Sunday, March 11, 2012

Muslim Sacrifice

Now in our continuing study of Islam- we shall examine the Muslim concept of Sacrifice.  A practice which best demonstrates the concept of Love. 

And here again we have a notion and a practice which is quite unlike that of the Jewish Torah, which Mohammed claimed to endorse.  Quite unlike it in both the Muslim Qur’an and the Hadith.  A distinct moving of the ancient boundary stones found in the Torah.

Now, what first struck me as I studied the Qur’an some years ago- was the distinct movement of these ancient boundaries in the very second Surah .   When The Prophet instructs his faithful to sacrifice a cow (in the surah aptly titled The Cow).  Not a male goat, ram or bull as the Torah insists (Lev. 1:3, 10)- but a cow. 

Sure, females are permitted to be sacrificed in the Torah as well… but not as Atonement offerings.  And not as Guilt offerings.  But only as pleasant Peace offerings or as Unintentional Sin offerings.  Offerings which don’t even come close to being Guilt or Atonement offerings.  Offerings which don’t even  comes close to the Mercy Seat. The Guilt remains and there is no Atonement.

And the commentary of  Sahih 22 is quite clear on this too… ‘that the prevalent idea of atonement that “it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Lev. 17:11) has no foundation in Islam’.  But that such a “wrong notion and practice” is in fact a “corruption” of the Torah.  A corruption that Mohammed was allegedly assigned by the angel Gabriel to correct.

A corruption that Mohammed says not only “cursed him who changed the boundary lines” but also “him who accommodated an innovator” (Sahih 22:4877).  But of course Mohammed was permitted to innovate during his short period with regard to the eating of those animal sacrifices… to accommodate their economic blip (Sahih 22:4862).

I was also reminded of another “correction” that I had noticed while reading this commentary. The “correction” of Abraham attempting to sacrifice “Ishmael” rather than attempting to sacrifice Isaac as historically recounted.

Now, you’d think those Jews would get at least that much right.  You’d think Jews would know who their immediate ancestors were and what their immediate ancestors had done.  This traumatic account is not as easily forgotten or “corrupted” as Islam insists that it was. 

Nor is the traumatic practice of sacrificing easily forgotten or “corrupted”.  It was a deeply entrenched practice.   A practice where those who offered “strange fire” were swiftly eliminated (Lev. 10:1, 2).   Not a good practice to get wrong.  A monumentally important practice that dealt with their very atonement!

But let’s continue with this “authoritative” commentary.   How “the expiation of sin in Islam rests entirely on the good deeds of men”.  And that “this fact cuts the ground from under the feet of any theory of an atoning sacrifice”. 

Uhh, what “fact” did we miss here?  Well, it seems that we missed the “fact” that God is “Forgiving and Merciful” stuck between those two statements.  And the implicit suggestion that God is ‘only merciful to those that have earned His mercy’ [sounds more like Justice to me].

Yet does this mean that God could NOT be Merciful in providing the actual sacrifice necessary for atonement as well? As he did with Abraham in that precedential account?  So that it is entirely by God’s Mercy?  So that God is entirely to be praised?

Well, it’s clear that Islam is determined to inject human merit into their atonement- so that some measure of praise may be attributed to the human.  Yet I am convinced that even semi-observant Jews did NOT inject human merit into their atonement. 

As D.A. Carson suggests in Divine Sovereignty (pg. 33), even semi-observant Jews recognized (in their Torah) that they were chosen by God by no merit of their own.  That “Yahweh did not choose Israel as a people because she was intrinsically superior to other peoples (Deut. 7:6-11), nor because she was righteous (Deut. 9:4-6), but rather in defiance of her rebellion, and out of nothing other than his own free, sovereign, electing love (Deut. 4:32-40; 7:6-11; 10:14f; 23:5; cf. Ezek. 16:6)”.

Indeed, God’s election of Abraham despite his repugnant deeds.  And despite any foreseen deeds as well.  Deeds like having his wife make herself available sexually to Pharaoh- and later to King Abimelech… for fear of losing his life (Gen. 12:13, 20:11).  A deed that King Abimelech subsequently recognized as a “sin”… long before the Ten Commandments were published. 

However, as regards the sacrificial notion of Mohammed… of how “the sacrifice of animals is [actually] commemorative of Abraham’s offering [of “Ishmael”]”.  What does this sacrifice actually commemorate to most readers? What does this offering actually commit to memory?

Does it commemorate the “extermination and ending of the practice of human sacrifice’ as is suggested in this commentary?  The ending of a “repugnant practice that was not uncommon before Islam”?

Well, I’m inclined to think that this would be a novel interpretation to most Jews- where human sacrifice certainly was uncommon.  And I am far more inclined to agree with Carson that the reason for animal sacrifice was, “to encourage the concept of atonement by a substituted death” (pg. 92).  A notion made abundantly evident in Isaiah 53.  More than a millennium before Islam.

Yet strangely, Mohammed (and Jews) refused to see this notion as a foretaste of the offering to come.  The offering of someone so much greater than “Ishmael”.   

The offering of an unblemished male.
Of an offering by the Son of God himself.

So that atonement is entirely by God’s sacrifice.   
Entirely by God’s Mercy. 

So that nothing “rests on the good deeds of men” whatsoever.   
And that any other man-made theory is in fact a “repugnant notion”.

Not worthy of the ground beneath your feet.   
And certainly not worthy of Paradise.