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Interview with AlHaj

This is the first of what I hope to be a series of interviews on the topic of religious pluralism and the agreement and disagreement between world religious traditions. Today’s interview is with AlHaj ibn Ibrahim Asy-Sarawaki, who runs the Reminder to People of the Book blog. I have made some minor formating changes from our email interview. Using the compose feature of blogger makes consistency in formating almost entirely impossible.

RTJ: Thank you for agreeing to an interview.


RTJ: What motivated you to start a blog that addresses the People of the Book?

AlHaj: I did not start to write a blog on religion. I actually started to write a blog on cure of sickness using Quranic verses. That’s why you see the url of the blog was nur-syifa. The syifa verses in the Qur’an are use to cure sickness, especially person possessed by evil spirit. I do not have experience in that, but I would like to share ideas with fellow Moslem healers. The oringinal name of the blog was Nur Syifa.
When I started to put Google ads on the blog, I do not know how ads of Chritianity appeared on my blog. I wrote to Blogger to rid off the ads. They told to me to use the ads filter. I tried but the ads filter did not function. I created the blog by trial and error until it becomes what it is now, and I came to learn the type of ads coming to your blog depend on the words appearing in your posts. If you write about Islam or Chritianity, ads relevant to them will finally appear on your blog automatically. So I have to lived with them. In a way with the ads I am indirectly propagating Christianity but on the other hand the ads help me to keep abreast of what is happening in the Christian world.
I am not an Islamic scholar, but I do find the Christianity ads are rather misleading when touching about Islam, we are always put on the defensive. [I think that’s how you and J. K. Jones felt also when you read my posts]. So I started to write counter commentaries, but as far as possible I tried to be honest to stick to fact and as you see I prefer to quote from literature produced by recognize figures in their respective fields. I changed the name of the blog to ‘Reminder to Believers’.
In politics I based my argument on terrorism from books written by Noam Chomsky and Samuel Huntington (they are world level thinkers). From them you know what is militant Islam or terrorism is all about – their roots. I don’t want to talk from prejudicial point of view, after all we want this world to be in peace. I find the results of his research that terrorisms are engineered by America are more plausible rather than the Western prejudicial reports against Islam, not that I support terrorism or militancy. You may disagree with Chomsky. The trauma of Iraqis under the tyrant Saddam is no comparison with their trauma under American occupation. Under Saddam people can still lived their normal life, but under American occupation Iraqis genarally lost their dignity. Somalia and Afghanistan is still bleeding badly. I have with me three books, ‘Imperial Ambitions’, ‘Failed States’, and ‘Perilous Power’ by Chomsky and ‘Who Are We’ by Huntington ( also author of the ‘Clash of Civilizations’). I still wanted to collect onother book by Chomsky, ‘Hegemony and Survival’.
RTJ: Why do you believe Islam is true?
AlHaj: I believe Islam is true not because I was born a Moslem. My parents are not religious people, they are nominal Moslems. But I thanked God I am born a Moslem. It is the most precious gift for I can’t make myself a Moslem without His will.
RTJ: In your younger days you were educated in a Roman Catholic MissionarySchool. How has this impacted you?
AlHaj: I studied Islam, I self-argued it, but I read a lot book on Islam by Moslems as well as orientalists; and I choose to go to a Christisan missionary school not because I want to study Christianity even, but I want to get the best facilitated educational opportunities. The years I studied in the missionary school ( Sacred Heart Secondary School were among my happiest younger days). I am at ease with fellow Christians in my country. We seldom talked about Islamic terrorism or militancy here, I think it is irrelevant in Malyasia. We achieved our independence from the British not through revolution as our Indonesian counterpart from the Dutch but through the round table. Turbulence historical background in one’s country does affect one’s world view towards others and set one mindset. We Malaysian I like to believed are gentlemen when facing natoinal crisis. We articulate our objective even when we get help from the Americans to fight the Communist insurgency in the early independence days.
But then surfers began to comment on my posts especially on political matters touching America and I find their writings quite subjective. Its hard to confront subjective writings. So I deleted all posts on political matters and retained the religious ones and again I changed the name of my blog to what you find now, concentrating entirely on People of the Books with references from the Al-Qur’an and the Bible and especially literatures written by Prof. Emeritus Geza Vermes. I have three of his books with me at the moment, ‘The Gospel Of Jesus’, ‘Nativity’, and ‘Whos Who in The Age of Jesus’. I still need all his other books including the ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’. I surfed the Pontif blog once in a while but his blog is not productive. I also surfed the Vatican webpage to keep abreast of the latest news and I was surprised when Bush visited the Vatican, I say Romans demonstrated against him on the Iraqi issues. See that is Godly people sympathising the suffering of the Iraqis. I feel sorry also for Alan Johnson. But I think these journalists have gone overboard reporting from insane places.
RTJ: In a comment I left on your blog I asked why you accept the authority of the Qu’ran. I also said that the Bible does not play the same part in Christian theology as the Qu’ran does in Islamic theology. For Christians, Jesus is the Word of God, just as the Qu’ran is in Islam. The Bible is more like Muhammad in that it is the vessel through which God makes His revelation known. How do you respond?
Why I believe in Islam? What do you think religion is? What do you think Qur’an is? You believe Prophet Muhammad was an imposter? Are you people honest with him as we are honest with Jesus?You say, Jesus was God’s word, I believed with all my heart.

