Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog


One Muslim’s Misguided Attempt to Cobble Together
an Argument for Islam from the Chumash

By Anthony Rogers


The following is a reply to Muslim apologist Ibn Anwar’s claim that "According to the Chumash (חומש) Islam is a fulfillment of God’s promise to Ishmael" (1, 2), from which proposition he believes it can be deduced that Islam is the true religion. Because I could be accused of slander for attributing to Ibn Anwar what can honestly only be considered a criminal mishandling of God’s word and for engaging in a form of reasoning that is so egregious that no rational person could seriously be guilty of engaging in such, the reader is encouraged to read Ibn Anwar’s article for himself before continuing. The number of theological, logical and factual mistakes that are so densely packed into and which came pouring out of such a short article called to mind a circus routine where two dozen clowns all appear to come barreling out of a small vehicle that would normally only accommodate four people.

Miscellaneous Errors

Since the following points are tangential to the actual thesis of Ibn Anwar’s article, with the exception of the last one, which will be granted here for the sake of argument, this reply will not consider in detail the author’s claims that: 1) Hagar was Abraham’s wife, i.e. a wife of equal if not greater status than Sarah, rather than, as the Bible says, Sarah’s handmaiden whom she urged Abraham to take as a second(ary) wife or concubine; 2) Ishmael rather than Isaac was the one God commanded Abraham to sacrifice, a fact that is at variance with the Old and New Testaments, not to mention that this idea isn’t even something stated in the Qur’an, and much less does it follow from the author’s incredibly fallacious suggestion that it can be inferred from the fact that Ishmael’s name includes within it the generic term for deity whereas Isaac’s name does not; or 3) the unargued and questionable assumption that Muhammad was a descendant of Ishmael, something even the Islamic sources do not give us any confidence in. All of these claims, each in their own turn, can more than easily be challenged on Biblical, logical, and historical grounds, but may safely be passed over here without further consideration.

For those who wish to pursue the above issues further, see the following articles:

Hagar’s Legal Status in Abraham’s Household
Was Keturah the wife or the concubine of Abraham?
The Claim that Ishmael was the Sacrifice
Abraham and the Child of Sacrifice – Isaac or Ishmael?
Ishmael is not the Father of Muhammad
‘Ishmael is not the Father of Muhammad’ Revisited
Are the Arabs Descendants of Ishmael?

Islam, a fulfillment of God’s Promise to Ishmael

After quoting several verses from the book of Genesis to show that God promised to make Ishmael into a great nation (i.e. Genesis 17:20, 21:13, 21:18 and 16:10), all the while ignoring, of course, that the promise to Ishmael did not mount up to the promise made to Isaac as the one with whom God would establish, and through whom He would fulfill, the salvific or redemptive promises of the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 21:8-21, 26:1-6), Ibn Anwar provides the following quote from Rabbi Nosson Scherman:

"We see from the prophecy in this verse that 2337 years elapsed before the Arabs, Ishmael’s descendants, became a great nation [with the rise of Islam in the 7th century C.E.]…. Throughout this period, Ishmael hoped anxiously, until finally the promise was fulfilled and they dominated the world." [1]

[1] Rabbi Nosson Scherman. The Chumash(1998). Brooklyn, New York: Mesorah Publications, Ltd. p. 76

(Emphasis by Ibn Anwar)

From this, Ibn Anwar makes the following argument:

Though the paragraph that precedes the above in the commentary(not produced here) suggests an eventual downfall of the kingdom of the descendants of Ishmael which I suppose has taken place the above makes it explicit that Islam is a fulfillment of God’s promise for Ishmael. If Islam is a fulfillment of God’s promise then it only follows that it is His decree. If it is His decree then it only follows that it is the truth. Thus we can safely conclude that because Islam is a direct fulfillment of the promise of God made to Ishmael what logically follows is the truth of Islam.

