What did Mohammed say the angel told him in the 7th century A.D.?
One very popular stance in the world is that of Islam: “What does the Quran say happened?” The Quran is the holy, inspired, infallible word of God for Muslims, and although it agrees with the Bible in many instances, at other points there are huge contradictions. Regarding Jesus Christ, for example, it says that he was not God born in the flesh. Although it does say that he was the messiah, it is with a very different meaning than the Jewish and Christian meaning. For according to Mohammed Jesus was merely a great prophet—though not as great as Mohammed himself. Nor was he crucified and resurrected on the third day, according to the Quran.
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. (Koran, Surah 4:157, Yusuf Ali translation)Islam does venerate the Bible, but all authority for determining which parts of the Bible are true (which excludes crucial events in the Old Testament as well, such as the Passover) rests upon what the Prophet Mohammed said the angel Gabriel told him beginning in the year 610 A.D. His followers wrote down the revelations to produce the Muslim holy book.
One compelling aspect of this position is its simplicity and exactness. Unlike the variations in style in the gospel accounts, the Quran offers Mohammed’s testimony of an angel’s message. Nevertheless, it is one hundred percent hearsay, for Mohammed did not claim to witness any of the events about which he testified. You just have to take his word for it without any evidence–or his word for the angel Gabriel’s word. Even when Mohammed’s version of history dramatically edits the eyewitness accounts of dozens of others going back over 2000 years, Muslims still simply assume Mohammed is correct. So in answer to questions about why to believe that any of the Bible is true and why parts of it are false, and why to believe that certain events happened and others did not, the answer is, “Because that’s what Mohammed said the angel told him.”
But of course Muslims believe that the Quran itself bears witness to its divine nature. That is to say that God’s Word testifies to itself, and when one reads it the truth is obvious. Many religions, including Christianity, make such claims about their Scriptures, and although the argument is circular it is not “viciously” circular. To the contrary, it would be irrational to say that when God speaks his words must be judged and measured against some other authority.
That is reasonable, but it does not necessitate the absence of evidence. God could tell us that something happened, and, separately, he could also give us evidence for it. That would be similar to, for example, a history teacher telling his students that the Holocaust happened, and, separately, offering his students many testimonies about the Holocaust from soldiers and victims who experienced and witnessed it.
The main point here is that the Quran offers no evidence for its version of the life of Christ. A follower believes its version of history is true because by faith he knows it to be true. It may be hard to find a better textbook example of blind faith…which many find to be a more admirable or superior form religious faith. Perhaps that is why many Muslims take such great offense when anyone even tries to make an image of Mohammad or treats his name with anything less than respect. (Consider the stark contrast with how the world uses the name of Christ.) For all of history and all of the future depend entirely on what he claimed an angel told him in a cave in the 7th century A.D.