You say Jesus is God, no! If you say Jesus is God then Al-Qur’an is also God because Al-Qur’an is also God’s word. What do you see of the Al-Qur’an – if not papers, ink, writing etc. Are those items God? No! And what do you see of Jesus, not man? Sure! Man is no different with papers, created. Did he not become from the womb of a woman and grew as any of us? Did he not undergo the path of creation? Why blinded yourself, because the light is too bright until you cannot see? Who raised him to the level of God, himself or you and why did you deliberate on his Godship if it is inequivocally stated by Jesus that he is God? You argued and you have to argue on his Godship in the Council of Nicea 325 AD. So you hesitated also? You did doubt it also. It took convention by convention to determine that he is God, not Jesus himself dertermined it. But then you decided to claim him God. And you deliberated ‘painstakingly’ to come to the point that God is Jesus based on Greek script not in his own Aramaic language, having no point of return (original Aramaic manuscripts) when there’s discrepancies aroused between Arius and Athanasian?

Let us be honest. Aramaic is not simply chosen as the language of revelation, you bear that in mind, it was a ‘language of revelation’ chosen by God’s word and that’s why Jesus spoke it and God did not choose Greek as His channel. Did God choose the language of revelation hanky-panky? You are a man of reason. Why God give us the gift of reason? Reason functioned to understand not to be the arbitrator. The arbitrator is the Scripture. Once the Scripture is not in the original, the translation are noly traces! What make man fall is dishonesty.

I read also Richard Dawkins’ ‘The God Delusion’. I couldn’t help laughing reading his book. I am not enraged. I pity the man. Alas he is propagting Atheism in America, aggresively huh! Its you the front liner there to counter him. There’s also one big name, an old lady Karen Armstrong, also said to be an atheist but not the like of Dawkins, she defended religion. I think she is a theist without any orgainzed religion affiliation although she was ealier a Roman Catholic nun.

The Triune aside, you believe God is one. Why I believe Islam is true? Because God is one. And there’s nothing in Islam that goes against my human nature.

And the idea of ‘incarnation’? Whose culture is that, be honest, Greek (Hellenistic) or Semitic? Had any God’s Apostles from Adam till Muhammad spoke of incarnation? Jesus? Jesus or you? I know you can quote the Biblical verses as proofs but none is objective but all are subjective that can call for multiple/variant, even the dangerous ‘allegorical’ interpretations.

