Deceptive God, Incompetent
What Islam Really Teaches About Allah and Jesus
For nearly two thousand years, Christians have proclaimed Jesus’ death and resurrection. Islam rejects both of these doctrines and offers a different account of what happened at the cross and afterwards. However, the Muslim explanation comes at a tremendous price: Their version of the story portrays God as a horrible deceiver, and Jesus as the most stupendous failure in the history of the prophets. Hence, while Muslims claim that “Allah is Truth” and that Jesus is to be revered as one of Allah’s mightiest prophets, these claims are hollow, for Islamic dogma comes with a great deal of heresy.
Allah Starts Christianity . . . By Accident
If we examine the teachings of Islam, we find that Allah not only started Christianity, but also made Christianity the world’s dominant religion. This fact should seem strange to everyone, for Muslims believe that Christianity is a false religion. Of course, Muslims will respond by arguing that Christianity is a false religion because it was corrupted by man, but that in its original state it was the message of Allah given to Jesus the son of Mary.
While there isn’t a shred of evidence that the followers of Jesus ever believed anything similar to Islam, this is beside the point. According to Islam, Christianity was corrupted by Allah himself. To understand why Islam demands such a view, let us review a few facts.
FACT #1: The Qur’an states that Jesus was a messenger of Allah and a prophet of Islam. Indeed, Surah 19 tells us that Jesus began preaching Islamic theology the moment he was born:
And the throes (of childbirth) compelled [Mary] to betake herself to the trunk of a palm tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died before this, and had been a thing quite forgotten! Then (the child [i.e. the infant Jesus]) called out to her from beneath her: Grieve not, surely your Lord has made a stream to flow beneath you; And shake towards you the trunk of the palmtree, it will drop on you fresh ripe dates: So eat and drink and refresh the eye. . . . Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet; And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined on me prayer and poor-rate so long as I live; And dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me insolent, unblessed; And peace on me on the day I was born, and on the day I die, and on the day I am raised to life.
Jesus continued to preach the message of God throughout his life, until he was taken to heaven. According to the Qur’an, the Gospel that Jesus brought was no different from the message of the prophets before him. Jesus, a servant and prophet of God, preached Islam:
The same religion has He Established for you as that Which He enjoined on Noah—That which We have sent By inspiration to thee—And that which We enjoined On Abraham, Moses, and Jesus: Namely, that ye should remain Steadfast in Religion, and make No divisions therein.
[Jesus] was no more than A servant: We granted Our favour to him, And We made him An example to the Children of Israel. . . . When Jesus came With Clear Signs, he said: “Now have I come To you with Wisdom, And in order to make Clear to you some Of the (points) on which Ye dispute: therefore fear Allah And obey me. For Allah, He is my Lord And your Lord: so worship Ye Him: this is A Straight Way.”
Thus, Jesus spent approximately 33 years, from his birth to his ascension, preaching Islam to the children of Israel. Prior to his apparent crucifixion, his preaching was moderately successful, as the conversion of some of his listeners indicates.
FACT #2: The Qur’an states that Jesus won a number of followers. Since Jesus spent his entire life preaching an early form of Islam, his message to his disciples must have centered around the basic tenets of Islamic theology. These disciples would have become something similar to Muslims, which is exactly what Islam teaches about Jesus’ followers:
When Jesus found Unbelief on their [i.e. the Jews’] Part He said: “Who will be My helpers to (the work Of) Allah?” Said the Disciples: “We are Allah’s helpers: We believe in Allah, And do thou bear witness That we are Muslims.”
And behold! I inspired The Disciples [of Jesus] to have faith In Me and Mine Messenger; They said, “We have faith, And do thou bear witness That we bow to Allah As Muslims.”
Then, in their wake, We followed them up With (others of) Our messengers: We sent after them Jesus the son of Mary, And bestowed on him The Gospel; and We ordained In the hearts of those Who followed him Compassion and Mercy.
If the Qur’an is correct, then Jesus converted at least some of the children of Israel to Islam. Though there is absolutely no historical evidence for any such conversions, let us assume for the sake of argument that there were first century Jews who believed the message of Jesus and became Muslims. As we shall see, this assumption only presents problems for Muslim apologists.
