Responses to Bismikaallahuma

Paul of Tarsus: The False Apostle According to Islam


In the article, Paul of Tarsus: The False Apostle According to Islam, MENJ (Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi) presents us with the following polemic:

The purpose of this brief article is to show that Paul, the self-acclaimed "apostle" whom the Christians follow, have no place in Islam at all. Muslims believe that between the time period of the Prophet Jesus(P) and the Prophet Muhammad(P), no Messenger of God had came between them, whether to the Gentiles or the Jews. This is based on an agreed hadith recorded by Imam Muslim and Imam Bukhari as follows:

Volume 4, Book 55, Number 651:

Narrated Abu Huraira: I heard Allah's Apostle saying, "I am the nearest of all the people to the son of Mary, and all the prophets are paternal brothers, and there has been no prophet between me and him (i.e. Jesus)."

We know of only one man who claimed to be a messenger of God in this intervening period. That man was called Paul, formerly known as Saul, of Tarsus.

According to the Christians Paul was an "apostle of Jesus". Jesus(P) allegedly appeared to him in a "vision" as God and choose him as his "apostle". Hence, Paul is also a Messenger of God because Jesus(P) is believed to be God. It is said that Paul was sent "to the the Gentiles" to preach to them the Gospel, i.e. he "has been entrusted with the task of preaching" with a message (Galatians 2:7-10).

Since Paul claimed that he was sent by Jesus(P) to the nations with a particular message, it therefore follows that he is a "messenger", and hence he uses the title "apostle" for himself. Quotes from the New Testament where the title "apostle" is applied to him are as follows:

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God... (Romans 1:1)

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God... (1 Cor. 1:1)

Paul, an apostle - sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God, the Father... (Galatians 1:1)

Thus, we see that based on the earlier hadith cited from Imam Bukhari & Muslim, Islam clearly denies the so-called "apostleship" of Paul and dispute his claim that he was ever an "apostle of God", as he lived between the time periods of Jesus(P) and Muhammad(P).

RESPONSE:

It seems that Menj can only repeat arguments which have been refuted time and time again. Here, Menj sounds a lot like Nisar Muhammad who made the same claim in one of his articles, which I have already addressed.

Amazingly, Menj has read this article since later on he will allude to it. This means that even though these claims have been addressed, Menj can do no better than simply repeat poor and unsound arguments.

We repeat the relevant excerpts from my response to Nisar, yet with slight modifications. First, Menj has erroneously assumed that Muhammad is a prophet/messenger, and therefore whatever his false prophet says must be true. Instead of simply assuming his position, Menj needs to prove that Muhammad is a prophet. Thus far, the Muslim evidence has been embarrassingly weak.

Knowing how little evidence there is for his own prophet, it is amazing to see Menj start his attack on Paul with the following derogatory words:

Paul, the self-acclaimed "apostle" whom the Christians follow.

Clearly Muhammad was nothing but a self-acclaimed "apostle". Paul, however, was confirmed in his apostleship and message by the the Council of the Apostles (cf. Acts 9:1-31; 15:1-35; Galatians 1:11-24, 2:1-10; 2 Peter 3:15-16) i.e. by other recognized apostles. This Muhammad cannot boast of. No recognized spiritual authority of this calibre has been seen or heard to confirm Muhammad's self-acclaimed prophethood.

If being only "self-acclaimed" disqualifies anyone from being a true messenger of God, then Muhammad is immediately disqualified by Menj's own criterion. Paul, however, has the acclamation and support of multiple other recognized authorities.

The next element in Menj's attack is:

Jesus allegedly appeared to him in a "vision" ... and choose him as his "apostle".

Again, we have to ask whether Menj is consistent in his evaluation. If he wants to judge Paul based on his vision of Jesus, should we then not ask in comparison about the alleged appearance of Gabriel to Muhammad? It can hardly be claimed that this is better confirmed than the appearance of Jesus to Paul! Where do we have any comparable supernatural event at the beginning of Muhammad's life which was similarly witnessed by others? Those who accompanied Paul on his journey to Damascus where Jesus appeared to him, also heard the loud voice (Acts 9:3-7). Later, God sent another believer to him with a message from God that not only declared him to be a messenger of God to the nations but whom in confirmation of this message was given the power to heal him of his physical blindness (Acts 9:15-19). Both the event of his vision and his commissioning as apostle are confirmed by others witnesses. There is nothing "alleged" about Paul's authority. In comparison, all claims to prophethood by Muhammad depend solely on his own word.

Narrated Abu Salama:
'Aisha said that the Prophet said to her "O 'Aisha' This is Gabriel and he sends his (greetings) salutations to you." 'Aisha said, "Salutations (Greetings) to him, and Allah's Mercy and Blessings be on him," and addressing the Prophet she said, "You see what I don't see." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 440)

The sole ‘witness’ to Muhammad's prophethood is Muhammad.

Second, it may be true that this quote from Bukhari states that there were no prophets between Jesus and Muhammad, yet it is equally true that not all Muslims believed this to be so. As I have and will again show, Muslim scholars of the past wholeheartedly upheld the view that Jesus' apostles functioned as messengers / prophets and that Paul himself was a true follower who faithfully passed on the teachings of Christ.