I have read the last revised Bible ( 2006) published by Pengunin Classis, ‘The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (TNCPB)’ that charged that the earlier translators misrepresented some of the words in the Authorised King James Version. So the TNCPB come with and as the more precise one. Read the preface to the TNCPB. In ten years time maybe another scholar come again with another version who saw another misrepresentation. Who dare to do that if there’s an original Aramaic Bible as the original Arabic Al-Qur’an is? Do not be mistaken with the Arabic Al-Qur’an with its translation. Its translation is not Al-Qur’an at all. In the end you will have voluminous Bibles and those native Christians here have to alter also from time to time the Bibles in their native languages. And they will argue among themselves which native vocabulary is of proper usage or precise. For ages you will have that problems. You have argued about the Bible eversince the Bible was in Latin or Greek and you will never stop for God is not pleased with your tempering with His scriptures.

Quranicly speaking the Holy Qur’an says, chapter 32 (The Byzantines) verse 30, ‘And so, set thy face towards [one ever-true] faith, turning away from all that is false, in accordance with the natural disposition which God has instilled in man: [for,] not to allow any change to corrupt what God has thus created – this is the [purpose of the one] ever-true faith; but most people know it not.’ This makes me a Moslem. And the religion of all Prophets from Adam till Muhammad (Christ Jesus inclusive) is Islam (only officially known as Islam with the advent of Islam meaning submitting to the will of God as stated in the vesre alluded).

RTJ: What is the biggest misconception that Western Christian have about Islam?

AlHaj: My days in Roman Catholic Missionary School has made me understand the difference between Chritianity and Islam crytal clear. I can’t take man as God. It is scripturally and rationally impossible. Jesus has spoken to be aware of your fellows who speaks on his behalf whom he will deny. Do you think they are we Moslems? We don’t propagate Chrisitianity. Those will be you Christians preaching on his behalf speaking about him of which he never ever categorically approved.

RTJ: Do you believe there is salvation for non-Muslim monotheists?

AlHaj: If Islam is true which is true, Christians have no justification of remaining Christians but to embrace Islam. Prophet Muhammad says if Moses is living in my age of which I am the last Messenger he must also bear witness to me. Since Christians existed to the time of Muhammad so they must bear witness to Islam. If they refused their final everlasting abode is Hell. I don’t joke with you with that teaching of Islam. If Moses was the last Messenger and Muhammad came before him, Muhammad must also bear witness to him and we the community of Muhammad must follow the religion of Moses. If we refuse we are regarded as not accepting the commandment of God as a whole. That’s what happened to Satan when he refused to bow to Adam. Satan obeyed other aspect of God’s commandments but not the commandment to bow to Adam. Satan was egoistic, he thought he was better than Adam because he was made from flame and Adam from dust. He forgot the one who gave him the commandment was God and not Adam. If Adam commanded him he may ignored the commandment on the justification of qualification but when God commanded, God’s commandment is absolute. [Your question] is answered – no salvation, unless you want also to join the community of Satan.

RTJ: Is there anything eles you would like to add?

AlHaj: I quote the Qur’an, chapter 28 (The Story) verse 56: ‘Verily , thou canst not guide aright everyone whom thou lovest: but it is God who guides him that wills [to be guided], and He is fully aware of all who would let themselves to be guided.’

Finally, I quote the Qur’an again, chapter 29 (The Spider) verse 46: ‘And do not argue with the followers of earlier revelation otherwise than in a most kindly manner – unless it be such of them as are bent on evildoing – and say: ‘We believe in that which has been bestowed from on high upon us as well as that which has been bestowed upon you: for our God (not Triune) and your God (not Triune) is one and the same (Unity), and it is unto Him that we [all] surrender ourselves.’

So, speaking from the perspective of Islam my Creator God is also your Creator God.

RTJ: Thank you for your time.

AlHaj: Thank you Ryan Jones.

