Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The True Shahada: Defended

A Reply to “The True Shahada Indeed” – Part Two

By Anthony Rogers

In part one I responded to several matters, a number of which were of incidental or introductory relevance, which can be found in an unknown Muslim’s critique of my article – “The True Shahada.” In this second installment of my response I will begin to address the more substantial issues that my article was concerned to convey and that my anonymous interlocutor ineptly tried to refute.

The reader should recall that in comparing John 17:3 to Islam’s Shahada in my original article, part of what I aimed to show is that the former is not a legitimate text for Muslims to appeal to when seeking confirmation in the Bible for Islam for at least two major reasons: 1) it does not teach a distinctively Islamic version of unitarianism; and 2) it does not teach unitarianism at all, for it teaches the absolute deity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. It is with respect to Mr. Anonymous comments on the first reason that this second part of my response is concerned.

John 17:3, the Fatherhood of God, and Tawhid

In response to my observation that even if one were to grant that John 17:3 teaches some kind of unitarianism it would certainly not be Islamic in nature, for the text speaks of the Father as God, something altogether foreign to Islam, Mr. Anonymous said the following:

“To begin with, Muslims do not try to prove “Unitarian – Islamic version of monotheism”. They but strive to prove “Tawheed”. There is a difference of chalk and cheese between the two. The difference between these two concepts are beyond the scope of this refutation.”

I could venture a guess as to what Anonymous thinks he is referring to here, but since he didn’t defend or even so much as bother to explain what he means, this attempt to avoid the problem may simply be dismissed in the same way it was offered, by saying: “it is beyond the scope of this refutation.”1

Not content to leave the matter there with his non-answer, which is entirely understandable, for no one could really be content with such a reply, he shows just how desperate he is to bring his Shahada into conformity with John 17:3.

Then, this witty fabrication of a misconception to score cheap points over Muslims can be debunked by the fact that Muslims do not abhor the word “Father” per say given the knowledge of Jewish parlance and vernacular, that is, the way the Israelites used the word “Father.”

“Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you?” (THE OPEN BIBLE, DEUTERONOMY 32:6, NKJV). Emphasis mine.

“Doubtless You are out Father,..” (THE OPEN BIBLE, ISAIAH 63:16, NKJV). Emphasis mine.

“Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?”(THE OPEN BIBLE, MALACHI 2:10, NKJV). Emphasis mine.

Conclusively then, the Jews never used the word “Father” with its literal import whenever referring to God. It was just a part of their living language that for some out of other reason they preferred calling God as “Father”. In this sense Muslims have no problems at all with the word – “Father”.

The first thing to observe here is Mr. Anonymous’ hasty generalization. On the basis of three passages of the Old Testament, Mr. Anonymous asserts that the Jews never used the word Father with its literal import when referring to God. This simplistic (and false) observation also ignores the possibility that the concept of fatherhood could be indicated in other ways besides using the word “Father”.

Although Christians do not believe that God is literally a father in the crude way presented in the Qur’an, where divine fatherhood implies a consort, copulation, and possibly even cohabitation with a female deity, one of the signal proofs that the author(s) of the Qur’an couldn’t escape thinking in terms of pagan categories,2 the fact is that the word Father is used for God in the Old Testament in more than just the narrow metaphorical sense that Mr. Anonymous’ three carefully (craftily?) selected passages indicate. For example, Psalm 2 uses the word “Father” for God in relation to the Messiah (vs. 7),3 and it is clear from the whole Psalm that the Messiah is more than just an ordinary human being, for He is the Heir of all things and the kings and rulers of the earth are commanded to worship Him (vss. 10-12). As for another example, the concept is clearly present in the Old Testament book of Proverbs where mention is made of God’s “Son,” which term is simply the correlative of “Father”:

Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know! (Proverbs 30:4)

