Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Surah 18:50 & 1 John 3

Distinguishing God's Children from the Devil's

By Roland Clarke

From earliest times people have noticed that children often resemble their parents not only in terms of physical features but even in personality traits. So the saying became proverbial, “Like father, like son.” This proverb has spiritual implications as well.

Surah 18:50 says that Satan “was of one of the Jinns, and he broke the command of his Lord. Will ye then take him and his progeny [offspring], as protectors rather than Me? And they are enemies to you! Evil would be the exchange for the wrong-doers!”

What does the “progeny of Iblis” refer to? Yusuf Ali gives the following explanation in a footnote:

2394. Satan's progeny: we need not take the epithet only in a literal sense. All his followers are also his progeny.

The Bible definitely links evil doers and Satan,

When people keep on sinning, it shows that they belong to the devil, who has been sinning since the beginning. The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born into God's family do not make a practice of sinning, because God's life is in them. So they can't keep on sinning, because they are children of God. So now we can tell who are children of God and who are children of the devil. Anyone who does not live righteously and does not love other believers does not belong to God. This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another. We must not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because Cain had been doing what was evil, and his brother had been doing what was righteous. (1 John 3:8-12)

Jesus also identified Satan as the real instigator behind the murder of Abel. He rebuked the Jewish religious leaders for falsely claiming “Abraham is our father.” Then he added, “you are the children of your father the devil... He was a murderer from the beginning...” (John 8:44)

Since murder is a signature trait of Satan, perhaps we should apply this insight to current events. “Were dark forces working behind the scene as 3,400 Muslims (worldwide) suffered violent deaths during Ramadan?” Were the perpetrators somehow aligned with the Devil as Surah 18:50 implies?

These are the kinds of questions people are asking as they see Muslims continually fighting one another and causing the Ummah to haemorrhage. Not only so, peace-loving Muslims are disillusioned with this bloodshed. A few brave souls even dare to ask, “How can demons be bound during the fasting month yet the death toll of Muslims killed by fellow Muslims increased by 66% in 2012!” (See this article.)

Various other questions about the Devil are examined in more detail in the article, Facing Our Common Foe.

If we can speak metaphorically of the devil having children, can we not also say that believers are children of God? Muslim readers will naturally ask, “Does the Qur'an or Ahadith give any indication of a familial link between God and humans? (as implied in such terms as 'father' and 'child') Qur'anically, it is strictly prohibited for Muslims to view God as 'father' or humans as 'children of God'. See the article, Islam has no Father.

Muslims who strongly object to God as Father cannot imagine the early prophets referring to God as Father since this is considered Shirk – an unforgivable sin. But the fact is, the Jewish Bible does describe Almighty God as Father!

We read in the Tanakh,

“Is not Israel still my son, my darling child?” says the Lord. “I often have to punish him, but I still love him. That's why I long for him and surely will have mercy on him.” (Jeremiah 31:20) Yet the time will come when Israel's people ... [who] were told, “You are not my people” will be [called]... “children of the living God.” Are we not all children of the same Father? Are we not all created by the same God? Then why do we betray each other...? (Jeremiah 31:20; Hosea 1:10; Malachi 2:10; bold font added)

We also read in the Injil (Gospel) how Jesus Christ taught his followers to pray,

Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don't let us yield to temptation. (Luke 11:2-4; bold font added)

In addition to these familial references in the Old Testament, we find in the New Testament many statements relating to Jesus as God's Son. Following is a list of references the reader can read for himself. (Matthew 17:5; 26:63-66; Mark 2:1-12; John 10:24-38)

In conclusion, I would like to recount a parable that Jesus told. Embedded in this story is an allusion to Messiah as the Son of God. The Jewish religious leaders who heard Christ understood very well the point Jesus was making. The story is recorded in Luke 20:9-19,

A man planted a vineyard, leased it to tenant farmers, and moved to another country to live for several years. At the time of the grape harvest, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers attacked the servant, beat him up and sent him back empty-handed. So the owner sent another servant, but they also insulted him, beat him up and sent him away empty-handed. A third man was sent, and they wounded him and chased him away.

“What will I do?” the owner asked himself. “I know! I'll send my cherished son. Surely they will respect him.” But when the tenant farmers saw his son, they said to each other, “Here comes the heir to this estate. Let's kill him and get the estate for ourselves!” So they dragged him out of the vineyard and murdered him.

“What do you suppose the owner will do to them?” Jesus asked. I'll tell you—he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others.”

“How terrible that such a thing should ever happen,” his listeners protested.

Jesus looked at them and said, “'The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.' Everyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on.”

The teachers of religious law and the leading priests wanted to arrest Jesus immediately because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the people's reaction.

Jesus taught his followers they should address God as Father. May I ask, “How do you address God when you pray?” Do you know him as Father?

If you want to know more about God as Father please write me here.

Note: All Biblical quotations are taken from the New Living Translation and Qur'anic quotations are taken from Yusuf Ali's translation.

