Is the use of the Quranic phrase ‘Religion of Abraham’ or ‘Abrahamic Faith’ a sign of inclusion, or does it signal acceptance of a core Islamic doctrine?


(Jimmy Sellers) #1

Dr. Mark Durie gave a fascinating lecture on this subject. The title that I used is from his lecture. Mark thought that it was/is a very important question. I will be curious to read your thoughts and comments.

How many times have you heard the term ‘Abrahamic Faith’? What does the term mean to you? If you are like me you naturally assumed it meant that Abraham is the father of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It sounds so inclusive and encouraging and it could mean that maybe we can sort through the differences, correct? Not so, according to Dr. Mark Durie. I attended the UAI2018 this week and Dr. Durie’s lecture on “Is Islam an Abrahamic Faith?” was eye opening. I will never use the phase again without a qualifier. What sounds so innocent is really a core Islamic doctrine.

Dr. Durie starts with a comparison of who was Abraham and what was his role in the ‘big 3’. Was he a unifier or a divider? Can Jews and Christian unite around Abraham or do we have different understanding about him? Was Abraham saved by faith or is he be the first Torah observer? (compare Gen 15:5 with Gen 18:9)
He is a divider.

He then turns to the Quran and compares its Abraham to the Bible’s Abraham. In it we find a different Abraham, not just the father of Isaac. He was a messenger on a par with all the other messenger in the Quran he was a type of Muhammed. He was given a book from Allah, he built the Kaaba, he names his followers Muslim, he taught the same religion that Muhammed brought, the religion of Moses, Jesus and Noah, he was the model Iman and he was the model of hostility and hatred not unity. Mark uses many references in the Quran to support this but he quotes this one and expands it.

There was a good example for you in Abraham, and those who were with him, when they said to their people, ‘Surely we are free of you and what you serve instead of Allāh. We repudiate you, and between us and you enmity has shown itself, and hatred forever, until you believe in Allāh alone’ – except for Abraham’s saying to his father: ‘I shall indeed ask forgiveness for you, but I have no power from Allāh to (benefit) you at all’ … Certainly there was a good example for you in them – for whoever hopes in Allāh and the Last Day. (Q60:4-6)

From here Mark makes the case that Islamic doctrine teaches supersessionism (replacement theology). Judaism and Christianity are just failed attempts at implementing Islam and it was Muhammed that puts this back on track.
He uses the following excerpt from a letter to the Middle East forum to give the modern day Islamic POV.

Shamin A. Siddiqi of Flushing, New York put this position in a letter to Daniel Pipes:
Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muḥammad were all prophets of Islam. Islam is the common heritage of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim community of America, and establishing the Kingdom of God is the joint responsibility of all three Abrahamic faiths. Islam was the din (faith, way of life) of both Jews and Christians, who later lost it through human innovations. Now the Muslims want to remind their Jews and Christian brothers and sisters of their original din. These are the facts of history.

Lastly he explains where this whole idea of ‘Abrahamic Religion’ comes from. The term started to gain popularity in 1950 and was a result of the work of a Maronite priest, Youakim Moubarac who took the position that Islam was a faith of genuine revelation and Muhammed as a prophet of God. He was able to influence the Vatican II’s Islam policy:

841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” (Catholic Catechism, p. 330)

And a more current statement from the Catholic church:

“our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and to proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence.”
Pope Francis, on interreligious dialogue, quoting 841 of the Catholic Catechism

Mark wraps up his lecture with the this statement:

The idea of “Abrahamic Religion” is not a point of unity between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, but of division. It arises from and points to the Qur’an’s supersessionist theological theme.

(Gary Johnson) #2

Jimmy, this is my first post on RZIM Connect. I had the opportunity to hear Mark Durie speak yesterday. I noticed that the example he puts forward only discusses Surah 60: Ayah 4. Naturally, the bold section is the focus of his discussion, since Muhammad’s revelation in the Koran identifies him as a man willing to completely shun family in the cloud of enmity. In this, I take his point…but, I would say that the whole of the first 10 verses of the Sura should be read as a unit, noting that the phrase in Q 60:4 “…except for Abraham’s saying to his father: 'I shall indeed ask forgiveness for you, but I have no power from Allah to (benefit) you at all … Certainly there was a good example for you in them…” is separated from the rest of they Ayah. In many versions, the phrases or variants are placed in brackets. To be clear, the Surah opens with (A.J. Arberry here) “O believers, take not My enemy and your enemy for friends, offering them love, though they have disbelieved in the truth that has come to you, expelling the Messenger and you because you believe in God your Lord.”