As these (and other) passages indicate, God is literally a Father, though in an eternal and spiritual rather than a temporal and carnal sense. But all of this is really neither here nor there, for not only does the Qur’an never refer to God as Father, whether literally or metaphorically, but it explicitly rules out any notion of God as Father, even in the metaphorical sense Mr. Anonymous is willing to allow for in order to try to rescue the claim that John 17:3 comports with the teaching of Islam:

“(Both) the Jews and the Christians say: “We are sons of Allah, and his beloved.” Say: “Why then doth He punish you for your sins? Nay, ye are but men, - of the men he hath created: He forgiveth whom He pleaseth, and He punisheth whom He pleaseth: and to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between: and unto Him is the final goal (of all)” (Surah 5:18)

In light of this, it is interesting to point out that the same person who accuses Christians of being polytheists, the same person who charges Christians with committing shirk, actually exposes himself to this very charge in the process of trying to make John 17:3 some kind of support for Islam and its Shahada. (And this shows up the wisdom of remaining anonymous. Not only does such a maneuver protect Mr. Anonymous from the stigma of refutation; it also saves him from being “rocked” to sleep by his co-religionists.)

In his discussion of “Tawheed al-Asmaa was-Sifaat (maintaining the unity of Allah’s name and attributes),” Dr. Zakir Naik says:

Allah must be referred to without giving Him any new names or attributes. For example Allah may not be given the name Al-Ghaadib (the Angry One), despite the fact that He has said that He gets angry, because neither Allah nor His messenger have used this name. (“Concept of God in Islam”)

Accordingly, calling Allah “Father” is to call him something he is not reported to have called himself and is not called by Muhammad. This is contrary to Tawhid, according to Islamic authorities; this is shirk, pure and simple. What is more, this is not only enough to land him at the bottom of a pile of rocks here; it is enough to prevent him from entering paradise hereafter. 

Narrated Abu Uthman: I heard from Sad, the first man who has thrown an arrow in Allah's Cause, and from Abu Bakra who jumped over the wall of the Ta'if Fort along with a few persons and came to the Prophet. They both said, "We heard the Prophet saying, " If somebody claims to be the son of somebody other than his father knowingly, he will be denied Paradise (i.e. he will not enter Paradise)." (Bukhari, 5:59:616)

Narrated Abu Dhar: The Prophet said, "If somebody claims to be the son of any other than his real father knowingly, he but disbelieves in Allah, and if somebody claims to belong to some folk to whom he does not belong, let such a person take his place in the (Hell) Fire." (Bukhari, 4:56:711)

Narrated Wathila bin Al-Asqa: Allah's Apostle said, "Verily, one of the worst lies is to claim falsely to be the son of someone other than one's real father, or to claim to have had a dream one has not had, or to attribute to me what I have not said." (Bukhari, 4:56:712)

It is reported on the authority of Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas: Both of my ears heard the Messenger of Allah saying this: He who claimed the fatherhood of anyone else besides his real father knowingly (committed a great sin); Paradise is forbidden to him. Abu Bakra asserted that he too heard it from the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him ). (Muslim, 1:120)

Sa'd and Abu Bakra each one of them said: My ears heard and my hearing preserved it that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) observed: He who claimed for another one his fatherhood besides his own father knowingly that he was not his father-to him Paradise is forbidden. (Muslim, 1:121)

If it is wrong to call someone our earthly father when they are not, then a fortiori it is wrong for a Muslim to call Allah father when he is not. Since Mr. Anonymous knows that the Qur’an does not call Allah the father of anyone – not of Jesus in a transcendent sense, not of gods and goddesses in a pagan sense, and not of anyone in any sense, including Mr. Anonymous, and he still calls him father anyway, then according to the above Hadith, he will be forbidden to enter paradise. If Mr. Anonymous really believes what he has said above, and if he has the courage to stand by his convictions, then let him go down to his local mosque and call upon Allah as father. Let him pray like Jesus, the Son of God, “Father, the hour has come, glorify me…” (John 17:1) Let him cry out like Christians, who have been redeemed and adopted through Christ, and who therefore have the right to say, “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) Let him do this in the presence of everyone; let him do it loudly, clearly, and boldly. Then let him duck for cover and bolt for the nearest exit.

