Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Jesus Christ – The Divine Light of All Creation

Replying to the Polemics of a Dawagandist

Sam Shamoun

Muslim taqiyyist Paul Bilal Williams takes a shot at refuting a particular tract that Christian apologist and philosopher David Wood wrote to help Christians share the Gospel more effectively with Muslims. The tract is titled, "Where Did Jesus Say, 'I Am God, Worship Me?'", and can be read here.

Since we have already refuted most of William’s arguments in the rebuttal section dedicated to his polemics, we will only be focusing on one specific portion of his “response” to the tract. 

Here is what Williams writes in reply to Wood pointing out that Jesus claimed to be the Light which, according to Islamic theology, happens to be one of the divine names of Allah:

The Light

My comments re [sic] the historical problems surrounding the gospel of John apply to all David Wood’s quotes from that gospel. I will not repeat them here. But let us not forget that according to Matthew 5 Jesus taught his disciples,

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

So the true followers of Jesus are light to the world  - just as Jesus was. (Judging by the Injil)

Williams’ “rebuttal” raises a host of problems for his position as a Muslim.

First, the same kind of scholarship which Williams appeals to in order to call into question the historical reliability of John’s Gospel can also be used to discredit the Quran.

For instance, the reason why some scholars question the speeches of Jesus in John is because they are not found in the Synoptic Gospels and, in some cases, are so different from them.

However, if this is sufficient grounds to deny the veracity of the reported words of Christ in the Gospel of John then what are we to say about the speeches which the Quran attributes to Jesus?

At least John’s Gospel agrees with the Synoptics in their overall depiction of Jesus:

Jesus is God’s unique beloved Son (cf. Mark 1:11; 9:7; John 1:14, 34; 3:16, 18, 36; 5:20; 17:24).

Jesus is the Heir to whom the Father has entrusted all things (cf. Mark 12:7; Matthew 11:27; 28:18; John 3:35; 16:15; 17:1-2, 10).

Jesus is the divine Son of Man who will judge the nations (cf. Mark 8:38; 14:62; Matthew 16:27; 19:28; 25:31-46; John 5:27).

Jesus is the Savior sent to offer his life for the salvation of people (cf. Mark 10:45; Matthew 1:21; 26:26-28; Luke 2:11; 19:10; 24:44-47; John 1:29; 3:17; 4:42; 6:47-58; 12:47).

Jesus baptizes with/in and grants the Holy Spirit to believers (cf. Mark 1:8-10; John 1:32-33; 20:22).

Jesus receives worship (cf. Mark 5:6-7, 22, 33; 7:25; Matthew 2:2, 11; 14:33; 21:15-16; 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 5:23; 9:35-38; 14:13-14).

Jesus died on the cross, was buried and then rose again (cf. Mark 15-16; Matthew 27-28; Luke 23-24; John 19-21).

The Quran, on the other hand, agrees with none of this!

Therefore, if John is to be deemed unreliable due to its differences with the Synoptic Gospels, then how much more should Williams deem the Quran to be untrustworthy when it not only contradicts what the Synoptics teach concerning Jesus, but also came over 600 years later and therefore has no eyewitness value whatsoever!

At least in the case of John’s Gospel we find even radical skeptics like Bart Ehrman admitting that it is a first century writing!(1)  

Second, the Quran not only confirms the textual authenticity of the Scriptures in the possession of the Jews and Christians during Muhammad’s time,

He descended on you The Book with the truth, confirming to what (is) BETWEEN HIS HANDS (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi), and He descended the Torah and the New Testament/Bible (al-Injil [Gospel]). From before guidance to the people, and He descended the Separator of Right and Wrong/Koran, that those who disbelieved with God's verses, for them (is) a strong (severe) torture, and God (is) glorious/mighty, (owner) of a revenge/punishment. S. 3:3-4 Ahmed Ali

“To you We revealed the Book with the Truth, confirming previous Scripture and witnessing to their veracity (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-kitabi wa-muhaiminan alayhi)…” S. 5:48 (The Qur’an – A New Translation, by Tarif Khalidi [Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., First American Edition 2008], p. 89; bold emphasis ours)

It also exhorts Christians to judge by their very own Gospel!

