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Tag Archives: Hadith

Muslims often assert that Christians corrupted The Bible at The Council Of Nicea in 325 AD

Sometimes Muslims assert that, at this Council, Christians were in hopeless confusion about what Gospels should be included in The Bible, there being dozens or hundreds of conflicting Gospels in their possession at that time. In order to select the true Gospels of Jesus, say these opponents of Christianity, the Niceans resorted to throwing the contending Gospels on or under the main table in the debating hall of The Council, then prayed to God that the true Gospels would  overnight miraculously move to the top of this hopelessly confused mess of hopelessly confused books.

The ultimate source of this story, told in several colourful variants,  is a document known as the Synodicon Vetus, an anonymous document written in about 900 AD. The Synodicon Vetus gives a one chapter summary of every major Council and Synod of the Christian Church up until 887 AD.

The Synodicon Vetus says of The Council Of Nicea

The canonical and apocryphal books it distinguished in the following manner: in the house of God the books were placed down by the holy altar; then the council asked the Lord in prayer that the inspired works be found on top and–as in fact happened–the spurious on the bottom. (Synodicon Vetus, 35)

Unfortunately for Muslims, the Synodicon Vetus is an unreliable document and is not considered trustworthy by historians. In addition, Synodicon Vetus also fails the  tests of reliability required by Islamic Sciences.

The flaws of the Synodicon Vetus are many. They are:

  • It is anonymous
  • It is written many centuries after the early Councils
  • It gives a different account of Councils than witness accounts and records written at much earlier times
  • It references Councils that never took place
  • It includes events considered doubtful and even imaginary
  • It uses documents known to be forged and considers them to be factual.

 

While the Synodicon Vetus does contain some information which is verified by earlier historical accounts and its information about the later Councils is often sound, its major drawbacks mean that it cannot be used as an authoritative source. Its recount of the earlier Councils, including the Council of Nicea are very often unreliable. For this reason the Synodicon Vetus is described variously as pseudo-historical, not to be trusted for Councils prior to the 7th Century unless corroborated by better sources, containing information which is doubtful or imaginary, the product of careless research…containing numerous errors and depending in part on forged documents.

The account in the Synodicon Vetus of the four accepted Gospels floating to the top of a huge pile of forgeries in response to prayer is not mentioned in any document prior to the Synodicon Vetus itself. Since the SV was written about 570 years after the Council Of Nicea and the account of the miraculously appearing Gospels is not mentioned by any other source including the several records from very close to the time of Nicea, then this alone is enough to dismiss the SV’s account of Nicea as a fanciful invention and not at all based in fact.

In fact, the proceedings of The Council Of Nicea are well-known and the decisions and the agenda of the Council are common knowledge. Contrary to myths believed by Muslims and other opponents of Christianity, the canon of scripture (i.e. what Books should or should not be in The Bible) was not decided at Nicea, nor was Nicea called for the purpose of discussing the Canon of Scripture. The list of accepted Gospels and Letters in The Bible was exactly the same after Nicea as before Nicea. The church leaders that disagreed with the decisions of Nicea used the same Bible as those that agreed with Nicea.

The reason Nicea was called was to discuss the meaning of Jesus’s title as Son Of God, not to determine the contents of The Bible.

The Unmentioned Miracle

An astonishing miracle such as the True Gospels selecting, discarding, declaring and elevating themselves would surely be recorded as the major event of the Council, but no such miracle or decision is recorded. Again, this alone is proof that the story of miraculously appearing Gospels as stated by the Synodicon Vetus simply never happened.

You can read many accounts of the proceedings of Nicea from the Histories listed on this site (here’s a short summary), the statement of faith produced at Nicea here and a list of the other decisions of Nicea here. There is simply no mention of any discussion about which books should be in The Bible nor is there any decision taken regarding The Bible. This is because the Biblical Canon (what books and letters should be in The Bible) was well-known by both sides well before Nicea. It was simply not in dispute.

