Doctrine of Tanzib

Doctrine of Tanzib

Today I am going to start discussing some of the doctrines of Islam. My goal is to simplify the complexity of Islam. Islam has been around for 1,400 years and can seem very complex. They have about twelve major books that need to be studied to understand their doctrine. The first book is the Qur’an. Everyone thinks that is all of their scriptures, but it is only a portion of it. The Qur’an contains the words of their god, Allah. The other eleven books are the words of their Prophet, Muhammad.

The Hadith consists of ten books. These are the traditions of Muhammad according to his companions. There are major collectors of these traditions. Bukhari and Muslim are two most well received and accepted collectors. When translated into English there are about ten books in th Bukhari collection.

The eleventh book is the Sirah. This is the biography of Muhammad according to Ibn Ishaq. You might look at is as the gospel of Muhammad. The Bible contains four Gospels of Jesus Christ, the Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The Sirah would be the Gospel of Muhammad according to Ishaq. It is the oldest written book which records the life of Muhammad and his teaching.

These sources contribute to the complexity of Islam. There are also different schools of interpretation that have developed. There are about eight different schools, five with the Sunni Muslims and three with the Shia Muslims. To simplify this, there are really only two schools. There are the traditionalists and the reformists.

The Traditionalists will be more literal. They are very strong on the sovereignty of Allah and very weak on the will of man. For them, man has very little free will. In this view, they are very fatalistic. This is the prevailing view of Islam.

There have been about three attempts to reform Islam. One of the first was around 800 to 900 AD. They started using critical thinking. They started studying out doctrine, and even started questioning doctrine. That didn’t didn’t last very long.

The most recent effort to reform Islam started with the Ottoman Empire. In my opinion, this effort at reform is not really following a theology, it follows an ideology. An ideology is the fitting of Islam into their desire for it to be more palatable to the West. They want Islam to be practiced more like the West’s idea of how a religion should be practiced. It is a very watered down view of Islam. The reformed view of Islam is popular in the West. They teach that Islam is a religion of peace. They pick and choose the passages they like and reject those they don’t like.

Let’s look at the traditionalist point of view, because it is the Islam of Muhammad. Islam rises and falls with the Prophet Muhammad. This is why I always talk about the traditionalist, orthodox, view of Islam. Most of the Muslims we meet in the West are not practicing the Islam of Muhammad, they are practicing the modern reformed Islam. They are making an Allah after their own imaginations.

Traditional Islam starts with the Doctrine of Tanzib, Allah is Unknowable. Allah is so absolute in his transcendence, and so far beyond his creation that his creation cannot understand him or know him. He cannot be compared to anything.

Tanzib is summed up in the following statements:

God’s absolute transcendence and utter incomparability.”
“No correspondence at all between God and His creation.”
The mind of the Creature cannot comprehend the Creator.
The Powers of Reason are void and incapable.

Allah has sent revelations to his creation through certain prophets, but he doesn’t speak directly to his creation. His creation cannot speak directly to him. What Allah reveals in the Qur’an is not himself, but his rules for man.

To support this doctrine they use Surah 42:11 “Nothing is like Him.” In Arabic they say “bila Kayfa wala tashhih,” which means without inquiring how and without making comparison.

In Islam, the creature is subject to Allah, and he is to obey and not to question. The meaning of the word “Islam” is to submit or be in subjection. The word “Muslim” means the submitted one, or one submitted to Allah. The duty of the Muslim is to obey, and not to question. It is kind of like they teach in the military, “Your is not to question why, but to do or die.”

Ibn Khaldun, an Ash’arite prophet, in response to dealing with science and nature’s laws said, “It is the duty of the Muslim not to do what does not concern him.” This explains why the Islamic world has not developed scientifically. With 1.7 billion Muslims in the world, I believe that only three of four have been awarded Nobel Prizes. One of those was a peace prize given to PLO leader Yasser Arafat, if you can believe that. For scientific advancement only two or three out of 1.7 billion Muslims is not very much.

The Jews, which are also from the Middle East, and there are only about 7 million of them in the world, yet more that 170 of them have received Nobel prizes for science. It is not that the Middle East can’t do science, it is the ideology of Islam that keeps Muslims from scientific research.

Because of Allah’s omnipotence, they are not allowed to ask why things are the way they are, or how things work.

In Christianity, we believe that God is Omnipotent but still limited by his moral attributes. Certain things are incumbent upon Him because He must be true to His moral character. He cannot lie because He is truth. He cannot perform sin because He is all together righteous. Christians are allowed to question and reason.

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD… (Isaiah 1:18)

In reasoning with God, we are allowed to present our arguments:

Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong [reasons], saith the King of Jacob. (Isaiah 41:21)

Muslims are not allowed to do these things. They believe that Allah is omnipotent and, therefore, can do whatever he wants, without any restrictions. He can lie, he can sin, he can do anything that is considered sin to his creatures and it is OK. He is not bound to any moral code at all. The idea that Allah has to do anything because it is right is anathema to Muslims. They can’t question the why or the how of anything Allah does. Because the Qur’an said it, or Muhammad said it, it is so and no questions can be asked.

In Christianity, God tells us who He is, but we are also able to reason it out. We have a God that can handle being questions, who can withstand the reasoning. The god of Islam cannot take the challenge of questions and reason. The reason is, if they do question Allah, they will find that he is from the mind of a con-man, the Prophet Muhammad.

I want to look at these doctrines of Islam because I think it will help us understand what we are dealing with, and help us in taking the message of the Gospel to Muslims.

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