d) “A Muslim could equally presuppose the truth of the Quran. Unless something outside of the Quran could be used to falsify the Quran, then there would be no way to disprove it. The Christian and the Muslim could only state their beliefs against the other.” (Jürgen Habermas)'''
Many people believe that presuppositional apologetics cannot stand up to Islam. Usually this comes from those who don’t know Islam very well - or not at all. Let us look at Islam’s presuppositions and see if they actually make sense of Muslim objections to Christianity.
Here are some of the basic Muslim presuppositions:
- a) Muslims believe in one, unique, incomparable God, who has neither son nor partner.b) Muslims believe “Allah is to be described only by the attributes with which He has described Himself or with which the Prophet described Him. He is to be named only by the names with which He has named Himself or with which the Prophet named Him”. Muslim scholars say, the correct faith in Allah’s attributes means believing in them without denying them or their meanings (ta’teel), without interpreting them or changing their meanings (tahreef), without explaining what or how they are (takyeef) or likening Allah’s attributes to those of creation (tamtheel). (Al-Othaimeen, Allah’s names and attributes)c) “You cannot ascribe any category to Allah.” (The magazine of the University of Umm-Al-Qura, Vol. 6, p. 123)d) The Quran says: “… nothing is like him. He is the All-hearing, the All-seeing” (Sura 42:11).”e) Muslims believe that God revealed books to His messengers as proof or evidence for mankind and as guidance for them.f) Mohammed was asked about the number of Prophets. He said: “124,000 and among them is a group of 315 Messengers.” (Musnad Ibn Hanbal) A messenger is a prophet who came with a new law from God.g) Muslims believe that 104 Scriptures were revealed (al-Fath al-Rabbani, al-Shawkani); in another narration 315.
Now, to see if these presuppositions of Muslims are able to make sense of their objections about Christianity, we have to ask: What are the common objections from Muslims to Christianity?
- a) The Incarnation of God: How can God become a man?b) The Trinity: The rejection of the nuanced doctrine of God's tri-unity was firmly cemented as the accusation of a form of tri-theism by Muslims.c) Corruption of the Bible: Muslims are taught that Christians and Jews corrupted the books which came down from heaven to such prophets as Jesus, David and Moses. This is, actually, not clearly supported by the Quran, but it is a common belief and teaching among Muslims today.d) The Crucifixion of Christ: The prevalent interpretation of the Quran today indicates that Jesus was not crucified. Also, in Islam, God's grace and favor must be identified with political and military supremacy, thus the idea that one of God's prophets or messengers could be reduced to such a humiliating death is fairly repulsive to Muslims.
Now on the basis of these Muslim presuppositions, does it make sense at all for Muslims to actually raise such objections against us Christians?
THE INCARNATION: Let us “answer the fool according to his folly” and see where that leads us. As noted above, Islam teaches that Allah can’t be described by any category (a philosophical term, denoting a characteristic of the appearance of any object in general before it has been experienced). It also forbids us to describe him in any way other than that directly specified in the Quran, and – significantly – to deny any characteristic unless specifically denied in the Quran. Muslim scholars believe this to the extent of pronouncing: “Whatever comes to your mind, Allah is different from that.”
This makes all talk about Allah meaningless; it also gives rise to self-referential paradoxes such as saying that Allah, who cannot be described by any category, is nevertheless in the category of that which is not composite, because he is thought or as utterly One. Or, Allah is in a category of that which cannot be categorized. Or, Allah must be described as that being which cannot be described.
Under Islamic presuppositions about Allah it is in fact impossible to understand any word describing him. Suppose we ask about the meaning of the attributes of Allah as being “the All-hearing, the All-seeing”. The answer should be, ‘they mean “the All-hearing, the All-seeing”’. However this meaning - according to Muslims - should not be associated with any picture perceived by human reason. Their scholars stressed this to the extent of saying: “It is impossible that Allah - glory and power to him - would have in himself and his characteristics anything imagined or perceived by humans, because Allah is different from anything you could think of.” (Saleh Al al-Sheikh, The Explanation of the Tahawi’s belief, a lecture on Saturday, 13 Thee Al Kaadeh, 1417 H, quoted from the Comprehensive Encyclopaedia on Islam). This is called the doctrine of dissimilarity, which means that not only does Allah have no similarity whatsoever with his creation, but if Allah can’t be described by anything imagined, this means that he can’t be described by human language. If he can’t be described by human language then what is the Quran exactly? It can’t be the word of Allah or about Allah, since Allah can’t be described using human language!
Such doctrines clearly make Muslim objections to the incarnation utter nonsense. Why? For two reasons:
- 1. The Quran never denies incarnation nor does it confirm it. Therefore Muslims can’t deny or confirm incarnation either, since the Quran is their ultimate authority.2. The Quran is filled with “human” characteristics of Allah. For example, he has a face (55:26-27), he has hands (90:17-19), he has a side (39:56), he has an eye - not eyes - (20:39), he comes with angels in ranks (89:23). Also in the Hadith (the traditionally believed sayings of Muhammad) you will find Allah having a house, putting his foot in hell, and laughing. Muslims don’t deal with these characteristics. They just say: they are true, but we don’t know how. By admitting their ignorance about what Islam teaches, and by saying it’s a mystery, they can’t turn around and tell us: But we demand an explanation for the incarnation!