In this, I would ask - how is this different from Christ saying in Matthew 12:30 “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” True, the concept of enmity is not expressly mentioned by Jesus, but the effect is similar in terms of separation.

What I would point to is Surah 9:Ayah 113-114 (one of the very late Medinan Suras): “It is not for the Prophet and the believers to ask pardon for the idolaters, even though they be near kinsmen, after that it has become clear to them that they will be the inhabitants of Hell. Abraham asked not pardon for his father except because of a promise he had made to him; and when it became clear to him that he was an enemy of God, he declared himself quit of him; Abraham was compassionate, clement.”

Now, when I read these lines, I am immediately struck by the fact that Muhammad went through a very similar experience in his life, at least according to Muslim sources. The man who raised him and offered him protection, Ali’s father, Abu Talib, refused to accept Islam up until his death and kept with the religion of his forefathers, though it pained Muhammad to no end. In this story of Abraham, I see Muhammad attempting to come to grips with the fact that his mentor, father figure, uncle, friend, protector and the best of Arab men had died and, according to this faith, was consigned to the flames. I see the human Muhammad here, more than the word of Allah.

As to the use of the phrase “Abrahamic faiths” to describe the three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I would say you have a choice whether to empathize with the compassion of Muhammad and Abraham or to reconcile that conviction with the words of Matthew 12:30.

(Jimmy Sellers) #3

Thank you for your comments.
Regarding Matt 12:30, if the verse is plucked out of the context you might have a point only in that if might suggest separation but then the question is from whom or what. In context (Matt 12:22-30) Jesus is addressing the accusation of the Pharisees that his power to heal comes from Satan. After Jesus answers the Pharisees he adds that he will not allow any would-be disciples to straddle the fence: one either follows him or opposes him, just as one does with the devil. The enemy here is clearly the Devil and not unbelievers.

I am not an expert on the Quran but from what I have read the use of Surah 60;3-4 is the bedrock of Islamic doctrine as it relates to the treatment of non-Muslims. I found this on the web site

This command establishes a spiritual and a physical separation, a classification, between Muslim and non-Muslim. It is a one side or the other, a “You are either with us or against us” distinction. Muhammad was commanded to physically fight against those who were not with him. This is a spiritual, cultural, and physical war.
Some scholars describe this separation as Islam’s “House of Islam,” (Dar al-Islam), and “House of War,” (Dar al-Harb).
This segregation, the identification of “the other,” was initiated by Allah. It is part of Islam’s theological bedrock and it extends to family members. Verses 60:3,4 use the example of Abraham as a standard for Muslims to embrace and imitate in their posture towards non-Muslims.

And as a final thought regarding Surah 9 it is full of verse that would support the doctrine of Islam as the one true religion and that it will be achieved by whatever means necessary including forced conversion or a chance at second class citizenship. I would suggest that Matt 28:18-20 would be a better comparison in how the Christian message is to be proclaimed as opposed how the Islamic message is proclaimed. In Matt 28:18 we see the Authority, in Matt 28:19 the objective and in Matt 28:20 the message.

To your last point, there is a third option that neither Islam nor Christianity is correct leaving only Torah. In either case the term “Abrahamic Faith” does not unify but divides. And the real question is how are the divides bridged? with works? with a sword? or with love? That is the real question.
That is my take away from the conference.

(Gary Johnson) #4

Well said, Jimmy - you are right, the formula for Fatah is often found here by the ideologues of Jihadism, such as Osama bin Laden. In 2005, the Jordanian King released what is known as “The Amman Message” - you can get it for like 99 cents on Amazon - In the message, which is considered an attempt at ending the practice of intra-faith takfirism (calling Muslims out for not being Muslim enough and using that as an excuse to fight them), the King utilized Q 60:8 “God forbids you not, as regards those who have not fought you in religion’s cause, nor expelled you from your habitations, that you should be kindly to them, and act justly towards them; surely God loves the just.” The reason I bring this up is because it dovetails in King Abdullah’s view with the Q 2:256, which begins “No compulsion is there in religion.”

I admire the Answering-Islam site and Sam Shamoun’s approach. However, what I want to point out here is that division is in the eye of the beholder.

Muslims look at Abraham as the ultimate unifying element of Islam - Muhammad claimed to be restoring the true religion (or creed) of Abraham. In that regard, from the Muslim vantage, Judaism and Christianity are divisive in that they have mistaken reckonings of the Prophetic tradition and the purpose and meaning of Prophecy.

