Beyond Mere Christianity
by Brandon Toropov
formerly Jesus the Muslim. Then I moved it. Thanks for your patience.
peace be upon him, was a Muslim.
We hear a great deal today about a "war," "conflict," or "clash" between
Islam and Christianity. The topic is so prominent in the media that many people
assume that there is something irreconcilable between these two approaches to
God. It is not surprising, then, that so many Christians of good will have
concluded that Islam and Christianity are fundamentally incompatible. Yet, if,
by "Christianity," we mean "that which Jesus Christ (pbuh) meant to convey to
his hearers," I believe that these people of good will are mistaken when they
tell us that Islam is incompatible with Christianity.
What's more, I believe we can now prove that the historically oldest Gospel
verses reflecting the reported sayings of Jesus (pbuh) are entirely compatible
A WAVE OF CONVERSIONS
If you are a Christian, the idea that Jesus (pbuh) practiced the same faith that
today's news broadcasts hold responsible for so many of the world's problems may
seem far-fetched to you. It seemed far-fetched to me when I first encountered
it, before I consulted the Gospels closely. Yet you should know that many, many
contemporary Christians have reached life-changing personal conclusions about
the Gospel message and its relation to Islam.
is compelling anecdotal evidence of a surge in conversions to
Islam since September 11, not just in Britain, but across Europe and
America. One Dutch Islamic centre claims a tenfold increase, while the
New Muslims Project, based in Leicester and run by a former Irish
Roman Catholic housewife, reports a steady stream of new converts."
(London Times, January 7, 2002.)
MAINSTREAM MEDIA IGNORES US
The Western news media only rarely shares the stories of these individual
converts to Islam with the world at large, but I strongly suspect that most of
these people -- if they are like me -- found
themselves, at the end of the day, concerned about the consequences of calling
Jesus (pbuh) "Lord" without obeying his instructions ... found themselves far
more concerned about that, in fact, than about any media coverage of
This kind of concern causes people to change their lives.
THE CHALLENGE OF Q
Speaking personally, I changed my own life because I could not ignore the
implications of the authentic, stand-alone Gospel passages that today's most
accomplished (non-Muslim!) scholars believe to be of the earliest date
These sayings, which form a reconstructed text known as Q, can all be found in
the New Testament. They are almost certainly the closest we will ever be able to
come to an authentic oral tradition reflecting the actual sayings of Jesus
Q CONFIRMS ISLAM
If you are new to Q, you should know what the best New Testament scholars now
know, namely that today's scholarship identifies certain Gospel passages as not
only instructive, but historically more relevant than other passages. This
scholarship has led to some fascinating discussions among scholars (and a
comparatively few lay readers).
I believe the Q verses tend to confirm Islam's depiction of Jesus (pbuh) as a
human Prophet with a Divine mandate essentially indistinguishable from that of
A HUMAN PROPHET
I did not develop the theory of Q. It has been around for years.
"Traditionalist" Christian clergy and theologians are generally hostile to it.
They claim that students of Q are somehow eager to
diminish the status of Jesus (pbuh). Actually, we are eager to learn what he is
most likely to have actually said.
Q represents a major challenge for contemporary Christianity, not least because
it strongly suggests that Islam's picture of Jesus (pbuh) is historically
correct. The fact that Q essentially confirms Islam's image of Jesus (pbuh) as a
distinctly human Prophet has not, I think, been widely noticed by today's
Christians. And it must be. Because a careful review of the scriptures
demonstrates that Jesus (pbuh) is in fact calling his people to Islam.
JESUS (PBUH) BROUGHT ME TO ISLAM!
I came to Islam, alhamdulillah, after three decades of restless dissatisfaction
with conventionial Christianity. Although I've read a lot of conversion stories
since I embraced Islam in March of 2003, I haven't found many that cited the
Gospels as a point of entry to the Holy Qur'an. This is how it was for me.
I was drawn to the Gospels at a young age -- eleven -- and I read them
compulsively on my own, despite the fact that I did not live in a Christian
household. I soon learned to keep religious matters to myself.
For most of my adolescence I studied the Christian scriptures on my own. I still
have the red King James Bible I bought as a child; my own handwritten note on
the front page proclaims June 26, 1974, as the date I accepted Jesus (pbuh) as
my personal savior.