Third, Menj is wrong in claiming that Paul was the only one who claimed to be a messenger, since the NT is replete with examples of messengers and prophets that came after the Lord Jesus Christ:

"Therefore I (Jesus) am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town." Matthew 23:34

"During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul." Acts 11:27-30

"In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." Acts 13:1-3

"But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting:" Acts 14:4

"Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the brothers." Acts 15:32

"Leaving the next day, we reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to us, he took Paul's belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, "In this way the Jews of Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles."’ When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’" Acts 21:8-13

"Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was." Romans 16:7

"And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?" 1 Corinthians 12:28-29

"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born." 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." Ephesians 2:19-20

"which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets." Ephesians 3:5

"But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it ... It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers." Ephesians 4:7, 11

These verses should put to rest Menj's false assertions that Paul was the only one that claimed to be a messenger, since there were many apostles and messengers. If anything, these citations only further prove that Muhammad was a false prophet since he falsely assumed that there were no other prophets and messengers between him and the Lord Jesus.

Finally, taking Bukhari's statement at face value there may be a reason why Muhammad felt that there were no prophets between Jesus and himself. Ibn Ishaq records that Muhammad believed that Jesus was still alive during his time!:

‘Asim b. ‘Umar b. Qatada on the authority of a trustworthy informant from ‘Umar b. ‘Abdu’l-‘Aziz b. Marwan said that he was told that Salman the Persian told the apostle that his master in ‘Ammuriya told him to go to a certain place in Syria where there was a man who lived between two thickets. Every year as he used to go from one to the other, the sick used to stand in his way and everyone he prayed for was healed. He said, ‘Ask him about this religion which you seek, for he can tell you of it.’ So I went on until I came to the place I had been told of, and I found that people had gathered there with their sick until he came out to them that night passing from one thicket to the other. The people came to him with their sick and everyone he prayed for was healed. They prevented me from getting to him so that I could not approach him until he entered the thicket he was making for, but I took hold of his shoulder. He asked me who I was as he turned to me and I said, ‘God have mercy on you, tell me about the Hanifiya, the religion of Abraham.’ He replied, ‘You are asking about something men do not inquire of today; the time has come near when a prophet will be sent with this religion from the people of the haram. Go to him, for he will bring you to it.’ Then he went into the thicket. The apostle said to Salman, ‘If you have told me the truth, YOU MET JESUS THE SON OF MARY.’ (Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, p. 98; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Since Muhammad believed that Jesus was alive during his time, it is little wonder that the former believed that there were no prophets and messengers between them since all the apostles and prophets were long dead leaving only Christ!

MENJ:

However, the missionary Sam Shamoun took exception to this and proceeded to state otherwise in his article <http://www.answer-islam.org/Stpaulandislam.html>.

One of the claims that the missionary Shamoun made is that Paul was apparently "recognised" as a true follower of Jesus(P), simply because he was mentioned in Muslim records of the Sirah. According to the missionary:

Contemporary Muslims [...] may deny the apostleship of Paul, but the first Muslims did not as the following citations conclusively prove

He then proceeds to quote citations from sources which are merely the record of historians, and they were not even from Muslim theologians regarding the position of Paul in Islam. Even then, some of his quotes are at best spurious and deceptive. Consider the citation which the missionary has provided to us from the translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah:

Those whom Jesus son of Mary sent, both disciples and those who came after them, in the land were: Peter the disciple and Paul with him, (Paul belonged to the followers and was not a disciple) to Rome. Andrew and Matthew to the land of the cannibals; Thomas to the land of Babel, which is in the land of the east; Philip to Carthage and Africa; John to Ephesus the city of the young men of the cave; James to Jerusalem which is Aelia the city of the sanctuary; Bartholomew to Arabia which is the land of Hijaz; Simon to the land of Berbers; Judah who was not one of the disciples was put in place of Judas.[1]

Compare the above description of the disciples of Jesus(P) with the accounts in Acts and you would find the relevant parallels. Apart from the fact that Ibn Ishaq clearly wrote that Paul was not a disciple of Jesus(P), the footnote to this passage also says

The form of the names shows that the source was Greek. It probably came to I. I. through Syriac.[2]

So what does this tell us? It shows that Ibn Ishaq had merely recorded this as a statement of history based on a secondary source from the account in Acts which was either the Greek or the Syriac, and not from an Islamic viewpoint. This we can see as stated in the Introduction of the same work, that

Occasionally, he [Ibn Ishaq] inserted verses in his narrative, and sometimes gives his own opinion.[3]

Thus we see the deception that this missionary has no doubt instilled in his twisting of Ibn Ishaq's work. The rest of his citations from Muslim historians, we repeat, also affirm that Paul was merely a follower of Peter, and not a disciple of Jesus(P). This is no doubt consistent with the recording of the activities of Peter and Paul, as seen in the accounts given in the book of Acts, chapters 9-13.

RESPONSE:

It never ceases to amaze me how Muslims will even malign their own sources in order to avoid the inevitable. Ibn Ishaq is the oldest biography on the life of Muhammad, even predating the hadith collection of Sahih Al-Bukhari.

