Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Early Christian Proclamation:

Christ as the Lord of All and Believers as the Slaves of Jesus

Sam Shamoun

The Quran claims that the disciples of Christ were all Muslims:

When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: "Who will be My helpers to (the work of) God?" Said the disciples: "We are God's helpers: We believe in God, and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims. S. 3:52 Y. Ali

"And behold! I inspired the disciples to have faith in Me and Mine Apostle: they said, 'We have faith, and do thou bear witness that we bow to God as Muslims’”. S. 5:111 Y. Ali

If this were true then Jesus’ followers would have espoused Islamic theology, and therefore would have agreed with the Quran’s repeated assertion that Allah has no partner in his dominion over creation and that everything in the heavens and earth belongs entirely to him:

Unto Allah belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. Allah is Able to do all things. S. 3:189 Pickthall

Surely, in disbelief are they who say that Allah is the Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary). Say (O Muhammad): "Who then has the least power against Allah, if He were to destroy the Messiah, son of Maryam (Mary), his mother, and all those who are on the earth together?" And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them. He creates what He wills. And Allah is Able to do all things.” S. 5:17 Hilali-Khan 

Verily, God's alone is the dominion over the heavens and the earth; He [alone] grants life and deals death; and there is none besides God who could protect you or bring you succour. S. 9:116 Muhammad Asad 

He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: no son has He begotten, nor has He a partner in His dominion: it is He who created all things, and ordered them in due proportions. S. 25:2 Y. Ali

Say: (O Muhammad to those polytheists, pagans, etc.) “Call upon those whom you assert (to be associate gods) besides Allah, they possess not even the weight of an atom (or a small ant), either in the heavens or on the earth, nor have they any share in either, nor there is for Him any supporter from among them.” S. 34:22 Hilali-Khan

In light of such statements, Jesus’ disciples would have never gone around proclaiming the Messiah to be the Son of God and would have absolutely denied that he shares in Allah’s sovereignty over the heavens and earth.

Nor would they have ever gone around identifying themselves as the slaves of Christ who were committed to serve him as their risen and exalted Lord since the Quran expressly forbids serving anyone other than Allah:

Say: I am only a mortal like you; it is revealed to me that your god is one God, therefore whoever hopes to meet his Lord, he should do good deeds, and not join any one in the service of his Lord. S. 18:110 Shakir

This is why it is strictly prohibited for Muslims to call themselves the slaves of someone other than their god. As one Salafi scholar put it:

5. Maintaining the unity of Allah’s names also means that Allah’s names in the definite form cannot be given to His creation unless preceded by the prefix ‘Abd meaning "slave of" or "servant of”. Many of the Divine names in their indefinite form like Ra’uf and Rahim are allowable names for men because Allah has used some of them in their indefinite forms to refer to the Prophet…

But ar-Ra’uf (the One Most Full of Pity) and ar-Rahim (the Most Merciful) can only be used to refer to men if they are preceded by ‘Abd as in ‘Abdur-Ra’uf or ‘Abdur-Rahim, since in the definite form they represent a level of perfection which only belongs to God. Similarly, names like ‘Abdur-Rasool (slave of the messenger), ‘Abdun-Nabi (slave of the Prophet), ‘Abdul-Husayn (slave of Husayn), etc., where people name themselves slaves to other than Allah are also forbidden. Based on this principle, the Prophet forbade Muslims from referring to those put under their charge as ‘abdi (my slave) or amati (my slave girl). (Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, The Fundamentals of Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism) [International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, 2nd Edition: 2005], Chapter One. The Categories of Tawhid, pp. 30-31; bold emphasis ours)

This isn’t just some isolated opinion of a certain Muslim author but the orthodox Islamic position concerning this matter, just as the following quotations prove:

Q: Some people commonly give their children names such as `Abdul-Nabiy (the servant of the Prophet), `Abdul-Hussayn (the servant of Al-Hussayn). What is the opinion of your Eminence on such names? Please advise us. May Allah reward you well.

