Reza Aslan is known for his creative writing. I wonder if he puts his evening prayers to paper. Here is one prayer for his consideration:
“In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. Allahu akbar. I seek forgiveness from Allah for all my sins and turn to Him.”
In asking for your mercy I am trying harder to obey the command of your holy word: “Confound not truth with falsehood, nor knowingly conceal the truth.” (Surah 2:42)
Allah, I have not been fully truthful in my scholarship and in my media work. Here, Ar-Rahim, are the issues where I seek your guidance for the sake of truth.
- Even after two years I still feel bad about Lauren Green, that Fox News anchor. Her interview with me went viral, she got slammed in the media, while my book Zealot shot to #1. You know, O Allah, that I sort of misled her about my research. Why didn’t she just accept my four degrees including a Ph.D. and move on? I panicked a bit and told her I used about 1000 books for my work on Jesus. It was only 159. That’s really a lie, isn’t it?
- I’m feeling worse about another thing I told her. Allah, it was a tough interview. But I should not have said that my endnotes cite “every scholar who disagrees with me and every scholar who agrees with me.” The truth, O God, as you know, is that Zealot was based a lot on my Harvard work from years earlier. I did not keep up with the scholarship on Jesus. I only quote three articles on Jesus from the decade before Zealot came out. I don’t even refer to Bart Ehrman, Richard Bauckham, Dale Martin or Paula Fredriksen and a whole bunch of other big name scholars. Maybe I can say I had a Brian Williams moment.
- Allah, your Word commands me not to conceal truth. Lionsgate wants to turn Zealot into a movie. Should I tell them that my book got absolutely creamed by scholars, whether evangelical and mainline Christians (Robert Gundry, Craig Evans, Simon Joseph, Anthony le Donne), Jewish (Allan Nadler) or secular (Ehrman)? I hate to admit it but if I corrected all the errors they point out I would have to rewrite my whole book. The movie is due out next year. These scholars even show that my views of Jesus as a zealot are outdated, overstated and contradictory. More important, I admit it seems weird and kind of unethical to push Jesus as a Jewish jihadist given the crazy Muslim jihadists today. Maybe, O Allah, David Heyman doesn’t care if Zealot is inaccurate as long as the movie sales are great. Random House might be uptight, though, since they have their scholarly reputation to watch.
- Speaking of Random House, I’m even having second thoughts about my book with them on Islam. Yes, praise you, No god but God is an international bestseller. You are indeed Ar-Razzaq, The Provider. But, O Allah, I concealed stuff about scholarship on Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him. Here I am a critic of American torture and I did not have the courage to mention that Islamic sources say Muhammad, Peace Be Upon Him, had that Jewish guy Kinana tortured. I defend free speech, Lord, but I did not raise one peep that the earliest biographies of the Prophet record that he sanctioned the death of critics, like that woman Asma. I argue that Muhammad liberates women but why do the traditions say he hit one of his wives, took his stepson’s wife in marriage, and condoned raping of female slaves? Help me with your great mercy.
- Allah, sometimes in defending Islam I let my zeal blind me. I wrote in No god but God that Iran is the most “significant experiment in nation building” since the time of Muhammad. Thankfully, no reviewers picked up on that one. On CNN I said that “women are absolutely 100 percent equal to men” in Indonesia. What was I thinking? Indonesia is in 97th place on the Gender Gap Index.
- Allah, here’s a final problem. I told Lauren Green that “my book about Jesus overturns pretty much everything that Islam also thinks about Jesus as well.” Well, even when I said it to her I realized I had to conceal the thought that popped into my head. “We revere Jesus as prophet but don’t get Jesus right? If Islam is wrong about Jesus, how do we know Islam is right about Muhammad and the Qur’an?” Help me, O Allah, despite my anxiety, help me to be a person who faces truth.
- Allah, maybe I should send Lauren Green some of my royalty money. I love irony but the thought of me supporting Fox!
James A. Beverley is Professor of Christian Thought and Ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Canada and Associate Director, Institute for the Study of American Religion, Woodway, Texas. He and Craig Evans, a specialist in the study of the historical Jesus, have just written Getting Jesus Right: How Muslims Get Jesus and Islam Wrong (Castle Quay, 2015). They analyse Reza Aslan in their work. Jihad Watch readers can get 15% off at the publisher’s site by putting Jim in for a discount. See www.gettingjesusright.com