Menj tries to "poison the well" and even dares to misquote Guillaume in order to convince his readers that Ibn Ishaq's statement has no positive bearing on the Muslim view of Paul. For instance, he quotes Guillaume as claiming that Ibn Ishaq at times inserted his comments and gave his own opinion. This gives the misleading impression that Guillaume was applying this comment to Ibn Ishaq's work as a whole. Yet here is the context from which Menj wrenched this citation:

A little later comes ‘Asim b. ‘Umar b. Qatada al-Ansari (d. c. 120). He lectured in Damascus on the campaigns of the prophet and the exploits of his companions and seems to have committed his lectures to writing. He too is quite inconsistent in naming his authorities: sometimes he gives an isnad, more often he does not. He returned to Medina to continue his work, and I.I. attended his lectures there. Occasionally he inserted verses in his narrative, and sometimes gave his own opinion. (Ibid., p. xv; bold emphasis ours)

It is evident that Guillaume was referring to Ibn Ishaq inserting his comments and opinions into the lectures of Asim b. ‘Umar, and not to Ibn Ishaq's work as a whole. The sad thing about all this is that Menj doesn't inform his readers that he has omitted the surrounding context. Authors will usually insert three periods or dots (…) as an indication to their readers that they are quoting a specific section or portion of a paragraph. Menj fails to insert any such dots and therefore gives a false and misleading impression that he has quoted the entire section, or that the surrounding context doesn't change the meaning of his citation. Hence, if anything it is this "Terrorist" who is guilty of deception.

Furthermore, Guillaume provides hints as to when Ibn Ishaq is quoting spurious material:

The opinions of Muslim critics on I.I.'s trustworthiness deserve a special paragraph; but here something may be said of the author's caution and fairness. A word that very frequently precedes a statement is za’ama or za’amu, ‘he (they) alleged’. It carries with it more than a hint that the statement may not be true, though on the other hand it may be sound. Thus there are fourteen or more occurrences of the caveat from p. 87 to 148 alone, besides a frequent note that only God knows whether a particular statement is true or not. Another indication of reserve if not skepticism underlies the expression fi ma dhukira li, as in the story of the jinn who listened to Muhammad as he prayed; Muhammad's order to ‘Umar to kill Suwayd; one of Gabriel's visits to Muhammad; the reward of two martyrs to the man killed by a woman. An expression of similar import is fi ma balaghani.

VERY SELDOM DOES I.I. MAKE ANY COMMENT OF HIS OWN ON THE TRADITIONS HE RECORDS APART FROM THE MENTAL RESERVATION IMPLIED IN THESE TERMS. Therefore when he does express an opinion it is the more significant ... (Guillaume, pp. xix; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Speaking about Ibn Ishaq's account of Muhammad's journey into heaven and his meeting with the prophets, Guillaume writes:

The description of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus which purports to quote Muhammad's words is prefaced by za’ama’l- Zuhri, not, as often, by the ordinary term haddathani. Now as al-Zuhri and I.I. knew each other well and must have met quite often, we must undoubtedly infer from the fact that I.I. deliberately substituted the verb of suspicion for the ordinary term used in traditional matters that he means us to take this tradition with a grain of salt. (Ibid., xx)

If Ibn Ishaq had any doubts regarding the story of Jesus' disciples we would have expected him to preface his comments with one of the preceding expressions listed by Guillaume. The fact that he did not only proves that he regarded the story as authentic. Furthermore, regarding the story of Jesus' disciples it would have been all the more appropriate for Ibn Ishaq to warn his readers about any doubts he had since al-Zuhri is mentioned as one of the men who authenticated the story:

Yazid b. Abu Habib al-Misri told me that he found a document in which was a memorandum (T. names) of those the apostle sent to the countries and kings of the Arabs and non-Arabs and what he said to his companions when he sent them. I sent it to Muhammad b. Shihab al-Zuhri (with a trusty companion of his) and he recognized it. It contained the statement that the apostle went out to his companions and said: ‘God has sent me to all men, so take a message from me, God have mercy on you. Do not hang back from me as the disciples hung back from Jesus son of Mary.’ They asked how they hung back and he said, 'He called them to a task similar to that which I have called you. Those who had to go a short journey were pleased and accepted. Those who had a long journey before them were displeased and refused to go, and Jesus complained of them to God. (T. From that very night) every one of them was able to speak the language of the people to whom he was sent.' (T. Jesus said, 'This is a thing that God has determined that you should do, so go.') (Guillaume, p. 653)

Now compare this to the following story:

Al-Zuhri ALLEGED as from Sa‘id b. al-Musayyab that the apostle described to his companions Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, as he saw them that night, saying ... (Ibid., p. 183; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Guillaume has a note saying:

The verb implies grave doubt as to the speaker's veracity. (Ibid., f. 4)

This serves to prove that Ibn Ishaq had no doubts regarding the authenticity of the report, refuting Menj's claim.

Menj also tries to pull a fast one on his readers by claiming that Guillaume's statement that the names of the Apostles are in their Greek form proves that Ibn Ishaq was dependent on secondary source material derived from Acts. Let us repeat what Guillaume said, this time with added emphasis:

The form of the names shows that the source was Greek. It probably came to I. I. THROUGH SYRIAC.

