Friday, August 31, 2007

Q&A: How do I Join Al Qaeda?

And other burning questions!

Thanks to MEMRI for this great information:

On August 26, Islamist websites posted an item titled "How to Join Al-Qaeda." It is not clear when the item was written; it was produced by the website Al-Thabitoun 'Ala Al-'Ahd, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda in Egypt and is currently inactive.


"You feel that you want to carry a weapon, fight, and kill the occupiers, and that it is our duty to call for jihad as much as to call for prayer... All that is required is a firm personal decision to fulfill this obligation, and participation in jihad and the resistance...

"Do you really have to meet Osama bin Laden in person in order to become a jihad fighter? Do you have to be recognized by Al-Qaeda as one of its members to become a jihad fighter? If Al-Qaeda commanders should be killed, would the jihad be eliminated? What would you do if Al-Qaeda did not exist today? How is Osama bin Laden different from you? - [yet] he managed to establish the world jihad organization. Who provided training to Osama bin Laden and Abdallah 'Azzam when they went to Afghanistan to become the first Arab jihad fighters?

"The answers to these questions are the following: I don't have to meet Osama bin Laden to become a jihad fighter. Moreover, there is no need to meet even one jihad fighter to become one. Neither do I need recognition from Al-Qaeda...

"As the first step, imagine that Al-Qaeda does not exist and that you are interested [in waging] jihad - what would you do in this case?... If you know any young people - whether one, two, or more - in your area, mosque, or university who are as dedicated and enthusiastic about jihad as you are, come to an understanding with them, and together form a cell whose objective is to help Islam and only Islam...

"At first, your cell should have no more than five members, all absolutely trustworthy... The cell must have a commander and a shura council... The commander must clearly realize that he is Osama bin Laden to the cell members...

"Each cell should have a source of funding... When you have several members, you will [surely] find the funds for your cell... Then you should buy weapons, make plans, brainstorm, plot your plans, monitor your enemy's important objectives, and study its moves. Set a goal; for example, assassinating the American ambassador - is it so difficult? Is it [indeed] difficult for someone who has already crushed America in her home?

"What is the difference between you and the hero of the New York attack, Muhammad Atta, who planned an action which even today shakes the world every time it is mentioned? Assassinating the ambassador takes no more than a gun and a bullet. One could disguise oneself as a peddler in order to tail [the target], which shouldn't cost a lot of money...

"The cells must maintain contact among themselves, but by no means in a direct or conventional way. The contact must be spiritual: What will unite you is the love of Islam and the motto "There is no God but Allah." Even if the contact between [your] cell and the rest is indirect, it will be close... You must meet once a month... You must not meet in the same place twice... Personal meetings with a small number of people [must take place] once a week...

Does moderate Islam have a future in the world?

This question was asked and here is my answer:

Moderate Islam is a myth. Any form of true Islam must be violent and use force because that was the pattern of life established by Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, the perfect man.

So to refer to your question specifically, I am not saying yes or no. I am suggesting that the very term "moderate Islam" is a fabrication and a term lacking a referent.

Statistics are very difficult to come by because there is no freedom of the press, religion, or assembly in any of the Muslims countries of the Middle East.

A poll was taken in Jordan within the last year and it found that something like 80% of people viewed Osama bin Laden favorably, but it was found to be politically expedient for both Jordan and the USA to not have those results released on a large scale.

Taliban vows more abductions


JANDA, Afghanistan (AP) -- Taliban militants released the last seven South Korean hostages on Thursday under a deal with the government in Seoul, ending a six-week drama that the insurgents claimed as a "great victory for our holy warriors."

Two hostages, left and right, walk with a Red Cross official Thursday after being released in Afghanistan.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousef Ahmadi vowed to abduct more foreigners, reinforcing fears that South Korea's decision to negotiate directly with the militants would embolden them.

"We will do the same thing with the other allies in Afghanistan, because we found this way to be successful," he told the Associated Press via cell phone from an undisclosed location.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Saudi Arabia: The Islamist Cage

Hat tip to Wahaudi. This is from the New York Sun.

Saudi Arabia: The Islamist Cage
by Youssef Ibrahim from the New York Sun

By the late '90s, there were full-size mirror images of Saudi Arabia's stilted brand of Islam in Egypt, Pakistan, Somalia, the Philippines, Chechnya, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as well as among Muslim communities in Europe, Australia, and America. More mirror images are in the making. the Saudis do little except rattle around within the cage of their own fundamentalism. This deep confusion is reflected throughout the ruling family, which contains both princes who are Westernized — in such vulgar aspects as drinking, womanizing, gambling, and wearing diamond-studded Rolex watches — and others who leave a mosque only to enter a charity that nurtures madrassas turning out little bin Ladens. Their schizophrenia is exemplified in such global personalities as Prince Al-Walid bin Talal, a multibillionaire businessman who simultaneously invests his billions in America while funding both the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which is the American chapter of the jihadist Muslim Brotherhood. In the end, the Saudis are just rattling around in their cage. A society with no social project except to produce more Muslims, deeper Muslims, better Muslims, ends up as one that produces Muslim fanatics and terrorists. Now, with oil prices having moved north of $70 dollar a barrel, a lot more trouble will be coming our way out of the Saudi cage.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Do Catholics Believe That Muslims Worship the True God?

Thanks to Taylor Marshall over at Canterbury Tales ( for notifying me of this interesting article he wrote. I have read the section of the Catholic Catechism that he discusses here. Following his short article is the response I left at his blog.

Do Catholics Believe That Muslims Worship the True God?
by Taylor Marshall

Some Protestant readers have alleged that the Catholic Church teaches a certain form of universalism or relativism and they quote paragraph #841 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to prove it:

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."

A few observations. The plan of salvation includes Muslims. This is common sense. God desires all men (including Muslims) to be saved. This does not mean that all Muslims are saved by virtue of their being Muslims. This passage should be read in context of the entire Catechism which teaches that salvation is received through Christ alone through the means of grace provided through the Church of Jesus Christ. One cannot wrench this paragraph from the catechism and let it stand alone.

One could easily take certain passages out of the writings of St. Paul and make false assumptions that Paul was a universalist. For example: St Paul teaches universalism because he wrote:

"Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men." (Rom 5:18)

This is a misguided argument because one must read the verse above in light of all the writings of St. Paul. In the same way, one cannot isolate paragraph 841 from the rest of the Catechism.

The Church recognizes that the object of worship is Islam is the God of Abraham and thus the one true God. Thus, we might say that Muslims worship the true God wrongly. They attempt to find access to God in a means that is not sacrificial, and worse, not Christological. It is like men trying to hunt deer with a slingshot. They are technically "hunting deer" but their method is never going to put venison on the table.

The Catholic Church also honors the conscience of men and leaves judgment to God. If God seeks to justify a non-Christian Arab through Jesus Christ in some way, who are we to object to it? Yet the Church remains firm that salvation is through Christ alone. I believe the Church does not presume to limit how God can and must save human beings. The Church does believe that God has definitively revealed through Christ that salvation is through Christ alone. That is not negotiable. The question remains, can someone be saved through Christ and not know it? The answer is clearly: Yes.

A baby can be saved through Christ without a "saving knowledge of Christ" or without a knowledge of the mechanics of salvation. A person who is mentally handicapped can be also be saved in a way that does not require a formal intellectual understanding of Christ and redemption. Perhaps this can also be the case for certain Muslims. The qualifier is "perhaps". The Church does not teach that this is the case, but it does not rule out the possibility.

The reason I wanted to post on this subject, because there are some Catholics who are embarrassed or unnerved by Paragraph #841. The Catholic should not blush with embarrassment when someone cites #841 as an example of the Catholic Church's "liberalism" or "relativism".

Abu Daoud's Response:

Hi Taylor,

Thanks for leaving this link over at my blog,

If there is anything deficient in the Catechism it is that it tries to be very nice and does not address the fundamental deficiencies in Islam.

Now I understand that the Catechism is not a book about Islam or world religions or whatnot, but what it does communicate, though it may be, strictly speaking, not false, is done so in a way and manner that, as a missionary to Muslims, I find decisively unhelpful and awkward.

No mention of the fact that the religion is very much based on the rejection of the doctrines of the incarnation and the Trinity? So what do you end up with? God as Creator and Sender of prophets.

And also, the phrase "the plan of salvation includes Muslims," is very weak. I like, "God desires the salvation of Muslims and in his grace grants it to all who turn to Jesus Christ: 'Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me' (Jn 6:45)."

Spencer: Why I wrote Religion of Peace

Spencer is the author of several books, most recently Religion of Peace? Why Christianity is and Islam isn't. Here he outlines what motivated him to write that book:

Front Page: What inspired you to write this book?

Spencer: For six years now, almost invariably when I would talk about the elements of Islam that jihadists use to justify violence and make recruits among peaceful Muslims, people would respond by referring to violence in the Bible and the sins of Christianity. Over time I came to see that the all-pervasive sense of guilt and self-hatred that blankets the West in this age of the dominance of multiculturalism is the single greatest obstacle keeping us from meeting the ideological challenge that the jihadists present. Insofar as Westerners are ashamed of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and so many are, they will not defend it.