Synodicon Vetus Invalid According To Islamic Sciences

The willingness of Muslims to accept a myth based on the Synodicon Vetus is actually opposed to Islamic Sciences of evaluating reliable traditions and history. First, the SV is anonymous. The first principle of authenticity in Islamic Sciences is that the author of the text be fully identified and be known as a trustworthy witness.

The fact that the SV is anonymous disqualifies it immediately from being considered reliable or authentic by Muslims. Muslims are obliged to reject the SV on this basis alone. As Shabbir Ally explains in relation to The Gospel Of Barnabas (which he rejects) a document or tradition which appears suddenly and anonymously centuries after the event it is supposed to describe and which has no chain of narration back to eyewitnesses of the event is simply invalid and must be rejected by Muslims. This is why Shabbir Ally does not consider The Gospel Of Barnabas valid. He would reject the Synodicon Vetus for the same reason.

In passing, other respected Islamic Scholars also reject the Gospel Of Barnabas. For example: Yusuf Estes says simply ‘There was no Gospel Of Barnabas…If you think there was such a Gospel you are deluded…’ Estes goes on to infer that the Gospel Of Barnabas is somehow the product of drunkenness and leaves no doubt that he does not consider the Gospel Of Barnabas of value to either Muslims or Christians.

Use Of Forged Sources

Returning again to the Synodicon Vetus, the document is severely compromised by its use of sources known to be forged. The forgeries in question are known as the Seven Forged Letters of Peter The Fuller. These letters owe their production to a theological debate of the 5th Century. You can read all about it here. Since SV references forged documents as if they are true then there is no way that SV should be considered reliable.

The Qu’ran Was Recited By 114 Heavenly Eagles

Imagine if I told Muslims that the Qu’ran was put into its current form by 114 Heavenly Eagles which appeared to Mohammed on the night before his death and recited each of the 114 true Surahs in turn in order to verify to Mohammed that his own recitation of the Qu’ran was correct. Imagine if I told Muslims that this was necessary because Mohammed had accumulated over 1000 Surahs and had no idea which ones were valid and which ones were forgeries. Imagine if I told my Muslim friends that the Eagles had appeared in response to a desperate prayer from Mohammed to Allah in order to help him determine which Surahs of the Qu’ran were forged and which were real.

My Muslim friends would laugh at this story and demand proof for my assertion.

Imagine if I told them that this proof was contained in a anonymous Hadith contained in a book of Hadith assembled by an anonymous authour who had also assembled Hadith using sources which were known forgeries and that my anonymous source wrote down his Hadith in the year 1420 AD, 570 years after Imam Bukhari had made his Sahih collection of trusted and authenticated Hadith and that my account was not accepted by or known to any other Islamic Scholar.

I then tell my Muslim friends that they should reject the Hadith of Bukhari and accept my anonymous, forged, and obviously fanciful account of the Recitation Of The Heavenly Eagles, written 800 years after the death of Mohammed  even though it is in complete contradiction to reputable Islamic history.

Their response would be: Why should we accept such rubbish ?

And yet some Muslims ask Christians to accept the myths of the Synodicon Vetus.

Irredeemable

The major flaws in the SV render it irredeemable. It cannot be judged to be authoritative for Christians in any way. The story of the floating Gospels which miraculously appear at the top of the pile of competing Gospels is an obvious fabrication and a myth, one which is rejected by reputable scholarship.

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Muslims note that The Bible used by Catholic Christians has extra books than the one used by Protestant Christians. They then claim that the inclusion of these extra books by Catholics constitute proof that the message The Bible has been corrupted. Specifically Muslims state that Christians have deliberately altered The Bible in order to conceal the truth about the supreme prophethood of Mohammed and to fabricate claims about The Deity of Jesus.

We will discuss the extra books added by The Catholics below. But, first,  Muslims have their own issues with extra and different books being accepted by the different major branches of their faith. This problem lies with the different books of Hadith Collections that are accepted by the Shia and Sunni branches of Islam.