Note that Guillaume states that Ibn Ishaq may have received the disciples' names through Syriac, not Greek. The reason why Guillaume could argue for a Syriac original is because Syriac retained and borrowed many Greek words, specifically words related to Christianity. Yet, if this proves that Ibn Ishaq's story regarding the disciples is inauthentic then this would also prove that the Quran is inauthentic since many of the names of the prophets and individuals within the Quran are found in their Greek and Syriac forms. Note Guillaume's comments regarding the name of Ishmael in the Quran:

"... there is no historical evidence for the assertion that Abraham or Ishmael was ever in Mecca, and if there had been such a tradition it would have to be explained how all memory of the Old Semitic name Ishmael (which was not in its true Arabian form in Arabian inscriptions and written correctly with an initial consonant Y) came to be lost. The form in the Quran is taken either from from Greek or Syriac sources." (Alfred Guillaume, Islam [Penguin Books Inc., Baltimore, 1956], pp. 61-62; bold emphasis ours)

Other words include Injil:

In English, it went from "Godspel" to "Gospel". Arabic injil is said to have come from Greek to Syriac to Arabic (Arthur Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Quran, pp. 71-72, quoted by Abdul Haqq, p. 60).

Muslims take the Injil to mean the scripture believed to be sent down to Jesus. This word occurs 12 (or 16?) times in the Qur'an, and occurs only in the later surahs (Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, p. 211). According to Baidawi and Zamakshari, Injil is not Arabic, but Syriac, (Arthur Jeffery, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Quran, pp. 71-72, quoted by Abdul Haqq, pp. 60), used by Syriac Christians themselves. Many modern Muslims believed that the Injil has been lost or corrupted (see TAHRIF). The Shiite Encyclopaedia states that the Injil is the New Testament. (Source)

The Quran calls Abraham's father Azar, whereas both the Holy Bible and Muslim genealogical records call him Terah. Abraham Geiger presents the possible source for the name Azar:

How Muhammad came to call Abraham's father, (whose name is given in the Bible as Terah7) Azar is at first sight not clear, but is completely explained when we consider the source of his information, namely Eusebius. In his Church History, Eusebius calls him Athar which is an easy transition from Thara, and then the Greek Athar was easily converted into the Arabic Azar. The reason which is given by some Arabic commentators is ridiculous. They maintain that Azar is like Yaszar and that this means: "O, perverted one, O, erring one;" and Abraham is supposed to have thus addressed his idolatrous father. (Source)

And:

We notice, however, that in the Qur'an the name of Abraham's father is stated to have been Azar and not Terah, as in Genesis. But Eastern Jews sometimes call him Zarah, from which the Arabic form may have been corrupted. Or, again, Muhammad may have learnt the name in Syria, whence Eusebius probably derived the form of the name, , which he uses. Modern Persian Muhammadans often write the name , pronouncing it, however, just as it is pronounced in Arabic, though the original Persian pronunciation was Adhar, nearly the same as the form used by Eusebius. This word in Persian meant "fire," and was the title of the angel who was supposed to preside over that element, one of the good creatures of Ormazd. There may in fact have been some attempt made to win reverence for Abraham among the Magians by identifying his father with this good Genius (Izad) of Fire. However this may be, we are able to trace the origin of the legend of Abraham's being cast into the fire to a simple blunder made by certain Jewish commentators, as will be pointed out in due course. (Source)

Interestingly, the word Quran itself is not Arabic as many Muslims admit:

This can also be seen through the title "Qur'an". This word is not Arabic but Aramaic. Dr. Sobhy as-Salih stated "Allah chose to His revelation new names different from those used by the Arabs, in general and in detail."[3] Dr. Sobhy as-Salih also said, "When the Arabs before Islam used the word (qara') it meant 'to be pregnant or to have a child'. But the word qara' as 'to recite' is of an Aramaic origin."[4]

According to Dr. Sobhy as-Salih even the word, "Kitab", which is also given to the Qur'an is not Arabic but Aramaic.[5] Not only that, but the Qur'an is also called al-Furqan. According to Dr. Salih even this one is an Aramaic word.[6] The Qur'an, as a book, is also called 'Mus-haf. This is not Arabic either. Dr. Salih informs us that "when the Qur'an was collected and written on paper they wanted to give it a name. The word, Sifr, was suggested by some. It was rejected on the grounds that this is what the Jews call their books. Some suggested the word Mus-haf because this is what the Ethiopian [Christians] call their holy books."[7]. Since the Qur'an claims to contain nothing but what was in the revealed book beforehand, it seems quite natural then that the most well known titles of the Qur'an are not Arabic but really belong to the Book before it. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

The final example includes the name of John the Baptist in the Quran, namely Yahya which isn't even the Arabic form of John's name. It does not correspond to the Hebrew, Aramaic/Syriac or Greek form of John's name! Outside the Quran it is first found in the sacred writings of the heretical sect called the Mandeans which developed in the fifth century:

The fact is that the Arabic equivalent of John of the New Testament IS YUHANNA NOT YAHYA. And similarly, the Arabic equivalent of John of the Hebrew Bible IS YUHANNAN NOT YAHYA. Anyone who possesses A BASIC KNOWLEDGE OF SEMITIC LANGUAGES will straight away point out that the names Yahy‚ and John (YŻhanan or YŻhann‚) ARE TWO ENTIRELY DIFFERENT NAMES. ONE DO [sic] NOT NEED TO BE AN EXPERT IN SEMITIC LANGUAGES TO VERIFY THIS CLAIM; a simple Arabic translation of the Bible will suffice. (Source; capital emphasis ours)

Hence, Menj has absolutely no basis for rejecting Ibn Ishaq's story due to its alleged Greek or Syriac source, since this would mean that he would need to reject the Quran as well. Thus far, Menj has failed to prove his case.