This is not a matter of faith. Whether or not one is Jewish or Christian, Judeo-Christian civilization has given the world numerous ideas of human rights that the jihadists directly challenge: freedom of conscience, the equality of dignity of men and women, equality of rights before the law for all, and more. Islamic Sharia offers a radically different model of society. We in the West need to recognize this and stand up for our own civilization, culture, and heritage. If we are too paralyzed by guilt and consumed with self-hatred to defend our own civilization, we certainly won't keep it.

FP: Ok, so let's build on these themes. Can you talk a bit about why the lib-Left wages war on Christianity and keeps quiet about Islam? This is a pathology in the context of Islamic jihadists being the real threat to free societies.

Spencer: Well, Jamie, this phenomenon is so all-pervasive that I thought it deserved book-length treatment. Ayaan Hirsi Ali said it well to a Leftist interviewer in Canada a few weeks ago: "You grew up with freedom, and so you think you can spit on freedom." They take it for granted, without realizing how severely it is imperilled. Would Leftists prefer to live in an Islamic society rather than in one that is or was Judeo-Christian? If they would, they will be, eventually, quite unpleasantly surprised: they will discover that many of the liberties they enjoyed were made possible by core assumptions of the Judeo-Christian civilization they helped to subvert, and that those liberties are not upheld under Islamic law.

Islamic Ethics and Hacking Websites

I have come to enjoy reading the daily Islamic Question and Answer. There are usually about three to five questions posted each day about everything from ritual ablution to fasting to dishonesty. I also like the these scholars (whoever they are) are very conservative. Their answers are not always very coherent or concise, but generally they quote from the Quran or the hadiiths and then from other scholars, and give their decision.

Here is one of the questions today with the abridged answer:

Is hacking or destroying permissive and perverted websites – may Allaah protect us from them – halaal or haraam?

Praise be to Allaah.

One of the worst things with which people are being tested nowadays, which is different from past centuries, is what they see and watch of the spread of nakedness, promiscuity and permissiveness, and all types of desires which are not deterred by morals, modesty or religious commitment...

As Islam calls for reform and purification, it has enjoined everyone who adheres to it and believes in its principles to strive hard to rid people of evil and warn them against it. This is enshrined in one of the great principles of this religion, namely enjoining what is good and forbidding what is evil, which is a shar’i obligation upon all Muslims, each according to his situation and ability.

The tools of immorality have no protection in Islamic sharee’ah, rather sharee’ah does not acknowledge them as property, so they are worthless items, which deserve to be destroyed, so they must be demolished and wiped out...

But what we think with regard to permissive sites is that it is the responsibility of the state, public institutions and specialized centres, and is not the responsibility of individuals. We think that the danger that these sites will cause to individual Muslims who try to destroy them or spoil them – even if they are of a high level of faith and piety – is greater than the efforts they can make and the results that they can achieve. No one nowadays can put an end to all the evil sites, not even one percent of them . The remedy will be by using means to warn and protect people, by blocking the evil sites in the Muslim countries, and developing programs to block them, and spreading awareness and warning people. These efforts can only be undertaken by nations and institutions, not by individuals who could fall victim to their emotions and desire for change, and inadvertently fall prey to these corrupt sites...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

UN to tackle Islamophobia?

From CNS News:

( - "Islamophobia" and the defamation of Islam are the most conspicuous forms of racism and intolerance today, and a global U.N. conference on racism planned for 2009 should come up with practical solutions to deal with them, an Islamic bloc representative told a preparatory meeting in Geneva Monday.

The 2009 meeting is intended to review a U.N. conference on racism, held in Durban, South Africa, just days before 9/11, but the 56-nation Organization for the Islamic Conference (OIC) wants Islam to be high on the agenda.

"The world since 2001 has not remained static and witnessed new forms of racism and racial discrimination," Pakistan's representative to the U.N., Masood Khan, said at a meeting of the planning body, or "prepcom bureau," according to prepared remarks.

Speaking on behalf of the OIC, Khan told the meeting that "there has been a stark rise in hate crimes, discrimination, racial profiling and intolerance against Muslims in many countries."

Chinese Christians and the Mission of the Church

From Breakpoint, (nod to Shawblog):

According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, 10,000 Chinese become Christians every day. That’s 70,000 a week!

At the time of the Communist takeover in 1949, there were 4 million Christians in China. Today, there are an estimated 111 million, which makes China the third-largest Christian country in the world, behind the United States and Brazil. By 2050, the Center estimates that the number of Christians will have doubled.

The explosive growth of Christianity in China is only part of a larger story. The ordeal of Korean missionaries at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan reminds us of Christianity’s growth in Korea.

A happier story is the one Chuck told “BreakPoint” readers about the people called the Nagas. Little more than a century ago, these people living in the area where India and Burma meet were headhunters. Today, an estimated 90 percent of the population attends church on Sunday, and Christian leaders there have set the goal of sending 10,000 missionaries to the rest of Asia.

The Asia Times columnist “Spengler” recently wrote that China may soon occupy the role that the United States has occupied for the past 200 years: “the natural ground for mass evangelization.” He adds that “if this occurs, the world will change beyond our capacity to recognize it.”

He foresees Chinese Christians, like their Korean counterparts, “[turning] their attention outward.” Only, with a Christian population fifteen times the size of Korea’s, and a Chinese Diaspora all over the world, the impact will be far greater. “Spengler” uses the word “earthquake” to describe it.

According to John Allen of the National Catholic Report, the most “audacious” Chinese Christians dream of taking the Gospel along the historic “Silk Road” into Muslim lands. As David Aikman has written, they believe it is their task to complete the mission of preaching the Gospel in every land. To that end, Chinese Christians are already secretly “training missionaries for deployment in Muslim countries.”

Sura al Nisa (The Women)

Spencer on this important Surah of the Qur'an:

Verses 20-21 continue with these exhortations toward just treatment, telling men that if they have decided to “exchange one wife for another,” they must not take back the dowry they have given to the wife who is to be discarded. Verses 22-25 prohibit marriage with various women who are related by blood or marriage.

V. 23 refers to “foster mothers,” or more literally “mothers who suckled you,” as being among those with whom marriage is forbidden. Men and women who are not related are forbidden by Islamic law to be alone together, but a man and a woman who are forbidden to marry each other – i.e., who are related in some way – can be alone together. Once a woman came to Muhammad and told him that her husband, Abu Hadhaifa, was angry because a freed slave of his, a young man who had reached puberty, “enters our house freely.” Muhammad told her: “Suckle him and you would become unlawful for him, and (the rankling) which Abu Hudhaifa feels in his heart will disappear.” The woman later reported that it worked: “So I suckled him, and what (was there) in the heart of Abu Hudhaifa disappeared.” This directive gained worldwide attention recently when a cleric at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the most respected authority in Sunni Islam, recommended that this could solve a problem in the workplace: a man could be alone with, and work with, a woman with whom he was not related, if the woman suckled the man and thereby became his foster mother. After the story got out and Al-Azhar was subjected to international ridicule, the lecturer who recommended this was suspended. Left unaddressed, however, was the root of his recommendation in the words of Muhammad himself.

V. 24 forbids Muslims to marry women who are already married, except slave girls: according to Islamic law, once a woman is captured and enslaved, her marriage is immediately annulled (cf. ‘Umdat al-Salik o9.13). At one point, according to a hadith reported by Sahih Muslim, “the Companions of Allah’s Messenger seemed to refrain from having intercourse with captive women because of their husbands being polytheists.” So the Companions “asked the Prophet about this matter, and this Ayah [verse] was revealed…Consequently, we had sexual relations with these women.” Ibn Kathir says that this verse also prohibits temporary marriage – marriage with a predetermined expiration date, which Shi’ites believe was never prohibited. Meanwhile, men who don’t have the money to marry believing women should marry Muslim slave girls (v. 25).

Verses 29-33 contain general moral exhortations, including a prohibition of suicide (vv. 29-30). Is suicide bombing included in this prohibition? The Muslim leaders who justify it say that it isn’t, as the object of the action is not to kill oneself, but to kill infidels, and thus is the killing and being killed that is rewarded with Paradise according to Qur’an 9:111. More on that when we get to that verse. V. 31 tells Muslims to avoid the “major sins.” Hafidh Dhahabi lists 70 major sins in his Kitab ul-Kaba’ir, beginning with shirk, or associating partners with Allah (i.e., saying Jesus is God’s Son), and including black magic, adultery, desertion on the battlefield, drinking alcohol, lying, stealing, pride, misappropriating the booty, spying on others, harming Muslims and speaking ill of them, disobeying one’s husband, and making pictures. Other lists add more. Another book, Al Ashba wa al-Nadha’ir, lists offenses such as eating pork, dancing, castrating one’s slave, apostasy, playing chess, masturbation and drug use among the major sins.

