A response to 5.1

A Biblical picture of God

Mr. Al-Kadhi tries hard to smear God's image in the Bible by contrasting some carefully selected verses from the Bible with just as carefully selected ones from the Qur'an. With such a method, everything can be made to look bad. Even more so, when he adds own interpretations that are not true to the actual meaning of the Bible passages.

On the other hand, he overlooks passages in both the Bible and the Qur'an which would endanger the effect of his crusade.

Al-Kadhi writes:

Up to here we can more or less agree. This is part of a "philosophical" definition of God. However, when Al-Kadhi continues with

he goes astray because he tries hard to not understand. Let us look at a few of his examples.

This only shows how silly Adam was to think that he could hide. God called out to him because he loves him. And to this day God calls out to us to come back to him. God knew where Adam was, but the best method of a teacher or a loving parent often is to ask questions. God wanted Adam to realize what he was actually doing and the reason for doing it. It was not primarily a question of location, it was a question leading Adam to self-realization in regard to where he was in his relationship with God. Admitting his physical location and coming out of hiding was the first step to becoming honest before God. I am a teacher of mathematics. A large part of my teaching comprises asking the students questions that are supposed to lead them to the discovery of the right answer and to learn more about truth. I certainly do not ask them questions about mathematics because I don't know.

Should Al-Kadhi insist that a god who asks a question is not all-knowing, what would he have to conclude after reading in Sura 20:17 how Allah asks:

Did Allah not know? Is Allah even blind or did he keep his eyes tightly shut when talking to Moses?

Similar questions of Allah are found in many hadith, e.g. Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 8, No. 487 & 488 where Allah has to ask a man what his motivation was for what he did.

In Surah 5:116 we find another example:

The Qur'an makes clear two things in the same one verse. God knows all that is hidden AND he nevertheless asks about certain things that he already knows. What is it that drives Al-Kadhi to such senseless attacks on the Bible? Is it truly the desire for objective examination of the Qur'an and the Bible?

Certainly such polemical arguments are of no use to the honest seeker of truth. However, Al-Kadhi continues:

This has the same answer as above, God waits that Adam will admit his sin and ask for forgiveness. He confronts Adam in a loving way. Instead of accusing him with the cold facts and condemning him on the spot, he invites Adam to realize what he has done and to be honest about it.

Al-Kadhi's polemical little story about child rearing needs not comment. Adam was not a child.

Before we look at the Biblical passage, let me quote from Sura 47:7 where we find the following astonishing words:

Does this not clearly show, that Allah has at least some area of weakness and is in need of help of the believers? This clearly is not the intended meaning, but if we would read the Qur'an as Al-Kadhi reads the Bible, that is what we would have to conclude.

As so often, Al-Kadhi has failed to inquire about the meaning of the words in Hebrew and instead speculates based on the English and even that with the intent to give it the worst possible interpretation. It does not say God was tired. This is Al-Kadhi's imagination. Again, what should then think about this statement about God in the Qur'an, presented to us in Surah 32:4,

The last phrase of the above is

Thumma Estawa Ala- Al-`arsh
Then He sat (to rest) upon the throne

Does this indicate that God was so tired after his creation work that he had to sit down and recuperate? Or maybe this means that creating heaven and earth was so difficult for him that he had to do it "standing up" and only after he was done he could sit down (again)?

Clearly this is not the meaning of it, but Al-Kadhi has forgotten to think more deeply about the Qur'an before he mounted his throne of contempt from which he thought to talk down on the Word of God.

Muslims can easily find explanations for this verse showing that the above suggested interpretations would only reveal ignorance and evil intent. Why then should they be surprised that there are meaningful explanations for the Biblical formulation as well?

God's Holy Word is very clear about this.

Isaiah 40:25-28

As you see, here God speaks about his work of creation and clearly repudiates the notion that this has caused him to grow tired.

Another passage is in Psalm 121

Muhammad only listened well to the Jews. They taught long before that God is not tired and that God does not sleep. This was well known long before. The Qur'an is bringing nothing new in this respect.

What then does it mean when it says God "rested" and "refreshed Himself"?

God took pleasure in creating, and took pleasure in resting and enjoying his creation. He did not rest because he was tired. He rested because it is in God's nature - as it is in ours - both to work and and to rest. And although he was not physically tired, I believe God was refreshed as he simply looked at his creation and enjoyed it. Just as we are refreshed as we stand still and simply look at a beautiful piece of God's creation, whether or not we are physically tired.

We only have to go back to the creation account itself. God Almighty rested (ceased) from His creative work since it was complete. God who made trillions of stars, the sun and the moon, the earth and all that is in it, this God is Spirit and is never tired! The Scriptures tell us that God rested because He had "finished the work." (Gen. 1:31-2:3)

God refreshed Himself (rejoiced) in the magnificence of His creation. If you finish an important project, you like to sit back and admire it, rejoice in what has been accomplished. You have the energy to continue on, but you rest from your labors because your project is done. There is nothing to add to it.

However, this passage is worth looking at in more detail since there is indeed a different understanding of God in the Bible compared to the Qur'an. What is the "higher, more dignified" view of God might not be possible to decide by a casual look and certainly not on the basis of Mr. Al-Kadhi's personal taste. Please find the time to read a careful exposition on Exodus 31:17 in the Bible Commentary section.