When I say I read the scriptures compulsively, I mean that I was drawn to the
Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John like a magnet. There are plenty of
notes and highlightings in that old Bible of mine in Psalms, in Ecclesiastes, in
Proverbs -- but most of the notes and underlinings are in the Gospels. But I
sensed, even at an early age, that there were some internal problems with the
texts I loved so dearly.
WHO TAMPERED WITH THE GOSPELS?
I can clearly remember reading the account in the 22nd chapter of Luke where
Jesus (pbuh) withdrew from the disciples, prayed, and returned to find them fast
asleep. Who, I wondered, could have possibly observed him praying ... and then
related the incident so that it eventually could be included in the Gospel of
Luke? There's another passage in the Gospels where Jesus (pbuh) supposedly
includes the words "let him who reads understand" in one of his spoken
discourses, which seemed odd to me. And there was yet another spot where the New
Testament author assured first-century Christians that their generation would
see the second coming of the Messiah -- a passage I found difficult to square
with modern Christian doctrine. These and other queries about the New Testament
arose while I was still quite young, certainly before I was fifteen. Had someone
manipulated the Gospels? If so, who? And why?
I "filed" my questions for later, and decided that the real problem was that I
was not part of a vigorous Christian faith community.
At eighteen, I headed East for college and entered the Roman Catholic Church. I
asked the campus priest -- a sweet and (by his lights) pious man -- about some
of the Gospel material that had given me trouble, but he became uncomfortable
and changed the subject. On another occasion, I remember telling him that I was
focusing closely on the Gospel of John because that Gospel was (as I thought
then) a first-person account of the
events in question.
Again, he stammered and changed the subject and did not want to discuss the
merits of one Gospel over another; he simply insisted that all four were
important and that I should study all of them. This was a telling conversation,
and a fateful one, as it turned out.
CHRISTIANITY? OR PAULISM?
Now, this is not my life story, but rather my reversion account, so I'm going to
fast-forward over a lot of important events. I kept reading and rereading the
Bible. I was drawn, as ever, to the sayings about the lamp and the eye, the
Prodigal Son, the Beatitudes, the importance of prayer, and so many others --
but I had steadily more serious intellectual problems with the surrounding
"architecture" of the New Testament, particularly with the Apostle Paul. The
fact that Paul never seemed to build a theological argument around anything that
Jesus (pbuh) actually said was a big, big problem for me.
I became deeply disenchanted with the Catholic Church, in part because of a
truly terrible priest who gave very little attention to the spiritual needs of
his community. I later learned that he had been covering up for a child abuser!
I found it necessary to immerse myself in a faith community. I joined, and
became active in, the local Protestant denomination, a Congregational Church.
So I led Sunday School classes for children, and briefly taught a Gospel class
on the Parables for the adults. In the Sunday School classes for the kids I
stayed right with the curriculum I had been given; but in the adult class, I
tried to challenge the participants to confront certain parables directly,
without filtering everything through the Apostle Paul. We had interesting
discussions, but I sensed some resistance, and I didn't try to teach an adult
By this point, I had become deeply affected by the apparent intersection of the
Christian mystic tradition and that of the Sufis and the Zen Buddhists. And I
had even written on such matters. But there seemed to be no one at my church who
shared my zeal for these issues.
FOCUSING ON THE GOSPEL SAYINGS
In particular, I was interested in the research being done that indicated that
the oldest strata of the Gospels reflected an extremely early oral source known
as Q, and that each of the individual sayings of Jesus (pbuh) needed to be
evaluated on its own merits, and not as part of the narrative material that
This is because that narrative material was added many years later.
AN EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT?
In fact, the more I researched this subject, the more I found myself thinking of
that conversation about the Gospel of John with my priest. I realized that what
he had been unwilling or unable to tell me was that the author(s) of the Gospel
of John had been lying. This was manifestly not an eyewitness account, though it
claimed to be.
I was in a strange situation. I was certainly enjoying the fellowship of the
Christians at my church, who were all committed and prayerful people. Being part
of a religious community was important to me. Yet I had deep intellectual
misgivings about the supposed historicity of the Gospel narratives. What's more,
I was, increasingly, getting a different message from the Gospel sayings of
Jesus (pbuh) than that which my fellow Christians were apparently getting.
