The Wolofs[i] say, "Truth is a hot pepper" and "Whoever wants honey must brave the bees."
Often we learn our religious commandments and those stories that bind our certain beliefs we are born into to be totalitarian truths! Our parents, our holy priests, our holy books and our godly beliefs, compel us to confirm our religious obligations to be the truths and its teaching All That Is Truthful. We are even told to understand what we learn or know as the ultimate truths and our blighting beliefs as righteousness!
Do we not create some kind of ‘circular reasoning’ of these beliefs and understandings, by building our concepts or our ultimate truths on “straw men” concepts?
What is a Straw-man Theory?
Politician: ‘My opponent believes that higher taxes are the only way to pay for needed improvements. She never met a tax she didn't like. But I have a better idea: let's cut waste in the government first’.
Why are politicians always so willing to tell you what the other side thinks? One reason is that, in explaining someone else's views, we have a chance to oversimplify and even falsify them. In the example above, is it really likely that the opponent prefers raising taxes or to actually cutting waste in government spending? Probably, her position is much more complex than that, and may make better sense. But, in oversimplifying her position, this politician makes it seem the choice between them is obvious. And, that is the purpose of this technique, which we call "straw man" (like a scarecrow), because it relies on the creation of a false image of someone else's statements, ideas, or beliefs?
A "straw man" is rarely based on actions, instead of comments or beliefs. Usually actions are too unambiguous to suffer the oversimplification of a "straw man" theory and simple mischaracterization is not a fallacy, but a weakness in support of a claim. For example, claiming someone has voted for raising taxes, when the vote was really in favor of a bill raising some taxes but cutting many more, would not be a "straw man" in itself, but, might be used in combination with those misstatements of the person's comments and policies to create a false-image fallacy.
Politics provides a fertile ground of "straw man" fallacies; so is the Quran, Islam’s holy book, especially vis-à-vis its perception of the Jewish and Christian beliefs.
Islam perpetual rise came from the thinking of an ignorant Arab, whose learning and adherence were based on the Jewish and Christian beliefs, myths and scriptures (as these were widely accepted to be accurate and with historic backgrounds and had written literatures). In fact, when we study the so-called holy Qur’an, we find the beginning tales and various similarities of famous prophetic fables were conjured up from these two famous holy books. Muhammad heard these magnificent tales and authentic marvels of God’s spoken words to man, created in His rightly image and His favourite entity – where heavenly beings, who came and guided mankind to true paths of salvations. This mystified Muhammad into believing in them, and adapting these concepts from these two beliefs. But his early pagan upbringings compelled him to seek new gods. When Muhammad made known of his intentions of being stung by unknown voices in his head, he was told to be inspired by those angelic beings like in these two holy books. Hence, we learn of his early preaching of Islam to be a replica of these two religious books with little variants and with agreements of a celestial creator, who has rightly chosen him as his representative on earth. Yet, the noble Qur’an in later verses and chapters simply omits, disowns and rejects these as lethargic beliefs!
I want to confront these myths of uncertainties between ‘why and what’ may be the reasons to these “straw man” thinking of Muhammad – the Prophet of Islam. Why religions are built on such circular reasoning and straw-man fallacies?
The Dilemma of the Qur’an!
Such Qur'anic verses confront sincere Muslims with a serious dilemma: How can one accept both the Bible and the Qur'an when they clearly contradict each other? Furthermore, the Qur'an clearly emphasizes the high risks involved: to treat any of the Writings of the Prophets as a lie is to be "burned in the fires of hell." Many attempt to resolve their dilemmas by contending that the original Bible has been lost or falsified and is no longer reliable! Yet this explanation does not satisfy those, who know the Qur'an, which says:
"The Words of Allah shall never change. That is the supreme triumph." (Surah 10:64)
"None can change the decrees of Allah." (Surah 6:34)
The Qur'an claims that, it was given to confirm and guard the preceding Scriptures. The Muslims must also ask themselves”: "Would the Qur'an confirm a corrupted, unreliable book?"
Some even suggest that Christians and the Jews have falsified their Holy Books after the time of Prophet Muhammad. This argument is disproved by the fact that today's Bibles are based on hundreds of ancient manuscripts, which date to a time long before the Muhammadan period. The Bible read today is in harmony with the Bible of Muhammad's time. "Allahu Akbar!" God is great – great enough to preserve His eternal Word for every generation.