Does the existence of different and extra books among the two major branches of Islam constitute proof that Islamic scholars have tampered with the religion of Islam in order to conceal the truth about the Deity of Jesus ? Of course not. Then why should the acceptance of extra books by The Catholics constitute proof that The Bible has been tampered with in order to conceal the truth about the prophethood of Islam ?

What Are The Hadith ?

The Hadith are collections of narrations about what Mohammed said and did and provide essential context to understanding and application of The Qu’ran. Indeed, it is impossible to practice Islam without The Hadith since it is The Hadith which describe exactly how and when to perform Salat (Ritual Prayer: five times a day for Sunni and three times a day for Shia) and all the specific instructions on how to carry out the other Pillars of Islamic faith and life.

Salat Prayer is the core of Islamic religious practice. You cannot perform Salat correctly without The Hadith. Which means that you cannot be a true Muslim without The Hadith. Yet the Shia Hadith describe the performance of Salat in a different manner to the Sunni as well as condensing the times of prayer to three instead of five. Which is correct ? Who are the real Muslims ?

Without religious knowledge derived from The Hadith it would be impossible for Muslims to accrue the necessary religious merit required to enter Paradise, since merit is only awarded by Allah for religious actions performed in exact accordance with Allah’s instructions. These instructions are found in The Hadith.

The Hadith can be summarized as What Mohammed did whereas The Qu’ran can be summarized as What Mohammed said

The Hadith Collections have the status of Holy Books in Islam. Like The Qu’ran, The Hadith are thought to originate with Allah. Both The Qu’ran and The Hadith are regarded as revelation of a kind called Wahy or direct revelation of Allah. There is no higher form of revelation in Islam. The Qu’ran is only regarded as superior by virtue of being a verbatim word-for-word revelation of Allah’s speech.

Thus, the extra and different collections of Hadith constitute extra and different sets of Holy Books used in different branches of Islam. Does this mean that Islam has been tampered with in order to conceal the truth from humanity and falsify the position of Mohammed ? If not, why should Muslims consider the extra Holy Books accepted by Catholics as proof that Christians have falsified The Bible in order to falsify the position of Jesus ?

Extra Books

While it is true that Catholics added extra books to The Bible in the year 1546 at The Roman Catholic Council Of Trent, this is not proof that the message of The Bible has been corrupted.

First, the books added by Catholics are extra books. They did not change or remove any existing books. This means the message of the existing books was never changed. All these books testify that Jesus is God and that His teaching the final revelation to humanity. None of them give any status to Mohammed whatsoever.

Specifically, there is no attempt by Catholics to conceal or remove Islamic content from the Bible. They did not remove any prophecy of Mohammed or any regulations pertaining to Salat or Hajj or Fasting; they did not invent or fabricate any teaching that Jesus is God or invent or fabricate any teaching about Jesus’ death on the cross or about receiving forgiveness by faith in the sacrifice of Jesus, or invent or fabricate any teaching about His resurrection, teaching or His ascension to heaven. In other words, the specific Christian doctrines which Muslims object to in the Injeel are not affected in any way by the inclusion or exclusion by the books added to The Bible by Catholics in 1546. Nor were any Islamic doctrines excluded or concealed by Catholics when adding these books.

Catholics believed that Jesus is The Son Of God both before and after the extra books were added in 1546.

Catholics believed that Jesus died on the cross to pay for the sins of humanity both before and after the extra books were added in 1546.

Catholics rejected Mohammed as a prophet both before and after the extra books were added in 1546

In short the extra books of The Catholics offer no support to the Muslim claim that The Bible has been altered in order to conceal Islamic beliefs or falsify or invent Christian beliefs.

Secondly, the extra books of the Catholics were added in 1546, 1500 years after Jesus finished teaching. This makes it obvious that the extra books are not authentic teachings of Jesus.