Menj then tries to make the false distinction between a historian and a theologian. It never seemed to dawn on Menj that one can be BOTH a historian and a theologian at the same time. Since Ibn Ishaq is a Muslim whose material has much to do with theological issues, Menj's false dichotomy doesn't save him here. But since Menj is asking for the opinions of theologians, here then are Ibn Kathir's comments which were allegedly based on the opinions of the first Muslims:

<so We reinforced them with a third> means, ‘We supported and strengthened them with a third Messenger.’ Ibn Jurayj narrated from Wahb bin Sulayman, from Shu’ayb Al-Jaba’i, "The names of the first two Messengers were Sham’un and Yuhanna, and the name of the third was Bulus, and the city was Antioch ...

<Verily, we have been sent to you as Messengers.>
meaning, ‘from your Lord Who created you and Who commands you to worship Him Alone with no partners or associates.’ This was the view of Abu Al-‘Aliyah. Qatadah bin Di‘amah claimed THAT THEY WERE MESSENGERS OF THE MESSIAH, peace be upon him, sent to the people of Antioch. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged), Volume 8, Surat Al-Ahzab, Verse 51 to the end of Surat Ad-Dukhan, abridged under a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; First Edition, September 2000], p. 179; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Sham’un refers to Simon Peter, Yuhanna to the apostle John, and Bulus is Arabic for Paul. This source not only affirms that Jesus' Apostles were messengers of God, but also lists Paul as one of the messengers of Christ that God had sent! Ibn Kathir continues:

We have already referred to the reports from MANY OF THE SALAF that this city was Antioch, and that these three Messengers were messengers sent from the Messiah Isa bin Maryam, peace be upon him, as Qatadah and others stated. This is not mentioned by any of the later scholars of Tafsir besides him, and this issue must be examined from a number of angles ... (Ibid., p. 189; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Ibn Kathir clearly states that these reports regarding the Messengers being the Disciples of Christ come from the Salaf (i.e., the first three generations of Muslims). Notice what the following traditions have to say about the Salaf:

Narrated Zahdam bin Mudrab:
I heard Imran bin Husain saying, "The Prophet said, 'The best people are those living in my generation, then those coming after them, and then those coming after (the second generation)." Imran said "I do not know whether the Prophet mentioned two or three generations after your present generation. The Prophet added, 'There will be some people after you, who will be dishonest and will not be trustworthy and will give witness (evidences) without being asked to give witness, and will vow but will not fulfill their vows, and fatness will appear among them." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 48, Number 819)

Narrated Zahdam bin Mudarrab:
'Imran bin Hussain said, "The Prophet said, 'The best of you (people) are my generation, and the second best will be those who will follow them, and then those who will follow the second generation." Imran added, "I do not remember whether he mentioned two or three (generations) after his generation. He added, 'Then will come some people who will make vows but will not fulfill them; and they will be dishonest and will not be trustworthy, and they will give their witness without being asked to give their witness, and fatness will appear among them.' " (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 78, Number 686)

The following traditions are taken from Muslim Answers:

Imaam Abu Haneefah (rahimahullaah) d. 769 C. E. (150 A. H.) said:

"Adhere to the athaar (narrations) and the tareeqah (way) of the Salaf (Pious Predecessors) and beware of newly invented matters, for all of it is innovation."

[Reported by As-Suyootee in Sawn al-Mantaq wal-Kalaam, p. 32.]

Al-Awzaa'ee (rahimahullaah) said:

"Follow the footsteps of the Salaf . . ."

By clinging to their way, holding on to their beliefs and understanding the Deen (religion) as they did, worshipping Allaah in His Oneness, upon the authentic Sunnah of the Messenger (sallallaahu 'alaihi wasallam) in the manner of the Companions one is guaranteed success in this life and security from the Fire in the next life. When questioned by his Companions about those who will be saved from the Fire, the Messenger (sallallaahu 'alaihi wasallam) replied:

"They are those who are upon what I and my companions are upon."

[Reported by at-Tirmidhee from Amr ibn al-Aas - classified as Hasan.]

All the great scholars from the earliest to the later times have advised clinging to the way and methodology (manhaj) of the Salaf and adherence to it as it is the only means of deliverance. Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) says:

"There is no blame on the one who manifests/proclaims the way (madhdhab) of the Salaf, who attaches himself to it and refers to it. Rather, it is obligatory to accept that from him by unanimous agreement (Ittifaaq), because the way (madhdhab) of the Salaf is nothing but the Truth (Haqq)."

[From Majmoo al-Fataawaa, 4:149.]

Additionally, the Message of Allah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wasallam) said:

"Adhere to my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, bite onto it with your molar teeth and beware of newly invented matters, for verily every innovation (bid'ah) is a going astray."