  1. ALHAJ
    June 21, 2007 at 5:57 pm

    Good morning Ryan Jones, its 7.30 a.m. here in Malaysia.

    I want to be certain of your question-statement:

    ‘the Bible does not play the same part in Christian theology as does the Qur’an in Islamic theology…… The Bible is more like Muhammad in that it is the vessel through which God makes His revelation known.’

    Can you elaborate briefly with instances:

    1. How do the Bible and the Qur’an differ in the part they played concerning theology.

    2. Why do you say the Bible is more like Muhammad as God’s vessel through which His revelation is made known?

    Are 1 and 2 above your personal opinion?

    Thank you.
    AlHaj ibn Ibrahim Asy-Sarawaki

  2. R.T. Jones
    June 22, 2007 at 10:42 am

    Sorry about that additional comment. I was not trying to add any elements to the interview, but when it was clear that you were responding to my comment on your blog as well as the questions in my email, I wanted to fill in the gaps for anyone who reads the interview on my blog. I would have quoted straight from my comment that I left on your blog, but I couldn’t find it. I therefore tried to recall it from memory.

    As for your questions, I will attempt to address them in an upcoming post. As to whether this is my personal opinion, I am sure there are many others who hold this position, but I will have to do some research first. In the meantime, I can at least say that this statement has much in common with Karl Barth, who is widely considered the greatest Christian theologian of the 20th century. I wouldn’t be surprised if Barth himself said something along these lines, but a quick internet search did not turn anything up.

  3. ALHAJ
    June 26, 2007 at 12:41 am

    Thank you for your acknowledgement, but I still need you to explain to me my question (1) and (2).

    You see Muhammad is from Ishmael and Ishmael is from Abraham, they are of the House of Abraham. Jesus is from Mary, Mary is from Moses/Aaron and Moses and Aaron are from Amran and they are of the House of Amran and Amran is from Levi and Levi is from Jacob and Jacob is from Isaac and Isaac is from Abraham, they are of the House of Abraham. No Greek or Roman from the House of Abraham for Jesus never get married. Muhammad and Jesus are generation of Semitic people, meaning people whom God sent unto them revelation and they are the very people who understand the gist of revelation or the core business of revelation concerning Monotheism. Mo Messenger or Prophet were sent to the Greek or the Roman people. Greeks and Romans, European in general, were not the people burdened in the first place to carry God’s message of Monotheism.

    If the Semitic people were wrong about Trinity, could they all be wrong? The Semitic people history is that when they are derailed God sent another to put them again on the right path.

    To Moslems, Jesus the Messiah teaching about Monotheism has been derailed by Saul the Jew (who taught Triune Monotheism)and Muhammad a semite was sent to put Unity Monotheism back on track again. Again Greek and Romans are not people chosen by God (to shoulder) with His Monotheism message. Being unchosen [for the anticipated result as seen today] the Unity Montheism become Triune Monotheism under their hands.Again there’s no such thing as Triune Monotheism, illogical to the Semites but logic to the Greeks and Romans. Why? Incarnation is foreign to Semitic people but common to Greeks and Romans. Not only did the Greeks and Romans coloured the Unity Monotheism to suit their culture but also the Gospels were deliberately written to suit the Triune Montheism and with the Gospels written as such the Greek and Romans claimed the belief in Triune God is scriptural. Christian Theologians after that had to think always in line with Trinity when they talked of the Unity God. Thsre’s no escape from that unless they deny the Gospels.

    Christians when they speak of Abraham and his descendants always avoid speaking of or mentioning Ishmael. Even Pope Benedict in his latest book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ also avoid mentioning Ishmael. Look at the jacket of the book. He wrote. ..’Abraham, Jacob, Isaac …’and he didn’t even mention Ishmael as if Ishamel was not the son of Abraham and as if Ishmael existence in the Bible has no significance. Ishmael’s name only remained under the covers of the Scriptures, yet the descendants of Ishmael and the followers of his descendant’s (Muhammad) religion is swarming the world right on the nose of the Christians. They had fulfilled God’s promises to Abraham – His Kingdom, population as many as the stars in heaven or the sands on the sea shores. The Jews and Christians are troubled by the Moslems’ mischiefs.But they are not troubled by the faith of the Moslems.