Now, when these verses the King brings forth are levied in public today, the instant reaction is to think, hey, this guy or gal is apologizing for Islam and trying to cover over the Truth of the division inherent in Islamic doctrine. But, I am in no way apologizing for Islam or Muhammad, what I am putting forward here is that Islam looks at the Prophetic Line completely differently than do Jews and Christians.

For instance, In Hebrews, Christians point to Abraham’s decision to tithe to Melchizedek, the Priest King of Salem; and, they see this figure as a prototype of Christ…At the same time, Muslims see Abraham as a prototype of Muhammad…

Let me ask you - when, if ever, have you heard Christians bring forth Melchizedek in the conversation relating to Islam? There is no reason, for the conversation is forgive the expression - pigeon-holed - with a discussion of the Priestly class of Levites - It is here that Christianity’s supersessionism is evident to the outside witness.

In the end, Christ claims to intercede on behalf of a fallen humanity to God, the Father. To this, the Muslim asks, why would Christ need to intercede for humanity if he is indeed one and the same with God the Father?

At the same time, the Muslim believes that Muhammad intercedes for humanity with Allah. And, in this, he stakes a claim on Jesus Christ’s role…but, in the end, a Christian should look to the Satanic verses and ask, if it was problematic for Al-Lat and Manat and al-Uzza to intercede on behalf of humanity, if intercession is so devilish a concept in that it denies Allah’s claim to be the only being worthy of worship, then Why would Muhammad need to intercede at all?

To be sure, I am not a biblical expert - I am here to learn how Christians defend their faith - and I want to say that your response has given me a perspective that was lacking to some extent - and I thank you.

I am interested in the Great Commission, noting that obedience is a key reality in Matt. 28:20, pointing back to the authority. I know this may be overwhelming, but in the simplest terms, from your studies, how many different ways is the Great Commission formula as you so well delineate in Matthew 28:18-20 found in the NT? {Formula - Authority/Objective/Message}

(Jimmy Sellers) #5

Thanks for the reply. You brought up King Abdullah, I will assume the Jordanian King. This brought to my mind Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Saudi Aribia and the joint venture on the new city Neom. At the public kickoff meeting he said:

“Seventy percent of the Saudi people are less than 30 years old, and we will not waste 30 years of our lives dealing with extremist ideas — we will destroy them today,” Mohammed bin Salman told the gathering. “We want to live a normal life.”

This seems like strong langue coming from the center of Wahhabism and its soon to be King.

How do you understand what he is saying? What does he mean by wasting 30 years living with and dealing with extremist ideas? How will he destroy them? What is a normal life?
From my point of view I see this as earth shaking news.
I do plan to try and address some of the questions that just posted later. Thanks.

(Gary Johnson) #6

That is a good question - yes, I meant the King of Jordan by Abdullah (II) - it is earth shaking, if it is true. In recent months, the young Crown Prince has been making a number of social earthquakes in the ranks of the Wahhabi princedom and elite. It is key to realize that he is more than right on the demographic realities of the day - the Muslim world, especially the Saudi Kingdom, has undergone a baby boom unlike anything we have seen before over the last 30 years.

Think of the Demographics explosion in the Muslim world like this - In 1900 the world population was 2 billion, of which 200 million were Muslims. By 1980, the Muslim population had quadrupled to 800 million. Today, the world population is nearing 7.5 billion and the Muslim population is nearing 2 billion. So, in 120 years, the population of Islam adherents has grown 1000%. Instead of Muslims representing 1 out of every 10 human beings, they now represent 1 out of every 4. The global population has doubled in 35 years, and sense the average age of child bearing is around 35, the vast majority of the new Muslim population is around 30 or younger.

The main thing that I noticed, beyond allowing women to apply for driver’s licenses, which in itself is a progressive idea, the Hisba Morality Police (Those who sought the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice) have been stripped of their forward capacity. The Saudi Prince believes that the young population of his country needs to be employed. He recognizes that the oil wealth welfare system is about to be strained to the point of State collapse…as such, as a realist, he has decided that building shopping malls and movie theaters and other youth entertainment, will provide both jobs and a necessary balance to 30 years of Wahhabi dominated state politics and the export of global religious extremism.

In short, he is taking his state away from clerical fascism toward progressive liberalism. The problem he will face will be the backlash of the salafi/wahhab community in the years to come. And, for this, he will need a global support network, completely prepared to back his play.

For those of us who are wary of this turn in the counterterrorism community, for those who believe Islam is nothing more than a political ideology, this move will be seen as a taqiyya play - putting on one face of Islam in public as a lie, in order to cajole everyone away from the fact that Islam is supremacist at base, whether seen in a Wahhabi or an Ashari light.