WRESTLING WITH THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY
The more I looked at these sayings, the more impossible it became for me to
reconcile the notion of the Trinity with that which seemed most authentic to me
in the Gospels. I found myself face-to-face with some very difficult questions.
Where in the Gospels did Jesus use the word "Trinity"? If Jesus (pbuh) was God,
as the doctrine of the Trinity claims, why did he worship God? AND -- if Jesus
(pbuh) was God, why in the world would he say something like the following?
"Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God." (Mark
Did he somehow forget that he himself was God when he said this? (A side note --
I had a discussion with a woman who assured me that this passage was not really
in the Gospels, and who refused to believe that it appeared there until I gave
her the chapter and verse number and she looked it up for herself!)
THE HOLY QUR'AN
In November of 2002, I began to read a translation of the Qur'an.
I had never read an English translation of the entire text of the Qur'an before.
I had only read summaries of the Qur'an written by non-Muslims.(And very
misleading summaries at that.)
Words do not adequately describe the extraordinary effect that this book had on
me. Suffice to say that the very same magnetism that had drawn me to the Gospels
at the age of eleven was present in a new and deeply imperative form. This book
was telling me, just as I could tell Jesus (pbuh) had been telling me, about
matters of ultimate concern.
The Qur'an was offering authoritative guidance and compelling responses to the
questions I had been asking for years about the Gospels.
"It is not (possible) for any human being to whom God has given the Book and
Wisdom and Prophethood to say to the people: 'Be my worshippers rather than
God's.' On the contrary, (he would say): 'Be devoted worshippers of your Lord,
because you are teaching the Book, and you are studying it.' Nor would he order
you to take angels and Prophets for lords. Would he order you to disbelieve
after you have submitted to God's will?" (Qur'an 3:79-80)
The Qur'an drew me to its message because it so powerfully confirmed the sayings
of Jesus (pbuh) that I felt in my heart had to be authentic. Something had been
changed in the Gospels, and that something, I knew in my heart, had been left
intact in the text of the Qur'an.
Below, you will find just a few examples of the parallels that made my heart
pliant to the worship of Allah (swt). Each Gospel verse comes from the
reconstructed text known as Q -- a text that today's scholars believe represents
the earliest surviving strata of the teachings of the Messiah. Note how close
this material is to the Qur'anic message.
Q AGREES WITH QUR'AN ON TAWHEED (MONOTHEISM)
In Q, Jesus (pbuh) endorses, in no uncertain terms, a rigorous monotheism.
"Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, 'Thou shalt worship the Lord
thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.' (Luke 4:8)
"Children of Adam, did We not command you not to worship Satan? He was your
sworn enemy. Did We not command you to worship Me, and tell you that this is the
straight path?" (Holy Qur'an 36:60-61)
Q AGREES WITH QUR'AN ON AQABA (THE UPHILL PATH)
Q identifies a Right Path that is often difficult, a path that unbelievers will
choose not to follow.
"Enter ye in through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate, and broad is the
way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in there. Narrow is
the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that
find it." (Matthew 7:13-14)
"The worldly life is made to seem attractive to the disbelievers who scoff at
the faithful, but the pious, in the life hereafter, will have a position far
above them." (Holy Qur'an 2:212)
that you knew what the uphill path is! It is the setting free of a slave or, in
a day of famine, the feeding of an orphaned relative and a downtrodden destitute
person, (so that he would join) the believers who cooperate with others in
patience and kindness." (Holy Qur'an 90:12-17)
Q AGREES WITH QUR'AN ON TAQWA (FEAR OF GOD)
Q warns us to fear only the judgment of God.
"And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body,
and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye
shall fear. Fear Him, which after He hath killed, hath the power to cast into
Hell. Yea, I say unto you, fear Him!" (Luke 12:4-5)
"To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and the earth. God's retribution
is severe. Should you then have fear of anyone other than God?" (Holy Qur'an
Q AGREES WITH QUR'AN ON THE TRAPS OF DUNYA (EARTHLY LIFE)
In Q, Jesus (pbuh) warns humanity plainly that earthly advantages and pleasures
should not be the goal of our lives:
"Woe unto you that are rich! For you have received your consolation. Woe unto
you who are full! You shall be hungry. Woe unto you who laugh now! You shall
weep and mourn." (Luke 6:24)
"The desire to have increase of worldly gains has preoccupied you so much (that
you have neglected the obligation of remembering God) -- until you come to your
graves! You shall know. You shall certainly know (about the consequences of your
deeds.) You will certainly have the knowledge of your deeds beyond all doubt.