A: It is impermissible to give names indicating servitude to other than Allah (Exalted be He), i.e. it is prohibited to say `Abdul-Nabiy, `Abd Aly, `Abdul-Hussayn and so on. This is Munkar (that which is unacceptable or disapproved of by Islamic law and Muslims of sound intellect), for such names should be denoting servitude to Allah Alone like `Abdul-Rahman (The Servant of The Most Compassionate), `Abdul-Rahim (The Servant of the Most Merciful), `Abdul-Malik (The Servant of The Sovereign), `Abdul-Quddus (The Servant of The Most Holy) etc. This is the right form of servitude, which is to be declared to none but Allah.

Ibn Hazm Abu Muhammad said: The widely-known opinion of scholars is to prohibit any name indicating servitude to other than Allah, such as `Abd `Umar, `Abd Al-Ka`bah and the like with the exception of `Abdul-Muttalib, as there is disagreement on that. In other words, scholars agree upon prohibiting this. Therefore, it is impermissible to give names showing servitude to other than Allah regardless of who the person is. Accordingly, it is impermissible to say: `Abdul-Hussayn, `Abd `Umar, `Abdul-Nabiy, `Abdul-Ka`bah and the like. Rather, a person should use either names signifying servitude to Allah or other names like Salih, Muhammad, Ahmad, Zayd, Khalid, Bakr and the like. (Fatwas of Nur `Ala Al-Darb [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Portal of the General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Ifta'], Volume 1, Part 1, Chapter on `Aqidah, 70- Ruling on giving names indicating servitude to other than Allah, p. 187; underline emphasis ours)


Q: Our fellow brother writes: We hear that some people name their children `Abdul-Rasul (the servant of the messenger), `Abdul-Nabi (the servant of the prophet), Abdul-Hassan (the servant of Al-Hassan) and the like. Please give us a ruling on this.

A: This is not permissible, as a person should give names indicating servitude to Allah Alone, and it is prohibited to indicate other than Allah. Ibn Hazm Abu Muhammad, a well-known Imam (founder of a School of Jurisprudence) said: Scholars have unanimously agreed that it is not permissible to give names which signify servitude to other than Allah, i.e., it is forbidden to name one `Abdul-Harith, `Abd `Ali, `Abdul-Rasul, `Abdul- Ka`bah. All these names are not permissible, for they are of Jahiliyyah (pre-Islamic time of ignorance). Such names are also used by some Shiites: `Abdul- Al-Husayn, `Abdul- Al-Hasan, `Abd Al-`Aly. However, they are all prohibited as servitude is to Allah Alone. Thus, a person should use names such as `Abdullah (The servant of Allah), `Abdul-Rahman (The servant of the Most Gracious), `Abdul- `Aziz (The servant of The All-Mighty), ` Abdul-Qadir (The servant of The All-Able), `Abdul-Karim (The servant of The Most Generous) and so on. One can also use names like Salih, Muhammad, Sa`d, Sa`id, Malik or other names known to be used by Muslims. Praise be to Allah, this matter is flexible, thus, people need not use names that indicate servitude to other than Allah.

Q: Many people here in Egypt use names like: Hassan `Abdul-Nabi. Is it Haram (prohibited) or not to use these names? Should we change them? May Allah reward you well.