Before even coming to the main problems with Ibn Anwar’s argument, the arbitrariness of his approach can already be seen in his use of the above statement from Rabbi Nosson. Whereas most Muslims shout at the top of their voices that all Jews are liars, here a certain Jewish opinion is simply accepted by Ibn Anwar without any hesitation or any perceived need to justify the validity of quoting him. The combination of these two reactions that are often on full display by Muslims clearly shows that both the acceptance and the rejection of what certain Jewish people or others believe has nothing to do with Jews or anyone else but only with whether or not they like what certain people say. But "liking" or "disliking" has never been a measure for truth. As much as the rabbi’s opinion may be worth discussing, it is not a given that he is correct. His words are not divine revelation but may well be wrong.

Islam, Born out of Due Time

The first mistake that Ibn Anwar makes is the result of a failure (refusal?) to read on in the book of Genesis where he draws from when he points out that God promised to make a great nation out of Ishmael. As is evident from Genesis 25, God’s promise that Ishmael would become a great nation was fulfilled long before Muhammad and his followers came bent on conquest and world domination.

After saying that Abraham sent the sons of his concubines to the east away from Isaac, and that Abraham left everything he had to Isaac upon the occasion of his death, we read the following about Ishmael and his descendants:

Now these are the records of the generations of Ishmael, Abraham's son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah's maid, bore to Abraham; and these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, in the order of their birth: Nebaioth, the firstborn of Ishmael, and Kedar and Adbeel and Mibsam and Mishma and Dumah and Massa, Hadad and Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These are the sons of Ishmael and these are their names, by their villages, and by their camps; twelve princes according to their tribes. These are the years of the life of Ishmael, one hundred and thirty-seven years; and he breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people. They settled from Havilah to Shur which is east of Egypt as one goes toward Assyria; he settled in defiance of all his relatives. (Genesis 25:12-15)

The fact that the above verses mention that Ishmael had twelve sons or princes, that a tribe developed from each of his sons, that they had villages and camps that stretched from Havilah to Shur, and that they lived in "defiance" of their relatives, exactly as the promise in Genesis 16 said would be true of Ishmael, shows that the terms of the promise were already fulfilled long before Islam took hold of the Arab peoples and long before they in turn sought to take hold of the entire world. In other words, since the same Bible that records the promise that Ishmael would be made a great nation also records the fulfillment of this promise long before Islam arrived on the scene of history, Muslims cannot at the same time appeal to the Bible in an effort to show that it predicts the rise of Islam. The prophesied or promised parameters found in Genesis 16 are fully met by the fulfillment recorded in Genesis 25.

Ishmael or Islam?

A second mistake that Ibn Anwar makes is accepting the equivocal reasoning evinced above, which turns a promise to make a great nation out of Ishmael’s biological descendants into a promise about the religion of Ishmael’s descendants. While there can be little doubt that the religion of Islam was the driving impulse behind Arab efforts to “dominate the world” – and we can at least be thankful, I suppose, that Ibn Anwar acknowledges this, though we would take great exception to the virtue of such a project, or at least with the means Muslims have used in their efforts to realize it – but a promise about the one is still not a promise about the other. In fact, since Ibn Anwar confuses the two, and since he goes on to admit to the "eventual downfall of the kingdom of Ishmael", then by his own reasoning he is forced to believe in the downfall of Islam.

If Decreed, then True

A final problem, which will be looked at in some length, has to do with Ibn Anwar’s peculiar view that just because God promised that Ishmael’s descendants would become a great nation – or, as Ibn Anwar would have it, He decreed the rise of Islam – it does not at all follow from this that Islam is true. Indeed, many Christians are fully convinced that God decreed (though he did not promise anywhere) the rise of Islam, but Christians are on good ground when they part company with Ibn Anwar and refuse to conclude from this that Islam is true. After all, Christians and Muslims both believe that God decreed the existence of pigs and thus pork, but it is scarcely to be expected that any practicing Muslim will think it follows from this that it is good to eat pork. Surely, then, in terms of the argument that Ibn Anwar has proposed, no one can be faulted if they do not swallow the (alleged) truth of Islam.