[Reported by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad and by Abu Dawood in his Sunan, by at-Tirmidhee in his Sunan, and by Ibn Majah in his Sunan. It is an authentic hadeeth.] (Source)

This means that there were many from amongst the best generation of Muslims who believed that Jesus' disciples such as Paul functioned as messengers of God. In the words of Muslim theologian and scholar Ar-Razi taken from Mahmoud M. Ayoub:

Razi relates on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that the witnesses in question are Muhammad and his community. Razi substantiates this view by citing verse 2:143. He then presents a number of possible interpretations of the verse:

I. The verse, also on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas, means "Inscribe us in the company of the prophets because every prophet shall be a witness over his people [on the last day], as God says, ‘We shall question those whom [messengers] were sent and We shall question the messengers’ (Q. 7:6). God answered the prayers of the disciples AND MADE THEM PROPHETS AND MESSENGERS, for they revived the dead and did all the things which Jesus was able to do." (Ayoub, The Qur'an and Its Interpreters, Volume II, The House of 'Imran [State University of New York Press, Albany, 1992], p. 163; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Ibn Sa'd concurs:

He (Ibn Sa'd) said ... There was a span of one thousand nine hundred years between Musa Ibn 'Imran and 'Isa Ibn Maryam and there was no fatarah [Sam- an interval of time between two apostles or prophets]; one thousand Apostles were raised from among the Israelites besides those raised among other nations. There was a span of five hundred and sixty nine years between Christ's nativity and the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. In the beginning of the period THREE APOSTLES WERE RAISED AND CONCERNING THIS ALLAH SAYS: "We sent to them two Prophets whom they disbelieved and we honoured them with the third." The one by whom they were honoured was SIMON who was a hawari (Apostle of Christ). The Fatarah was of four hundred and thirty-four years, when no prophet was raised. Christ's apostles were twelve in number although many people followed him. Among these apostles were a washerman and a hunter: they worked with their own hands and they were chosen persons. (Ibn Sa'd, Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, Volume I, parts I & II, English translation by S. Moinul Haq, M.A., PH.D assisted by H.K. Ghazanfar M.A. [Kitab Bhavan Exporters & Importers, 1784 Kalan Mahal, Daryaganj, New Delhi - 110 002 India], p. 46; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Finally, Menj's claim that Ibn Ishaq denies that Paul was a disciple of Christ, but a follower of the Apostles, is nothing more than a smokescreen. The claim of Ibn Ishaq does nothing to refute my beliefs since I am not dependent upon him for my views regarding Paul. Yet, the fact that Ibn Ishaq could even list Paul as a true believer and an eyewitness companion of the Disciples of Christ undermines the very foundation of Menj's position regarding this beloved Apostle. Hence, I do not quote Ibn Ishaq to prove my position regarding Paul. Rather, I quote Ibn Ishaq and others to silence those Muslims who would lie and claim that Islam does not recognize Paul as a true representative of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. So instead of diverting our attention away from the main issue, Menj needs to face the music and admit that the first Muslims did in fact view Paul in a positive light, going so far as to call him a companion of the Apostle Peter and a martyr for the true faith, with others going further than that by calling him a disciple of Christ and a Messenger of God!

Let us, furthermore, requote Ibn Ishaq's statement to examine what he actually says:

Those whom Jesus son of Mary sent, both disciples and those who came after them, in the land were: Peter the disciple and Paul with him, (Paul belonged to the followers and was not a disciple) to Rome. Andrew and Matthew to the land of the cannibals; Thomas to the land of Babel, which is in the land of the east; Philip to Carthage and Africa; John to Ephesus the city of the young men of the cave; James to Jerusalem which is Aelia the city of the sanctuary; Bartholomew to Arabia which is the land of Hijaz; Simon to the land of Berbers; ... (A. Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, p. 653; bold emphasis ours)

Paul is listed together with all the other apostles. No distinction is made between him and the others regarding his message or his authority. The parenthetical remark "not a disciple" but a follower only indicates (correctly) that he had not been with Jesus during his life and ministry on earth, but was commissioned by Jesus later. Still, Paul is clearly one of "those whom Jesus son of Mary sent".

In conclusion, this is only a biographical remark on Paul, not one subtracting any authority from his person or authenticity from his message as one being authorized by God.

Another observation may be worth noting here: Some Muslims seem to have the impression that Paul came along many years after the true disciples and then corrupted the true religion of Christianity. That is not so! Ibn Ishaq knows that the apostles Peter and Paul (and the other apostles) are contemporaries (Peter ... and Paul with him)! Neither Paul nor any of the other apostles could have changed the message without the others noticing and protesting against it. In particular, the apostle John lived about 30 years longer than Paul. If Paul had introduced anything against the true teaching of Jesus, John would have had sufficient time to discover this and to correct it. We do, however, not know of any protest by Peter or John or any other apostle that Paul had introduced heresy. Against this information the following statements by Menj disqualify themselves.