Verse 34 tells men to beat their disobedient wives after first warning them and then sending them to sleep in separate beds. This is, of course, an extremely controversial verse, so it is worth noting how several translators render the key word here, وَاضْرِبُوهُنَّ, waidriboohunna.

Pickthall: “and scourge them”
Yusuf Ali: “(And last) beat them (lightly)”
Al-Hilali/Khan: “(and last) beat them (lightly, if it is useful)”
Shakir: “and beat them”
Sher Ali: “and chastise them”
Khalifa: “then you may (as a last alternative) beat them”
Arberry: “and beat them”
Rodwell: “and scourge them”
Sale: “and chastise them”
Asad: “then beat them”

Pakistan call for Jihad against India

Hat tip to Jihadwatch. This is from the Indian newspaper, The Hindu:

NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s Islamist media published a series of explicit calls for violence against India in the six weeks before the Hyderabad bombings — a development that analysts believe reflects the weakening of General Pervez Musharraf’s regime, and raises fears of a renewed wave of terror strikes.

In an editorial published in the Jamaat-e-Islami-affiliated Daily Jasarat’s August 19 Friday supplement, the newspaper demanded that the “slogan of jihad should reverberate in every nook and corner of Pakistan. If Pakistan allows jihadis to infiltrate into India then Kashmir could be liberated in six months.”

“Within a couple of years,” the newspaper asserted, “the rest of the territories of India could be conquered as well, and we can regain our lost glory. We can bring back the era of Mughal rule. We can once again subjugate the Hindus like our forefathers.”

Monday, August 27, 2007

"Evangelicals Turn Toward...The Orthodox Church?"

This is a GREAt article. As someone who regularly attended the Divine Liturgy at a congregation belonging to the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem (though not IN Jerusalem), Orthodoxy is very significant and, at times, attractive. Truly, "it is significant nonetheless that a growing number of Southern Baptists and Presbyterians and Assemblies of God members have left the evangelical fold, turning to a religion that is not only not American, but not even Western. Their flight signals a growing dissatisfaction among some evangelicals with the state of their churches and their complicated relationship with the modern world."

I think this shift is very significant precisely because it is a departure from Western Christianity (Protestants, evangelicals, and Roman Catholics are all Western Christians, generally). Rather we see Americans embracing Eastern Christianity. In some ways the gulf between Eastern Christianity and Western Christianity is wider than the gulf that Americans focus on, that is, the gulf between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.

Many of you know little about Orthodoxy, but of all the Christian traditions it knows Islam the best. Please read, this is from the The New Republic:

[...] And, due to the prominent evangelicals he now ministered to, he became something of a prominent evangelical himself--routinely meeting with the many evangelical leaders who constantly came through Wheaton. "I was at the very center of the religious world that I'd been a part of for most of my life," he says. "It was quite a promotion from where I was before."

From a spiritual perspective, however, Ellsworth was suffering. Over the past 20 years, a growing number of evangelical churches have joined what is called the "church growth movement," which favors a more contemporary, market-driven style of worship--with rock 'n' roll "praise songs" supplanting traditional hymns and dramatic sketches replacing preachy sermons--in the hope of attracting new members and turning churches into megachurches. First Baptist of Wheaton was not immune to this trend: Ellsworth increasingly found himself fighting with congregants about the way worship was being done. "They wanted to replace our organ with a drum set and do similar things that boiled down not to doctrine, but to personal preference," he explains. "I said, That's not going to happen as long as I'm here.'" It didn't. In 2000, after 13 years as the pastor of First Baptist, Ellsworth was forced out.

For Ellsworth, his departure from First Baptist triggered both a professional and a spiritual crisis. But, before he could deal with the former, he felt he had to address the latter. He devoted himself to reading theology and church history. At first, he seemed headed in the direction of the Calvinist-influenced Reformed Baptist Church or the Anglican Church, which are where evangelicals in search of a more classical Christian style of worship often end up. But, as Ellsworth continued in his own personal search, his readings and discussions began taking him further and further past the Reformation and ever deeper into church history. And, gradually, much to his surprise, he found himself growing increasingly interested in a church he once knew virtually nothing about: the Orthodox Church. "I really thought he'd go to Canterbury," says Alan Jacobs, a Wheaton College English professor and Anglican who is friendly with Ellsworth. "But he took a sudden right turn and wound up in Constantinople."

Ellsworth began reading more and more about Orthodox Christianity--eventually spending close to $10,000 on Orthodox books. By 2005, he was regularly visiting an Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago (the Antiochian Orthodox Church is Middle Eastern in background and the seat of its patriarchate is in Damascus). By late 2006, Ellsworth realized that he wanted to be Orthodox himself. On the first Sunday of the following February, an Orthodox priest in Chicago anointed him with holy oil and he was chrismated--or formally received--into the Orthodox Church. A month later, at the age of 62, he was ordained as an Orthodox priest himself.


Saving Rome from the Caliph

Great historical lesson, please read it all at Chiesa:

How the Eight Hundred Men of Otranto Saved Rome:

They were martyred five centuries ago in the easternmost region of Italy, the spot most exposed to attack from the Muslims. The objective of the caliph Mohammed II was to conquer Rome, after having already taken Constantinople. But he was stopped by Christians who were ready to defend the faith with their blood.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

"Strive to enter through the narrow gate."

From Mike Liccione, commenting on this Gospel passage:

Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.

After the master of the house has arisen and locked the door, then will you stand outside knocking and saying, 'Lord, open the door for us.' He will say to you in reply, 'I do not know where you are from.' And you will say, 'We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets.' Then he will say to you, 'I do not know where (you) are from. Depart from me, all you evildoers!'

And there will be wailing and grinding of teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God and you yourselves cast out.

He makes this important point:

On an obvious, historical level, Jesus seems to be speaking about certain Jews of his day. Assuming he himself is the "master of the house," he has himself saying someday to certain people in the parable "I don't know where you come from," banishing them permanently from the household of God they want to enter. Not a few Jews of Jesus' day rejected him despite having eaten and drunk in his company and heard him teach in the streets. And Jesus duly warns them. But it's never that simple. The Lord's words apply as much to the future, to his Church, the new Israel, as to those present when he walked the earth. It is quite conceivable that some who are baptized, who are raised in the true Faith, who go to church and take communion often, will find themselves being told at the end "I don't know where you're from. Depart, evildoers!" Some people who are formally in the Church, the household of God, are not followers of Christ in their hearts, despite claiming to be and having a velleity, as distinct from a will, to do so. And they show that by how they live.

Blasphemous Footballs

From the BBC:

"Blasphemous" Balls Anger Afghans
By Alastair Leithead

A demonstration has been held in south- east Afghanistan accusing US troops of insulting Islam after they distributed footballs bearing the name of Allah.

The balls showed the Saudi Arabian flag which features the Koranic declaration of faith.

The US military said the idea had been to give something for Afghan children to enjoy and they did not realise it would cause offence.

The footballs were dropped from a helicopter in Khost province.

Some displayed flags from countries all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, which features the shahada, one of the five pillars of Islam - the declaration of faith.

Football dropped by US troops
The balls were intended as a gift to Afghan children

The words, which include the name of Allah, are revered, and Muslims are very sensitive about where and how they can be used.

Saudi Arabia has complained to the World Cup's ruling body in the past about the use of its flag on footballs.

Mullahs in Afghanistan criticised the US forces for their insensitivity, and around 100 people held a demonstration in Khost.

Afghan MP Mirwais Yasini said: "To have a verse of the Koran on something you kick with your foot would be an insult in any Muslim country around the world."

A spokeswoman for the US forces in Afghanistan said they made "significant efforts to work with local leaders, mullahs and elders to respect their culture" and distributing the footballs was an effort to give a gift the Afghan children would enjoy.

"Unfortunately," she added, "there was something on those footballs we didn't immediately understand to be offensive and we regret that as we do not want to offend."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

‘9/11 brought Americans closer to Islam’

From Here, a newspaper in Pakistan:

LAHORE: 9/11 has brought Americans closer to Islam, since the Americans started studying Islam after the bloody attacks and realised that Islam was a peaceful religion, said Walter Russell Mead on Saturday. The US foreign policy expert and Henry Kissinger Senior Fellow for the US Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations was speaking at Jamia Ashrafia on ‘The Influence of Religion on the US Foreign Policy’. Osama was not a true leader of Islam and his acts were against the teachings of Islam, he said. Mead said as far as war on terror was concerned, the American Muslims were not a problem, but a solution, since they could act as a bridge between Islam and West. Answering a question regarding the US support for military regime, he said there was not true democracy in Pakistan and the United States wanted to see Pakistan a truly democratic Muslim state with better socio-economic conditions. Religion was never a controversial issue in the world and religious education was being given everywhere, including the US, Mead said. staff report

A Sacred Triumph

From altmuslim:


Composed by a famous convert to Orthodox Christianity, inspired by a Sufi sage, commissioned by the future head of the Church of England and performed in a Roman Catholic cathedral, The Beautiful Names is a testament to Tavener's confident spiritual universalism, his willingness to have his faith enriched by other traditions. The political impact of this exploration isn't lost on him. He hopes the piece will, "contribute a little to an inward healing of the appalling strife that permeates the modern world." For Tavener this is an act of devotion, of drawing close to God unashamedly, of turning to religious tradition for solace precisely at the time when religious practice is increasingly maligned and deemed anachronistic. The Beautiful Names is a bold musical rebuff to the narrow-mindedness of fundamentalist bigots (Muslim and Christian) and secular fanatics (like Dawkins and Hitchens) alike. Neither would be too pleased with his accomplishment.