Extra Books, Extra Hadith

For purposes of comparison, let’s consider the Hadith of Bukhari first published by him in 850 AD. At that time Bukhari rejected a huge number of Hadith as forged or unreliable, that number being either 297,00 or 597,000 depending on which tradition you accept. This means at least 98% of Hadith were considered by Bukhari to be forged or unreliable.

Now imagine if this year, which is more than 1150 years after Bukhari, I bought to Muslims a set of Hadith rejected by him more than 1000 years ago. I then say that Muslims should accept these forged or inauthentic traditions. Would they do so ? Of course not. They are obviously not valid traditions, even if they were accepted by some Muslims in previous times. Furthermore, does the existence of forged or inauthentic traditions call the validity or reliability of the authentic traditions into question ? Of course not.

Again furthermore, what if some Islamic group wished to accept the forged or inauthentic teachings ? Can we then say that all the Hadith have been corrupted and should be rejected based on the ignorance or poor decisions of the group that accepts forgeries ? Of course not.

For this same reason the extra books added by Catholics do not invalidate The Bible even if Catholics choose to accept the extra books.

Thirdly, the extra books pertain to The Old Testament only. The specific doctrines about Jesus rejected by Muslims are New Testament doctrines located in The Injeel. They are not described in these extra books added by Catholics.

Fourthly, these extra books were never referenced by Jesus or the ancient Jewish prophets or scholars. Some also contain obvious errors, such as a command to use magic. There is simply no reason to accept the extra books added by the Catholics.

Extra Books In Islam 

Returning to the comparison with Islamic Hadith we note that Sunni, Shia and Ibadi Muslims keep entirely different sets of Hadith collections. Another certain sect of  Muslims do not accept any Hadith whatsoever. Do Muslims acknowledge therefore, that the different Holy Books accepted by various Islamic groups prove that Islamic belief has been corrupted in order to conceal the fact that Jesus is God and to invent a spurious claim that Mohammed is the final prophet of Allah ? Of course not. Why then should Muslims require Christians to accept that Christian belief has been falsified based on the acceptance of extra Old Testament books by Catholics ?

Sunni Hadith

Sunni Muslims highly respect six Hadith collections and accord special status to two of them (Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim). This certification process was completed in the 11th Century by Ibn Al-Qiasarani. Yet a further seventh collection is accepted by a certain school of reputable Islamic scholars as superior in status to the sixth (I speak here of the Hadith Collections of Ibn Majah and Muwatta Malik). In addition to these seven, there are an additional sixteen other Hadith collections respected by Sunnis. Thirteen of which were completed prior to 1500 AD.

Hadith are essential for the practice of Islam, describing exactly how to carry out the Five Pillars of Faith and so obtain entry to Paradise. What is the non-Islamic world to make of sixteen competing collections of Traditions, each of which is apparently guided by Allah ? What are we to make of a system of Major, Minor and Tertiary Holy Books existing alongside The Qu’ran, without which the Qu’ran cannot be implementedor understood and each of which has disputed status and competing usage ? There are even statements supposedly by Allah which are not in the Qu’ran but which appear in the Hadith collections and which are given an additional prestige above other Hadith.These are the so-called Qudsi or Royal Hadith).

Why aren’t all the sayings of Allah in The Qu’ran ? Why do Muslims need additional Holy Books beyond the Qu’ran at all ? Isn’t Allah capable of describing religious practice in The Qu’ran ? If religious practice is of supreme importance then why isn’t it described in The Qu’ran ? Isn’t this multiplication of traditions proof that Muslism have been tampering with their religion for centuries, especially since even the greatest Hadith scholar, Imam Bukhari admits to discovering hundreds of thousands of forged and inauthentic traditions ?

On what basis can a person like Imam Bukhari, who is not a prophet, become authoritative in deciding which practices are authentically Islamic and which are not ? Surely that authority properly belongs with prophet. How can a person who is not a prophet become authoritative for determining what is Islamic practice and belief and what is not ?