The above quotation from Psalm 121 already makes obvious that Al-Kadhi continues with his misunderstandings when stating:

Reading all of Psalm 44 will make it abundantly clear that this is a prayer of anguish, a believer calling out to God that he may finally answer. It is to him (the one praying) as if God is asleep. The author of the Psalm would be horrified to find out that Al-Kadhi takes this to mean that God actually sleeps. No, he expresses the feelings of his heart in all honesty. The Psalms are poetry. They are not teaching doctrine. But they teach us how we can pray to God and how we are invited to speak out all that is on our heart just the way we feel it. He seeks the true heart of the one who approaches him in worship or supplication, not a fixed collection of words, not a rote prayer of doctrinally correct formulas. Praise be to God who has given us these prayers so that we may learn to pray by observing them.

First we note that the psalmist is careful not to state that the Lord awoke from sleep. He never slept. But for the one waiting for God to act, it is as if he had been asleep. Awaked as one out of sleep is poetic hyperbole used to highlight the contrast between God's action in behalf of his people in the days of David and the preceding time of Israel's troubles.

For the second line, there are better translations and the KJV opts for a derivation that is both grammatically less likely and offensive even in the setting of poetic hyperbole as we agree with Al-Kadhi. But there is no reason to take this to be the true meaning.

  Then the Lord awoke as if from sleep, 
  Like a warrior overcome by wine.       (NASB translated text)
            (Or: sobered up from wine)   (NASB footnote, alternative translation)

  Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, 
  as a man wakes from the stupor of wine. (NIV)

According to BDB [1,2] (p. 929) and the Theological Wordbook of the OT [1,2] (p. 839) the word *mithronen* is the Hithpolel participle of the root *run*, meaning "be overcome," not of the root *rnn* meaning "shout." From a grammatical perspective, the root *run* seems more likely. [This is also supported by an Arabic word: *rana* - the first "a" is lengthened by quiescent *alif* (see BDB p. 929); it means "overcome" as of wine.] However, *rnn* is also possible. Therefore, the NASB is supported by good evidence. The NIV follows the same analysis of the word, but employs paraphrase to make the sense more clear in English.

Assuming the analysis and translation by NIV and NASB are correct, let us read this line in context to understand it better.

Psalm 78:

53  He guided them safely, so they were unafraid; 
    but the sea engulfed their enemies. 
54  Thus he brought them [the Israelites] to the border of his holy land, 
    to the hill country his right hand had taken. 
55  He drove out nations before them 
    and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance; 
    he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes. 

56  But they put God to the test and rebelled against the Most High; 
    they did not keep his statutes.
57  Like their fathers they were disloyal and faithless, 
    as unreliable as a faulty bow.
58  They angered him with their high places; 
    they aroused his jealousy with their idols. 

59  When God heard them, he was very angry; 
    he rejected Israel completely. 
60  He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, 
    the tent he had set up among men. 
61  He sent [the ark of] his might into captivity, 
    his splendor into the hands of the enemy.
62  He gave his people over to the sword; 
    he was very angry with his inheritance.
63  Fire consumed their young men, 
    and their maidens had no wedding songs; 
64  their priests were put to the sword, 
    and their widows could not weep.

65  Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, 
    as a man wakes from the stupor of wine. 
66  He beat back his enemies; 
    he put them to everlasting shame. 

The Psalm is a passionate recounting of God's dealing with Israel. It is a lesson in the history of God with his people. Verses 53-55 recount God leading Israel from Egypt through the desert to the Holy Land and how he gives them this land and drives out their enemies before them. It is about God's great care and favor on Israel. Vv. 56-58 recount the ungratefulness, disobedience and idolatery of Israel in the years following the conquest. Vv. 59-64 recount God's devastating punishment on them because of their sin. God's wrath was poured out on a the nation and the memory is one of horror. God used other nations to punish Israel, just as he used Israel to punish the abominable sins of idolatery and immorality and thus destroyed the people that lived in the land before.

But, at last, the Lord turns to Israel again with mercy. He ends the punishment, he is no longer against them, but there are still those enemies attacking them. So, God now turns to help Israel, and defeats her enemies (v. 66).

To the psalmist the time before God's renewed grace felt as if God was raging against them like a powerful drunken warrior, like one who didn't know what he was doing. How can he turn so devastatingly on his own people? The psalmist does not say that God was drunk and didn't know what he was doing. He has already carefully explained that the devastation (vv. 59-64) was on account of Israel's sin (vv. 56-58). Nevertheless, its effect on Israel was like the devastation that a drunken strong man might create in his uncoordinated anger. It certainly felt to Israel that God was hitting the wrong target. When we suffer this is always wrong according to our feelings. When God finally turns to Israel again to help them, it is to them like God woke up from sleep (he hears and answers their prayer again) and the "stupor of wine" and its devastating results are over. It is strong imagery expressing how this time felt to Israel, not a teaching about the state of God as he actually was. This is clear when this verse is read together with the part that precedes it in vv. 56-64.

Understood this way and read in its context of the preceding verses, I can accept it as poetic language. I hope this explanation makes sense also to our Muslim readers.

This section is not complete yet. More at another time...

Maybe our Muslim readers will find themselves more gracious and lenient in their approach of interpreting Bible verses like those above when they ponder about Qur'an verses which can easily be read with similarly uncomfortable conclusions if one should seek and insist on doing so in the manner of Al-Kadhi.

More passages with the potential for bad misinterpretation could be found, but this should be enough.

See also the articles under Who is God?

The Rebuttal to "What Did Jesus Really Say?"
Answering Islam Home Page