THE BIBLE: Take another Muslim objection: that Jews and Christians corrupted the Bible. What is assumed here by Muslims is the need for an infallible revelation. As a Christian I can understand that, because revelation from God is both a standard by which claims and actions are judged and a reminder of God’s promises to us. But can a Muslim make any sense of “infallible revelation”? Let us suppose we have the original manuscript, the autograph of every book that was allegedly revealed before the Quran according to Muslim faith (104 or 315 Scriptures prior to the Quran). Then what? Is that going to end the discussion? Not at all! Muslims will say: “Yes we have the autograph, but the Quran has abrogated it”. And indeed, the Islamic doctrine of abrogation - that a new revelation could cancel an older one within a religion or across religions - makes the whole idea of infallibility moot.
What then if a Muslim says: We have the Quran and it is exactly as it was revealed, while you Christians must go through all this textual criticism to know what was originally in the Bible. Is this really the case? On the one hand, we don’t actually have the Quran in its original form. But even if we did, so what? Someone could come up with another book saying: This book has abrogated the Quran (as in fact has been claimed several times by different groups).
It’s also significant to consider why Muslims believe they have the Quran as it was revealed. It is not because of manuscript evidence or textual criticism, but because the Quran says so. Allah promised: “Indeed, it is We who sent down the Quran and indeed, We will be its guardian.” (15:9) Let us think about this. According to Islam, Allah has revealed 104 or 315 different books before the Quran. The vast majority of those books do not exist anymore, and the few which do, are corrupted. Do we have any reason to trust the last one? Let’s see if this works in another situation. Suppose you go to a doctor for surgery. The doctor tells you not to worry; he has performed similar operations 104 (or 315) times before. Normally you would ask about the results of those operations. The doctor answers: “They all failed”. How long are you are going to stick around?
If Allah in Islam had a 0% success rate in keeping his revelation, then you have absolutely no reason to trust him. Wait, a Muslim would say. Allah has promised in the Quran to guard it (15:9). I guess you see the problem right away. How can you be sure this specific verse wasn’t a later addition? After all, we don’t have the original manuscript, and since all other existing revelations are believed by Muslims to have been changed, what confidence do we have that the same thing hasn’t happened here?
Now someone might say, isn’t that the same thing we are doing? After all we prove the Bible by the Bible. Not really! We don’t prove the Bible by the Bible. Rather we say the Biblical presuppositions make sense of what proof is in the first place. We don’t say: You must believe the Bible, because it says so. No, we look into the two different world-views and compare what they teach. We have the Islamic worldview that is self-contradictory using its own terms. If what a Muslim says were true, his argument would fail. The Christian worldview on the other hand is the only one that is self-consistent and not self-contradictory, on the basis of its own presuppositions.
Furthermore, the Quran (unlike the Bible) never claims to be ultimate authority. Muslims will tell you: “The Quran challenges people to bring a chapter like those in the Quran, and they failed,” “The Quran is full of scientific miracles,” “Islam is the fastest growing religion,” or “You should become Muslim because the Bible prophesied the coming of Mohammed.” All of these actually concede that the Quran is not really the ultimate authority:
- -- The challenge of composing a chapter similar to the chapters of the Quran presupposes that linguistic beauty and not the Quran is the ultimate authority.-- The so-called scientific miracles in the Quran imply that science and not the Quran is the ultimate authority.-- The nose count approach puts the ultimate authority in people themselves. It amounts to “whatever most people choose, is right.” Besides this conceding ultimate authority, it is also a logical fallacy of howling proportions.-- The alleged prophesies of the Bible about the coming of Muhammad mean that the Bible and not the Quran is the ultimate authority. And so on.
In dealing with unbelievers, a Christian should look carefully and examine the unbelievers’ basic assumptions or “presuppositions” and see if their argument is valid. In theory (as we’ve seen above) we shouldn’t have anything in common with unbelievers; however, in practice there are areas in which we seem to agree. We should pay careful attention to these things, as unbelievers can only hold these beliefs, if the Christian worldview is true. Our job is to lead them to an acceptance of this fact (or else an acceptance of absurdity!)
It makes no difference whether we are talking with a Muslim about revelation or an atheist about the opera. We could ask the Muslim to explain, given his presuppositions, how any revelation about Allah could happen at all, if Allah can’t be described using human language. Or we could ask the atheist how he can make sense of harmony and beauty if we live in a chance, random universe. If we do this we will find that the task of apologetics is not that hard at all. We are not presenting new information. We are just getting the unbeliever to discover or discern what he already knows, what God has made known to him. We are getting them to the cross and praying to God to grant them repentance. Here I would advise anyone who engages in apologetics to not be discouraged; the argument presented here is powerful and sound, but it’s far from easy to accept. If an unbeliever accepts it, they must repent, as Christianity is the only logical choice - and we know what opposition there will be to such a move.