    You know when God made His promises to Abraham (whom He called His friend), did He made bad promises?

    So when God made Ishmael into big nations, population a many as the stars in the sky and as many as the sands on sea shores, were these people, the Arabs to be specific, left without a faith of any kind in the God of Abraham? Did not Abraham taught about his faith to Ishmael? Why were the Arabs at ease embracing Islam? Surrendering oneself to God (what Islam is) in principle and believing in the Unity God is not foreign to the descndants of Ishmael. Is faith in the Unity God foreign to People of the Books?

    Thank you.
    AlHaj ibn Ibrahim Asy-Sarawaki.

  4. J. K. Jones
    June 26, 2007 at 12:45 am

    R. T., thanks for this post.

    Alhaj, I still pray earnestly for you each day.

  5. R.T. Jones
    June 26, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    Alhaj, thank you for your comments. One crucial distinction to make is that Jesus’ place in Christian and Muslim theology is quite different. In Muslim theology, Jesus is another prophet like Muhammed, revealing truth to humanity. In Christian theology however, Jesus Himself IS the truth that is revealed. Thus we believe that because Jesus is alive and seated at the right hand of God, we can personally know and experience Him through prayer. Though the Bible itself is divine revelation, we believe it to find its fulfillment in pointing us to the One who is Revelation Himself.

    For the comparison between the Bible and Qu’ran, I first encountered the distinction in Clark Pinnock, which I quote in this post. I am not sure to what extent this represents mainstream Christian theology.

  6. ALHAJ
    June 29, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Dear Ryan Jones,

    All Apostles of God (Muhammad or Jesus, to mention the ones under polemic) brought the same religion – submission to the will of God.They conveyed the same message beginning from Adam until Muhammad.

    I look at the Qur’an and the Bible. Jesus in the Bible as in the Qur’an taught the same thing – God is One. Before he was crucified (according to you), he was an ordinary preacher and all his disciples ran away when he was arrested and none of them were present when he was crucified. No one thought he was God or even incarnate. Suddenly after he was resurrected (also according to you), he became a different being – God Himself. Who made the claim that he is God, Jesus or you?

    J. K. Jones liked to emphasize to me that Jesus and the Father are of the same ‘essence’and he said that is logic. Yes, that is logic. Who can’t say that is not logic. Everything has its own perculiar logic: chicken lays egg, woman gives birth. But logic is not necessarily truth. Some exist in the mind and never in reality. One can can write the figure of number one, but has anybody seen the number-one-self? That lead us to the question of incarnation.

    Before Jesus was ascended he was God incarnate. Hence, according to J. K. Jones, Jesus and the Father are(plural?)of the same essence. Who knows? We do not know God’s essence to claim that He and Jeus are of the same essence. We know Jesus’s esence – human.

    So God in Christian theology is human (since He is incarnate) but divine (since He is God); or divine(since He is God)and human (since he is flesh). Again I agree that is logic as far as for understanding is concerned. But this is a clear contradiction, for God and man cannot be both – either He is God or he is man.

    A question will then be raised if such is the case – can God be divine and at the same time be human (given the theory of incarnation?) How do one come about to prove that incarnation is not a mere theory but fact? As we have not seen the Father, how do we know He incarnated. Is it just by the statement of the one incarnated yet he never claimed it himself but by the Gospellers and through hearsay or allegory by Theologians?

    Further, it was acknowledged by scholars that Jesus did not come with a system of concept of God that we can derived from himself that we can alluded that he is so and so and definitely God!

    Is there again any hint from previous Apostles of God of such phenomenon as incarnation?