FACT #3: If there were first-century Jews who converted to Islam at the preaching of Jesus, they didn’t last very long. The idea that Jesus’ earliest followers were Muslims raises an obvious question: Why have we never heard of any Muslims existing in the first century? We have a great deal of historical information about Jesus’ first-century followers, but we have no evidence at all of any Muslims. Defenders of Islam will most likely claim here that Christianity wiped out all the records of Jesus’ non-Christian followers, but such a view is absurd. We have both Christian and non-Christian sources that report early Christian beliefs, yet none of these sources mention the existence of any Muslim-Christians. At the very least, we can say with absolute certainty that Jesus’ death was well-known among ancient authorities, and that Jesus’ earliest followers—including Peter, James, and John—came to believe that Jesus had died on the cross for their sins and that he had risen from the dead. (We also know that the disciples held Jesus to be the divine Son of God, but this isn’t necessary for my argument.) All four New Testament Gospels confirm the early Christian belief in Jesus’ death and resurrection, as does the book of Acts. Paul’s letters also repeatedly proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection. Further, an ancient creed recorded in 1 Corinthians 15 has been dated to within a few years of Jesus’ life and therefore provides extremely early testimony about Christian beliefs during the time of the apostles. It reads:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve.
We also have early Christian writings from outside the New Testament that report the beliefs of Jesus’ followers. For instance, Clement of Rome, who was ordained as Bishop of Rome by the Apostle Peter, writes about the apostles’ belief in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Polycarp, who was ordained by the Apostle John, mentions Jesus’ resurrection numerous times. There are even several ancient non-Christian sources that report crucial information about Jesus and the apostles. According to both the Jewish historian Josephus and the Roman historian Tacitus, Jesus was crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate. Lucian of Samosata, a Greek satirist, states, “The Christians, you know, worship a man to this day—the distinguished personage who introduced their novel rites, and was crucified on that account.” Even the Jewish Talmud reports the crucifixion of Jesus.
Hence, the most reasonable interpretation of the data is that the Qur’an is wrong when it says (1) that Jesus never died and (2) that Jesus’ early followers were Muslims. Nevertheless, let us be generous and grant, in spite of the facts, that there were a number of first-century Muslims, but that all evidence of their existence was later destroyed by Christians. Even if we grant such an outlandish assumption, this still presents Muslims with an enormous problem: What happened to these first-century Muslims? Why was Islam replaced by belief in Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection from the dead? Why didn’t Jesus’ 33 years of preaching amount to anything that lasted?
Muslims will most likely respond to these questions by arguing, once again, that Christianity corrupted Jesus’ message and that the Christian church erased all memory of Jesus’ Islamic teachings. However, no true Muslim should accept this position, for it conceals the true Qur’anic account of what happened.
FACT #4: The Qur’an states that Allah deceived people into believing that Jesus had died on the cross. According to the Qur’an, Jesus was able to convert at least some Jews to Islam. But we know from history that Jesus’ early followers became convinced of his death and resurrection. Hence, the obvious reason that there were no Muslims after Jesus ascended into heaven is that all of Jesus’ followers came to believe that he died on the cross and rose from the dead. And where did they get this idea? According to Islam, the idea that Jesus died on the cross was started by Allah:
That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus The son of Mary, The Messenger of Allah”—But they killed him not, Nor crucified him, But so it was made To appear to them, And those who differ Therein are full of doubts, With no (certain) knowledge, But only conjecture to follow, For of a surety They killed him not—Nay, Allah raised him up Unto Himself; and Allah Is Exalted in Power, Wise.
Even if we allow that Allah’s only goal was to deceive the people who wanted to kill Jesus, it is clear that the disciples also fell for Allah’s deception. So who is responsible for the Christian belief that Jesus died on the cross? If Islam is correct, God started this idea when he decided to trick Jesus’ enemies into thinking that they had killed Jesus. This leads to even more problems. If the deception of the disciples was unintentional, then we must conclude that God didn’t realize that he was about to start the largest false religion in the world. If it was intentional, then God is in the business of starting false religions. Therefore, the God of Islam is either dreadfully ignorant or maliciously deceptive.