And We sent after (following) on their tracks with Jesus, Mary's son confirming for what (is) between his hands from the Torah/Old Testament, and We gave him the New Testament/Bible (al-Injil) in it (is) guidance and light, and confirming to what (is) between his hands from the Torah/Old Testament, and guidance and a sermon/advice/warning to the fearing and obeying. And the New Testament's/Bible's people (ahlul al-Injili) should JUDGE/RULE with what God descended in it, and who does not judge/rule with what God descended, so those, they are the debauchers. S. 5:46-47 Ahmed Ali 

Now the only way these Christians could be expected to judge by the Gospel which God gave to Jesus is if they had access to it; otherwise, how could they be commanded to judge by a book which no longer existed at that time?

The following citations provide further substantiation that Muhammad actually believed that the Christians of his day still had the Gospel of Christ in their possession:

“those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet of the common folk, whom they find written down WITH THEM in the Torah AND THE GOSPEL…” S. 7:157 Arberry

“Ziyad b. Labid said: The Prophet mentioned a matter, saying, ‘That will be at the time when knowledge departs.’ I asked, ‘How can knowledge depart when we recite the Qur’an and teach it to our children and they will teach it to their children up till they day of resurrection?’ He replied, ‘I am astonished at you, Ziyad. I thought you were the most learned man in Medina. Do not these Jews and Christians READ the Torah AND THE INJIL without knowing a thing about their contents?’ Ahmad and Ibn Majah transmitted it. Tirmidhi transmitted something similar from him, as did Darimi from Abu Umama.” (Mishkat Al Masabih, English Translation With Explanatory Notes By Dr. James Robson [Sh. Muhammad Ashraf Publishers, Booksellers & Exporters, Lahore, Pakistan, Reprinted 1990], Volume I, Book II – Knowledge, pp. 62-63; bold and capital emphasis ours)       

The question that should naturally arise in the minds of the readers is, what is the Gospel that these Muslim sources claim was still in the possession of the Christians at the time of Muhammad?

We don’t need to guess since one of the earliest extant sources on the life of Muhammad identifies this Gospel for us:

“Among the things which have reached me about what Jesus the Son of Mary stated in the Gospel which he received from God for the followers of the Gospel, in applying a term to describe the apostle of God, is the following. It is extracted FROM WHAT JOHN THE APOSTLE SET DOWN FOR THEM WHEN HE WROTE THE GOSPEL FOR THEM FROM THE TESTAMENT OF JESUS SON OF MARY: ‘He that hateth me hateth the Lord. And if I had not done in their presence works which none other before me did, they had not sin: but from now they are puffed up with pride and think that they will overcome me and also the Lord. But the word that is in the law must be fulfilled, "They hated me without a cause" (i.e. without reason). But when the Comforter has come whom God will send to you from the Lord's presence, and the spirit of truth which will have gone forth from the Lord's presence he (shall bear) witness of me and ye also, because ye have been with me from the beginning. I have spoken unto you about this that ye should not be in doubt.’

“The Munahhemana (God bless and preserve him!) in Syriac is Muhammad; in Greek he is the paraclete. (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], pp. 103-104; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The above Muslim biographer quotes John 15:23-16:1 and says that it is taken from the Gospel of Christ which John wrote down for Jesus’ followers!

Irony of ironies! 

The oldest extant biography on Muhammad’s life explicitly names John’s Gospel as the written account of the very Gospel which God gave Jesus to pass on to his followers! And notice that he never once states that this particular Gospel is corrupt or unreliable!

Now since the Quran itself exhorts Christians to judge by the Gospel which is in their possession, and since the earliest record on Muhammad’s life identifies that Gospel as John’s, this means that Williams cannot object to our use of this Gospel to judge Muhammad and his message.

Yet, unfortunately for him, it is this same Gospel (along with the other NT writings for that matter) which condemns Muhammad as a false prophet. This explains why Williams is always trying to discredit the veracity of John’s witness since Williams knows that the inspired testimony of the Fourth Gospel ends up exposing Muhammad as a deceiver sent to mislead people away from the truth of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

For a thorough refutation of Williams’ feeble attempt of explaining away the Quran’s clear witness to the authenticity and reliability of the Holy Bible we recommend the following rebuttals:

The Quran’s View of the Holy Bible Revisited Pt. 1, Pt. 2
The Qur’an – The Preserver of Previous Scripture

With that now behind us, it is time to address Williams’ appeal to Matthew 5:14-16 in order to discount Jesus’ divine claims.