MENJ:

So what do the early Muslim theologians say about Paul? The reality is that early Muslims theologians recognised that Paul was the corrupter of the religion we know today as "Christianity". We hence would like to sum up the position of Paul in Islam with the words of the eminent Shaykhul-Islaam Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728H), that

This is just like what Paul fabricated when he entered into the Religion of Christianity in order to corrupt the Religion of the Christians.[4]

And only God knows best!

RESPONSE:

Menj appeals to Ibn Taymiyyah as a basis to reject Paul. Menj forgets to mention that Ibn Taymiyyah does not fall under the time period of the first and early Muslims as does Ibn Ishaq, Al-Bukhari, and Al-Tabari etc. Ibn Taymiyyah was born on 10th Rabi al-Awwal 661 AH or 1263 AD in the town of Harran in the province of Jazeerah (Source). He was born at a time when history had witnessed already nearly 300 years of anti-Christian polemics in Islam, after Muslim scholars had realized that the contradictions between the Bible and the Quran pose a serious problem for the credibility of Islam.

Compare:

Ibn Ishaq - born 704 AD (85 AH) in Medina and died d. 767 AD.

Imam Bukhari - full name is Abu `Abdullah Muhammad ibn Isma'il ibn Ibrahim ibn al-Mughira al-Ja'fai. Collector of Hadiths of the 8th/9th century (194-256 AH, i.e., 810-870 AD).

At-Tabari - Abu Ja`far Muhammad ibn Jarir at-Tabari. He was born ca. 839, Amol, Tabaristan, Iran and died 923, Baghdad, Iraq.

These sources which are older than Taymiyyah by 300 to 500 years either speak approvingly of Paul (Ibn Ishaq, Al-Tabari), or even quote from Paul and attribute it to God:

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "ALLAH SAID, 'I have prepared for My righteous slaves (such excellent things) as no eye has ever seen, nor an ear has ever heard nor a human heart can ever think of.'" (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 589)

According to this hadith from Bukhari, Muhammad purportedly claims that Allah is the source of these words. Compare what Allah is supposed to have revealed to Muhammad with what Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians:

"However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.’" 1 Corinthians 2:9

Menj has written something regarding Paul's quote here, which we will be addressing in the near future. Suffice it to say, we find Muhammad plagiarizing the words of the Apostle Paul and claiming that these are the words of Allah!

This is not the only time that Muhammad plagiarized biblical material and modified it to suit his purposes. Note the following examples:

Narrated AbudDarda':
I heard the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) say: If any of you is suffering from anything or his brother is suffering, he should say: Our Lord is Allah Who is in the heaven, holy is Thy name, Thy command reigns supreme in the heaven and the earth, as Thy mercy in the heaven, make Thy mercy in the earth; forgive us our sins, and our errors; Thou art the Lord of good men; send down mercy from Thy mercy, and remedy, and remedy from Thy remedy on this pain so that it is healed up. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 28, Number 3883)

Compare:

"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." Matthew 6:9-13

Here is another:

Narrated AbuUmamah

Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "Blessed is he who has seen me, but seven times blessed is he who has not seen me but has believed in me."

Ahmad transmitted it. (Al-Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 1688 - taken from the ALIM CD-ROM Version; online edition)

Compare:

"Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’" John 20:29

And:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar:
I heard Allah's Apostle while he was standing on the pulpit, saying, "The remaining period of your stay (on the earth) in comparison to the nations before you, is like the period between the 'Asr prayer and sunset. The people of the Torah were given the Torah and they acted upon it till midday, and then they were worn out and were given for their labor, one Qirat each. Then the people of the Gospel were given the Gospel and they acted upon it till the time of the 'Asr prayer, and then they were worn out and were given (for their labor), one Qirat each. Then you people were given the Quran and you acted upon it till sunset and so you were given two Qirats each (double the reward of the previous nations)." Then the people of the Torah said, 'O our Lord! These people have done a little labor (much less than we) but have taken a greater reward.' Allah said, 'Have I withheld anything from your reward?' They said, 'No.' Then Allah said, 'That is My Favor which I bestow on whom I wish.'" (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 559)

Compare:

"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' So they went. He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, 'Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?' 'Because no one has hired us,' they answered. He said to them, 'You also go and work in my vineyard.' When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 'These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' But he answered one of them, 'Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:1-16

Finally:

Hadith Qudsi 18:

On the authority of Abu Hurayrah (may Allah be pleased with him), who said that the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said: Allah (mighty and sublime be He) will say on the Day of Resurrection:

O son of Adam, I fell ill and you visited Me not. He will say: O Lord, and how should I visit You when You are the Lord of the worlds? He will say: Did you not know that My servant So-and-so had fallen ill and you visited him not? Did you not know that had you visited him you would have found Me with him? O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not. He will say: O Lord, and how should I feed You when You are the Lord of the worlds? He will say: Did you not know that My servant So-and-so asked you for food and you fed him not? Did you notknow that had you fed him you would surely have found that (the reward for doing so) with Me? O son of Adam, I asked you to give Me to drink and you gave Me not to drink. He will say: O Lord, how should I give You to drink when You are the Lord of the worlds? He will say: My servant So-and-so asked you to give him to drink and you gave him not to drink. Had you given him to drink you would have surely found that with Me.

It was related by Muslim. (Source)

Compare:

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by MY FATHER; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." Matthew 25:31-46

Interestingly, this demonstrates that Jesus claimed the very prerogatives of God since he claims for himself the very immanence of God Almighty!