Muhammad’s position also means that Jesus was the greatest failure in the history of the prophets. He spent 33 years preaching (again, he began preaching Islamic theology at birth), yet shortly after his death, the children of Israel were divided into two broad camps. Those who believed his message became Christians, all of whom were guilty of the worst sin imaginable (shirk), while those who rejected his message were guilty of rejecting one of God’s greatest messengers. Thus, whether people believed in Jesus or rejected him, everyone would ultimately be condemned and cast into the hellfire. It’s strange, then, that Muslims consider Jesus to be one of the greatest prophets ever. It seems that he should have been able to win at least one lasting convert to Islam. But he didn’t. Further, a true prophet of Islam should have warned his followers not to turn away from Islam by falling for God’s deception. But Jesus never got that message across. Indeed, millions of people from around the world now refuse to accept Islam because they believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, a teaching that goes back to a deceptive God and an incompetent Messiah.
Allah Spreads the False Religion He Accidentally Started
If we follow the teachings of Islam through to their logical conclusion, we see that God either intentionally or unintentionally started Christianity. But the Qur’an doesn’t stop there. Instead of correcting the mess he made, Allah took Christianity to the next level.
FACT #5: The Qur’an states that Allah helped spread Christianity. Once God had caused belief in Jesus death and resurrection, he then worked diligently to aid the Christians in spreading their false message:
O you who believe! be helpers (in the cause) of Allah, as [Jesus] son of Marium said to (his) disciples: Who are my helpers in the cause of Allah? The disciples said: We are helpers (in the cause) of Allah. So a party of the children of Israel believed and another party disbelieved; then We aided those who believed against their enemy, and they became uppermost.
This verse is extremely important, for it means that Allah helped the followers of Jesus against the Jews who rejected Jesus, and that these followers “became uppermost.” So who were these followers of Jesus who became stronger than the Jews? The only people in history who fit such a description are orthodox Christians, who believe in Jesus’ death, resurrection, and divinity. In other words, Muslims can’t claim here that Jesus’ message was corrupted and that the true Gospel was wiped out, because that clearly isn’t the group that the Qur’an refers to in this passage. Even if there was a group of first century Muslim-Christians, this group never gained an upper hand over anyone. Indeed, they must have been snuffed out immediately. The only group of Jesus’ followers that ever became strong enough to overshadow the Jews was composed of Christians, once Christianity had spread throughout the Roman Empire. These Christians believed in the foundational doctrines that Christians hold even today. Yet, according to the Qur’an, Allah helped these people rise to power!
How, then, did Christianity spread and become the dominant world religion? It spread by the power of Allah! And who started the Christian message about Jesus’ death on the cross? God invented this message! Even non-Christian historians are convinced that Jesus’ death is one of history’s best-established facts. Where did historians get this idea? They got it from God, who tricked so many people into believing in Jesus’ death that we now have tons of historical evidence for this event. Since there are roughly two billion Christians on earth at the present moment, it seems that Jesus and God are responsible for starting the only religion in the world that overshadows Islam.
If Islam Is True . . .
Needless to say, I think the Islamic view is extremely problematic. It requires us to believe that God deceived billions of people. God even led Jesus’ followers astray by tricking so many people into believing that Jesus died. This could have been avoided if God hadn’t been so intent on deceiving people. But this leads to more questions: Why would God want people to believe that Jesus was dead when he really wasn’t? Muslims can’t argue that God did it to protect Jesus from the Jews or Romans, since God was taking Jesus away safely anyway. So, why would God want to give Jesus’ enemies the satisfaction of seeing Jesus killed? Why not raise Jesus up without deceiving everyone about it? There seems to be no reason at all for God to deceive these people, especially since such a deception would soon lead to the formation of Christianity.
This is a difficult pill to swallow, yet Islam forces us to view the origin of Christianity in this way. If Islam is true, God deceives people who believe the prophets he sends. If Islam is true, God spreads false teachings until they become dominant in the world. If Islam is true, Jesus, the Messiah, was completely incompetent and should never have been sent by God, since Jesus’ life ended up leading more people astray than any other life in history. Because the Muslim view is at odds with any traditional understanding of God’s nature (including the Islamic understanding), Islam is an incoherent religious system, which should be rejected by all rational people. Islam has a poor and contemptible explanation for the origin of Christianity. If Islam is true, the existence of Christianity makes no sense at all.