To begin with, seeing that Williams appealed to Matthew’s Gospel to understand Jesus’ statements in John then he surely won’t mind us using John’s Gospel to explain Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, specifically his claim that his disciples are also the light of the world.   

As John’s Gospel explains, Jesus is the true Light, e.g. the Source of all illumination, which enables every man to find the path to eternal life, a life which we are told originates from him: 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things came into existence through Him, and apart from Him not one thing came into existence that has come into existence. IN HIM was Life, and that Life was the Light of men. That Light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man named John who was sent from God. He came as a witness to testify about the Light (tou photos), so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light (to phos), but he came to testify about the Light (tou photos). The TRUE LIGHT (to phos to alethinon), WHO GIVES LIGHT TO EVERYONE, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into existence through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him… The Word became flesh and pitched his tent/tabernacled among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-10, 14

Second, Jesus expressly says that everyone who believes in him shall become a child of the Light, and therefore have Christ’s Light shining in and through him/her:

“Then Jesus spoke to them again: ‘I am the Light (to phos) of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the Light of life.’” John 8:12

“We must do the works of Him who sent Me while it is day. Night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” John 9:4-5

“Jesus answered, ‘The Light (to phos) will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the Light (to phos) so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. While you have the Light (to phos), BELIEVE IN THE LIGHT (to phos) so that you may become sons of Light.’ Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them… ‘I have come as a Light into the world, so that everyone who believes IN ME would not remain in darkness.’” John 12:35-36, 46

In these passages, Jesus ascribes to himself what the Hebrew Bible attributes to Yahweh!

“They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights, For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light.” Psalm 36:8-9

What makes this OT text rather interesting is that Jesus, in John, says he is the One who gives to his followers the water of life:

“Jesus answered, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.’ … Jesus said, ‘Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again—ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life.’” John 4:10, 13-14 – cf. 6:35; 7:38-39

Jesus even repeatedly claimed to be the One who gives life to all who turn to him, and who will also raise the dead from their graves on the day of resurrection:

“And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to anyone He wants to… I assure you: An hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted to the Son to have life in Himself Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear HIS [THE SON’S] VOICE and come out—those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of judgment.” John 5:21, 25-26, 28-29

“This is the will of Him who sent Me: that I should lose none of those He has given Me but should raise them up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day…  No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day… Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day,” John 6:39-40, 44, 54

“‘Your brother will rise again,’ Jesus told her. Martha said, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she told Him, ‘I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.’” John 11:23-27

“‘Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.’ ‘Lord,’ Thomas said, ‘we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?’ Jesus told him, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” John 14:1-6

Here is where the problem begins for Williams. According to the Quran, Allah is the light of creation, the truth, and the one who supposedly gives life to all:

God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The example of His light is like a concave mirror within a lamp, the lamp is within a glass, the glass is like a radiant planet, which is lit from a blessed olive tree that is neither of the east nor of the west, its oil nearly radiates light even if not touched by fire. Light upon light. God guides to His light those whom He pleases. God sets forth parables for mankind; God is aware of all things. S. 24:35 Quran Reformist Translation

That is because God is the truth, and He gives life to the dead, and He is capable of all things. The moment is coming, there is no doubt in it, and God will resurrect those who are in the graves. S. 22:6-7 Reformist Translation

Say, "O people, I am God 's messenger to you all. The One who has the sovereignty of heavens and earth, there is no god but He; He gives life and causes death." So acknowledge God and His gentile prophet, who acknowledges God and His words; and follow him that you may be guided. S. 7:158 Reformist Translation

This last reference is also interesting since, in Matthew’ Gospel, Jesus expressly states that he is the One who possesses the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth!

“Then Jesus came near and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.’” Matthew 28:18

With the foregoing in perspective we can now better understand the meaning of Matthew 5:14-16. The reason why the disciples are called the light of the world is because of their union with Christ. Jesus’ followers reflect the Light which emanates from Christ who is the Source of all illumination.

In other words, the Light which shines from the disciples is not something which they possess intrinsically, but one which originates from the Person of Christ who is the True Light from which all illumination flows. The disciples were merely a conduit through which the glorious Light of Christ shined forth.

This now leads us to the other problem that Williams is faced with.