Shia Hadith

When we come to Shia Hadith we find that the Shi’a maintain an entirely different set of Hadith to the Sunni. Though Shia do accept some of Bukhari’s work they reject the majority of it and explicitly state that Bukhari’s acceptance of unreliable narrators has corrupted Islam. Here is an example of a Bukhari Hadith rejected by Shi’a. Both Sunni and Shia regard each other’s Hadiths (extra Holy Books) as morally unacceptable, full of false doctrine and perversions of the true nature of Islam.

The most highly regarded Shi’a Hadith comprise four Collections (Al-Kafi, Man La Yahduruhu Al-Faqi, Tahdhib Al-Ahkam and Al-Istibsar). There are twelve additional Shia collections having a secondary status, six of them completed before 1500 AD.

The Ibadis have a further two Hadith collections. These are entirely distinct from the collections of the Shi’a and Sunni.

Between these three branches of Islam we note a total of thirty books of Hadith, none of which are entirely acceptable to the other branches and most of which are regarded as mutually and totally unacceptable and false.

No Muslim would agree that Islam has become corrupted on the basis of competing Hadith Collections, even though these differing Hadith lead to distinctly different expressions of Islam. In particular, no Muslim would agree that Muslims have tampered with their collections in order to conceal the fact that Jesus is God or to fabricate the position of Mohammed within Islam.

Why then do Muslims insist that the extra books accepted by Catholics prove falsification and concealment of the persons and teaching of Jesus and Mohammed when it comes to the teaching of Christianity ?

Extra Biographies

But the problem of competing Islamic Holy Books does not end with the Hadith. Muslims also use Biographies (Seerah) of Mohammed in order to understand and apply the Qu’ran. An important third-generation Muslim, Ali bin Hussain, the grandson of Imam Ali who was the fourth Sunni caliph) would say

We were taught the Seerah of Rasool Allah like we were taught Qur-aan.

That is how important Seerah is for Muslims. They would study it like they studied Qu’ran. But there is more than one ancient Biography which is authentic for Sunni Muslims and their details do not always agree. In fact, it is freely admitted by Muslims that material of doubtful authenticity is included the ancient biographies of Mohammed as often there are no conclusive accounts of events in ancient Islamic times.

Says Abu Aamar Yasir Qadhi, a Saudi-educated scholar,

the narrations used [in the Seerah] include all the authentic and acceptable ones, along with ones with weaknesses. The reason for including these weaker narrations is in order to fill in gapes or holes in the story.

But Shi’a maintain different Seerah of Mohammed than do Sunnis and also accept additional Seerah to the Sunni, these being the Seerah of the Twelve Imams directly descended from Mohammed, beginning with Imam Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammed plus Fatima, the daughter of Mohammed. These thirteen persons (plus Mohammed) are considered by Shi’a to be infallible.

As the Shi’a website Al-Islam.org puts it in relation to differences between Sunni and Shia:

The Shi’a bind themselves to refer to Ahlul-Bayt [i.e. the household of Mohammed] for deriving the Sunnah of Prophet (S) [whereas Sunni Muslims do not].

Islamic biographies of Mohammed are used by Muslims to understand and apply the Qu’ran. Sunni and Shia use differing biographies while the Shia additionally use biographies of The Twelve Imams and Fatima. These are rejected by Sunnis and constitute a further set of differering Holy Books between the two major branches of Islam.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Shunni and Shia maintain different books of Hadith and Seerah while rejecting the Collections of the other. Yet no Muslim would agree that Islam has become corrupted on the basis of competing Holy Books and Biographies even though these differing Holy Books lead to distinctly different expressions of Islam. In particular, no Muslim would agree that Muslims have tampered with their collections in order to conceal the fact that Jesus Is God or to fabricate the position of Mohammed within Islam.

Why then do Muslims insist that the extra books accepted by Catholics prove falsification and concealment of the persons and teaching of Jesus in Mohammed when it comes to the teaching of Christianity ?