Reza Aslan’s Interview on Fox and his new book Zealot!

An interview on Fox News of Reza Aslan and his new book Zealot has received numerous social media posts recently.  Here is a copy of the interview that currently has over 2 million views:

The interviewer is slammed for asking him again and again why he is writing this book as a Muslim.  I think Reza’s answers could have been much better, but the interviewer just keeps asking the same question again and again and it gets nowhere and we don’t get to learn much of what Reza actually believes concerning the life of Jesus.

What stood out the most to me in the interview is that Reza states that it is a fundamental truth that everyone agrees that Jesus was crucified, but that’s not the Muslim belief and teaching of Islam as he also states! Reza must mean that every historian believes Jesus was crucified.

Why do Muslims believe Jesus wasn’t crucified?  Sura 4:157-158 clearly states that he wasn’t.  These two verses read:

“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 -Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.”

This leads me to believe that Reza is a very liberal Muslim.  It even makes me think that he isn’t Muslim at all to so openly deny a teaching of the Qur’an like this.  However, I was told that there were different Muslim interpretations on this passage.  I however don’t think that Jesus actually being crucified was one of them.  Some Muslim scholars believe that Jesus never died and others believe that he died of natural causes, but which Muslim scholar besides Reza believes that Jesus was crucified.

Before Reza I have only read Muslim teachers and Muslims I have spoken with to hold to the interpretation that Jesus did not die, at all! According to Adil Salahi who wrote on this topic on Muslim.org says that there are two views within Islam. He writes:

“The first, which is held by a majority of scholars, is that Jesus Christ did not die but was raised by Allah and that he will make a second coming at a time determined by Allah, when he will be preaching the message of Islam. The other view is that Jesus Christ died a natural death after Allah had saved him from his enemies. Both groups of scholars agree that Jesus Christ was neither killed nor crucified. Needless to say, those who subscribe to the second view do not speak of a second coming of Jesus Christ.” (http://www.muslim.org/islam/deathjarab.htm)

It appears as if Reza has an interpretation which does not fit with the interpretations of mainstream Muslim scholars on the teachings of the Qur’an and the Hadiths, so I’m very interested to read his book to see where else he skews not only on orthodox Islam but also Christianity. I wish the interviewer allowed him to get into such things, but it would have been nice if he had answered her question in a better fashion by just saying, “As a Muslim, I’m very deeply concerned with and interested in the person and history of Jesus (peace be upon him) because there is more in the Qur’an about Jesus (peace be upon him) than Muhammad (peace be upon him) and since the teachings of Christianity contradict the teachings in the Qur’an I have every right and interest as a religious scholar, Muslim, or any person interested in seeking religious and historical truth to research the life of Jesus.” I think if he had answered in such a way it would have shut down her stupid string of questions. She clearly is very ignorant on the subject of religious studies and the desire that any religious adherent should have in researching the claims of religions other than their own.

If Reza and other Muslim scholars are beginning to say that Jesus was crucified then it seems like a direct leave from the direct statements of Sura 4:157-158. I see where there is room for Jesus to have died a natural death in that passage, but there is clearly no room given for him to have died by crucifixion. I have never met a Muslim who has read the Qur’an to say that Jesus died of natural causes, much less that he was crucified, and these were leaders of Muslim unions on college campuses and teachers from whyislam.org who I invited to my world religions class to speak. You can check out their website and they very clearly state that Jesus did not die! (http://www.whyislam.org/submission/prophethood-in-islam/jesus-peace-be-upon-him/jesus/) They leave no room for any other interpretation. I’m afraid to say that Reza doesn’t seem very reliable as a Muslim theologian.

Did you know that the Qur’an has a lot to say about Jesus?

Virgin Mary and Jesus, old Persian miniature. ...
Virgin Mary and Jesus, old Persian miniature. In Islam, they are called Maryam and Isa.

Did you know that the Qur’an has a lot to say about Jesus?

This link provides verses from the Qur’an that mention Jesus: http://www.quranfromallah.com/Topics/Quran-Jesus.html

Surah 2:136 and Surah 4:163 say Jesus is a prophet.

Surah 22:91 and Surah 23:50 say that Mary was a virgin who Allah made pregnant with Jesus through his Spirit.