If all of the foregoing – the non-answer, the hasty generalization, the simplistic and false observation, contradicting his own Qur’an, and violating the terms of Tawhid  – is not enough to show just how thin the ground is beneath Anonymous’ feet, then the following should serve as a jack-hammer, revealing the fiery-chasm over which he walks.

Having said that Muslims have no problem using the word “father” for God in a metaphorical sense, which we just saw is patently false, at least according to the Qur’an and the systematic understanding of Tawhid that has been hammered out by Muslim authorities, Anonymous goes on to say:

However what a Muslim seriously repels is the LITERAL understanding and usage of this blasphemous word “Father” when used for ALLAH (John 3:16 abuses ALLAH with the same. Kindly read John 3:16 in conjunction with Quran 19:88). This kind of rendering is anathematized in Islam and we will continue to eschew it.

Unbelievably, in an attempt to prove that John 17, where Jesus, the Son, calls God His Father, is not contrary to the Islamic conception of God, Mr. Anonymous points to a verse in the same Gospel, recorded by the same author, and spoken by the same Jesus, which affirms the special, unique, eternal, and transcendent father-son relationship that exists between the first and second persons of the Trinity, as an example of what Muslims deny. If this is the kind of fatherhood that Muslims anathematize, then it is proof positive that my first and second contention are true: 1) John 17:3, in context, does not teach any kind of Islamic unitarianism, all specious, undefined, unproven distinctions between Islam and Tawhid notwithstanding, and 2) it teaches that Jesus is the divine Son of God. After all, it is just this special use of the terms “Father” and “Son,” which anonymous eschewed as blasphemous, that is found in John 17 and throughout John’s Gospel. Consider the following points:

1) The prologue that introduces the Gospel narrative, that which the narrative is designed to draw out, and the thesis statement at the end, that which tells us the express purpose of the author in composing this work, have as their starting and end point to declare and prove that Jesus is the one and only divine Son of God. Everything in between is written with this in mind.

The Prologue: “In the beginning was the Word [i.e. Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known..…” (ESV, John 1:1, 14, 18)

The Thesis Statement: “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31)

The idea that John 17:3, a verse stuck smack-dab in the middle of John’s Gospel, a Gospel that was written to prove that Jesus is the unique Son of God, was actually written to prove Tawhid, where Tawhid is taken as a denial that God is the Father and Jesus is His unique Son, stretches credulity beyond the breaking point. These two “book-ends”, the prologue and the thesis statement, qualify everything in between.

2) Over and over again in the Gospel of John God is referred to in relation to Jesus as “the Father” (1:14, 18,; 3:35; 4:53; 5:19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 36, 37, 45; 6:27, 37, 44, 45, 46, 57, 65; 8:16, 18, 27, 28; 10:15, 17, 30, 32, 36, 38; 12:26, 49, 50; 13:1, 3: 14:6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 24, 26, 28, 31; 15:16, 26; 16:3, 10, 15, 17, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 32; 18:11; 20:17, 21) or “My Father” (2:16; 5:17, 18 (“His own Father”), 43; 6:32, 40; 8:19, 38, 49, 54; 10:18, 25, 29, 37; 14:2, 7, 20, 21, 23; 15:1, 8, 10, 15, 23, 24; 20:17 ) and, in cases where Jesus directly addresses God, simply as “Father” (11:41; 12:27, 28; 17:1, 5, 21, 25). It was this practice of Jesus that so irked the Jewish religious leaders; not because Jesus said God had a divine Son, which we saw the Old Testament itself teaches, but because Jesus, standing before them as a man, claimed to be the Son.