Others who were contemporaries with Ibn Taymiyyah like Ibn Kathir did not share Taymiyyah's view regarding Paul. Note what the following source says:

Ibn Kathir's Teachers

Ibn Kathir studied Fiqh - Islamic jurisprudence - with Burhan Ad-Din, Ibrahim bin `Abdur-Rahman Al-Fizari, known as Ibn Al-Firkah (who died in 729 H). Ibn Kathir heard Hadiths from `Isa bin Al-Mutim, Ahmad bin Abi Talib, (Ibn Ash-Shahnah) (who died in 730 H), Ibn Al-Hajjar, (who died in 730 H), and the Hadith narrator of Ash-Sham (modern day Syria and surrounding areas); Baha Ad-Din Al-Qasim bin Muzaffar bin `Asakir (who died in 723 H), and Ibn Ash-Shirdzi, Ishaq bin Yahya Al-Ammuddi, also known as `Afif Ad-Din, the Zahiriyyah Shaykh who died in 725 H, and Muhammad bin Zarrad. He remained with Jamal Ad-Din, Yusuf bin Az-Zaki AlMizzi who died in 724 H, he benefited from his knowledge and also married his daughter. He also read with Shaykh Al-Islam, Taqi Ad-Din Ahmad bin `Abdul-Halim bin `Abdus-Salam bin Taymiyyah who died in 728 H. He also read with the Imam Hafiz and historian Shams Ad-Din, Muhammad bin Ahmad bin Uthman bin Qaymaz Adh-Dhahabi, who died in 748 H. Also, Abu Musa Al-Qarafai, Abu Al-Fath Ad-Dabbusi and 'Ali bin `Umar As-Suwani and others who gave him permission to transmit the knowledge he learned with them in Egypt. Source)

The source goes on to say:

Ibn Hajji was one of Ibn Kathir's students, and he described Ibn Kathir: "He had the best memory of the Hadith texts. He also had the most knowledge concerning the narrators and authenticity, his contemporaries and teachers admitted to these qualities. Every time I met him I gained some benefit from him."

Seeing that Ibn Kathir could report traditions which spoke approvingly of Paul while still knowing Taymiyyah personally only further demonstrates just how weak Menj's case truly is.

Another old Muslim source predating Ibn Taymiyyah is The Fihrist, a 10th century Muslim catalogue. The author comments on the book of the Christians and writes:

Remarks about the Gospel of the Christians, the Names of Their Books, Their Scholars, and Their Authors

I asked Yunus the priest, who was an excellent man, about the books translated into the Arabic language which they expound and according to which they act. He replied, "Among them is the book Al-Surah (The Form) which is divided into two parts, the ‘Old Form’ and the ‘New Form.’" He also said that the "Old [Form]" was the ancient basis for the Jewish sect and the "New [Form]" for the sect of the Christians ... The New Form which is comprised of four Gospels: The Gospel of Matthew; The Gospel of Mark; The Gospel of Luke; The Gospel of John, The Disciples, known as Fraksis [Acts]; PAUL THE APOSTLE, twenty four epistles. (Abu 'l-Faraj Muhammad ibn Ishaq al-Nadim, The Fihrist - A 10th Century AD Survey of Islamic Culture, edited and translated by Bayard Dodge [Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., Columbia University Press, 1970], p. 45; bold and capital emphasis ours)

This Muslim author has no problem writing that Paul was an Apostle. Nor does he object to Paul's writings.

Second, Ibn Taymiyyah is inconsistent with his own beliefs. Earlier, I quoted him as saying:

... Ibn Taymiyyah (rahimahullaah) says:

"There is no blame on the one who manifests/proclaims THE WAY (madhdhab) OF THE SALAF, who attaches himself to it and refers to it. Rather, it is OBLIGATORY to accept that from him BY UNANIMOUS AGREEMENT (Ittifaaq), BECAUSE THE WAY (madhdhab) OF THE SALAF IS NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (Haqq)."

[From Majmoo al-Fataawaa, 4:149.]

Since the Salaf viewed Paul in a positive light, this means that Ibn Taymiyyah lied when he claimed that one should attach himself to their way. If their way is nothing but the truth than who better than they to know the truth about Paul? Obviously not Ibn Taymiyyah.

Finally, here are some less than favorable Muslim articles denouncing Ibn Taymiyyah as a heretic who was not a true bonafide scholar:

http://www.sunnah.org/fiqh/refuting.htm
http://digilander.libero.it/islamic/maqalat.html

It seems that for many Muslims Ibn Taymiyyah is far from being an authority on the true teachings of Islam and the first Muslims. And yet Menj has a problem with the credibility of Paul! So much for Menj's appeal to Ibn Taymiyyah.

Our examination of Menj's arguments demonstrates that Menj has failed to counter the early Islamic evidence supporting the credibility of the Apostle Paul. Lord Jesus willing, we will be responding to the rest of his articles concerning the Apostle Paul in the near future. When we do, it will again become evident that Menj fails to discredit the beloved Apostle of our risen Lord and eternal Savior Jesus Christ, God's eternally beloved Son. Amen.

Sam Shamoun


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