people with fruits,-such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.” He said: “(Yea), and such as reject Faith,-for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire,- an evil destination (indeed)!
    – Surah 2:126

    Also, I found this Muslim site recommending the chronological info about the order of the Surah and some numerology (found in all religions, oddly enough). Is this order correct?


  43. Reed,
    I like the distinction you made between marketism and providentiality. That said, I am not sure that I think a providential view of religion is pragmatically useful in finding an expedient answer to the problem of religious exclusivism. Sabio is right to point out the Calvinistic tendencies of your position. One of the reasons that marketism came to be was because a providential approach to religion became antiquated in lite of modernity. While modernity has certainly shown itself to be wrought with error, I am not convinced that receding back to a more communal/providential view of religion is possible. I am not even sure it is preferable. The old providential view of religion held very similar weaknesses to that of marketism in that it encouraged limited perspective and naivety. I believe the liberal ethic of global communality is far more fertile ground for basing religious perspective on…
    Oh and Kat let me be the last of the theophiliacs to welcome you to our site. I think your perspective has been invaluable to the discussion.


  44. I understand that many people find exclusivism to be offensive. However, there is a difference between being offensive and being wrong. Just because John 14:6 or Acts 4:12 offends certain people, that does not automatically invalidate the claims concerning Jesus Christ being the only way to eternal life. I’ve known people who were offended when they were told that they could not return used electronic merchandise to a store, but being offended did not change the store policy. If there is a God (and I firmly believe there is) then He has the right to set His own rules for entry into any afterlife that He has created. Being offended by the rules will not change the rules. One could refuse to enter because he thinks he has a higher sense of fairness than the Creator, but it won’t change the rules.


  45. Sabio–You have managed to pick another interesting verse!This too is about another covenant.
    Background—622 CE (Hijra)The pesecuted muslim community leaves Mecca for Medina where many convert to Islam. This displeases the Meccans who feel threatened and they prepare for battle. 624 CE –The battle of Badr.
    Summary—This section of the “story” starts with verse 122 “O children of Israel, call to mind the special favor…”etc and ends at verse 129 “Our Lord, send amongst them a messenger of their own….”etc. It is a reminder of the covenant of Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and the (spiritual)brotherhood of the Jews and Muslims. Prophet Abraham (pbuh) asks that his decendants be guided (v 124)and this plea is accepted on the condition that people choose, of their own free-will, to accept or reject guidance—those that reject it will not be guided. Further, Prophet Abraham(pbuh) asks that those who believe be cared and provided for (v 126). This is also accepted and but also extends to “such as reject faith” however, at the same time there is also a warning that they will be held accountable for their choices.
    Further meaning—With the Quran and Prophet Muhammed(pbuh), the covenant with Prophet Abraham(pbuh) is completely fulfilled (Though many Prophets and guidance was sent to the decendants of Prophet Abraham(pbuh) through his son Isaac, this is the first and last guidance sent to the decendents through Ishmael)The Quran informs and explains that the muslims are now part of the convenant, and they in turn, have an obligation to follow the guidance.
    Question—why are blessings extended “to those that reject faith”? The Quran explains this elsewhere. We are here on this earth as a trial—sometimes we learn from our mistakes. God is compassionate and merciful and will give us all the chances possible to find the “straight path” (The Quran explains the straight path is one where we strive to have good intentions that create good actions for the benefit of all of God’s creation—see surah 90 verses 10-18)

    Considering the nature of your picks, Could I ask,—how many times have you read the Quran?


  46. @ Rodger — If there are no gods, all the rules will be those of people ! And low and behold, that is what we have.

    @ kat — I have read only parts of the Quran — and with the ignorance of lack of context. I lived in Pakistan and had it argued with me often in my house. I lived in a Shiite village which fought with the Sunis often. Loud speakers daily blared the Quran loudly. In a holiday celebration of the martyrdom of their leader, the Shiites would march through town whipping themselves into a bloody mess.

    The Quran is very hard to read without clear guidance and I haven’t heard one text that does that. And considering all I have seen of Islam, I feel no compulsion to spend much time learning it further. There is much to learn, one must choose, eh? How much time have you spent on the Mahabharata, or Tibetan sutras or Shinto texts?

    I have appreciated your filling out the meaning of the texts quoted. That helps a great deal.

    Do you believe that non-muslims, on death, if they came to a fairly “straight path” before death, may be accepted by you Allah into his paradise?


  47. Jh—Thankyou for your welcome. I am enjoying my stay.

    Roger–“He has the right to set his own rules” –would you say, that right extended to “setting his own rules” differently for different people?

