read the full review HERE
Monday, September 30, 2013
Book Review: What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an
What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an by James R. White
Review by Mike Robinson
The first thing to know about ancient Islamic history is that it is untrustworthy. The earliest fragments of the Qur’an were placed on an odd collection of leaf-stock, stones, parchments, and other items of convenience. After subjectively discarding fragments and parchments from controverting Surahs, an arbitrary collection of fragments were partially standardized as the accepted Qur’an. Today, we have copies of the Qur’an that antedate the Reformation, the first Greek translation of the Qur’an was completed by the Byzantines in the ninth century, a span of time that separates it from us by a thousand years.
At the start of What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an, James R. White, a researcher with textual credentials and Christian apologist, dials back the clock to the Sixth and Seventh centuries—the approximate time of Mohammad’s life and the formation of the Qur’an. Peering into the murk of Islamic history, he begins with the earliest sources of Mohammad and the Qur’an where he starts to carry the story forward.
Mr. White faces weighty problems in devoting space to early Islamic material in conjunction with the Hadith. Since there is little reliable historical material vis-à-vis Mohammad, in addition to almost no written records of his existence during most of his lifetime, there is but a minutia of history that can be retold with confidence. The author repeatedly turns to the almost wholly defective Hadith to find material on Mohammad, wars, battles, and doctrine. But in the midst of such a heap, his skilled eye and adroit prose-style bring these to light. He makes us see the difficulty Mohammed had coming up with religious doctrine. This was the case because the self-proclaimed prophet had little firsthand knowledge of the Bible—the very book Mohammad said was a revelation from Allah. White identifies, in minute details, the context and the reason Islam evolved the way it did—ultimately into a works-righteousness and anti-Trinitarian religion. Much Islamic doctrine was built upon Mohammad’s complete misunderstanding of biblical history and doctrine.
Irenic, but a textual analyst to the core, Mr. White leans heavily on the evidence of the text, its transmission, and Hadithic application. What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an moves from one Surah to the next as it is interpreted by the Hadith and various Islamic traditions. Mr. White often supplies the counter-evidence for Islamic claims, but he has more of a diplomatic tone than a vigorous apologist. He tells us, for instance, selected Islamic stories about Jesus that are mere fancy (pp. 125-126). Nonetheless, Mr. White doesn’t provide a robust assault on the whimsical claims—claims that are devoid of any historical connections. These non-historical tales are largely retold without employing rigorous critical examination. Possibly, Mr. White was merely laying a foundation of Islamic claims in a manner that would be considered fair and scholarly.
The central thread of Mr. White's story is the emergence in Arabia of a mistaken leader who ignorantly (Mohammed was largely ill-informed concerning biblical history and doctrine) attempted to build a religion from a biblical underpinning. The Qur’an asserts that “Jesus was strengthened by the Holy Spirit, which Muslims today understand as Gabriel” (pp. 110-111). The confusion of the Holy Spirit with the angel Gabriel is a colossal and ignorant mistake—Mohammad frequently makes these types of daft blunders. The real fascination for me: Why would Mohammad makeup such a farcical religion? Probably for power and treasure. His self-proclaimed religion gave him both.
read the full review HERE