If Christianity Is True . . .
Christianity, on the other hand, easily accounts for the rise of Islam. Indeed, if Christianity is true, the rise of Islam makes perfect sense. If it isn’t immediately clear why Christianity entails the rise of religions such as Islam, consider the following line of thought.
If Christianity is true, then the following statements are also true:
(1) People can only come to God through Jesus Christ.
(2) Satan is a real spirit being who wants to keep people from God.
With these statements in mind, let’s see if we can figure out a little something about Satan. Now, if Satan wants to keep people from God, and if the way to God is through Jesus Christ, what would Satan’s highest priority be? His main goal wouldn’t be to get people to lead immoral lives (though he would prefer that we do, since this corrupts God’s created order); instead, his primary aim would be to incite people to reject Christ, for this rejection is what keeps them separated from God.
But how would Satan convince people to reject Christ? We should note here that there are plenty of people in the world who simply don’t care about God. Satan doesn’t have to worry about them, because they aren’t interested in salvation anyway. Since his goal is to keep as many people from God as possible, we would expect Satan to be more focused on people who are to some extent concerned with religious matters. There are two ways to keep such people from God. Satan would either have to convince them that all “religious talk” is nonsense (i.e. by spreading secularism, which we see around the world) or he would have to offer them a substitute for the truth (i.e. a religion that rejects what is necessary for salvation).
Thus, if Christianity is true, we would expect Satan to inspire religions that reject Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection, even though these religions may be similar to Christianity in other (non-essential) respects. Now that we have a clear picture of what we would predict if Christianity were true, let us see how Islam matches up with our prediction.
The message of Islam is something like this: “Believe in God. Do good deeds. If you do enough of them, you’ll get to heaven. Respect Jesus, for he was a mighty prophet, who delivered God’s message to the children of Israel. Also believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, that he performed many miracles, and that he was the Messiah. But whatever you do, don’t believe that he died on the cross for your sins. And don’t believe that he rose from the dead. In fact, the worst possible sin you can commit is to believe that Jesus is the Son of God.” Notice that Islam rejects Christianity’s essential requirements for salvation while accepting certain other doctrines. For instance, Muslims are commanded to believe in God, but even Satan and his demons believe in God. Muslims are commanded to do good deeds, but all religions teach this. Muslims are allowed to believe certain things about Jesus (such as his prophet status and virgin birth), but these beliefs do not save a person. Yet when we come to beliefs that are essential for salvation—the deity of Christ, his death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead—we find that Islam is violently opposed to these crucial doctrines. Islam, then, looks exactlylike the religion we predicted that Satan would form, for it denies what is necessary for people to come to God.
There is, of course, an easier way for us to see that Christianity predicts the rise of Islam. We can look at some of the prophecies in the Bible. For example, Jesus said that “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” Paul added that some people would follow “deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” (The phrase “deceitful spirit” is reminiscent of the Qur’anic claim that Allah deceived people about the death of Jesus.) The Bible warns over and over again that false teachers and false prophets would come in order to distort the Gospel. Apparently, few people in Muhammad’s time heeded this warning.
Throughout history, many people have claimed to be prophets. Indeed, there are many self-proclaimed prophets even today, and there will be more tomorrow. Suppose a prophet arises at some point in the future, one who claims to have a new revelation from God. Both Muslims and Christians would reject him. But suppose this prophet says to Muslims, “Brothers, you have believed in the teachings of Muhammad, but I’m here to tell you that Islam was started by God to deceive people. The pagans in Arabia were doing awful things, such as killing their daughters and marrying hundreds of women. God decided to punish them by leading them astray and making all of you believe something that isn’t true. But I’m here to tell you the truth! I am God’s greatest prophet, sent to rescue you from evil!” Would Muslims believe him? Most certainly wouldn’t. But why would Muslims reject this new prophet? They would reject him because they would refuse to believe that God knowingly deceived millions of people. Yet this is exactly what Muslims believe when it comes to the death of Jesus. So if Muslims believe in a God who deceives people, even those who follow his prophets, how can Muslims be confident that they have been given the truth?