A: Yes, using these names is Haram, for it is not permissible to give names like `Abdul-Rasul, `Abdul-Nabi, `Abd `Umar, `Abdul- Al-Husayn, Abdul- Al-Hasan, or `Abd `Aly This is Munkar (that which is unacceptable or disapproved of by Islamic law and Muslims of sound intellect), for names should indicate servitude to Allah Alone. Thus, it is acceptable to use names like `Abdullah, `Abdul-Rahman, `Abdul-Quddus, `Abdul-Karim. Abu Muhammad Ibn Hazm said: Scholars unanimously agreed on the prohibition of any name signifying servitude to other than Allah, except for `Abdul-Muttalib. In conclusion, giving names which express servitude to other than Allah is prohibited by Ijma` (consensus). Hence, people should not use the names `Abdul-Nabi, `Abdul-Hussayn, `Abd `Ali, `Abd `Umar and the like. Instead, they should use `Abdullah, `Abdul-Rahman, `Abdil-Karim, `Abdul-Quddus, `Abdul-Malik, `Abdul-Salam or other names that show servitude to Allah. However, if a person's children are given names like `Abdul-Nabi, Abdul- Al-Husayn, `Abdul- Al-Hasan, `Abd `Umar or similar names; they should change them to Shar`i (Islamically lawful) names. For example, they should change names like `Abdul-Nab to `Abd Rab Al-Nabi (the Lord of the Prophet), or `Abdul-Rasul to `Abd Rab Al-Rasul, and they should change `Abdul- Al-Husayn to `Abd Rab Al-Husayn. They can also use names like `Abdullah or `Abdul-Rahman which are Shar`y (Islamically lawful) permissible names. (Ibid, 71- the Ruling On Naming Someone: `Abdul-Rasul, pp. 188-189; underline emphasis ours)

Yet here is where the problem lies for Muslims. According to the earliest written records that have come down to us from the time when the disciples of Christ lived, Jesus’ followers actually believed and preached that Christ is the risen Lord of all creation and that all things belong to him by virtue of being God’s beloved Son and Heir:

“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands.” John 3:35

“Jesus knew that the Father had given everything into His hands, that He had come from God, and that He was going back to God.” John 13:3

“He sent the message to the Israelites, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all.” Acts 10:36

“If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation. Now the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes on Him will not be put to shame,’ for there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, since the same Lord of all is rich to all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:9-13

“Christ died and came to life for this: that He might rule over both the dead and the living.” Romans 14:9

“Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. God has appointed Him Heir of all things and made the universe through Him. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Hebrews 1:1-3

Jesus himself is reported to have taught this very same message:  

“He still had one to send, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenant farmers said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’ So they seized him, killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.” Mark 12:6-8 – cf. Matthew 21:37-39; Luke 20:13-15

All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.” Matthew 11:27 – cf. Luke 10:22

“Then Jesus came near and said to them, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’” Matthew 28:18

Jesus even claimed that everything that the Father owns belongs entirely to him:

Everything the Father has is Mine. This is why I told you that He takes from what is Mine and will declare it to you.” John 16:15

“Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son 
so that the Son may glorify You, for You gave Him authority over all flesh; so He may give eternal life 
to all You have given Him… Everything I have is Yours, and everything You have is Mine, and I have been glorified in them.” John 17:1-2, 10

Since the Father owns all of creation this means that every created thing belongs to Christ fully and completely!

This is precisely what the blessed Apostle Paul writes to the Colossians:

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and FOR Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything.” Colossians 1:15-18

Jesus’ disciples also went around testifying that they were slaves of Christ who were called to serve and worship him as Lord:

“Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle and singled out for God’s good news.” Romans 1:1

“For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.” Galatians 1:10

“He demonstrated this power in the Messiah by raising Him from the dead and seating Him at His right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put everything under His feet and appointed Him as head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of the One who fills all things in every way.” Ephesians 1:20-23

“Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but as slaves of Christ, do God’s will from your heart.” Ephesians 6:6

“Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus: To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” Philippians 1:1

For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority… So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God… Slaves, obey your human masters in everything. Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.… Epaphras, who is one of you, a slave of Christ Jesus, greets you. He is always contending for you in his prayers, so that you can stand mature and fully assured in everything God wills.” Colossians 2:9-10; 3:1, 22-24, 4:12

“Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James: To those who are the called, loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:1

Again, this is something that Christ is reported to have taught as well, i.e. Jesus’ followers were his servants whom he expected to serve him since he is their Lord:

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me. Where I am, there My servant also will be. If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:26

“You call Me Teacher and Lord (ho kyrios). This is well said, for I am. So if I, your Lord (ho kyrios) and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example that you also should do just as I have done for you. I assure you: A slave is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” John 13:13-16

“Write to the angel of the church in Thyatira: The Son of God, the One whose eyes are like a fiery flame and whose feet are like fine bronze, says: I know your works—your love, faithfulness, service, and endurance. Your last works are greater than the first. But I have this against you: You tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and teaches and deceives My slaves to commit sexual immorality and to eat meat sacrificed to idols.” Revelation 2:18-20

To top it off, the first Christians went as far as to identify themselves as slaves of God the Father AND the risen Lord Jesus!

