Buddhist Monks in Myanmar

I was recently surprised to read of Muslim attacks on Buddhists in Bangladesh. After some research, I learned that a large group of Muslims (25,000, by one account) attacked ancient Buddhist temples, shrines and homes in the Buddhist areas of Bangladesh. The attacks were in retaliation for a Facebook picture of a partly burned Qur’an alleged to have been posted by a young Buddhist male.

Quoting from one of the reports,

The man who sparked the riots, who has gone into hiding, told local media he did not post the picture, insisting someone else had “tagged” his account with the image on the social network. His mother and an aunt were given police protection for their safety after the violence broke out, officials said.

The report explained the attacking mob:

Police officer Rumia Khatun said about “25,000 Muslims chanting God is Great” first attacked a Buddhist hamlet in Ramu, torching centuries-old temples, and later stormed Buddhist villages outside the town.

Reuters reported that the Muslim rampage included a dozen villages populated by Buddhists as well as over fifty homes. It was not clear whether there were any casualties. According to a CNN Report, Bangladesh is 90% Muslim and 1% Buddhist (based on a recent Pew Research study).

Is “justice” a word in Islam’s holy book?

Temple Destroyed by Muslims in Bangladesh

A Facebook posting of a partially burned Qur’an is so horrid to Muslims that it results in the total or partial destruction of a dozen Buddhist temples, some dating thousands of years before the “birth” of Muhammad’s recitation? When was the last time you got “tagged” in a Facebook photo? Did you know it was coming before it arrived? Not me! If you were a member of a 1% minority religion and people-group, living in a country populated by a 90% Muslim majority, do you think you would post a picture of a burned out Qur’an on your favorite social network?  That is too absurb to be believable.

Did you know that to Muslims the Qur’an is one of four revelations by Allah to humanity?1 The first three of those four revelations were “sent down” by Allah prior to the recitation of the Qur’an to Muhammad by the angel (Qur’an 3:2). These first three revelations are:

  1. The Torah (“Tawrat“) – “Mentioned in the Qur’an 18 times as a true revelation prior to the sending down of the Qur’an, however, “not preserved in its original and true form.”2
  2. The Psalms of David (“Zabur“) – “In the Quran, the Psalms of David are said to be revelation sent to David, who is considered a prophet (Surah 4:163; 17:55; 21:105). God is considered the author of the psalms. Surah 21:105 is a direct counterpart of the biblical Psalm 37:29.”3
  3. The Gospels (Injeel) – the accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus.4
According to the Qur’an, it is the 4th revelation of Allah and builds upon and “corrects” the prior three, all of which are considered to be the word of God.5  According to the Ashʿarī interpretation, Muslims consider the Qur’an to be the “uncreated,”6 coeternal word, of God;7 that is, in the same or similar way that Christians interpret Jesus as the Word of God become flesh, (John 1:1, 14), Muslims consider the Qur’an to be the literal speech of God in the Book of God. One scholar of Islam describes the Qur’an and its relationship  to the prior three revelations as follows:

For Muslims, the Qur’ān is the Book of God (kitāb al‐Allāh). It is the eternal, uncreated, literal word of God (kalām Allāh), sent down from heaven, revealed one final time to the prophet Muḥammad as a guidance for humankind (2.185).

Although God had sent a revelation to Moses and Jesus, Muslims believe that the scriptures of the Jewish community (Torah) and of the Christian church (the Evangel or Gospel) are corrupt versions of the original revelation. The current texts of the Torah and the New Testament are regarded as a composite of human fabrications, nonbiblical beliefs that infiltrated the texts, and remnants of the original revelation. Thus, the Qurʿān does not abrogate or nullify, but rather corrects the versions of scripture preserved by the Jewish and Christian communities.

[… Islam] is considered by Muslims to be the oldest religion. Islam represents the “original” as well as final revelation of the God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. 8

In other words, the Muslim viewpoint is that the Qur’an is the original and final revelation by God to humanity. With Muhammad, the word of God is closed.

There is something I cannot understand about the Muslim view. If all four revelations were the Word of God, then why is the Qur’an the only version that God was able to protect from human corruption? God was, apparently, never able to protect His earlier revelations, i.e., Jews and Christians  corrupted both of God’s earlier versions. For some reason, beginning with Muhammad and Islam, God was able to protect His word even though not able to do so before, and able to preserve His word to the present day in the Qur’an. Does that pass the “smell test” to you? Smells a little fishy to me.