Muslims boast about their reverence for God and their respect for the prophets. Yet, upon closer examination, we see that Islam accuses God of one of the greatest religious deceptions ever. This should cause us to pause and think for a moment. Why would a religion that prides itself on its view of God proclaim that God starts false religions? Why would people who claim to respect Jesus suggest that he was a tremendous failure? It appears that Islam is so incredibly desperate to destroy Christianity, that it doesn’t mind destroying itself. In other words, Islam can only explain away Jesus’ death and resurrection by making God out to be a deceiver, which destroys the Islamic conception of God. This desperation only makes sense if Christianity is true, and if Islam was designed by Satan to keep people from being saved.
Muslims can object to this all they want. They can continue to proclaim their devotion to God and their respect for his prophets. But there’s something strange about the way they explain Christianity. There’s something very odd about a God who leads the world astray. If Islam is true, God and Jesus are failures. But if Christianity is true, God and Jesus were victorious at the cross, for the door to salvation was opened to all, in spite of those who tried to keep the door shut.
Jesus warned his followers that false prophets would come. He also commanded us not to believe them. One of the ways we can spot false prophets is by carefully discerning when their teachings lead to unacceptable beliefs about God. God is Truth, and he is Love. Islam, when carefully examined, would have us believe otherwise.
1 See Qur’an, 24:25. Unless otherwise noted, Qur’an quotations are taken from The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, tr. (Beltsville: Amana Publications, 1989).
2 Qur’an 19:23-26, 30-33, M. H. Shakir, tr. (Elmhurst: Tahrike Tarsile Qur’an Inc., 2002).
3 Qur’an 42:13.
4 Qur’an 43:59, 63-64.
5 Qur’an 3:52.
6 Qur’an 5:111.
7 Qur’an 57:26.
8 1 Corinthians 15:3-5. All Bible quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.
9 See 1 Clement 42:3.
10 See Polycarp, To the Philippians 1:2, 2:1-2, 9:2, 12:2.
11 See Josephus, Antiquities 18.64, and Tacitus, Annals 15.44.
12 Lucian of Samosata, The Death of Peregrine, 11-13.
13 Talmud, Sanhedrin 43a.
14 Qur’an 4:157-158. According to Muslim tradition, Allah made Judas Iscariot look like Jesus, so that Judas was crucified in Jesus’ place.
15 To associate partners with God is to commit the sin of shirk.
16 Qur’an 61:14, M. H. Shakir Translation.
17 For instance, John Dominic Crossan, of the notoriously anti-Christian “Jesus Seminar,” says “That [Jesus] was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be” (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography [San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1991] p. 145).
18 This spirit being is not to be confused with the popular image of a harmless red figure with a pointy tail and a pitchfork!
19 One may wonder why I have not included belief in God among the doctrines necessary for salvation. I’m certainly not denying the necessity of belief in God. However, I do draw a distinction between a necessary doctrine and a necessary and sufficient doctrine. Belief in God is necessary for salvation, but it is not sufficient to produce it. In contrast, the Christian doctrines of confession of the lordship of Christ and belief in his resurrection from the dead are necessary and sufficient. That is, these doctrines are sufficient to guarantee the salvation of the Christian. Yet it is these doctrines that Islam most vehemently opposes.
20 Matthew 24:11.
21 1 Timothy 4:1.
22 Even Islam has had its share of self-proclaimed new prophets. Most notably, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad announced his prophethood towards the end of the 19th Century. He also claimed to be the second coming of Jesus. Millions of people have followed him. However, the vast majority of Muslims consider these “Ahmadiyyas” to be a heretical sect. The Ahmadiyyas, though they profess to be Muslims, aren’t even allowed to take the pilgrimage to Mecca. The Ahmadiyya movement is significant in that Ahmadiyyas say that true Islam was corrupted, just as Muslims claim that Christianity was corrupted. Hence, Ahmadiyyas claim that God sent another prophet to restore the true message of God. Muslims reject this, because they don’t believe that Islam has been corrupted. They conclude that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad must have been a false prophet. But this is the same reason Christians reject Muhammad. We don’t believe that Christianity has been corrupted, so Muhammad must have been a false prophet.