(Originally Published at Of Priests and Paramedics, March 2006.)
Islam and the Other Religions
by Abu Daoud
So here is the question: Is it important for Muslims to learn about other religions?
As I discussed the question with a number of Muslims it became clear that their answer is clearly YES. Then why do Muslims know so little about other religions? Because they believe firmly that everything they need to know about those other religions is contained in the Qu’ran. Who do you believe: the verbatim Word of God that existed with him from all eternity, or texts that have been corrupted and misinterpreted by Christians and Jews?
There is one word that you must learn in Arabic to understand how Muslims look at other religions: muharraf. It means something like corrupted and untrustworthy. This is the word used to describe the texts (called Books) of the other prophets such as the Torah which was revealed to the prophet Moses (Musa); the Zaboor, revealed to the Prophet David (Dahood); and the Gospel, revealed to the Prophet Jesus (Issa).
Indeed, there is a central difference between the Judeo-Christian concept of prophecy and that of Islam. In Islam the prophet does not bring a message inspired by God, but a verbatim message from God that must be recorded in a book. In the Judeo-Christian tradition there are many prophets who did not write a book (Elijah for one) or even have their prophecy recorded by someone else.
This obviously presents a great difficulty for Christians, as we do not have the Book that God supposedly revealed to Jesus, rather we have four recollections of his teachings and life by different men. Again, the Qu’ran is clear that Christians and Jews, though once possessing valid books from God’s prophets, no longer do. Rather, “They have tampered with words out of their context and forgotten much of what they were enjoined” (5:13).
The circular logic of Islam comes into play again here because the Qur'an proves itself:
“Say: ‘Have you any evidence you can put before us? You believe in nothing but conjecture and follow nothing but falsehoods’” (6:148). The Qur'an demands irrefutable evidence for anyone who would challenge what it teaches, but provides no justification for the truth of its own claims other than its own existence.
Enlightened Muslims know all there is to know about the other religions by reading the Qur'an.