“For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” (John 5:18)

“I and the Father are one." The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" The Jews answered Him, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God." (John 10:30)

3) Finally, one of the ways John points up the uniqueness of Jesus in his Gospel is by exclusively using the word “Son” (Gr. huios) for Jesus in relation to God the Father, the same word that Jesus uses twice in the immediate context of John 17:3 (i.e. verse 1). Though as the rest of the New Testament writings bear out, there is a sense in which others can be called “sons” of God – having been created and redeemed through Jesus Christ, God’s true Son, and having the Spirit of His Son, the Spirit of adoption, poured out upon them – when the apostle John speaks of others as God’s “children” (e.g. 1:12; 11:52), he uses a different Greek word altogether (Gr. teknon). Even when the rest of the New Testament is considered, believers are only referred to as “sons of God” in the plural, never is anyone exclusively singled out as the Son of God in this way.

In granting that this is the sense of fatherhood that Muslims deny to God, Mr. Anonymous has also conceded that John 17:3, in context, is altogether opposed to the religion of Islam. And so if I might quote Mr. Anonymous from another place in his article where the confident declaration is most certainly out of place: “I need not write a word any more to his childish ‘article,’” for this observation by itself is enough to end all debate. 

Nevertheless, since Mr. Anonymous doesn’t know to quit while he is behind, then I will be magnanimous and continue my response.

Having said that it is okay to call Allah a father of believers, especially for informed Muslims like himself, Mr. Anonymous tries to go on and explain why rank and file Muslims do not and are safe not to do so:

Furthermore, because many may not be acquainted with Jewish colloquism added with the problem of variations of connotations of words with generations; Muslims play safe not to use the word “Father” to refer to ALLAH. Anyway, it does not make sense for a Muslim to use a vulnerable word when 099 attributive names are readily available in Quran. Let us take an example to close this argument. Now – a - days people generally call Nature as “Mother Nature”. Now if, somebody, Anthony Roger in particular, starts to understand it literally (!) then, I think, he should immediately consult a psychologist.

That’s right, ninety-nine attributive names are used for Allah in the Qur’an and “father” is not one of them. But this means, as we saw above, it is not only “safe” for Muslims not to call Allah “father”, but it is not safe for them to do otherwise. The fact that the Qur’an explicitly repudiates that Allah is a father is the real reason the term is not and should not be used by Muslims; the fact that it is a (allegedly) “vulnerable” word has nothing to do with it. In fact, many of the words and phrases of the Qur’an were used by pagans with a different connotation before Islam, such as “Rabb”, “Ar-Rahman”, and even the name “Allah”, but that didn’t stop Muhammad from incorporating these names into the Qur’an. All Muhammad had to do if he was really a recipient of divine revelation is cleanse the word “father” of its pagan connotations and associations, just like he is assumed to have done in the case of other words. Moreover, all of Islam’s religious rites were picked up from pagans like crumbs off a table, such as circling the Kaaba, throwing rocks at the Devil, and kissing the black stone, and yet we are told to believe that these are now okay because they were sanctified by Allah through Muhammad. Why didn’t Muhammad do the same for a word like “father”, which Anonymous said was legitimately used by the Jews before him?

One reason Muhammad likely did not do the same thing in the case of the name “father” is readily available to us if we look in the very direction Mr. Anonymous points when dismissing the true fatherhood of God, suggesting by way of analogy that it is due to some underlying psychological quirk that calls for therapy that anyone would take it literally, as he says is the case if one takes a phrase like “Mother Nature” literally.

Now I doubt very much that Mr. Anonymous wants to hear a psychological assessment of all this, but since he brought it up, let him consider the following in light of the fact that Muhammad’s father died before he was born, that his grandfather died when he was only eight, just two years after his mother died, and that he lived with his uncle from that time forward, and all of it in a religious context where Allah was spoken of as a father who had daughters but not sons.