The question of whether Islam can be a force for progressive change is answered in the west in great degree by a quest for pluralism; however, in Saudi Arabia, the real test will be whether or not a Church or a Synagogue can be erected in the Holy Land - on this front, as the keeper of the two holy cities, the Crown Prince will be forced to acquiesce to the Wahhabi Sheikhs or face decapitation from the throne. Moreover, on this front, another window that is evident is the production of an Arabic compilation of the Abrahamic Faiths - that is, in KSA, there will never be allowed to be published (at present) an Old Testament/New Testament/ & Koran in one volume in Arabic…such a publication would be considered an affront to the Seal of the Prophet and Finality of the Prophet. If a combined testament were to be published in KSA, that would signal a new dawn for interfaith dialogue, relations, and continuity of purpose on the fight against terror front.

So, when we look at the progressive shift, expect an immediate increase in Women’s Rights to gain parity with that enjoyed in Iran - that way they can show that the Shia take is not dominant… On the morals front, the Hisba patrols, forcing the 5 daily prayers and shuttering of trade may come to an end to an extent, though those who do not keep to the old standards will likely have their names placed onto a list by Wahhabis who will wait for a hard line King in a few decades, and by jihadists who are willing to make an example in public.

All in all, expect terrorism to increase internally, expect an eventual attempt at a coup by the hardliners, and pray for a long life of the Crown Prince and pray that he truly is a reformer.

(Jolene Laughlin) #7

Thank you for commenting on this. Very interesting to see your take on it.

(Jimmy Sellers) #8

Now to some of your previous comments and questions.

I need some clarification on this. Are you saying that Muslims are comparing this biblical account of an event that was recorded in the Pentateuch between Abraham and Melchizedek as the forerunner to Muhammed? On want bases, the Pentateuch? Forgive my confusion but as far as I can tell Melchizedek is never mentioned in the Quran. I have found that there are those that would suggest that the mystery man, the “Green Man” in Sura 18, al-Kahf, verses 60-82 could possibly be the King of Salem but that is pure conjecture. Aside for that I know that Misha’al Ibn Abdullah Al-Kadhi covers some of this in his book, “What did Jesus Really Say”. I said all that to ask, why would Islam resort to corrupted material to make a case for Muhammed?

I would agree on both points.

No, I have never heard Melchizedek and Islam in the same sentence, until this exchange. On your second point about replacement theology I will agree but not because of Melchizedek but because on the “New Covenant” and the reformation of 16th century and let me emphasis that I disagree with the conclusion that the Judaism has been superseded by the Christianity. The reading of Hebrews as a polemic against Jews believer who were weary of the Christian life due to its challenges and were considering turn back is what most church teach.

I believe a better of understanding of what the author of Hebrews was saying is to understand it in a socio-rhetorical reading where the writer was not chastising the believer but with contrast was comparing the good way of Torah with the better way of Jesus. Because this view takes into account the culture of the day you can apply the quote.

Quintilian (Inst. 3.7.16) advises that “what most pleases an audience is the celebration of deeds which our hero was the first or only man or at any rate one of the very few to perform … emphasizing what was done for the sake of others rather than what he performed on his own behalf.”

With this in mind, I believe the writer appeals to the gratitude of the recipient of the great gift from the great benefactor God. The gift of Messiah and all that it entails. At the end of the day this is the discussion that must take place between Christianity and Islam. They both believe in Jesus but whose Jesus the Isa of the Quran or the Jesus of the Bible? They can’t both be right but they can both wrong.

I can go on but I will await your thoughts. Thank you.

PS If you are interested in looking into this method of Biblical understanding I would recommend
deSilva, D. A. (2000). Perseverance in gratitude: a socio-rhetorical commentary on the Epistle “to the Hebrews”