The reader may or may not be aware of the obstacles that exist for a Christian that witnesses the Good News of Jesus Christ then to a follower of Muhammadan Islam. Many Muslims have serious misconceptions of what exactly Christians really believe in? When discussing Christianity with a typical Muslim and/or trying to bring the Gospel, they may be confronted with such statements or similar ones as: "Christians believe that God had a wife" or "Christians worship 3 gods." While the concepts of the Trinity and Jesus being God's Son is difficult to understand by those not well-informed about Christianity, typical Muslims may have the most distorted picture of Christian beliefs than any other religious or non-religious sect. Thanks to Islam’s Prophet’s “Straw Man Fallacy”. Let’s see why is this exactly so?
The answer lies, at least in large part, within the pages of the book most near and dear to Muslims. The Qur'an is a book of teachings by Muhammadan thoughts, the founder of Islam, which Muslims believe to be heavenly and divinely inspired. Within the Qur'an are several attacks by its ambiguous author against Christianity, some explicit and some implicit. Some of these attacks present a distortion of true Christian beliefs and at times also of the Jewish myths. That is why I felt that it was appropriate to label these statements as "straw man fallacy", since these attacks are only directed against a false Christianity not practiced by evangelical Christians (Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox).
Whether these statements are actually “straw man” fallacy, used by Muhammad to denigrate Christianity, attack non-evangelical Christian fringe groups, the historical errors, or are simply based on Muhammad's misunderstandings of the true Christian beliefs, is beyond the scope of this article. What is important here is to realize that certain misconceptions do indeed exist within the minds of many Muslims, who are well-read on the Qur'an, yet know very little about Jewish and Christian beliefs. In this article, I will discuss Muhammad’s conceptions or misconceptions about Judaism or Christianity, not assuming that these religion true religions, but only highlight the “Straw Man Fallacy” Muhammad used in his conception of the Quran.
Quotes will be used from Yusuf Ali's translation of the Qur'an throughout this article, whilst, the Biblical verses used are from the King James Version. And, please note that, in this article we have simply based our arguments on Muhammad’s lethargic world views. We explicitly reject to consider any religions to be the rightly guided.
Straw man # 1: Christians believe that God used a consort to beget Jesus
"To Him is due the primal origin of the heavens and the earth: How can He have a son when He hath no consort? He created all things, and He hath full knowledge of all things." (Surah 6:101, emphasis added)
"And Exalted is the Majesty of our Lord: He has taken neither a wife nor a son." (Surah 72:3)
These verses do not appear, in their appropriate Qur'anic contexts, to bear direct reflections on Christianity, as it is actually pagan beliefs that seem to be (at least mostly) in view. Thus, unlike the proceeding examples, this is not a straw man per se against Christianity. However, it is worth including a discussion on this topic due to the potential contained in such verses that may cause misconceptions about Christian beliefs amongst readers of the Quran. Said, or at least greatly implied, in these verses is that, for God to have a Son(?), He must also have or have had a wife(?). Thus, it wouldn't be surprising for Muslims to even think that Christians believe in God’s having an actual physical consort, considering the Christian assertion of Jesus' Sonship? However, Christians would agree that it is indeed blasphemy to claim that God had a physical consort in Mary to beget Jesus!
Due to the misconceptions that could potentially arise from the reading of such Qur'anic verses, it is important to stress the actual Christian beliefs in regards to this issue. Biblical passages to point out that appropriately describe the virginal conception as an act of God's creative fiat would be the following:
"Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. But, while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:18-21, emphasis added)"
"And the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her… And the angel said unto her, Fear not Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:26-35, emphasis added)
What Christians believe is that Mary had a miraculous conception through the actions of the Holy Spirit in a NON-sexual manner. It is also important to express the concept of Christ's Incarnation. Jesus, the eternal Son, already in existence, entered Mary's womb miraculously and willfully, so that He could fulfill His purposes of bringing salvation to the world. More will be discussed in a later section on particular Biblical passages one can utilize to provide insight on the Incarnation.
Let's also take a look at this verse:
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, emphasis added)
In the above verse, the Greek word for "begotten" is "monogenesis," which means sole, or one and only.
The other 4 straw men that will be discussed here arise from Muhammad's misconceptions of the Trinity.
Continued Part TWO
[i] A Senegalese tribes-people