Before coming directly to the point, a little bit of background is in order. From the Christian standpoint, it is not surprising that a significant number of history’s most prominent atheists (and/or deists) either lost or were otherwise maltreated and neglected by their fathers in childhood, as for example Bertrand Russell, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, Albert Camus, Jean Paul Sartre, Arthur Schopenhauer, Sigmund Freud, Thomas Hobbes, Voltaire, H.G. Wells, Jean Meslier, Jean d’alembert, Ludwig Freuerbach, Baron d’Holbach, and Samuel Butler. Given the empirical observation that so many atheists had such experiences in their formative years, it is hard to avoid the possibility that they were significantly conditioned by this. A thesis along these lines has been argued, for example, by Paul C. Vitz, Ph.D. (Stanford University, 1962), a professor of psychology at New York University, who explains it in the following way:

….I will develop an undeveloped thesis of Freud himself. In his essay on Leonardo da Vinci, Freud remarks that “psychoanalysis, which has taught us the intimate connection between the father complex and belief in God, has shown us that the personal god is logically nothing but an exalted father, and daily demonstrates to us how youthful persons lose their religious belief as soon as the authority of the father breaks down.”

….Freud makes the simple and easily understandable claim that once a child or youth is disappointed in or loses respect for his earthly father, belief in a heavenly father becomes impossible. That a child’s psychological representation of his father is intimately connected to his understanding of God was assumed by Freud and has been rather well developed by a number of psychologists, especially psychoanalysts. In other words, an atheist’s disappointment in and resentment of his own father unconsciously justifies his rejection of God.

There are, of course, many ways a father can lose his authority or seriously disappoint his child: he can be absent through death or abandonment; he can be present but obviously weak, cowardly, and unworthy of respect, even if he is otherwise pleasant or “nice”; or he can be present but physically, sexually, or psychologically abusive. I will call these proposed determinants of atheism, taken together, the “defective father” hypothesis and will seek evidence for it in the lives of prominent atheists…”4

No doubt at this point Mr. Anonymous is chomping at the bit, only too ready to blurt out: “But Muhammad was not an atheist; he affirmed belief in God.” This brings us to the way Vitz concludes his study, providing the following trenchant and most applicable insight, as even Anonymous should be constrained to see:

A Question that can easily be raised with respect to our psychologically-based hypothesis is, where were all the atheists prior to the eighteenth century? After all, there have been plenty of defective fathers throughout history; and yet the rejection of God as a clear intellectual and ideological position emerged in Western culture only a few centuries ago. How does one account for this? Obviously, the interpersonal psychology of the family, though a major contributor to atheism, is far from a complete explanation of the phenomenon. There also must exist important cultural forces and supports before an explicit atheism can emerge. It is not that the psychology outlined in this book did not exist in earlier centuries, but it would have been expressed in a different way when the culture was not ripe for atheism. So the question is: how was the psychology of the defective father expressed before the emergence of systematic unbelief? Presumably there were many ways to express such a psychology; for example, hostility to and cynicism about fathers and authority figures, such as the King, God, and high-ranking churchmen. Many forms of satire and parody allow the expression of the same attitudes. Likewise, participation in revolts, rebellions, heresies, and many other social expressions of this underlying mentality have long been available.5

The tragic fact of the death and consequent absence of the most significant males in Muhammad’s life, his grandfather, and above all his father, and that in his formative years, could hardly have failed to leave its mark upon Muhammad, even as Muhammad did not fail to leave just such a mark on Islam. Without the grace of God and a true revelation from Him, the effects that this necessarily would have had on Muhammad had to seek some kind of outlet. Since Muhammad’s culture was not congenial to the irreligious route now so readily available in Western society, Muhammad took the heretical path instead, and the Muslim world has been fatherless ever since.6

Given the above, it is not surprising from a psychological standpoint that Muhammad couldn’t conceive of God in this most wonderful and endearing way, the way of the prophets, the apostles, Old Testament Jewish believers, New Testament believers, and above all the Lord Jesus Christ. So, although I certainly do not take the phrase “Mother Nature” literally, I do unashamedly and confidently confess, along with my believing brothers and sisters in the present and throughout all ages, “God the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and Jesus Christ His only Son”, and would say, with all due respect, if anyone was in need of psychological help, it was Anonymous’ self-proclaimed prophet.