(Gary Johnson) #9

Jimmy, thank you for taking the time to consider my perspective…and I
apologize if there was any confusion. My point was that Islam is
supercessionist - Muhammad claims that all the Prophets preached the same
religion, and that Muhammad is the final prophet in a line of prophets.
But, by the same token, Christianity is perceived as supercessionist, in
large measure because the Hebrews reference to Melchizedek allows the
Christian to see the Priesthood of Melchizedek as being a precursor to the
Levite Priesthood on display in the Hebrew Bible, and thus above it in that
Abraham tithed to this Priest-King of Peace…in that regard, Christ is
claimed to be like unto Melchizedek, a Prince of Peace, and the ultimate
Priest for his ultimate act of atonement, trumping the Jewish claim to the
rite of partial atonement through their God-ordained practices. In this,
via Hebrews, Christianity rises above Judaism as a higher way, a more
complete atonement is evident in His sacrifice. Of course, Muslims do not
in any way register the figure of Melchizedek in their texts or their
discussions. What is evident instead is a slight debate about the
difference between fulfillment of the scripture and confirmation of the
scripture. The fulfillment versus confirmation debate is what I was trying
to draw attention to, feebly as it were. And, you are right - the
Replacement Theology discussion is what I was rooting around for in the
effort. I appreciate your attention to detail here; and, I, like you, do
not see Hebrews as a polemical, so much as an instructive text. But, your
contrast of the good way of the Torah and the better way of Jesus does
speak to an inherent register of superiority.

Christianity’s scriptures never call for the annihilation or forced
conversion or subjugation of the Jews, yet the Koran does just that for
both Christianity and Judaism, which it supercedes, not in a superior way,
but in a supremacist light.

The Jesus of the NT and the Isa of the Koran are not the same - we are
agreed there. All I am trying to put forward to you is that the
"Superiority" on offer in the fulfillment argument of Christianity must
eventually come to grips with the “Supremacism” on offer in the
confirmation argument of the Koran.

I wanted to thank you for your kind responses. I will take your book
recommendation to heart.

As an American Deist, I bring a different perspective on the issues
discussed here. And, I would prefer not to be a distraction. I would ask
each of those attending to these tidings to grace me with your prayers as I
begin to unpack the nature of apologetics, polemics, and buckle down to
re-learn the biblical traditions with a fresh heart. I will be paying
attention. Once a week or so, I will take a look at all of your postings to
gain strength on my journey. I will pray for you all. But, for now, I think
it best if I take a step back and witness the power of Grace in action as I
knock on the door, again. Bless you Jimmy.

(Jolene Laughlin) #10

@MackZed I’ve been wanting to get back to this conversation, but have had a lot of work stacked up and couldn’t. I apologize for coming in so late, but I have been thinking about your post, and I just wanted to follow up. We all know that specific passages of any given book can easily get taken out of context, so it’s important to read within the entire framework. I have never read the Quran, so I cannot speak to how the first passage you’ve listed here fits into its entire message. But I have read the Bible, and as @Jimmy_Sellers points out, the passage you’ve used in Matthew is in response to the Pharisees claiming that Jesus’ power came from Satan. While He was reprimanding, and even calling out, the Pharisees for their hypocrisy, as well as pointing out to the people that these religious leaders were not who they claimed to be, he was not issuing a directive to his disciples to act against them in any way.

In fact, we see quite often that the message Jesus brought was the opposite of what you seem to be suggesting here. In Matthew 5:38-48, he says “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

We see again in Matthew 26 that Jesus specifically told his followers to put away their swords and not try to fight for him:

51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. 52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

The overarching message of the New Testament is to spread the good news of the Gospel through being servants and acting with humility in ways that go against our natural human nature. There is nothing that encourages us to use force or violence to enforce “conversion” to Christian principles or laws. The entire NT is about the heart of humanity and those who convert to Christianity do so because they are given a heart of flesh, not because they are forced to.

(Carson Weitnauer) #11

Hi @MackZed, thank you for honoring our forum and our terms of service. I am grateful for you sharing with us your position as an American Deist. Our hope and prayer is that we will one day be able to know you as a brother in Christ. As much as we may share in common a desire to see Muslims abandon Islam, the greatest hope of our hearts in Connect is that everyone would know and love Jesus.

Friends, out of respect for @MacZed taking a step back, let’s reset the discussion. It wouldn’t be fair to him to keep responding to his points when he has respectfully agreed to transition into an observer role in Connect.

(Jolene Laughlin) #12

I hadn’t read all the way through the thread when I responded earlier. I’m sorry to have jumped in without following the conversation all the way through. I have enjoyed following the conversation though, and seeing a different point of view explained. Thank you for your kindness. I will pray for you as well. Blessings - Jolene

(Giselle Seidel) #13

I will be praying for @MackZed. Jesus said that anyone who LOVES the truth will hear Him. Seek God’s face with all your heart and you will find Him, for He is faithful.
Going back to the topic of this discussion, the term “Abrahamic Faith” is widely used, either by non-christians mostly in an Academic arena, or by believers in an ecumenical attempt to unify religions. I would suggest that we christians should refrain from using it. It is important for us to understand and point out that we don’t believe that Muslims and Christians believe in the same God.