The Beautiful Names is a challenging work. It doesn't easily fall on the ear and it doesn't immediately make the listener feel comfortable. It demands that we be involved, pay attention to each name as it is recited and to notice that no two names are the same in their musical quality. As Tavener himself points out, there is almost no repetition in the entire work. It is a contemporary piece that has a traditional sensibility: it requires patience and needs to be experienced at its own pace - slowly as it unfolds. "The Beautiful Names came to me as a vision. I contemplated the meaning of each of the Names as well as the sacred sound of the Arabic, and the music appeared to me spontaneously, neither chaotic nor random," says Tavener.


The Beautiful Names is a timeless plea for tolerance that is grounded in spiritual reflection and musical imagination. Composers write for posterity. I hope future generations will remember (perhaps stumble upon) this work and see it not just as a piece of music shaped and bounded by the current debates over the presence of Islam and Muslim in Europe, but as a testament to religious devotion that transcends the discrete bounds of any single faith.


From the remarks:

Dear Mr. Malik,

Can I now expect the Ave Maria to be sung in the holy mosque in Mecca in the same spirit of appreciation?

Allah before Islam

I thought this was common knowledge, but maybe not:


What Archaeology Says about Allah

Muslims claim that in pre-Islamic times, “Allah” was the biblical God of the Patriarchs, prophets and apostles. Indeed, the credibility of Islam as a religion stands or falls on its core claim of historical continuity with Judaism and Christianity. No wonder, then, that many Muslims get uppity when the claims of Islam are subjected to the hard science of archaeology.

Because archaeology provides irrefutable evidence that Allah, far from being the biblical God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was actually the pre-Islamic pagan moon-god. Indeed, it is an established archaeological fact that worship of the moon-god was the main religion of the ancient Middle East.

But what about the Arabian Peninsula, where Mohammed (570-632) launched Islam? During the last two centuries, prominent archaeologists have unearthed thousands of inscriptions which prove beyond any doubt that the dominant religion of Arabia during Mohammed’s day was the cult of the moon-god.

In fact, for generations before Mohammed was born, the Arabs worshipped some 360 pagan gods housed at a stone temple in Mecca called the Kabah. According to archaeologists, the chief deity of Mecca was the moon-god called al-ilah (meaning the god or the idol), which was shortened to Allah in pre-Islamic times. Pagan Arabs even used Allah in the names they gave themselves: Mohammed’s father (Abdallah), for example, had Allah as part of his name.

What History Says about Allah

Historians say that pre-Islamic Arabs worshipped the moon-god by bowing in prayer toward Mecca several times a day. They would also make a pilgrimage to Mecca, run around the Kabah seven times and throw stones at the devil. And they fasted for one month, which began with the appearance of the crescent moon and ended when the crescent moon reappeared.

These same rites form the core of Islam today: Muslims bow in prayer toward Mecca; they make a pilgrimage to Mecca and run around the Kabah seven times; and they still throw stones at the devil. They also observe the fast of Ramadan, which begins and ends with the crescent moon.

Moreover, the ancient symbol of the pagan moon-god, the crescent moon, is the official symbol of Islam; it appears on the flags of Muslim countries, as well as on the tops of mosques and minarets everywhere.

Historians say that Mohammed, who as a traveling trader was exposed to Judaism and Christianity during his visits to different parts of the Middle East, tried to mimic those monotheistic faiths by taking Allah, the main deity within the Arabian pantheon, and making it the only god. Indeed, the basic confession of Islam is not that “Allah is Great” but that “Allah is Greater”. Greater than all the other idols, that is.

But Islam also draws from other pagan traditions. For example, the tale of Mohammed’s night journey into heaven parallels the Zoroastrian story of Arta Viraf. Zoroastrianism also inspired the Islamic belief that dark-eyed virgins await every man who enters heaven. And the Islamic ritual of praying five times a day? That, historians say, originates with the Sabeans, Syrian pagans who practiced an ecumenical mixture of Babylonian and Hellenic religion.

No surprise, then, that some scholars refer to Islam as monotheistic heathenism.

What Theology Says about Allah

Muslims claim that Islam is Judaism and Christianity reformed. They say the Koran confirms the truth of the Torah and the Gospels. But since those texts did not jibe with Mohammad’s beliefs, they accuse Jews and Christians of changing and distorting the original versions. Muslims therefore assert that the Koran “clarifies” the Bible.

Even if that were the case, the Koran and the Bible present ideas about God (especially about His character) that are so diametrically opposed that any reasonable observer would conclude that each book refers to a distinct deity.

The Koran, for example, states unequivocally that Allah is an unknowable and non-personal deity. By contrast, the God of the Bible allows Himself to be known and desires fellowship with human beings on a personal basis. Indeed, the Bible says that Abraham (the same Abraham who Muslims say they venerate) was the “friend of God.”

The Koran also portrays Allah as a vindictive deity who hates sinners and desires to afflict them. But the Bible says God is love.

Moreover, the Bible teaches that God loved humanity so much that He came to earth to pay the debt for man’s sin, and that that act of grace is available for free to anyone who believes Jesus Christ is their personal Savior. But Islam denies that Christ was God or that He died in order to save humanity. Indeed, Allah does not provide any way for man to be reconciled to God.

And the theological differences go on and on, so much so that the God of the Bible cannot possibly be the Allah worshipped in Islam. Unless, of course, a Dutch bishop says so.

Allah and Eurabia

Mohammed thought the Jews and Christians of his day would receive him as a prophet. But the Bible says that any new revelation must agree with what is already established in Scripture (Isaiah 8:20). So they rejected his Allah as a false god. And Mohammed replied by setting his Islam on a maniacal warpath against Judaism and Christianity that continues to this day.

The Dutch bishop and other Muslim fellow travelers think they can buy a fake peace with Islam by playing relativistic word games as a part of an “inter-faith” dialogue. But Muslims understand much better than do post-modern Europeans that ecumenical appeasement is a symptom of a Judeo-Christian civilization that is weak and dying.

The irony is that the real danger from Islam stems not so much from ordinary Muslims as it does from sickly Europeans who have subverted their Judeo-Christian heritage in search of secular hedonism. Because they live only for the moment, they are willing submit to anything, including Islam, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the pursuit of pleasure today.

It has been more than 50 years since the late Christian apologist C.S. Lewis first warned about Western Civilization’s disastrous lurch into post-Christianity. But even he would be surprised to see how quickly Islam is filling the religious and cultural vacuum that is post-Christian Europe.

It’s not that Europeans haven’t been forewarned. It’s that they couldn’t care less.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Islam and Mormonism

In studying world religions, I have noticed several similarities between Mormonism and Islam. Sure, there are significant differences as well (Monotheistic Islam vs. Polytheistic Mormonism for example), and I would not suggest that they are theologically compatible, but the foundings of both religions are surprisingly similar and worth noting.

Here are 12 of the parallels that have been noted (this list is by no means exhaustive):

  1. Both claimed that the original meaning of the teachings of Jesus and those who preceded him had either been forgotten or corrupted.
  2. Both prophets are reported to have come from humble beginnings with no formal education and were barely literate.
  3. Holy Books: Both prophets wrote a new holy book that was apparently inspired by God, and both claimed that their holy book was the most correct and perfect book on earth. Also, they both claimed that their holy books were based upon a record stored in heaven. Both religions claim that their Holy Books have been preserved and are accurate to what was originally recorded by their prophets.
  4. Both prophets claimed to have had visions and to have been visited by angels. For Muhammad it was the angel Gabriel, and for Smith it was the angel Moroni. Both visions revealed many new teachings that contradict the Bible.
  5. Both believed that no true religion existed on Earth and they were there to restore God’s truth. Islam claims that Adam and Abraham were truly Muslim and that it is restoring 'the true faith of Abraham'. Mormons claim to have restored 'the true faith/church' that was on the earth during and after the time of Jesus, before the supposed "Great Apostasy".
  6. Both prophets were practicing polygamists and advocated polygamy (and condemn polyandry) by supposed revelation from God. Additionally, both men married very young girls.
  7. Both profited greatly (financially) from their followers by commanding their money.
  8. Both men received “convenient” revelations just in time to satisfy their own desires. For example, Muhammad got a revelation that he himself was allowed to marry 8 wives instead of the usual 4 in Islam, and Joseph Smith got a similar revelation (revealed in Doctrine and Covenants section 132) that he was not only permitted to marry multiple wives, but that it was required for salvation and was an everlasting covenant. This revelation came just as he was going to be “caught” with other women he was having affairs with. Additionally, D&C 132 specifically mentions his wife Emma by name and warns her to death should she be unfaithful to Joseph. (Most scholars [even Mormon scholars like Todd Compton] estimate that Joseph Smith had 33 wives before he was killed. Surely he would have had many more had he lived longer.
  9. Both left no clear successor for their faith - leading both religions to splinter after the death of their prophets. In each religion there are splinter groups with each group claiming to be the true successor or true continuation of the faith.
  10. Both Islam and Mormonism have those who follow the "original doctrine" of the founding leaders and like these founding leaders, are violent polygamists, and have revelations justifying their evil actions.
  11. Both prophets and religions deny the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and the eternality of Jesus, as well as Jesus being God in the flesh
  12. Both men were murderers. For Muhammad, there is no question about this. Most Mormons teach and believe that Joseph Smith was martyred, but this is not true. It is historically verifiable that he shot and killed two men during the shootout that ultimately took his life. The Mormon view is that he was “led like a lamb to slaughter” and was killed as a martyr. Not so. It was a gunfight, that he and his brother lost, but not before taking some lives of their own.