While the above is sufficient to point out Ibn Anwar’s error on this score, since Ibn Anwar made his appeal to the Bible, and since it leads to some significant issues relative to the true nature of Islam and the reason in the providence of God for its existence, what follows will survey what the Bible actually says about those nations that God, in the providential outworking of His decree, raised up, made great, and granted ascendancy over others (for a time).

It is clear from the Bible that God decreed the rise of many nations without at the same time suggesting that the religion of those nations were/are true.


For example, according to the Bible, God raised up Pharaoh, and the Egyptian nation under him, to accomplish his purpose: "But I have raised you [Pharaoh] up for this very purpose" (Exodus 9:16; cf. Romans 9:16-18). Does Ibn Anwar believe that this proves that Egyptian religion, with all of its gods and goddesses, including the worship of Pharaoh, was/is true? In fact, the entire passage says the very opposite:

Then the LORD said to Moses, "Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the LORD, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me, or this time I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so you may know that there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand against you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.'" (Exodus 9:13-16)

According to the above passage, Egypt, in the providence of God, became a great nation and was permitted to dominate Israel for different reasons than what Egypt assumed. That is, God made Egypt a great and powerful nation and elevated Pharaoh so that He might demonstrate His almighty power and so that His glorious name, not that of the gods of Egyptian religion, might be proclaimed in all the earth through the mighty deliverance that He was going to effect.


Another example can be seen in the case of ancient Assyria, a people raised up by God who were also bent on "dominating the world", a desire God used for His own purpose, i.e. to punish His people for their sins:

Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger, and the staff in whose hands is My indignation, I send it against a godless nation and commission it against the people of My fury, to capture booty and to seize plunder, and to trample them down like mud in the streets. Yet it does not so intend, nor does it plan so in its heart, but rather it is its purpose to destroy and to cut off many nations. For it says, "Are not my princes all kings? Is not Calno like Carchemish, or Hamath like Arpad, or Samaria like Damascus? As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols, whose graven images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, shall I not do to Jerusalem and her images just as I have done to Samaria and her idols?" So it will be that when the Lord has completed all His work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, He will say, "I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness." For he has said, "By the power of my hand and by my wisdom I did this, for I have understanding; and I removed the boundaries of the peoples and plundered their treasures, and like a mighty man I brought down their inhabitants, and my hand reached to the riches of the peoples like a nest, and as one gathers abandoned eggs, I gathered all the earth; and there was not one that flapped its wing or opened its beak or chirped." Is the axe to boast itself over the one who chops with it? Is the saw to exalt itself over the one who wields it? That would be like a club wielding those who lift it, or like a rod lifting him who is not wood. Therefore the Lord, the GOD of hosts, will send a wasting disease among his stout warriors; and under his glory a fire will be kindled like a burning flame. And the light of Israel will become a fire and his Holy One a flame, and it will burn and devour his thorns and his briars in a single day. And He will destroy the glory of his forest and of his fruitful garden, both soul and body, and it will be as when a sick man wastes away. And the rest of the trees of his forest will be so small in number that a child could write them down. (Isaiah 10:5-19)

Far from implying that the religion of ancient Assyria was true simply because God used Assyria like a rod to smite Israel for its idolatry, God said He would also punish Assyria for its pomp and pride, that is, for not recognizing that its evil desires were being turned by God to His own holy and just ends, a fact that shows that the initial success of their efforts to "dominate the world" was not a sign of God’s favor whereby he was vouchsafing the truth of Assyrian religion. While Assyria interpreted its success as proof positive that they were accomplishing their purpose, God’s purpose was something else entirely, and that purpose included the eventual punishment of Assyria as well.