Any readers who want to take a closer look at Messiah's divine identity (and the title Son of God) are encouraged to check these online articles (1, 2).

Here is another vital question that arises from the aforementioned Scripture: “What does 1 John 3:8 mean when it says, “The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil”? Check these articles: Timeless Truth Encrypted in Ancient Wisdom and Wasn’t the God of the Bible strong enough to save Jesus from being killed?

Appendix: God as Father

The aforementioned parable of the vineyard owner focuses on the son who was murdered by the tenants. Not surprisingly, the religious leaders realized Jesus was pointing a finger at them. One doesn't need to be brilliant to see that Jesus, as story teller, identified himself with the son. In fact, elsewhere Jesus claimed to be God's Son (see John 10: 25-39). According to the parable of the vineyard owner Jesus portrayed himself as having a special relationship with the owner – more so than the servants who preceded him. The key question is; “Who is the owner? (if not God, himself?)”

Another parable of Jesus – about a wayward/prodigal son – sheds further light on God as Father, albeit indirectly. It features two sons and a father. Unlike the story of the vineyard owner, which concludes with a warning of terrible punishment against murderers, the story of the prodigal son highlights a tender-hearted hero-figure – a father who shows compassion and forgiveness.

The parable reads as follows:

“A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

“A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, and he asked one of the servants what was going on. ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’

“The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved [worked hard] for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends. Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” (Luke 15:11-32)

There is something unmistakably heart-warming about this story – a quality in the father that endears us to him. It prompts us to ask, “What was Jesus driving at? What is this story really about? Who is the father? Perhaps God?”

If you have read the prophets you'll realize they described God as Father. In fact, they painted this picture of God against the backdrop of people going astray like sheep. This Old Testament portrait is remarkably similar to the prodigal son in the New Testament. Speaking through the prophet Hosea, God said,

“When Israel was a child, I loved him, and I called my son out of Egypt. But the more I called to him, the farther he moved from me, ... burning incense to idols. I myself taught Israel how to walk, leading him along by the hand. But he doesn't know ... that it was I who took care of him. I led Israel along with ropes of kindness and love... But since my people refuse to return to me they will return to Egypt...

Oh how can I give you up Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah or demolish you like Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows. No, I will not unleash my fierce anger. I will not completely destroy Israel for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy. For someday the people will follow me. I, the Lord, will roar like a lion. And when I roar, my people will return from the west. Like a flock of birds they will come from Egypt ... and I will bring them home again,” says the Lord. (Hosea 11:1-11)

However, something must happen first in preparation for this homeward journey. The Israelites will experience terrible suffering as foretold in chapters 12 and 13. God declares they “must bear the consequences of their guilt because they rebelled against their God.”  (Hosea 13:16; Jeremiah 30:11) A proper understanding of God as a loving Father, means appreciating the value of discipline, “My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:11,12 ESV)

Earlier we saw in the Injil (Luke 15) how the wayward son suffered a lot. In effect, he bore the consequence of his guilt but eventually he came to his senses. These events softened his heart and turned him in repentance to his father. We see a similar pattern in Hosea. The Lord predicts that the Israelites will endure much pain “until they admit their guilt and turn to me.” (Hosea 6:15)

Hosea concludes his teaching with a beautiful and fitting description of the restoration of the Jewish people, “Return, O Israel to the Lord your God, for your sins have brought you down. Bring your confessions and return to the Lord. Say to him, ‘Forgive all our sins and graciously receive us, so that we may offer you our praises...’ The Lord says, ‘Then I will heal you of your faithlessness; my love will know no bounds, for my anger will be gone forever. I will be to Israel like a refreshing dew from heaven...’ Let those with discernment listen carefully.”  (Hosea 14:1-9)

The story of the prodigal son ends with a similar fitting restoration to the father – a joyous home-coming. But notice, there is an unusual, intriguing twist. The father has to deal with a stressful situation – an envious, unforgiving brother. He urges the older brother, “We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost but now is found.” Please join me as we take a closer look.

Some thoughtful questions

  1. One can't help but notice a striking contrast between the two brothers! Does Christ intend us to see an underlying meaning here? (cf. Matthew 21:28-32) Who, in Jesus' audience, corresponds to the hard-hearted, unforgiving older brother?

  2. Who do you think corresponds to the younger brother? In what sense was he 'dead'? Can you think of other examples in Scripture where people were 'dead', yet their heart had not stopped, i.e. they were figuratively or spiritually dead?

  3. Think about this: the Bible repeatedly speaks of God as Father but the Qur'an doesn't! Also, the Bible emphasizes Jesus the Messiah is God's Son (Matthew 16:16; 1 John 2:22-23) but the Qur'an emphatically rejects this. In fact, it declares, “God's curse be on them...” (Surah 9:30) Not only so, the Qur'an describes this cornerstone teaching of the Bible as “blasphemy,” adding, “verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers.” (Surah 5:72-73, 5:75; cf. 19:88-92)


[First published: 20 October 2012]
[Last updated: 5 November 2012]