Here are some scriptures to reflect on in light of the points above. While these scriptures may come across as abrasive... remember, it's not my view or anyone else's, this is the Bible.

Galatians 1:6-9 6"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed."

2 Cor 11: 12-15 12And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. 13For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.


Fletcher and I have been having an extended conversation about all things Christian, with an emphasis on Catholicism. So here is the main section on justification in the Catholic Catechism. Would like to know what you all think. What are its strengths and weaknesses?

I would also like to hear the opinion of our Muslim readers on this topic. FYI the word we use in Arabic for "justification" is "tabriir" and the verb in its root is "barrar":



1987 The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" and through Baptism:

But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

1988 Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ's Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself:

[God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature. . . . For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.

1989 The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus' proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.

1990 Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God's merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals.

1991 Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God's righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or "justice") here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.

From Here. Please continue to read as it introduces baptism, which will be a more divisive point.

The UN: A Ridiculous Waste of Time and Money

So this is not a (very) political blog, but sometimes you read things and just realize that truth is truth. The UN is a waste of time and money:

Despite its numerous calls for Israel's destruction, and repeated denials of the Holocaust, Iran has been selected by the United Nations for a leading position in a committee that will plan the 2009 UN World Conference against Racism.

The planning committee, which will meet for the first time in Geneva on August 27, will be made up of an inner circle of 20 UN member-states, to be headed by Libya.

From Here.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Islam and Science

Interesting observation from American Thinker. This is from Anthony Bostom's review of Spencer's new book: Religion of Peace? Why Christianity is and Islam Isn't.

o Spencer cites Professor Rodney Stark's observation that Islam lacks "a conception of God appropriate to underwrite the rise of science...Allah is not presented as a lawful creator, but is conceived of as an extremely active God who intrudes in the world as he deems it appropriate. This prompted the formation of a major theological bloc within Islam that condemns all efforts to formulate natural laws as blasphemy in that they deny Allah's freedom to act." Not surprisingly leading historians and sociologists of science have concluded " is indisputable" that modern science -- an organized, empirically directed effort to explain natural phenomena through theory construction and testing -- that modern science "emerged in the seventeenth century in Western Europe and nowhere else".

o Moreover, even notions about supposed Islamic contributions to pre-modern science and philosophy -- fostered by the triumphalism of the jihad conquests -- are purely mythical. Despite taking credit for the invention of algebra, the Arabs did no more than copy the treatises of Diophantus of Alexandria, who lived in the fourth century. The numerals commonly referred to as Arabic, and the system of notation which bears the same name, derive from Hindustan. The Arabs themselves called arithmetic "Indian reckoning," and geometry "Indian science" (hendesya). Arab knowledge of botany was obtained either from the treatises of Dioscorides, or from Hindu and Persian works. In chemistry, or rather alchemy, they were the pupils of the Alexandrian school. Djeber and Rhazes, the latter an Islamized Persian, did no more than copy the works of Alexandrian Hermetism. There is the same absence of invention regarding medicine. Greek physicians, from the third century of the Christian era, made their way into Persia, where they founded a celebrated school which soon became the rival of Alexandria. But earlier it was especially at Alexandria that Greek medicine emerged from empiricism and assumed a truly scientific character. Aaron, a Christian priest who lived at Alexandria in the seventh century, compiled and translated into Syriac the treatises of Galen, under the name of Pandects of Medicine. This Syriac version was translated into Arabic in 685, becoming a major source used by Arab physicians, most notably Serapion, Avicenna, Albucasis, and Averroes-whose own Koullyat is merely a translation of Galen. Rhazes best known work, the Kanoun, is a compilation of the treatises of Galen, from the Syriac versions. And the Arabs left the doctrines of Aristotle (and of the Jewish and Christian philosophers) just as they were transmitted to them by various non-Muslims-reproduced, but neither invented nor improved.

Abu Daoud says: I would like to invite our readers to provide, with references, any information to contribute to this discussion. Muslims in the ME generally think that they are almost entirely responsible for advanced science today, the depressing--and it is depressing--state of science in the Muslim world is due to colonialism and Zionism and the usual suspects. Some Muslims I have spoken to are very sanguine about the topic. One man, when asked about the scientific backwardness of Islamdom today, simply said, "Maybe they got lazy." Spencer is proposing that Islamdom was never a genuine contributor.

Dispatch from the Eurabian Front: Italy, Flanders, the Netherlands

From The Brussels Journal

A newly arrived Moroccan immigrant in the Italian village of Valaperta di Casatenovo, near Lecco, could not stand the statue of the Virgin Mary in a niche opposite the house which had been assigned to him. The immigrant’s Muslim faith forbids the depiction of humans. Every morning the poor man was confronted with the statue of the Madonna – an intolerable affront to his deeply-felt religious convictions. Consequently, yesterday morning the immigrant filled up the niche with concrete. Two elderly ladies were able to save the statue of the Holy Virgin, but two statues of little angels surrounding the Madonna were walled in by the zealous Moroccan.

The Madonna of Valaperta di Casatenovo had been in the niche since the 1850s. The statue was a popular place where the villagers came to pray. One wonders why the Italians do not do this sensitive immigrant a favour and send him back to Morocco or to a place where he will not be offended by statues of the Virgin Mary. Saudi Arabia, for instance.


Badia Miri, a municipal civil servant and trade union representative in Antwerp, Flanders, is angry because she is not allowed to wear a headscarf when working behind a desk serving citizens. The city council, which adheres to principles of “religious neutrality,” forbids civil servants who come into direct contact with the public to wear religious symbols, such as headscarves for Muslims or crosses for Christians.

Ms Miri, who is a Moroccan immigrant, demands that the city authorities assure her that Christmas trees will also be banned from municipal offices and that employees no longer get (free) chocolate eggs at Easter. “If the city council is really concerned about neutrality, then Christmas trees and Easter eggs should be banned as well,” she says.

One wonders why Ms Miri immigrated to Flanders and not to countries where she would not be disturbed by Christmas trees and chocolate Easter eggs. Saudi Arabia, for instance.

The Netherlands

The trade unions of the Dutch police are demanding that the country’s various police departments not only allow staff to celebrate Christian holidays, but also holidays of non-Christian religions, such as the Islamic Eid festival. “We are a multicultural department and integration is a very important topic. We have to be loyal to our non-indigenous colleagues,” Bert Verdijk of the Amsterdam Police Trade Union APV says. “We live in a pluriform society and have to respect other faiths,” Hans Burg of the The Hague Police Trade Union PVH says.

According to Verdijk the traditional holidays – Christmas, Easter, Whitsunday – date from a time when the Dutch population was predominantly Christian. “But this situation has changed fundamentally. I think the number of Catholics and Protestants has decreased enormously.”


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Redeeming Time"

So what am I reading these days? I just started this book yesterday and am finding it very nurturing, both spiritually as a Christian and intellectually as a scholar (or wannabe scholar).

TS Eliot is my favorite poet, and in my view, a prophet through and through. He is in many ways one of my heroes. He and CS Lewis were both Anglicans and were both significant in bringing me into and keeping me in Anglican Christianity. Lewis is beloved for being able to reduce complex and nuanced notions to simple phrases. I love Lewis, but Eliot was very invested in larger questions about philosophy, theology, metaphysics, culture, history, sacramentalogy--you name it. "Redeeming Time" is a book about Eliot's final major poem and masterpiece, Four Quartets. He deals with issues of Christian mysticism, redemption, time, and identity.

If you haven't read Eliot, or if you have just read his pre-conversion poems (The Wasteland and The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock), or if you have just listened to his children's verse (lyrics from "Cats"), then please pick up his Collected Poems. If you have read Four Quartets, then consider picking up Redeeming Time.