“James, a slave of God AND OF the Lord Jesus Christ (theou kai kyriou 'Iesou Christou doulos): To the 12 tribes in the Dispersion.” James 1:1

Tot say that this is a rather remarkable assertion would be a wild understatement, especially when we recall that Christ had expressly told his disciples that they could not be slaves to two lords since it is not possible to love more than one master equally or to be wholeheartedly devoted to both:

No one can be a slave of two lords (kyriois), since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.” Matthew 6:24 – cf. Luke 16:13

And yet James, a monotheistic Jew who believed and testified that God is one,

You believe that God is one; you do well. The demons also believe—and they shudder.” James 2:19

Unashamedly identifies himself as a slave of both God the Father and Jesus Christ whom he identifies as Lord!

This shows that James believed in the Deity of Christ and his essential co-equality with the Father, just as the following scholar explains:

“In this letter, however, James identifies himself simply as a 'servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.' Since James includes no definite or indefinite article with these words, it is possible to read this phrase as 'servant of Jesus Christ, God and Lord.' But it is more likely that he is simply closely associating the two nouns: Lord Jesus Christ and God. In any case, we must remember that when a Jew put the words 'God' and 'Lord' together, the Lord in view could only be God (cf. 1:7, where 'from the Lord' means 'from God'). No matter how this verse is read, James is setting forth a very high Christology, identifying Jesus not just as Christ (Messiah) but also as Lord, mentioned in the same breath with God. Further, Jews saw themselves as servants of God, not of any earthly king or master, and as Dibelius points out (1975: 65), the term 'servant' or 'slave' 'expresses a definite relationship to the God to whose cult a person is committed.' So again James's declaration of being a ‘slave’ to the Lord Jesus is an implicit acknowledgement of Jesus's deity.” (Dan G. McCartney, James (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) [Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI 2009], p. 78; bold emphasis ours)

That there can be no doubt that James was identifying Jesus as God when he referred to him as Lord can be readily seen from the fact that at the time that James wrote this letter he wasn’t speaking about someone who was on the earth, and therefore wasn’t referring to an earthly master. Rather, he was saying this about someone who was/is actually dwelling in heaven!

Yet for monotheistic Jews there is only one Lord who dwells in heaven, namely Yahweh:

“Wherefore did the heathen rage, and the nations imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers gathered themselves together, against the Lord (tou Kyriou), and against his Christ; [saying], Let us break through their bonds, and cast away their yoke from us. He that dwells in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn, and the Lord (ho Kyrios) shall mock them.” Psalm 2:1-4 LXX

The Lord (Kyrios) looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there were any that understood, or sought after God.” Psalm 13[Eng. 14]:2 LXX

The Lord (ho Kyrios) looks out of heaven; he beholds all the sons of men. He looks from his prepared habitation on all the dwellers on the earth;” Psalm 32[Eng. 33]:13-14 LXX

“For he has looked out from the height of his sanctuary; the Lord (ton Kyrion) looked upon the earth from heaven;” Psalm 101[Eng.]:19 LXX

“[A Song of Degrees:] Unto you who dwells in heaven have I lifted up my eyes. Behold, as the eyes of servants (douloon) [are directed] to the hands of their masters/lords (toon kyrioon autoon), [and] as the eyes of a maidservant to the hands of her mistress (tes kyrias autes); so our eyes [are directed] to the Lord our God (Kyrion ton theon hemoon), until he has mercy upon us.” Psalm 122[Eng. 123]:1-2 LXX

This means that James was equating Christ with the Lord God of the Hebrew Scriptures, a point that Peter makes rather explicit:  

“Simeon Peter, a slave and an apostle of Jesus Christ: To those who have obtained a faith of equal privilege with ours through the righteousness of OUR GOD AND SAVIOR Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:1

This blessed Apostle not only refers to himself as the slave of Christ he even goes as far as to call Jesus both God and Savior!