    Sabio—forgot to answer your other question—Numerology–the number 19 holds some fascination for muslims because of a certain verse—however, it should be considered as “entertainment” only. Chronology of Surahs—Again–should not be taken too seriously—background of revelation has always been important to the understanding of the Quran but this is covered in the tafsir. The Quran was revealed peicemeal over a period of 22/23 years BUT the Prophet(pbuh) was very specific and careful to ensure that every letter, word and verse went into the “proper” place no matter the chronology of the revelation—the Quran we have, is the way it was meant to be read/recited. (From the time of the Prophet(pbuh)to today, people have memorized the Quran in its entirety exactly as it is–the structure/internal rhythm of the Quran is said to help in its memorization)


  48. Sabio—I am from the East—spent much time in the Far East. So I am slightly familiar with Eastern religions—particularly since many (Eastern)themes intersect with those of the Quran (Such as some Bhuddhist concepts, some from the Tao te Ching,–some Shinto concepts are also interesting)

    Non-muslims—Many muslims have just as big an ego as any other and would prefer an exclusivist view (though as you mentioned, we are more interested in excluding other muslims than other religions). Unfortunately for us, the Quran has different view—The word “muslim” used in the context of the Quran means “one who submits” (to God/God’s will) and is used to refer to Prophet Abraham(pbuh)—who clearly preceded Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) and cannot reasonably be expected to be “a follower of Prophet Muhammed(pbuh)”. The Quran is also very clear that the right to Judge at Judgement belongs exclusively to God and his criteria will be one of absolute Justice tempered with compassion and mercy. Even an “atom’s weight” of goodness or evil will be taken into account (Surah 99)—So I suppose the answer to your question would be—“that would be a positive possibility”.(the reason I answer this way–is because intentions are just as important as actions)


  49. @ kat
    Following your logic, if truth can be found in most religions, and with right action and right attitude one can gain paradise. Would it not be better to encourage someone to seek the truth of their own faith — a more likely goal, than to seek to convert them to a very foreign faith which usually draws certain demographically determined types?


  50. Sabio: You would have to be a god to prove there are no gods (you need to watch out for those universal negatives)… so we are still left with Paschal’s Wager.

    Kat: God can do anything… but I don’t think He does the absurd, such as create rocks that are too big for Him to lift, or create laws that contradict one another.


  51. Lao Tzu said–“The way of heaven: benefit all, harm none.”

    To convert or not—With freedom to choose comes responsibilty. Whatever choices we make—we should honor them fully. We all travel at our own pace on our own paths on our journey. Some may feel their own tradition has so much wisdom to offer, they could spend a lifetime learning it and not exhaust it. Some (like me,) might agree with Lao Tzu who said “Insight opens your mind. An open mind leads to an open heart.” With understanding, we can better practice tolerance and compassion. The Quran says in Surah 49 verse 13, “O mankind! we created you from a pair of male and female and made you into nations and tribes , so that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other)…”
    why Islam–If anyone can get into heaven, why would I bother with Islam?-its not the easiest of religions. —because it satisfies my soul.


  52. @ kat — I love the honesty “… it satisfies my soul”
    My favorite kind of religious folks are pluralists — as you said, it keeps up from despising each other. What percent of Muslims, would you guess, are pluralists. Of theologically savvy Christians, I’d wager only a small percent, but of everyday cultural believers, a much larger percent. I’d wager that it is religious professionals (seminary grads and such) that drive feel the need to move believers away from pluralism. Because if any product will serve the purpose, it is hard to sell your own.


  53. Roger,
    I think you make a valid point in regards to proving or disproving God. I believe honest evaluation leaves both propositions at best 50/50. That said I am not sure that paschals wager applies here. There are simply too many variables to logically deduce that belief is the safer option universally. I have to agree with Kat on this one. Belief or lack their of must remain thourougly individual and personally relative to ones own needs and perspectives.

    I have to disagree with your assesment of pluralism in Christianity. I think you will find the numbers are fairly even between academics and laity. The real divide is between liberal and conservative interpretations. I would not be so quick to dismiss or construe either side as solely academic or laity. I would also argue that the majority of conservative Christian theology does not come from such a backhanded motivation, but rather from honest conviction. That said, I whole-heartedly endorse a pluralistic view of Christianity or any other relgion for that matter.


  54. pluralists/exclusivists—If I were to guess, based on stereotypes, I would say that the Sufi’s might be more inclined towards a pluralistic world view and the Puritans would be on the other end–not particularly because of theology, but because they may be predisposed to such a world view. In the middle the debate seems to be more about conformity versus diversity (within Islam) and the balance between the two.


  55. @ James : I will take your word about the divide. Remember, (I just posted something on this), my model of belief would have people unaware of the purpose of their belief and would not burden them with nefarious plotting. I still wager to say that keep people “in-house” is the reason for the evolution of such exclusivist theology found in religion, martial arts, races etc … it is a fairly common expression where ever the human brain operates.

    @ Kat: what country are you in? do you have a web site? How did you find this site?


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