For all that, I would still be willing to consult a psychologist myself, provided Mr. Anonymous agrees to consult his Imam and local Umma about the egregious departures from the Qur’an and Sunnah that he found it necessary to make in order to defend Islam. I am sure I will be eminently more content than he is under such circumstances, and while I am reclining on a plush couch telling my newfound therapist friend how great the Lord Jesus is, I will be thinking of Mr. Anonymous laying down his earthly life in a bed of rocks, only to be denied hereafter the cushioned couches of Jannah.

Of course, my deepest desire for Mr. Anonymous is that he would avoid such a terrible end, but in order to do so, he must turn from his paternally-challenged idol, which can’t father him into eternal life anymore than it could have fathered him into existence in the first place; he must come to know the Father in and by the Son, for it is in the Son and by the Son that we have the right to be called children of God (John 1:12); he must see that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16); he must confess that “This is eternal life, that they may know you [Father, vs. 1], the only true God, and Jesus Christ [the Son, vs. 1] whom you have sent.” (John 17:3).


In conclusion, it has been shown that John 17:3 is not a confirmation of anything distinctively Islamic, and that it actually rules out a main distinctive: the fatherlessness of God. In Part Three I will directly look at the positive evidence I gave for why John 17:3 teaches the deity of Christ and look at what Mr. Anonymous had to say about it. As it is, we already have one powerful line of evidence that Anonymous is wrong on this score, for as the Son of God in the unique, eternal, essential, and transcendent sense set forth in the Gospel of John, Jesus is one with the Father, the only true God.

Continue with Part Three.



1 I honestly don’t know what Anonymous means by saying it is beyond the scope of his refutation to make his position at this point clear and to offer evidence for it. If a response of this sort is not within the scope of his refutation, then what is? Furthermore, his article appears on his own website where he has the editorial license to do whatever he pleases. Who told him he had to limit his article in such a way as not to explain any and all relevant distinctions that could ostensibly help his case? The way Mr. Anonymous offers this point makes it look like nothing more than an attempt to appear profound, all the while hoping that no one will call his bluff. Well, I have; now let Mr. Anonymous spell out his point and give me the pleasure of refuting it along with the rest of what he has written.

2 The point here is that the authors of the Qur’an could not hear any mention of things like divine paternity (i.e. the fatherhood) or filiation (i.e. sonship) without interpreting them in the sense that the pagans intended by such words.

3 Although this Psalm is speaking in the first instance of Christ as God’s Son in a royal sense, officially corronated at the time of His resurrection from the dead, it is predicated on the truth of Christ’s eternal divinity or divine Sonship: “For to which of the angels did He [God] ever say, "You are My Son, today I have begotten You"? (Hebrews 1:5) And we might just as well ask, “To which angel or king did God ever promise absolute rule over the entire world? Or, “Which king or ruler did God ever command people to worship?” The answer of the Bible is no one, for only God could exercise universal dominion and only God is to be worshipped. This isn’t to be confused and neither is it trumped by the fact that Muhammad portrays Allah as actually commanding the angels to worship Adam, for the Bible teaches no such thing.

4 Paul C. Vitz, Faith of the Fatherless: The Psychology of Atheism (Dallas, Texas: Spence Publishing Company, 1999), p. 15-16

5 Vitz, Ibid., p. 139-140.

6 The effects of this are seen in a great many ways throughout the Islamic world, at a familial, cultural, and national level.

Articles by Anthony Rogers
Answering Islam Home Page