The NET Bible translators have a textual note showing why we can know for certain that Peter was identifying Jesus as the God and Savior of all believers:  

5 tn The terms “God and Savior” both refer to the same person, Jesus Christ. This is one of the clearest statements in the NT concerning the deity of Christ. The construction in Greek is known as the Granville Sharp rule, named after the English philanthropist-linguist who first clearly articulated the rule in 1798. Sharp pointed out that in the construction article-noun-καί-noun (where καί [kai] = “and”), when two nouns are singular, personal, and common (i.e., not proper names), they always had the same referent. Illustrations such as “the friend and brother,” “the God and Father,” etc. abound in the NT to prove Sharp’s point. In fact, the construction occurs elsewhere in 2 Peter, strongly suggesting that the author’s idiom was the same as the rest of the NT authors’ (cf., e.g., 1:11 [“the Lord and Savior”], 2:20 [“the Lord and Savior”]). The only issue is whether terms such as “God” and “Savior” could be considered common nouns as opposed to proper names. Sharp and others who followed (such as T. F. Middleton in his masterful The Doctrine of the Greek Article) demonstrated that a proper name in Greek was one that could not be pluralized. Since both “God” (θεός, qeos) and “savior” (σωτήρ, swthr) were occasionally found in the plural, they did not constitute proper names, and hence, do fit Sharp’s rule. Although there have been 200 years of attempts to dislodge Sharp’s rule, all attempts have been futile. Sharp’s rule stands vindicated after all the dust has settled. For more information on the application of Sharp’s rule to 2 Pet 1:1, see ExSyn 272, 276-77, 290. See also Titus 2:13 and Jude 4.

For more on Sharp’s rule and how this establishes that texts such as 2 Peter 1:1 and Titus 2:13 refer to Christ as God, in fact the great God,

“while we wait for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for Himself a people for His own possession, eager to do good works.” Titus 2:13-14

We suggest reading the following articles:

Robert M. Bowman, Jr., A Bicentennial Defense of Granville Sharp's Argument for the Deity of Christ, 1998 Revised Edition 

Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, Sharp Redivivus? - A Reexamination of the Granville Sharp

Dr. James R. White, Granville Sharp's Rule: Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1

Christ’s disciples further preached that God demands that every creature worships the risen Jesus in recognition of the fact that he is the sovereign Lord of creation:

“For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

Thus, not only did the earliest followers of Christ serve Jesus and identify themselves as his slaves, they also went around proclaiming that a day shall come when every created thing will worship both the Father and the Son in recognition of the fact that Jesus Christ is the risen and exalted Lord whom the Father loves and delights in:

“After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him. And there came a voice from heaven: This is My beloved Son. I take delight in Him!” Matthew 3:16-17

“After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John and led them up on a high mountain by themselves to be alone. He was transformed in front of them, and His clothes became dazzling—extremely white as no launderer on earth could whiten them. Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it’s good for us to be here! Let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah’—because he did not know what he should say, since they were terrified. A cloud appeared, overshadowing them, and a voice came from the cloud: This is My beloved Son; listen to Him!” Mark 9:2-7

“When He took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation. You made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they will reign on the earth. Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, and also of the living creatures and of the elders. Their number was countless thousands, plus thousands of thousands. They said with a loud voice: The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing! I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven, on earth, under the earth, on the sea, and everything in them say: Blessing and honor and glory and dominion to the One seated on the throne, AND TO THE LAMB, forever and ever! The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:8-14

So much for the claim of the Quran that Jesus’ original followers were all Muslims!