20. TRUTH IN THE BIBLE AND IN THE QUR’AN
“What is truth?” Do we remember who asked this important question? It was Pontius Pilate, the very Roman governor who was judge at the trial of Jesus. It is worth reading this passage again (John 18:37-38). As soon as he had asked that question we read “…. with this he went out again to the Jews…” It seems he was not at all interested in an answer. It was just a rhetorical question.
Taking a closer look, we find that while our Lord Jesus was being questioned by Pilate, the governor had remarked, “you are a king, then?” Jesus’ reply was: “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” It was then that Pilate said, “what is truth?” It was a statement rather than a question. What he was really saying was that there is no absolute truth. Every religion or political system has its own ‘truth’. That is the very same concept, which is hailed by most of humanity today. Truth is relative. What is truth to you may not be truth to me. A person may be a Muslim, Hindu, pagan, communist, atheist, member of this or that political party. All stand for something different, but all claim truth for themselves. Can truth be defined? It is, first of all, not a lie. Neither is it error. The truth we are concerned with here is about the very nature of God, the position of man before God, and what happens when we die.
Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me!” (John 14:6). This is an absolute statement. If it is indeed true, all people who do not recognize and follow Jesus as Saviour and Lord are not on the way (to heaven), have not the truth and are spiritually dead, notwithstanding all their religious conviction or devotion. This is fortified by another Scripture: “Truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
Absolute statements like this are classified as intolerant. Indeed they are. Christ excludes all who are not his active followers, and by that heirs of God! Faith in Christ is exclusive. Christ is intolerant. It is impossible to be a Christian and at the same time enjoy sin. We may fall into sin, but we cannot revel in it and enjoy it.
How then do the children of God relate to truth? By first of all testing, and then believing and obeying what He says. By “speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up unto Him, Who is the Head, that is Christ” (Eph.4:15), “you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord, live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord” (Eph. 5:8-10), “as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way…in purity, understanding, patience and kindness… in sincere love, in truthful speech” (2. Cor. 6:4-7). If this is not the way we live, we will certainly have to do some soul searching! The Lord Jesus told us that “if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…. I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin…. if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed!” (John 8:31-36)
When we claim the Bible to be truth, we mean that it originates in God and that the information in it comes from Him. That is a statement. But we are glad to confess that this statement can be verified to be true. God Himself gives the evidences for this by providing unforeseeable prophecies, which were fulfilled in time. If nothing else is, this is proof of its divine origin.
The Qur’an negates, even contradicts, the major statements of the Bible concerning the nature of God, the position of man before God, and what happens when we die. Consequently, if the Bible is God’s Word, the Qur’an cannot be – or vice versa! Muslims claim the Bible to have been corrupted, and therefore untrue. Hence it is assumed that it was necessary for God to bring His original message again – in the Qur’an, which is deemed to be the final and conclusive revelation, binding to all mankind.
When we ask for evidences to support such claim, Muslims refer to the Qur’an and say that the book itself is the evidence for who can ‘produce a Surah like it’ (Surah 2:23)? Repeatedly scholars have done that, but it was never acknowledged. It is indeed a strange ‘proof to point to the literary quality of a text, and conclude from that its divine origin. This is particularly misleading, when the text is imperfect in content, style and grammar, as is the Qur’an.
Muslims also point to its recipient, Muhammad. They reason that it is impossible for an illiterate person to produce a book of this immensity in content and literary quality. Here we are forced to question the integrity of this witness. Measured by biblical standards, Muhammad is far from being the ‘model for all humanity’ which Muslims claim him to be. Besides, he is the one and only witness of Islam! In addition he does not fulfil the required standard from God to prophesy events, which after fulfilment, would indicate divine proof.
Let us assess another aspect of truth. Is it legitimate to speak lies because it is expedient? Well, it did happen, even in the Bible. Just think of Abraham declaring his wife to be his sister. We have to look at that a bit more closely, though, Sarai was Abram’s half- sister (Gen. 20:12). So it was not illegitimate for Abram to call her sister, even so it was used out of expedience. In the Qur’an, we are learning a different kind of ‘truth’. It is called ‘takiya’, and means translated ‘to conceal’. Traditionally, when a Muslim feels threatened or endangered, he has Allah’s permission to “conceal’, that is to lie. “Anyone who, after accepting faith in Allah, utters unbelief – except under compulsion, his heart remaining firm in faith – …on them is wrath of Allah” (Surah 16:106). “Let not the believers take for friends and helpers unbelievers rather than believers… except by way of precaution, that you may guard yourselves from them” (Surah 3:28). Just compare this with the death of Stephen in Acts 7!
Under certain circumstances this may be understandable, but is it right? In Islam this loophole has been widely used for all kind of purposes. Already al-Ghazzali (1059-1111 AD) wrote: “Know that a lie in itself is not wrong. If lies are the only way to reach a good result, they are permitted”. The equally famous Qur’an commentator at-Tabari (839-923 AD) wrote: “Lies are sins, except if they are told for the benefit of a Muslim.” “Verbal lies are permitted in war times in order to strengthen the Muslims‘, wrote Ibn-Arabi (1165-1240 AD).
We conclude that, unlike the Qur’an, the Bible provides ample evidence of its divine origin, and by that its truth concerning our eternal destiny. We further can see that Christians are strongly charged to live and speak the truth, what really cannot be said of Islam, in the light of ‘Takiya’.