Surah 4:157 says that Jesus was not killed, nor crucified, and the next verse, 158, explains that Allah raised Jesus to heaven (The Ascension in Christian terms) in both body and spirit.

All Religions Teach the Same Thing.

Have you ever heard someone say, “All religions teach the same thing”?

I know I have.  Here is a response that I find helpful.  It comes in a few different segments.  First, it is good to validate the argument, you know, show that you understand where the person is coming from and that you can relate to why he or she might feel this way.  Don’t validate the argument, unless you will provide the appropriate rebuttal.  Here you can spoon feed the correct answer to the person, or you can ask a bunch of questions that lead the person the fault in professing that all religions have the same doctrines.  It’s good to know a few Scripture verses to support what you are saying from God’s Word and it’s always the goal to present the Gospel in any apologetic endeavor.

Symbol of the major religions of the world: Ju...
Symbol of the major religions of the world: Judaism, Christianity, Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Validation:

I think many religions agree on certain points, such as there is life after death, or that there is some sort of higher power or entity in the universe, and most religions have similar moral laws, so I can see where people can come to this conclusion.  I think the real reason people come to this conclusion is because they don’t want to exclude anyone from having the best existence possible after this life.  We don’t want to say anyone is wrong and we want to avoid drawing lines of division which lead to segregation, elitism, and at times hate and violence.

Answer:

It might be possible to squeeze the world’s religions into teaching the same thing on secondary, or superficial, levels, but on the primary, or fundamental, doctrines, they contradict each other.  For instance, Christians believe that Jesus is God and the Savior of the world, where as Muslims believe that Jesus is just a prophet who should not be worshiped, and Jews, at least conservative Jews, would say that Jesus was a false prophet.  These are just the views of three religions concerning one person in history!  Clearly, they don’t all teach the same thing and they can’t all be true due to their contradictory teachings.

Socratic Method:

“How do they all teach the same thing?”

“On what doctrine do they all agree?”

“Do they all teach the same thing concerning the afterlife?”

“Do they all agree on what mankind’s ultimate problem is and how that problem can be overcome?”

“Do they all agree on who, or what, God is?  Do they all even believe in an eternal, transcendent God?”

“How do Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism teach the same thing?”

Scripture:

1 Timothy 4:1 – “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”

Acts 4:12 – “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name [Jesus] under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

Back to the Gospel:

Let’s look at what Christianity teaches concerning the way of salvation.  Romans 4:4-5 says, “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”  In Christianity, salvation is free for men.  God steps into redeem and rescue mankind through the work of Jesus Christ.  None of us can save ourselves by our own work, or merit, because we are all sinful people who do evil.  In all other religions, people must work to earn a good afterlife.  In Hinduism, a person must practice yoga and have good karma.  In Buddhism, a person must follow the eight-fold path.  In Islam, a person must excel in the five pillars of the Islamic faith.  In Judaism, Jews have rejected Jesus their Messiah and have chosen to justify themselves through observance of the Law.  All religions do not teach the same thing.  In Christianity, salvation is free.  In all other religions, salvation, if they call it salvation is not free and must be earned through personal works.

The Bible or the Qur’an

One Minute Apologist looks at the Bible and the Qur’an – which is the Word of God?  Obviously, neither could the Word of God, but because of contradictions, the both can’t be the Word of God.

Summary of the short video:

They both can’t be true because they contradict each other.
Historically establish that Jesus predicted his violent death and that he died a violent death, then Bible must be correct and not the Qur’an.  If he didn’t die a violent death, then the Qur’an would be correct on that point, however it would be wrong on Jesus being a prophet, because Jesus predicted he would die a violent death, but he did not.  Catch 22.

My comment on this video: I think this argument falls short. Wouldn’t the Qur’an have to contain an account of Jesus predicting his own violent death for there to be a Catch-22. Muslims already say that the Bible has been corrupted, so anything that is a contradiction between the two is erased away under the conclusion that man changed the Bible at some point in time. Of course, it’s a good start to a conversation, because after a Muslim presents the Bible’s been corrupted argument, more in-depth conversation can begin. Not bad for a one-minute video (that was two minutes long).