The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, "Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand, to break Assyria in My land, and I will trample him on My mountains. Then his yoke will be removed from them and his burden removed from their shoulder. This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?" (Isaiah 14:24-27)


Another nation that God raised up and used like a staff and scepter in His hand to subdue other nations, including His people Israel, was the nation of Babylon, but their success was not a proof that they were followers of the true religion. For even as Babylon’s greatness was prophesied,

In the beginning of the reign of Zedekiah the son of Josiah, king of Judah, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying—"thus says the LORD to me—'Make for yourself bonds and yokes and put them on your neck, and send word to the king of Edom, to the king of Moab, to the king of the sons of Ammon, to the king of Tyre and to the king of Sidon by the messengers who come to Jerusalem to Zedekiah king of Judah. Command them to go to their masters, saying, Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, thus you shall say to your masters, I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight. Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson until the time of his own land comes; then many nations and great kings will make him their servant. It will be, that the nation or the kingdom which will not serve him, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and which will not put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine and with pestilence,” declares the LORD, “until I have destroyed it by his hand. But as for you, do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your soothsayers or your sorcerers who speak to you, saying, 'You will not serve the king of Babylon.' For they prophesy a lie to you in order to remove you far from your land; and I will drive you out and you will perish. But the nation which will bring its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him, I will let remain on its land," declares the LORD, "and they will till it and dwell in it.'" I spoke words like all these to Zedekiah king of Judah, saying, "Bring your necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon and serve him and his people, and live! Why will you die, you and your people, by the sword, famine and pestilence, as the LORD has spoken to that nation which will not serve the king of Babylon? So do not listen to the words of the prophets who speak to you, saying, 'You will not serve the king of Babylon,' for they prophesy a lie to you; for I have not sent them," declares the LORD, "but they prophesy falsely in My name, in order that I may drive you out and that you may perish, you and the prophets who prophesy to you." (Jeremiah 27:1-15)

So also was her downfall:

And it will be in the day when the LORD gives you [i.e. Israel] rest from your pain and turmoil and harsh service in which you have been enslaved, that you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon, and say, "How the oppressor has ceased, and how fury has ceased! The LORD has broken the staff of the wicked, the scepter of rulers which used to strike the peoples in fury with unceasing strokes, which subdued the nations in anger with unrestrained persecution." The whole earth is at rest and is quiet; they break forth into shouts of joy. Even the cypress trees rejoice over you, and the cedars of Lebanon, saying, "Since you were laid low, no tree cutter comes up against us." Sheol from beneath is excited over you to meet you when you come; it arouses for you the spirits of the dead, all the leaders of the earth; it raises all the kings of the nations from their thrones. They will all respond and say to you, "Even you have been made weak as we, you have become like us. Your pomp and the music of your harps have been brought down to Sheol; maggots are spread out as your bed beneath you and worms are your covering." (Isaiah 14:3-11)

Does the fact that God decreed for Babylon to prevail upon his people as well as other nations prove that the religion of the Babylonians was/is true? As the above passages show, the Bible never comes close to suggesting such a thing and actually says the opposite: God used the Babylonians as a scourge against His people, and He also used another nation against Babylon.


The Bible also speaks God’s plan to raise up the Persian empire under Cyrus to punish the Babylonians:

Thus says the LORD to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. (Isaiah 45:1-3)

But as the passage goes on to say, the LORD did so for His own purposes, i.e. for the sake of His people:

For the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these. Drip down, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds pour down righteousness; let the earth open up and salvation bear fruit, and righteousness spring up with it. I, the LORD, have created it. Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker – an earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth! Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?' Or the thing you are making say, 'He has no hands'? Woe to him who says to a father, 'What are you begetting?' Or to a woman, 'To what are you giving birth?' Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: "Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, and you shall commit to Me the work of My hands. It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it I stretched out the heavens with My hands and I ordained all their host. I have aroused him in righteousness and I will make all his ways smooth; he will build My city and will let My exiles go free, without any payment or reward," says the LORD of hosts. (Isaiah 45:4-13)


For a final example from the Bible, the Old and New Testament also speak of the judgment that God would bring upon Israel by the Romans, which, like the earlier destruction of Jerusalem under the Babylonians that resulted in the destruction of the first temple, would result in the destruction of the second temple.

Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks [i.e. 490 years; each week representing 7 years]; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress. Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate. (Daniel 9:24-27)

Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, 'Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."' But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. But the king was enraged, and he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Then he said to his slaves, 'The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.' Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?' And the man was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' For many are called, but few are chosen." (Matthew 22:1-14)

In fact, not only does Ibn Anwar’s conclusion that Islam is true because God promised to make Ishmael into a great nation not follow from a Biblical perspective, it isn’t even true from a Qur’anic perspective. The examples of Babylon and Rome given above are cases in point since the Qur’an itself speaks of God’s decree, announced ahead of time, that Babylon and Rome would be granted the ascendancy against Israel.

And We gave (Clear) Warning to the Children of Israel in the Book, that twice would they do mischief on the earth and be elated with mighty arrogance (and twice would they be punished)! When the first of the warnings came to pass, We sent against you Our servants given to terrible warfare: they entered the very inmost parts of your homes; and it was a warning (completely) fulfilled. Then did We grant you the return as against them: We gave you increase in resources and sons, and made you the more numerous in man-power. If ye did well, ye did well for yourselves; if ye did evil, (ye did it) against yourselves. So when the second of the warnings came to pass, (We permitted your enemies) to disfigure your faces, and to enter your Temple as they had entered it before, and to visit with destruction all that fell into their power. (YA, S. 17:4-7)

According to Yusuf Ali:

What are the two occasions referred to? It may be that "twice" is a figure of speech for "more than once", "often". Or it may be that the two occasions refer to (1) the destruction of the Temple by the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C., when the Jews were carried off into captivity, and (2) the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus in A.C. 70, after which the Temple was never rebuilt. … On both occasions it was a judgment of Allah for the sins of the Jews, their backsliding, and their arrogance. (fn#2174)

In light of the above verses from the Qur’an, does Ibn Anwar believe that the religion of the Babylonians, the Romans, or any other non-Islamic nation that God decreed would dominate another nation prove the validity of their religions? Since we can be sure that he does not draw this conclusion, then judging by his belief that Islam is the true religion in spite of the fact that other nations were made great and were granted the ascendancy over others, we can conclude that his argument for Islam on this score cannot be true.

All of the above observations about one nation being made great and being granted the ascendancy over another pursuant to divine retribution are especially ironic in light of the fact that many people in history have thought of Islam along just these lines. Given Islam’s goal to “dominate the world”, and given its propensity to do so in ways similar to those followed by the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Romans, many have viewed Islam as a scourge from God, raised up to chastise his people. In fact, the original prophecy concerning Ishmael, which Ibn Anwar suspiciously did not quote in full, lends itself to such a view:

Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” The angel of the LORD said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, and you will bear a son; and you shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. He will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone's hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers." (Genesis 16:10-11)

In the end, then, not only does Ibn Anwar’s argument from the Bible not show that Islam is the true religion, it actually encourages viewing Islam as a club, a rod, a staff, a sword or saw in the Lord’s hand which He raised up and used to punish those who rebel against Him and to chastise His people. Of course this means not only that Muslims have no reason to derive confidence from past successes over part of the world – for it indicates that Muslims too can expect to be judged by God for their pride and haughtiness and abject failure to recognize Him as the true God and that their evil machinations are turned by Him to the accomplishment of His own Holy purposes – but it also means that Islam is a clarion call to God’s church to look in the mirror and repent of those things, such as schism, heresy, etc., that provoke and incite His judgment and allow Islam to continue.

May Ibn Anwar and Muslims everywhere repent of their false pride in Islam, beat their swords into plow shares, and submit to the Son, and may everyone who takes the blessed name of Christ upon his or her lips also submit wholly and truly to Him, for His wrath could flare up in a moment. Only those are truly and eternally blessed who put their trust in Him. His dominion is an eternal dominion, His judgments cannot be reversed, and no one can be granted a return against Him.