    Pope Paul said Islamic Anthropology and Theology is very distant from Christianity. Is this true? Is this not apologetic? Does this not sound exclusive as Judaism? Man, anthropologically speaking, before he has or know religion, don’t he talked of God universally?

    Are we not the same human beings, created with the same inclination, the wanting to worship in the One God? Religion and God therefore cannot be exclusive between children of God. Afterall we are created by Him alone. I do not believe in its originality that man, religion and God are to be subjected to different Antrophology and Theology.

    They came an envoy of Christians from Najran visiting Prophet Muhammad curious about Islam. They doubted Prophet Muhammad prophethood. So Prophet Muhmmad invited them to do supplication to God to prove who among them (between Moslems and Christians)present spoke the truth – him and Jesus (that Jesus is not God) or them (the Najrans) with their claim that Jesus is God? You know the outcome, the Najran Christians politely withdraw the invitation.

    We Moslems, Ryan Jones, with all our hearts loved Jesus (I think you don’t know how much we love Jesus).
    Because you so much loved Jesus that you are sorry that we Moslems do not become Chritians therefore we are lost and not salved. But we also loved so much Jesus that we pity you how come you make Jesus an object of worship, a human being like you yourself and you say him ‘One who is Revelation Himself’! Don’t you ever think, reasoned enough?

    I have read Clark Pinnock in you post before you introduced him to me. I came across a lot of that kind of Christian writings over the internet. That is one example I called subjective writing – a conqueror style – I come, I see, I conquer – I decide you listen!

    I think Ryan I and you are old enough to decide on our own faith instead of others to decide it for us. You need not listen to me.

    Anyway, you have not answered my previous question (1) and (2).

    Finally, does not the Bible says (1 Thessalonians 5:21):

    ‘Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.’

    You may answer ‘Jesus is God’ that is good.

    And Jeremiah 10: 6-7:

    ‘Forasmuch there is none like unto Thee, O’ Lord … there is none like unto Thee.’

    Where was Jesus at that time? If God then cannot be categorised (none like unto thee), was not Jesus only a human being, not even an incarnate? Even the Qur’an says, 112: 1-4:

    ‘Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, The Eternal, Absolute;
    He begetteth not (incarnating), nor is He begotten (incarnated);
    And there is none like unto Him.’

    Even James the brother of Jesus never said that Jesus was God and said that God is One and not Trinity. Why go far to find out who Jesus actually was!

    And finally God is, 1 Timothy 6:16:

    ‘… whom no man hath seen, nor can see ..’

    Hence Jesus is not God for you can see him with your eyes.

    So much for your patience to read my rendering of God. God is dear to all of us.

    Thank you.

    AlHaj ibn Ibrahim Asy-Sarawaki.

  7. graphicartist2k5
    December 28, 2009 at 6:22 pm

    first of all, you cannot heal ANYONE without God’s power, and if anyone thinks they can heal someone by using the qu’ran, or whatever other “holy text”, and the person is healed, then it’s not by God’s Power. no matter WHAT you may believe, the devil is the one you’re serving. you can get mad about it all you want to, but answer me this question: WHERE is the Love of God in your religion of islam? WHERE is there salvation for your sins without there being the necessity of you killing yourself to “atone” for your sins? WHERE is there peace in your religion? WHERE is there the Joy of the Lord? WHERE are these things found in your religion of islam and in the qu’ran?

    I have YET to see any TRUE Christian person walk into a building and blow themselves up in the name of the TRUE God they serve and talk about, “God told me to kill anyone that doesn’t agree with me.”

    Christians are known by the Love of God that is shed abroad in our hearts, not by our outward, aggressive actions towards those who do not agree with us. We are called as Christians to LOVE our neighbor as ourselves, to consider the needs of others above our own needs and to pray for one another, that God will meet their needs according to His riches and glory in Christ Jesus.

    I’m sure this is all very foreign to you, but that’s only because of what you’ve been taught to believe as being the truth.

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