Islam, the natural religion of humanity?

From a fine article 'Luther, Lutheranism, and the Challenge of Islam' by Adam Francisco in Concordia Theological Quarterly (Vol 71, 2007):

This motif that Islam is the aboriginal religion of humanity and history is prominent in the Quran. All the prophets beginning with Adam through Moses unto Jesus, Muslims allege, proclaimed essentially the same message that Muhammad preached. "God sent down to you (step by step), in truth, the Quran, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Torah (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion [the Quran]" (3:3, 9:111). Despite the obvious contradictions, however, Muhammad did not start a new religion, the Quran claims. Instead, he revived the religion of Moses and Jesus, messages had been corrupted (tahrif) by Jews and Christians who purposely altered the biblical text and skewed the message of Moses and esus. Thus, God sent Muhammad to reiterate what truth was left in the Judeo-Christian tradition and to secure the full revelation of God once and for all in the Quran.

In other words, Islam has a tidy way of explaining the historical fact of Christianity while not really allowing for it to have a seat at the table in terms of influencing the future development of Islam.

What do you think?


Anonymous said…
Interesting post. My thoughts:

Why would God need the followers of Christianity to have any seat in developing Islam? This comment makes it seem like religion is democratic and that one assumes God just plants the seeds and allows everyone to take part in growing the crop. I see it differently.

The Quran being the capstone and end all for the "followers of the book" (Jews, Christians and Muslims), I feel God didn't intend this book to be a starting place. As you posted, it was a clarification and say-all type of publication. I view it more of an end place. So, really, there is no religious reason for there to be debate, partnership and teamwork in "developing" the religion that came of it.

However, for the sake of humanity, and our tendency to want to "improve" on God's wonders, it would make sense that for Islam to grow, it would need to extend its hand somewhat to its forerunner religions. That being said, if Christians actually wanted in on the planning action they would basically have to acknowledge that they were wrong (a very difficult thing for humans to do). For, in reaching across the isle (sort of speak) Christians would be saying that indeed they had fabricated much of the belief in Jesus being the son of God, because Islam distinctly says that is exactly what they did.
Wouldn't it be difficult for early Muslims to open their discussion table to a group of Godly people that eagerly implore a form of polytheism?

Maybe I didn't read your post correctly, so I apologize if my comments seem off base. Sometimes, I tend to read what I want to read and not what is actually there.
Samn! said…
The idea that Islam is the natural religion has an old history, even outside of Islam... we can find Islam being used very frequently as a 'more natural' foil to Catholicism by Enlightenment writers, for example-- even Montesquieu's Lettres Persanes and Voltaire's Contes Orienteaux share in that trope to some degree, as does Karen Armstrong's similar use of Islam as a foil for Catholicism. So to some degree it probably has had an impact in the opposite direction, that is on Christianity.

On the other hand, the existence this notion within the Islamic discourse exposes one of the anxieties or tensions within that discourse--- how to deal with the historical contingencies of the religion. I mean, in a sense it's one of the oldest (and maybe most effective) polemical points against Islam- the issue of how the clearly historically contingent aspects of the religion, including much if not most of the Qur'an and the entirety of the hadith corpus, fit into the picture of an eternal, unchanging religion? How can God's eternal word have nasikh and mansukh? Etc. So even looking into Islam's real historical debt to Christianity, let alone acknowledging that Islam has an evolution, would open up a very dangerous can of worms....

The only historical exception to this I can think of are the Ismailis, whose medieval works often cite the Gospels as still authoritative, but I guess that's kind of marginal, and worked into a very different framework for history than that of most modern Muslims....
Lvka said…
What do you think?

I think the Qur'an is right... Islam IS indeed "the natural religion of humanity". What male would not imagine "Paradise" as lots of women and tons of food, as Muslims do? Yet, just because it's `natural` for us to do so, does NOT mean we're right. (I think we're not). God is not an animal, to mate and eat, and neither are our souls. (Luke 12:19). Man's carnal imagination is not the same as God's spiritual reality. (1 Corinthians 15:50).

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