Surprisingly, however, God’s protection of the Qur’an requires the help of Muslims. Otherwise, why would Muslims react so violently when the Qur’an is damaged?  Is God not able to protect his word without Muslim’s taking things into their own hands such as the recent destruction of Buddhist temples and Buddhist homes?  Or the “accidental” destruction of the Qur’an by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan resulting in the deaths of 30 people, 26 of whom were Muslims.

The whole issue about Muslim’s violent reaction to the desecration of the Qur’an takes me back to the biblical story of Gideon, the “valiant warrior” of Israel (Judges 6:12). God chose Gideon to lead the Israelites against the sword wielding, desert nomads of Midian and the sons of the east ((Judges 6:3-5) oops, I think these are the ancestors of modern-day Arabs). Israel had lost its way from Yahweh, evidenced by their erection of a pagan altar to Baal in the center of town. The first order of business was to get rid of the pagan altar. God told Gideon to tear it down, and erect an altar to Himself on top of the ruins (Judges 6:25-27).  Gideon does so, at night, in fear that someone might see him. When the men of the town wake up and discover that their altar has been torn down and replaced by an altar to Yahweh, they are livid. They discover that Gideon is the guilty party, and demand that Gideon be brought forth to be held accountable for his destruction of Baal’s altar with his very life. Here is an account of what happened (Joash is Gideon’s father).

Judges 6:30-31 (NASB) 30 Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, …” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? …  If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar.” (Emphasis supplied)

The justice of Judges 6:31 is that if the altar destroyed was that of Baal, then let Baal contend with Gideon not the followers of Baal; and, if Baal does contend with Gideon, it will be up to Yahweh to protect Gideon and thereby contend with Baal. Justice requires that the conflict is ultimately between Yahweh and Baal not Gideon and the followers of Baal. That is the only way justice can truly be served.

Why doesn’t the same contention apply to the modern-day “altar” of Islam, the Qur’an? If Allah is God let him protect his own holy book. Why must Muslims kill someone who “tears down” the Qur’an? Why is their violence always extended to the innocent simply because there is some remote connection between the guilty and the innocent? Where is the justice in that, particularly when it is the innocent who are so often victimized? Someone posts a photo (or is tagged) of a burned-out Qur’an and 25,000 Muslims riot and destroy the property of those who had nothing to do with the burned-out Qur’an? The alleged guilty party is forced into hiding to protect his life, along with his mother and aunt? This is the same thing that happened recently in Pakistan when a 14 year-old Christian girl with downs syndrome was accused by Muslims of having a torn-out page of the Qur’an in her possession. The predominantly Muslim city went berserk. The little girl was imprisoned for her safety and her family went into hiding. Where is the justice in that? This is not justice at all. It is simply wrong, evil in fact. Muslims do it and get away with it. Where is the justice in that?

How does a god reveal himself to be God if he needs help from human beings to sustain his “eternal, uncreated, word”? How can that god be a good God if he  sheds innocent blood in the process particularly when the blood is shed by his own followers who are acting upon his “literal” word, his literal commands?  Does not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob put it this way:

Proverbs 6:16-17 (NASB) 16 There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: 17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, … (Emphasis supplied)

Islam frequently sheds innocent blood. Where is justice in that? Oh. The Qur’an must have “corrected” this by redefining it with Allah’s own version:

When the [four] forbidden months are over, wherever you encounter the idolaters, ill them, seize them, besiege them, wait for them at every lookout post; but if they turn [to God], maintain the prayer, and pay the prescribed alms, let them go on their way, for God is most forgiving and merciful.  Surah 9:5-6

  1. Muh. sin, Āmina Wadūd. “Revelation.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic WorldOxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0681 []
  2. “Torah.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Islam., edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e2392 []
  3. “Psalms.” In The Oxford Dictionary of Islam., edited by John L. Esposito. Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t125/e1887 []
  4. Nettler, Ronald L.. “People of the Book.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic WorldOxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0628 []
  5. Muh. sin, Āmina Wadūd. “Revelation.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World.Oxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0681 []
  6. youb, Mahmoud M., Afra Jalabi, Vincent J. Cornell, Abdullah Saeed, Mustansir Mir and Bruce Fudge. “Qurʿān.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic WorldOxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0661 []
  7. Sonn, Tamara . “Tawḥīd.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic WorldOxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0788 []
  8. Von Sivers, Peter, Rüdiger Seesemann, John Schoeberlein, Dru C. Gladney, Bruce B. Lawrence, Kamran Bokhari, M. B. Hooker, Fred R. van der Mehden, P. S. Van Koningsveld, Jocelyne Cesari, Frederick Mathewson Denny and Kathleen M. Moore. “Islam.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic WorldOxford Islamic Studies Online, http://www.oxfordislamicstudies.com/article/opr/t236/e0383 []