You will be shown hell, and you will see it with your own eyes. Then, on that
day, you shall be questioned about the bounties (of God)." (102:1-8)
Q WARNS MANKIND NOT TO ASSUME ENTRY TO HEAVEN IS ASSURED!
Consider also the following chilling words from the Messiah, which should (!)
make every heart humble, choke off all forms of arrogance in spiritual matters,
and quiet every attack upon a fellow monotheist:
"And I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall
sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But those
who believe they own the kingdom of heaven shall be cast out into the outer
darkness. There shall be weeping and gnashing
of teeth." (Matthew 8:11-12)
Obviously, this is an important teaching for all people of good will to bear in
mind ... and to etch upon the memory.
Q SAYS NOTHING OF CRUCIFIXION OR SACRIFICE!
You have seen how the historically earliest verses -- the Q verses --parallel
the major teachings of the Qur'an. Also worthy of mention is the fact that Q
teaches nothing whatsoever of the Crucifixion, of the sacrificial nature of the
mission of Jesus (pbuh) ... an intriguing
We are left then with an amazing early Gospel -- a Gospel that (non-Muslim)
scholars believe is historically closest to Jesus (pbuh) -- a Gospel that has
the following characteristics:
with the Qur'an's uncompromising message of God's Oneness.
with the Qur'an's message of an afterlife of salvation or
hellfire ... based on our earthly deeds.
with the Qur'an's warning not to be misled by dunya -- the
attractions and pleasures of worldly life. AND ...
ABSENCE of any reference to Christ's resurrection or sacrifice for humanity!
This is the
Gospel that today's most advanced non-Muslim scholars have identified for us ...
and this Gospel is pointing us, if only we will listen to it, in precisely the
same direction as the Qur'an!
MY DEAR CHRISTIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS -- I BEG
YOU TO ASK YOURSELVES PRAYERFULLY, TO SEEK ALMIGHTY GOD'S GUIDANCE ON THIS
QUESTION: CAN THIS POSSIBLY BE A COINCIDENCE?
SHARE THE WORD!
I became a Muslim on March 20, 2003. It became obvious to me that I had to share
this message with as many thoughtful Christians as I could. I wrote a book of
Dawah to share with open-minded students of the Gospels. There are many, many
more parallels between the oldest words of Jesus (pbuh) and the Holy Qur'an; I
discuss them at length in my book
BEYOND MERE CHRISTIANITY (free e-book form)
order the hardcover from Dar-us-Salaam
share this book's message with the Christians in your life!
BEYOND MERE CHRISTIANITY to help people reach an informed conclusion about the
true nature of the mission of Jesus (pbuh). Because media coverage of Islam in
the West is so unremittingly hostile, I decided to rely primarily on the words
of Jesus (pbuh), appealing only rarely to the Holy Qur'an. To the degree that
they realize that the oldest Gospel verses accurately mirror the teachings of
Islam, thoughtful Christians may, Godwilling, become more curious about the
teachings of the Qur'an.
Reasonable people may disagree on the age and authenticity of the Q sayings of
Jesus (pbuh) that I appeal to in BEYOND MERE CHRISTIANITY. All followers of
Jesus (pbuh) must agree, though, that the words in Q cited in this book also
appear in the Gospels found in every Bible and are binding on every Christian.
For those who insist on the importance of following Jesus (pbuh), surely that is
What you have read here is a brief summary of why I believe Jesus (pbuh) was a
Muslim, and why that mattered to me, after 9/11, far more than any perversion of
religion by extremists in the media masquerading as journalists -- or extremists
in the mosques masquerading as Muslims.
more about the recent New Testament scholarly breakthroughs that support this
point, please read my book.
I would love to hear from you. I hope you will e-mail me at
If you want
to discuss what you just read, please
drop me a line. I will only reply to
courteous messages. Thank you!