A Common Word

A new Islamic document circulating – Should we sign it?
I was asked to give my opinion on a document which is in the News. I thought the subject might be interesting on here. Christians are being invited to sign up to a document produced by Islamic Scholars who are responding to the Pope’s speech at Regensburg. The document is called “A Common Word” and can be found here:http://www.acommonword.com/index.php?lang=en I have given a summary here, then a more detailed examination of the document as an answer.

On the face of it, this document can look very appealing, with an emphasis on Common Ground between major world religions, love for God and one’s neighbour, the opportunity for better relations, and a more peaceful world. Who would not sign up to that?

However, alongside all these worthy concepts is a major subtext: statements which verify the Unity of God by affirming also that “he has no ‘partner’ or ‘associate'”.

In the Qur’an this theme is more openly expressed as “Allah has ‘no son'” (9:30, 31) (18:4-6) (23:91).

Visitors to the site are invited to submit their name to “fully endorse” the document. There is no opportunity to endorse some parts without also effectively also signing your name to denying that Jesus is divine.

For some this will not be a compromise, but for Christians, belief in the divinity of Jesus differentiates us from all others. This is a significant Christian teaching, which should not be abrogated by carelessness in examining this document closely.

I am convinced that if we were asked to give our views on vandalism, crime, illicit sex, and the like ills of society, Muslims and Christians would speak with one voice.

The document says – and we would agree – “So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill.”

But this document goes further, and asks us to recognise that when we speak of our God, Muslims and Christians are speaking of the same thing.

It says,”The central creed of Islam consists of the two testimonies of faith or Shahadahsi, which state that: There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God. These Two Testimonies are the sine qua non of Islam. He or she who testifies to them is a Muslim; he or she who denies them is not a Muslim.”

It quotes Mohammed “He who says: ‘There is no god but God, He Alone, He hath no associate,”. What does he mean by “associate”?

The document explains Islam’s attitude to Jesus: “Muslims recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah, not in the same way Christians do (but Christians themselves anyway have never all agreed with each other on Jesus Christ’s nature), but in the following way: .. the Messiah Jesus son of Mary is a Messenger of God and His Word which he cast unto Mary and a Spirit from Him…. (Al-Nisa’, 4:171).”

This attitude permeates the document: “Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God.”

What does this mean – “no partner”?

And later: “Finally, as Muslims, and in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we ask Christians to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions . that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God .”

Around the inside of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, is written five times the words, “There is only one God, and he has no son.”

Wikipedia’s articles on Islam are revealing:
Prohibition of Idolatry and polytheism Islam says that Allah is only one God, and anyone worshipping more than one God is a polytheist. This is taken to include the Christian concept of the Trinity. To affirm this belief, Muslims have to repeat the following in their daily prayers: [1:5] “You alone We worship, and only Your aid We seek.”[2]

Other Qur’anic verses that show this position are:

[3:62] Verily! This is the true narrative (about the story of Isa/Jesus), and Laa ilaaha illallaah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah, the One and the Only True God, Who has neither a wife nor a son). And indeed, Allah is the All Mighty, the All Wise.

[5:73] They disbelieved who say: God is one of three (in a Trinity): for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous chastisement will befall the disbelievers among them.

[6:101] Wonderful Originator of the heavens and the earth: How can He have a son when He hath no consort? He created all things, and He hath full knowledge of all things.

Conclusion. The document invites us to agree that there is only one God, but every time this is said, it ties in references to “he has no partner”.

Quite plainly, the references to God having “no partner” are a veiled (but not very veiled) reference to our belief that Jesus IS God.

So signing up in agreement with this document is responding to an invitation to deny that Jesus can be “God”

Finally, we might ask, “So who is this god who has ‘no son’? Is he just the same God, whose followers have not got (or have got – according to your persuasion) quite the correct understanding of the fiddly details of theology?”

Or is the god who has no son a DIFFERENT god from the one who HAS a son?

That might be the subject of further writing, but you can see from the above that there is sufficient reason for Christians to avoid signing this document – notwithstanding our desire to stand with people of other religions and none to propagate peace and goodwill among mankind.

Related Q & A

Same God?