Some Thoughts on the Disparaging Depictions of the Noble Prophets of God(P) in the Bible
Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi
The purpose of this short paper is to make comparisions between the Qur'ânic descriptions of the Prophets and the Biblical descriptions of their actions. This issue is bound to provoke the interesting question about which Scripture really honoures the Prophets(P), and which actually does not.
Are the Prophets Infallible?
No, of course not. But there is certainly a difference between a normal man like you and me and a Prophet of God. First, let us define "sin". I have found that there is usually a semantic problem when this issue comes up. That is, Christians use the word "sin" differently than when Muslims use the word "sin". So, first, we must define what exactly do we mean by "sin". For Muslims, "sin" is not following the Law. All Prophets of God (including Muhammad) always followed the Law, and so did not "sin". Christians often use "sin" to mean that the human is imperfect and makes any kind of mistake. It often simply means for them that the human is "not God". Hence, the idea of "original sin"; an existential state of being with which we are born. For Muslims, this human imperfection and "not-Godness" is not sin, but human weakness - and we are told that we are created weak. The Prophet Muhammad(P) did make mistakes and did not know everything, and was imperfect as a human. For instance, he did not know how to farm and fertilize date palms, and had to take advice and suggestions from other people; the digging of a ditch in preparation for battle is also another example. We do not call that "sin", we call that "being human". The Qur'ân does not use the equivalent of the word "sin", depending on what is understood by it in Christianity. It uses the phrase "missing the point" as when an arrow does not hit the target, or "straying from the path" or "error". The following notions apply:
Gunah - Everything has a proper place in the scheme of things. When something is out of its proper place, we have Gunah.
Zanb - Everything has a perfect or ideal order and is correctly equipped for its proper function. If there is some abnormal growth, a disease, we have Zanb. A desire which goes beyond actual need or a perversion is such a growth. There must be neither more nor less in size and quantity. Both excess and insufficiency are evils. A balance is required.
A Prophet of God Has Divine Guidance
Whereas a normal man only follows his own conscience or the morals of his society, a Prophet of God is guided by the perfect morals from Allâh alone. He is the perfect example for his respective Umma' to follow. His words and actions pictures the perfect man guided by Allâh as an example for mankind. The prophetic message of perfectness comes from God to his Prophet, the chosen Man to bring His message to his Umma'. If only the Message is Perfect, but the Person who brings this Message is not, who would want to follow the Person?
There is an old Malay proverb: Bagaikan ibu ketam mengajar anaknya berjalan lurus (Like the mother crab who tries to teach its children to walk straight). Of course we know a crab can never walk straight - it is its nature to walk crookedly, so how could a mother crab teach its children to walk straight?*This proverb can be applied to the Prophets(P). If the Message they bring was Divinely Perfect in every way, but they themselves are at a low level of morality, would you want to follow him? Of course not, for how could a "crooked man" ever teach his followers to "walk straight"?
This is why, in the Muslim mind, it is impossible for the Prophets(P) to intentionally commit acts of murder, incest and polytheism as it is depicted in the Bible. A Prophet is fallible, but no, he does not succumb to sins of this nature or is guided by personal desires. He only commits simple mistakes, such as giving bad advice or forgetting something (human nature). But whenever a Prophet commits a mistake, he is immediately corrected and guided by God Almighty.
Based on this criteria of the Qur'ân, can we say the same of the Prophets as pictured in the Bible? According to the Qur'ân, if what the Bible says about the Prophets committing nefarious acts of sin is true, then they are all false prophets.
Alleged Sins The Bible Accuses the Prophets(P) Of
Some of the (alleged) acts of sins of the Prophets, peace be upon them, in the Bible are as follows:
Prophet Noah (Nuh)(P)
Drunkard: Noah was a drunkard and lay naked in his intoxication (Genesis 9:20)
Prophet Lot (Lut)(P)
Incestuous: Lot had incest with his daughters who begat his children (Genesis 19:30)
Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim)(P)
Incestuous: Abraham married his sister (Genesis 20:12)
Prophet Jacob (Ya'akob)(P)
Deceiver: Jacob was a deceiver (Genesis 27)
Prophet Aaron (Harun)(P)
Polytheist: Aaron led people to worship the golden calf (Exodus 32:2-11)
Prophet David (Dawud)(P)
Adulterous: David had adultery with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1-7)
Tiger-Show Dancer: David danced naked before the Lord (II Samuel 6:14-16)
David uncovers himself in front of the handmaids of his servants (II Samuel 6:20)
Murderer: David(P)murders 200 Philistines, then cuts off their foreskins. (1 Samuel 18:27)*
David(P) smites the Amalekites. (1 Samuel 30:17)
Rechan and Baanah kill Ish-bosheth, behead him, and take his head to David(P). (2 Samuel 4:7-8)
David(P) has Rechan and Baanah killed, their hands and feet cut off, and their bodies hanged by the pool at Hebron. (2 Samuel 4:12)
"And David(P) did as the Lord commanded him, and smote the Philistines ...." (2 Samuel 5:25)
A listing of some of David's(P) murderous conquests:
(2 Samuel 8:1-18) David hamstrung all but a few of the horses.