The Early Life of Muhammad

From "The Spread of Islam" by S. Beck

Muhammad in Mecca

In 570 after a Kinana man defiled a cathedral in San'a that had been built to draw pilgrims away from Mecca, the Abyssinian ruler of Yemen, Abraha, attacked Mecca with an army. According to tradition the elephant at the head of that army refused to march on the holy city. That year Muhammad was born in Mecca, where his paternal grandfather 'Abd al-Muttalib had the honored position of providing water from the Zamzam well for the pilgrims to the Ka'ba, founded according to tradition by the Hebrew patriarch Abraham. Muhammad was the first child of his father 'Abd Allah, who died before his wife Amina had her child. 'Abd Allah left his son five camels, a flock of goats, and the slave-girl Baraka. Since Mecca was considered unhealthy for infants, his mother Amina took the baby out into the desert, where he was nursed by a Bedouin named Halima for two years until he was weaned. Thus Muhammad first learned the Arabic language of the Bani Sa'd. His foster brother saw two men in white put their hands into the heart of the child; concerned that he might be possessed by an evil spirit, Halima returned Muhammad to his mother at Mecca.

When he was six, Muhammad and the slave girl Baraka accompanied Amina on a visit to Medina; but on the return journey Muhammad's mother became ill and died. Baraka brought the boy back to his grandfather in Mecca; but two years later 'Abd al-Muttalib also died at the age of 80. Muhammad was then raised by his uncle Abu Talib and his wife Fatima. Later the prophet said that Fatima would have let her own children starve rather than him. 'Abd al-Muttalib's youngest son al 'Abbas took charge of the Zamzam well.

Muhammad spent his youth mostly pasturing sheep and goats. He once went on a caravan to Bostra in Syria and was noted by the Christian hermit Bahira. In Mecca a sacrilegious war occurred after a treacherous murder. In the earlier battles Muhammad was too young to fight, but he gathered enemy arrows and gave them to his Quraysh uncles to shoot back. In the last battle when he was about twenty, Muhammad did shoot arrows for the Hashim clan at the enemy and was praised for his valor. When a Sahmi refused to pay his debt to a Yemeni merchant, the Quraysh joined the Kinana and others in taking an oath at the Ka'ba to fight oppression for the sake of justice, and Muhammad swore with them; the Sahmi was compelled to pay the debt.

Muhammad began traveling for merchants, and he wished to marry his cousin; but his uncle Abu Talib informed him that she was promised to a poet of better means. Known for being trustworthy and honest, Muhammad was asked by the wealthy widow Khadija to sell her merchandise in Bostra. She doubled her money, and Muhammad was well paid. Although she was 40, Khadija proposed marriage to the 25-year-old Muhammad; he accepted and gave her a dowry of twenty camels. She was the mother of all his children except Ibrahim. Their sons died in infancy, but their four daughters would become Muslims. On his wedding day Muhammad freed his slave Baraka so that she could marry a man of Yathrib, and Khadija gave Muhammad her 15-year-old slave boy Zayd. When Zayd's father and uncle came to ransom him, Muhammad offered the youth his free choice. Zayd decided to live with Muhammad, who adopted him as his son and made him his heir. During a famine Muhammad adopted Abu Talib's son 'Ali when he was about five. When Muhammad was about 35, he was asked to mediate a dispute over which tribe should lift the sacred black meteorite when the Ka'ba temple was being rebuilt. The trusted sage suggested that each clan take hold of a garment and lift it together.


Are you called to the field?

I think this is a question that every Christian must take seriously. Are you being called to the mission field? It is true that many are called to support missionaries, but the rest are called to actually be missionaries. That takes many forms: being doctors, businessmen, teachers, evangelists, scholars, administrators, logistics specialists, and so on. The call is for the young: John was probably about 18 when Jesus called him to be a disciple. Mary was about 15 when Gabriel told her that she was going to give birth Jesus! The call is also for the old: Abraham was an old man when God called him to leave his home land and go to a place "that I will show you."

The call is for married people and single people. It is for the educated and the uneducated. It is for those who are important and powerful and for those who are weak in the eyes of the world. AFM which is a fine organization and I encourage all our readers to consider attending this conference:

Crime Scene Investigation
The Crime: 1.7 billion people have never heard the Gospel!

The Scene: The areas of North Africa, the Middle East and
Asia where these 1.7 billion people live in darkness.

The Investigation: Learning, exploring and then discovering
your part in God’s purpose for these 1.7 billion lost peoples.

Anglican Frontier Missions CSI Conference
Friday evening, September 28th- Sunday, September 30th, 2007
Richmond, Virginia

(804) 355-8468 - INFO@AFM-US.ORG – WWW.AFM-US.ORG

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Eastern Orthodoxy (Part III)

From Frederica Mathewes-Green:

Orthodoxy also expects that there are evil spirits. I was talking with an Emerging Church leader a couple of weeks ago, and he indicated that this would be a "deal breaker" for him. He said that Jesus performed exorcisms on people who today we would diagnose as having bipolar disorder, for example.

Orthodoxy is not so interested in exorcisms and demonic possession, however -- while that no doubt still exists, it's extremely rare. But there are all those other references to the devil or evil spirits in Scripture, eg, "I saw Satan fall like a lightning bolt from heaven," or Jesus' temptation in the wilderness--there were no witnesses to that, so we know about it only because Jesus decided to tell his disciples the story. He must have wanted to equip his disciples for such attacks. St. Paul and St. Peter also stress the presence of evil spirits and how to guard against them, and those passages aren't about exorcisms or poltergeist tricks. It's a shame to toss all that good advice overboard, when virtually every generation of Christians before us has taken it soberly and seriously.

So, yes, demonic apparitions and tricks are very rare. The most common way evil spirits work is by insinuating thoughts, which may entice but might just as well cause despair, self-hatred, fear. Hebrews 2 says that the evil one has always controlled the human race through fear of death. Being alert to disabling thoughts, and knowing how to repel them, is a large part of Orthodox spirituality. Even if you stumble at the thought of evil spirits, everyone believes in the existence of unwanted, debilitating thoughts. The content of Orthodoxy is a "science" of spiritual growth, a set of spiritual disciplines that heal the "tree" from the roots, so it can bear good fruit. The whole aim of Orthodoxy is to saturate the entire person with the presence of Christ, so that we are literally Christ-bearers. The word for this is "theosis" -- like a cloth soaks up dye by osmosis, we soak up Christ by theosis.

BTW, a good book that gives an "inside view" of what this spirituality is like in practice, with all it's "spirit-filled" elements, is "Mountain of Silence" by Kyriacos Markides: Mountain of Silence. I should warn that the author is coming from a very idiosyncratic place; he is a sociology professor who has come to fervent belief in miracles, evil spirits, theosis, and he is profoundly in awe of the wisdom of the Orthodox Church. What he doesn't get so much is Jesus. In his subsequent book he makes it even more clear that he thinks we need a version of Orthodox spirituality that acknowledges that it is divisive to insist on the necessity of Jesus Christ, and recognizes the universality of the path to enlightenment. Strange, isn't it? Lots of people say, "I like Jesus but I have no use for the church" -- he's the opposite. Anyway, what makes this book so valuable is not the words of the author, but the transcripts of taped conversations he had with a very experienced, though pretty young, abbot. The book has become very popular among Orthodox because of the way this abbot explains Orthodox spirituality and practice; there really is no other book that is as accessible to contemporary non-Orthodox readers. So I recommend it, but read Fr Maximos closely while taking the connecting authorial material with a grain of salt.

AFM: The Most Unreached

Here is a really outstanding list at the website for Anglican Frontier Missions. It is a list of the 25 most populous unreached people groups in the world. That means that these groups have no indigenous Christian presence of any kind. Such a list presents a great challenge to Christians everywhere.

People Group Profiles

Monday, August 20, 2007


Wife is very pregnant and the baby is breech. Pray she will flip over soon!

Nahool the Bee and the Criminal Jews

Hamas's approach to jihad: Start 'em young
The group takes a patient approach to deriving political support from religious conviction.
By Dan Murphy | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

from the August 20, 2007 edition

Gaza City, Gaza - As a weapon in its struggle with Israel, Nahool the Bee doesn't look like a particularly threatening addition to the Hamas arsenal. He doesn't even have a stinger.

But what the bright yellow star of "Tomorrow's Pioneers" on Hamas-owned Al Aqsa television lacks in muscle he makes up for in fervor. Speaking in a recent episode, Nahool vowed to help take back Jerusalem from the "criminal Jews" and expressed his hope that he and all of his listeners would grow up to become holy warriors.

The show, along with paramilitary-style summer camps for Gazan boys, reveal a key element in Hamas's long-term strategy.

Like Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned Hamas, the group takes a patient approach to tapping religious conviction to build political support. It is the movement's youth focus, critics say, that sets it apart from Hamas's rival, Fatah, which controls the West Bank and enjoys US and Israeli support.

The basic unit of the Hamas organization isn't cells or political committees – it's families. The organization has shown that by introducing children early enough to Hamas's hard-line Islamic thinking, it can recruit lifelong supporters.