According to Islamic scholarship, some of the names which belong only to Allah include “the Light” and “the Life-giver”:

Al-Muhyî, Al-Mumît: The One Who Gives Life, The One who Makes Die

The Life-Giver or Quickener who makes something alive, to be a living thing; He quickenes him or endues him with life or revives him. He revives the earth with rain and endues with intelligence. Al-Mumit is the One who causes to die.

Al-Muhyi and Al-Mumit are two of the Ninety-Nine Names…

An-Nûr: The Light

The light, guide, the One who illuminates; the One who is manifest, clear.

An-Nur is one of the Ninety-Nine Names. (Aisha Bewley, Divine Names)

61. Al-Muhyi
The Giver of Life

94. Al-Nur
The Light (G. F. Haddad, Allah’s Names and Attributes)

Islamic theology further teaches that such names can never be ascribed to any creature, no matter how exalted, especially in their definite forms, e.g. one cannot call someone other than Allah THE Light, since to do so is to commit the unforgivable sin known as shirk (cf. Q. 2:22; 4:48, 116).

As the following Salafi scholar explains:

5. Maintaining the unity of Allah’s names also means that Allah’s names in the definite form cannot be given to His creation unless preceded by the prefix ‘Abd meaning "slave of" or "servant of”. Many of the Divine names in their indefinite form like Ra’uf and Rahim are allowable names for men because Allah has used some of them in their indefinite forms to refer to the Prophet…

But ar-Ra’uf (the One Most Full of Pity) and ar-Rahim (the Most Merciful) can only be used to refer to men if they are preceded by ‘Abd as in ‘Abdur-Ra’uf or ‘Abdur-Rahim, since in the definite form they represent a level of perfection which only belongs to God. Similarly, names like ‘Abdur-Rasool (slave of the messenger), ‘Abdun-Nabi (slave of the Prophet), ‘Abdul-Husayn (slave of Husayn), etc., where people name themselves slaves to other than Allah are also forbidden. Based on this principle, the Prophet forbade Muslims from referring to those put under their charge as ‘abdi (my slave) or amati (my slave girl). (Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, The Fundamentals of Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism) [International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, 2nd Edition: 2005], Chapter One. The Categories of Tawhid, pp. 30-31; bold emphasis ours)


2. Shirk by deification

This form of shirk in al-Asma’ was-Sifat relates to cases where created beings or things are given, or claim, Allah’s names or His attributes. For example, it was the practice of the ancient Ara bs to worship idols whose names were derived from the names of Allah. Their main three idols were: al-Lat, taken from Allah’s name al-Ilah; al-‘Uzza, taken from al-‘Aziz; and al-Manat, taken from al-Mannan. During the Prophet Muhammad’s era there was also a false prophet in a region called Yamamah, who took the name Rahman which only belongs to Allah. (Ibid., Chapter Two. The Categories of Shirk, Shirk in al-Asma’ was-Sifat, p. 51; underline emphasis ours)

Seeing that Williams believes that Jesus and his disciples were actually Muslims (cf. Q. 3:52; 5:111), then this means that Christ would never ascribe divine titles such as “the Light” either to himself or to his followers. And yet, according to both Matthew and John, this is precisely what Jesus did!

In light of this, Williams must accept the fact that the very Gospel which the Quran commands Christians to judge by proves that Jesus and his followers were definitely not Muslims, and that Muhammad must have therefore been a false prophet for claiming that they were and for contradicting what they actually taught.

This is William’s Islamic dilemma, and the only way for him to escape this dilemma is to abandon Islam altogether and acknowledge that Muhammad was a false prophet!

So much for Williams’ “reply”.


(1) There are NT scholars, both liberal and conservative, who actually believe the evidence strongly supports John’s Gospel being composed before 70 AD. One such liberal scholar was the late John A. T. Robinson who, in his book Redating the New Testament, argued that the fourth Gospel was written anywhere between 40-65 AD.

Noted Evangelical Greek NT scholar Dr. Daniel B. Wallace is also of the opinion that the evidence strongly points to a pre-70 composition date for John:

John: Introduction, Argument, Outline
John 5:2 and the Date of the Fourth Gospel...again
John 5.2 One More Time: A Response to Andreas Köstenberger

Thus, if scholars are willing to cast doubt on a writing which was composed within the first generation of the eyewitnesses to Christ then what would these same critics say concerning William’s scripture which was composed over 600 years later, long after the eyewitnesses and their followers had died?