(2 Samuel 8:4) 2 Samuel 8:5 David slew 22,000 Syrians.
(2 Samuel 8:13) David slew 18,000 Edomites in the valley of salt and made the rest slaves.
(2 Samuel 10:18) David slew 47,000+ Syrians.
(2 Samuel 11:14-27) David has Uriah killed so that he can marry Uriah's wife, Bathsheba.
Sinner and Was Punished: 2 Samuel 12:1, 19 The Lord strikes David's child dead for the sin that David has committed.
Prophet Solomon (Sulayman)(P)
Polytheist: Solomon(P) worshipped idols (1 Kings 11:4)
Conspiracy of Murder: 1 Kings 2:24-25 Solomon has Adonijah murdered. 1 Kings 2:29-34 Solomon has Joab murdered. 1 Kings 2:46 Solomon has Shime-i murdered.
Prophet Zechariah (Zakaria)(P)
Punished by becoming "speechless": Zechariah(P) did not believe his wife could be pregnant with God's will and thus, for his disbelief was "cursed" by Gabriel to become speechless (Luke 1:22)
Prophet Jesus (Eesa)(P)
Christians like to think of Jesus as a sinless God-man, but even Jesus(P) does not claim as such, and as according to the Bible, he did commit sin.
Jesus(P) was seen as a wine bibber (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34)
Jesus(P) disrespectful to his mother (John 2:4; 19:26). Compare it with the same manner he(P) addressed a prostitute, in John 8:10
Of course, it is needless to mention that God Almighty in the Noble Qur'ân rejects such nefarious deeds attributed to the Prophets(P). It is obvious how the man-made tamperations have caused these noble men to be seen as sinners and liars and yet at the same time an elect of God. As the Qur'ân tells us:
Say ye: "We believe in Allâh and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Isma`il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord we make no difference between one and another of them and we bow to Allâh (in Islam)." (Qur'ân, 2:136)
Christians are therefore, in essence, against this very principle of Islam; they ignore the other Prophets of God(P), but deify Jesus(P), seemingly a Prophet of God who is also God Almighty, at the same time he(P) is a man.
Muslims believe that the Prophet Muhammad(P) was the Last Prophet and Messenger of God. By way of clarification it should be stated immediately that in Islam the role of a Prophet or a Messenger is far more important than in Christianity. Both the Old and the New Testament speak of prophets who have a very minor role in the community (2 Kings 2:15, 1 Cor 12:10, Acts 13:1, etc.). In Islam however, a Prophet or a Messenger expresses the Will of God for a Nation or for all Humankind. The message delivered by him is binding on those to whom it is sent and a rejection of him is a rejection of God. The work of a Messenger, furthermore, changes earlier religious laws and create a new religious community. The belief that the Prophet Muhammad(P) is the Last Prophet and Messenger of God therefore means that after him there will not arise any person who will be authorized by God to express his will for others and/or institute a new religious direction by a new expression of the religious truth and forming a religious community around that expression. Any person claiming to have such authority is suffering from self-deception and/or is lying, no matter how smart he may be or how many miraculous deeds he may perform.
Previous revelations have been corrupted and deprived of their spiritual value by their followers' vain controversies and disputes. It was possible to settle such disputes under the flag, as it were, or the old Revelations, but God's Plan was to revive and rejuvenate His Message through Islam, amongst a newer and younger people, unhampered by the burden of age-old prejudices. Islam is the universal religion par excellence. But there is always in human affairs the conflict between the old and the new, the worn-out system of our ancestors, and the fresh living spring of Allâh's inspiration fitting in with new times and new surroundings. The advocates of the former look upon this latter not only with intellectual doubt but with moral suspicion, as the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) do upon Islam, with its fresh outlook and vigorous realistic way of looking at things.
And certainly, only God knows best!