"It hurts us so much when the international community misunderstands us," says Samir Abu Mohsen, a senior director at Al Aqsa. "Nahool isn't for teaching hate. It's for teaching children to think in the right way, to socialize them in our culture's way of life, and, of course, to remind them of their rights to the land that was taken from us."

Hamas's revolution will be televised

The Nahool puppet replaces a Mickey Mouse-like character named Farfur, who, in an episode several months ago, was shown being killed by an Israeli official after he refused to sell his land to Israelis. Director Mohsen says the show killed off Farfur because of complaints they were infringing on Disney's copyright.

Nahool tells his young audience in a high-pitched voice that his anti-Zionist passion is fueled by the memory of his grandfather, who was murdered at the hands of Israeli settlers. Both life-sized puppets have stirred outrage among critics who say that Al Aqsa television teaches children to hate.

Mohammed Ramadan, the young man who dons the Nahool costume and who also played Farfur before that character's televised martyrdom, says he's been "shocked" by international allegations that his characters teach children to hate.

"Look, Israeli aggression against us is a fact, they kicked these children's grandparents and parents from their homes, and we're not allowed to talk about this?" he asks. "They need to know."

Nevertheless, Mr. Ramadan says that he won't cross certain "red lines." "A red line would be telling children to go kill Israelis. But talking about our right to our land, to one day return? That's not a red line. That's what they need to know."

[Read it all.]

In case you haven't read it yet

There are some great comments on the Tri-theist post for several days ago. Check them out here.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"The Earth on Fire"

Mike Liccione over at Sacramentum Vitae comments on these verses from Luke 12:

I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!

Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law."


The reason I love this passage is its clear implication that those who follow Jesus must draw a sharp line in the sand that will not be erased with the soft passage of time. I don't mean the obvious line we draw against certain kinds of felonies; among Nice People Like Us, that is uncontroversial. I mean the line to be drawn between Truth and Untruth. That is controversial. For just as in the ancient Roman Empire, relativism is popular today as the default option for getting along with people who are different: what's "true for me" is not "true for you," as they say; I'm OK and you're OK. To be sure, that attitude is often appropriate when we're dealing with matters of taste. It is sometimes appropriate even when we're dealing with disagreements about the best means to attain agreed-upon ends, which is really what many political disagreements are about. For sometimes there is no single "right" resolution to such issues. But when it comes to ultimates, such an attitude will not do at all. If Jesus really is what Scripture, Tradition, and the teaching authority of the Church together present him to be, then the only appropriate attitude toward him is complete faith and surrender, which entails being baptized with suffering. That was the life, and death, of many of the early Christians. And if Jesus is not what they collectively present him to be, then the only appropriate attitude is to dismiss him as one more deluded would-be messiah, even crazier than the ones the Romans brutally crushed both before him and after him—though without, as in Jesus' case, the active collusion of the Jewish leadership.

There have been many attempts, mostly among modern, "scientific" biblical scholars, to evade that choice and thus to brush away the line in the sand. Thomas Jefferson, judicious editor of the Jefferson Bible, was a good example of how intelligent people can cut Jesus down to their own size. As an antidote to that sort of thing, I recommend the Pope's book Jesus of Nazareth. But evading the choice is not just an intellectual phenomenon. Because we are all sinners, we all do it sometimes in our own egregious ways and, more insidiously, our sneaky little ways. We make compromises all the time hoping, for example, to avoid trouble with that ol' mother-in-law Jesus alludes to. There are countless other compromises. Sometimes we compromise faith itself, because conformity to popular opinion, relativism, or just cynical skepticism wins us more points and costs us less than orthodox, undiluted belief. Always we compromise our virtue—or at least put off the development of virtue—because that's easier and more gratifying than dying to self so that He might live in us. And often we can't be honest with ourselves, or even with God, because we're afraid of paying the bill that fully facing the truth would present to us.

In anything pertaining to the spiritual life, we must prefer honesty to niceness. Of course we'd thereby create much division. But we'd be on the right side of that line in the sand.

"The Sunna Shines..."

A nice example of Saudi preaching, from MEMRI:

Following are excerpts from an interview with Saudi cleric Muhammad Al-Munajid, which aired on Iqra TV on July 26, 2007:

Sheik Muhammad Al-Munajid: This is a nation of monotheism, and this is the Islam that Allah wants to spread throughout the world, and to rule the land it its entirety. Allah wants this. He sent down the Koran and the hadith for that purpose.


Humanity can have no happiness without Islam. Humanity can enjoy no goodness, unless the sun of monotheism, the Koran, and the Sunna shines upon it. The world without the sun of the divine revelation is a place of eternal darkness, as we can see today – a world of frustration, collapse, injustice, arbitrariness, and wrongdoing. The world today is a jungle – a world of barbarism of all kinds. People in many parts of the world are not happy, because they do not walk in the path of Allah.


There are rules of shari'a in everything. We have counted almost 70 rules about how to urinate and defecate. In contrast, how do those beasts in the West answer the call of nature? They stand in front of other people, in toilets at airports and other public places. They do not care about covering their private parts. Even their underwear is colored and not white, so it can conceal all that filth. We are a nation that has long known the meaning of cleanliness, what to do when nature calls, and what the rules of hygiene are. The others, to this day, live like beasts. To this day, many of them are not circumcised, even though the World Health Organization has advised to circumcise people as a treatment for AIDS, because it has been scientifically proven that circumcised people are less susceptible to AIDS, and are less likely to spread it than uncircumcised people.

Evangelizing Muslims and Light

In this section, Abd al Haq explains a little about how he shares the Gospel with Muslims. I want to clarify that his approach is far from universal, but he makes a case for it and you can evaluate it as you see fit. In many ways it is the same as Paul's approach when he was in Athens.

Let me also point out that I know some Muslims read this website and I see no problem with discussing these topics in their presence. This sort of material is not some kind of secret of Christians or anything of the sort. Jesus said we are children of light so we must live in the light, not keeping secrets or living deceitfully.

The reason I feel this way is that the purpose of Christian evangelism is not to enforce one view on another person. Nor is it "tunsur al diin," to make the religion victorious. The purpose is to respectfully present the truth that we believe God has revealed about himself and us humans to others, giving them the opportunity to accept this gift of God's grace or to reject it, as they will. Ultimately, the conversion of a Muslim to the way of Jesus Christ is between him and God. I write a lot about community and how evangelicalism has become too individualistic--accurate criticisms I think--but on the day of judgment each man and woman must stand alone before the throne of Jesus and given account for his decisions and judgments. That, I think, is not individualism, but a real and honest assessment of the situation and every Muslims I know agrees with it.

God is indeed light upon light. But where do we see that light? Does it shine forth in the words of the Quran as Muslims say and must believe, under penalty of death? Or does it shine forth in the person Jesus Christ, who was "like us in all ways, but without sin"? That is the question. When Christians evangelize, as we all must, we raise the question. That is all. But that small thing can be, in God's hands, a great thing indeed.

[...]you should know that the philosophy that I typically work from is that we want to emphasize those things that we hold in common (things that are evident) and move from there to a challenge. The key is to build strongly on the common ground and walk them through to the natural, clear, true, evident conclusion which is the challenge to their worldview. We must also prioritize these challenges that we will bring before those we encounter. What I mean is that we must “pick our battles.” If we fail to prioritize these things prior to visiting with someone, we can quickly go down a rabbit-trail that may certainly be a concept that they have not yet grasped and is challenging to their mind and heart, but at the same time this concept may not be an essential or is, perhaps, a concept that will be grasped further along their journey towards worshipping God in spirit and truth. What I am attempting to say, with far too many words, is that we should attempt to figure out what our focus is … and keep it there! This is how we see the Apostles and their companions dealing with unbelieving Jews as well as Gentiles all through the book of the Acts of the Apostles. They were focused on The Story and did not dig into deep doctrine until a body was formed. Practically, for me, this means that as quickly as possible, I will try to get to this phrase: “That is a long story. How much time do you have?” As soon as I get the okay to tell The Story, I do it and then we can go from there.

Concerning bridges that are found in their religion, I don’t typically pull out a Qur’an or a copy of Ahadeeth in order to show our common ground or to make a point. That is mostly because I don’t make statements about what Muslims where I live believe or about what the Qur’an or Ahadeeth say until I know what it is that they believe or what the books say. So, if I make a statement like, “We all know such and such to be true, thus ….,” it comes out without doubt and if someone questions what was said, I immediately ask for a copy of the Qur’an so that I may show it to them. The overwhelming majority of the time, they don’t bring it out … because they either know that I am correct or because they are afraid that I am correct. So, the bridges from their religious beliefs and books are used, but just not quoted word for word or drug out and studied … it makes more sense to tell stories and quote proverbs in an oral culture anyway!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Christians are Tri-theists

Well, we Christians can insist up and down that we believe in one God, but that doesn't matter. Muslims know what we believe better than we do. Here in fact is the proof that you (if you're a Christian) do believe in three gods, even though you don't know it.

How do you respond to the critique? And can you outline how he has misrepresented the doctrine of the Trinity?

From Answering Christianity:

Trinitarians often like to claim that they have a monotheistic belief, and that the Trinity is not the worship of 3 Gods rather it is the worship of One God. Basically they say the Trinity doctrine is as follow:

1- God is made up of 3 persons

2- The three persons are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

3- All three persons are distinct from each other, The Father is not the Son, nor is the Son the Father etc.

4- Each person in the Trinity has a role of their own

5- Jesus is the Son in the Trinity

So basically that is the dogma of the Trinity.

Now let us show exactly why Christians do in fact worship three God's. As I said, the Trinity is made up of THREE people, these three people are all different than one another, it is basically exactly like having 3 people in an office, Tom Dick and Harry.

Now Christians say that Jesus is God, the Father is God, and so is the Holy Spirit. So therefore if you have three people, and each one of them is God then what are you left with? You are left with THREE Gods! This is logic!

If Tom Dick and Harry are each managers, how many managers do you have? You have three! Remember Trinity has THREE different persons, and each person is God, therefore you have three Gods and not one, there is no way around this mess.

Muhammad in Habakkuk?

From Answering Christianity, what do you think about this prophecy? (I have not edited all the spelling and grammar and punctuation mistakes.)

Here is some Further proofs about Prophecies of the Bible about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)..

3:3 God came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.
3:4 And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand: and there was the hiding of his power.
3:5 Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet.

In fact This is a Clear Prophecy about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as he was the Only Prophet coming from "Mount of Paran" in Mecca..This is a Clear Verse.

Of Fish and Sharks

Here is a nice example of how Islam is really lacking in self-confidence. I saw this a lot back in the ME. I guess it goes back to the desire for honor. Since Islam can not earn honor and respect the old-fashioned way by establishing just, prosperous, and fruitful societies, it resorts to...bumber stickers, among other things:

In my new book Religion of Peace?, I tell the story of a bumper-sticker war that broke out in Cairo a few years ago. When Coptic Christians began putting the Christian fish symbol, long popular with American evangelicals, on their cars, Muslims responded with their own bumper stickers depicting sharks. An Egyptian Muslim explained: "The Christians had the fish so we responded with the shark. If they want to portray themselves as weak fishes, okay. We are the strongest.”

--Robert Spencer

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Paul's False Miracles

Also from Answering Christianity:

"The “miracles” attributed to Paul are myths, based on hearsay, not eyewitnesses (who are they?). But the Hadith (based on eyewitnesses) narrates the Holy Prophet did over 300 miracles. The Hadith are based on isnad (chain of narrators) yet the Gospels have no isnad."

Here is a fine example of the mediocrity of Islamic apologetics (of course there is plenty of Christian apologetics that is mediocre). I mean, really, this is anachronism at the worse. Isnaad refers to the links show in that various hadiith are valid. John said that Jim said that Abdullah said that he heard Muhammad say... That is how the hadiith all begin. And is that not entirely "hearsay"? I mean, Isnaad IS hearsay, and nothing more.

Of course there is no need for isnad with Acts. The claim of Acts is that it is written by Luke, who saw these things personally and knew Paul personally. That seems pretty straight forward and, um, more convincing than, five or six people saying they heard it from someone else. But Islam is never wrong and never open to criticism.

Even reason must submit.

Paul the False Apostle

"Christians worship Christ, not Jesus. Christians follow Paul, not God. The false apostle believed Jesus rose from the dead as a spirit, not a physical body."

From Answering Christianity

Radicalization in America

I have said before that I do not like the term radicalization. The word, "radical", is derived from the Latin word for "roots". So the idea is that the difference goes to the very roots of what it means to be Muslim. I do not think the difference is that fundamental. To go from cultural Islam or non-observant Islam to militant Islam or violent Islam is not to move from one religion to another. It is rather to retrieve the true meaning of Islam, which is and has always followed the (sometimes violent) example of its founder, Muhammad.

There is not much new information here, but it's still a nice summary put together by the AP:

An NYPD report released Wednesday warns of a "radicalization" process in which young men — otherwise unremarkable legal immigrants from the Middle East — grow disillusioned with life in America and adopt a philosophy that puts them on the path to jihad.

"Hopefully, the better we're informed about this process, the more likely we'll be to detect and disrupt it," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said while presenting the findings at a briefing of private security executives at police headquarters.

The findings drew swift criticism from Arab-American civil rights groups, which accused the NYPD of stereotyping and of contradicting recent federal warnings that the chief terrorism threat remains foreign.

In a statement, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said federal authorities "appreciate efforts to better understand the phenomenon of radicalization."

"We are fortunate that radicalization seems to have less appeal in the U.S. than in other parts of the world," he said, "but we do not believe that America is immune to homegrown terrorism."

The FBI declined to comment.

Yemen needs electricity and jobs

Nod to Armies of Liberation.

This is from an article in the Yemen Times:

Recent studies referred that Unemployment in Yemen increased sharply due to the government failure to improve the economic policies and enhance the life standards of Yemen. According to the 2006 annual economic report, unemployment average in Yemen has rocketed up since 2003 – 05 to 34%, which is regarded as the biggest number so far.

The report stated also that the number of young people graduating every year from universities and private institutions reaches up to 188000 graduates, while the available annual vacancies are not more than 16000 jobs.

Unemployment in Yemen is a real hassle facing the development as it has economical and social effects. The person average daily income has been affected due to the recent price hikes and the increase of unemployment. Studies conducted by both local and international institutions show that poverty is the main cause of violence and crimes.

The young people spend their time hanging around in the streets, committing violence and crimes as a result of unemployment.

The electricity, on the other hand, is not in a good condition too. Yemeni people all over the country suffer from unbearable power shortage.

“It is a received habit that the power goes off daily for one to two hours. Sometimes during the exam period the power keeps on flashing continuously and we can go with that, but in Ramadan, it is unbearable”, a 25-year-old young man working in Trust Yemen Company said.

“The President pledged during his recent electoral campaign to enhance the power shortage with nuclear power and we are still waiting”, he continued.

According to Yemen’s Public Electricity Corporation (PEC), the country’s electricity distribution network is inadequate. Currently, it is estimated that only 40 percent of the total population in Yemen have access to electricity from the national power grid. Even for those connected to the grid, electricity supply is intermittent, with rolling blackout schedules maintained in most cities. In order to meet the growing demand (up to 20 percent between 2000 and 2004) and to avert an energy crisis in the medium term, Yemen’s Electricity and Water Ministry has plans to increase the country’s power, generating capacity to 1,400 megawatts (MW) by 2010.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Revelations to Muhammad

I wanted to post a few hadiith about the nature of the revelations that Muhammad received. Specifically, the contain his description of how those revelations came to him, that is, when Gabriel (Jabriil) would speak to him. The circumstances tend to be quite bizarre and there is no shortage of suggestions as to the nature of these occurrences: seizures from epilepsy, demon possession, some other mental condition, or simply what was convenient for him at the moment.

The quality and nature of the revelations changed with time. At first they were more poetic and focused on worshiping Allah (who was a know god at that time), but within the context of monotheism--that is, that there are no other gods. This was a novelty among the pagans of Arabia. The confession, There is no god but God, certainly precedes Islam and was simply borrowed by Muhammad. In Arabic the phrase is quite poetic: la illaha illa allah. Again, the novelty of Islam was not to create something totally new, but in what it added: And Muhammad is his messenger. That phrase in Arabic has no special alliterative qualities like the initial confession of monotheism.

But without further ado, the hadiiths, all from Sahiih Al Bukhaari:

Volume 1, Book 1, Number 2:

Narrated 'Aisha:

(the mother of the faithful believers) Al-Harith bin Hisham asked Allah's Apostle "O Allah's Apostle! How is the Divine Inspiration revealed to you?" Allah's Apostle replied, "Sometimes it is (revealed) like the ringing of a bell, this form of Inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes ' off after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp whatever he says." 'Aisha added: Verily I saw the Prophet being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the Sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over).

Volume 1, Book 1, Number 3:

He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food like-wise again till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, "I do not know how to read.

The Prophet added, "The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, 'I do not know how to read.' Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, 'I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?' Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, 'Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists) has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous." (96.1, 96.2, 96.3) Then Allah's Apostle returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija bint Khuwailid and said, "Cover me! Cover me!" They covered him till his fear was over and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, "I fear that something may happen to me." Khadija replied, "Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you. You keep good relations with your Kith and kin, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guests generously and assist the deserving calamity-afflicted ones."

Volume 1, Book 1, Number 5:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas:

Allah's Apostle was the most generous of all the people, and he used to reach the peak in generosity in the month of Ramadan when Gabriel met him. Gabriel used to meet him every night of Ramadan to teach him the Qur'an. Allah's Apostle was the most generous person, even more generous than the strong uncontrollable wind (in readiness and haste to do charitable deeds).

(All from the most excellent hadiith database at USC-MSA.)