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Candid Words From an Unusual and Fascinating Author on ReligionSalem-News.com
Recent research embodied in a new book by Agron Belica takes a new look at the life, and related importance, of John the Baptist.
(BOSTON) - Geraldine Ahearn, recipient of the 2009 Gold Medal for the United States of America from the ABI-USA, has devoted thirty years to a nursing career in New York.
In 1995, she began a writing career and is the author of six books. Currently, she publishes book reviews of all genres on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Her book reviews are published on her main website at: http://authorgeriahearnsbookreviews.blogspot.com.
In a special interview, she recently communicated with Agron Belica, the author of The Crucifixion: Mistaken Identity? a work that challenges the traditional views of the event of the Crucifixion and the role of John the Baptist. You can visit Agron's site at this address: islammattersnow.com
Geri: Our guest is Agron Belica, a recent author. Agron, thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
Agron: Your welcome, Geri.
Geri: Agron, in your article entitled The Revival of the Prophet Yahya, you mentioned that Muslim scholars have misinterpreted certain key words with respect to John the Baptist. For example, you do not agree that he was necessarily celibate?
Agron: No, I do not. In the Quran, in chapter 13, verse 38, we read, "And verily We sent messengers (to mankind) before thee, and We appointed for them wives and offspring, and it was not given to any messenger that he should bring a portent save by God’s leave. For everything there is a time prescribed. A major Arabic-English lexicon, that of Edward William Lane, states that when the Arabic word hasur is used alone it means “concealer (of secrets);” not that he did not marry or have children as has been suggested by many Islamic scholars.
Geri: The Quran is your primary source? Agron: Yes, absolutely. Geri: You argue that Zachariah the father of John did not pray for a son but rather for a protector or guardian.
Agron: Yes. The key word here is waliy in chapter 19, verse 5, and other places in the Quran, it means “protector or guardian” rather than “heir” or “successor.” In this specific case, Zechariah prayed to his Lord: “And truly I have feared my defenders after me and my wife has been a barren woman. So bestow on me from that which proceeds from Thy Presence a protector (waliy).” His prayer for a protector/guardian was answered by God’s giving him a son, one with spiritual authority (sayyid) in chapter 3 verse 39. It is commonly thought that Zachariah was simply asking for a son; however, this misconception may be corrected by reading further into the text. After receiving this good news, Zachariah asked, “O my Lord! How shall I have a son, when age hath touched me already and my wife is barren?” Zachariah was asking how this would be possible as he had not even contemplated being blessed with a son in his old age, and that with a barren wife. If Zachariah were asking for a son, as has been suggested by many Muslim scholars, why then did he ask such a question when God informed him of the impending birth? The truth is that Zachariah had not been asking explicitly for a son. He was asking God to send him a divinely appointed protector, from the same place where Maryam received her provisions (rizq); hence “Give me from thy presence a protector (waliy)’ (Q. 19:5, 3:38). If Zachariah wanted a son so badly as has been suggested by the many Muslim scholars, then why did he not just take a second wife? Polygamy was practiced in that time; this would be in accordance with the tradition of Abraham whose wife Sarah was barren. Therefore, he married Sarah’s maidservant Hagar to father a child. John the Baptist was of Levitical descent, and it is well known that the Levites were Guardians of the sacred precincts. John ultimately became the protector/guardian of a sacred word, Messiah Jesus. The Quran tells us that the Jews accused Mary of playing the harlot, which would make Jesus an illegitimate child. This accusation can be found in later Jewish traditions. If this be true, then Mary faced the threat of being thrown alive into a blaze of fire, as prescribed by Mosaic law: “and the daughter of a priest, if she profanes herself by playing the harlot, profanes her father; she shall be burned with fire” (Lev. 21:9). As for Jesus’ being labeled an illegitimate child, Jewish law states, “no bastard shall not enter the assembly of the Lord, even to the tenth generation, none of his descendants shall enter the assembly of the Lord” (Deut. 23:2). Jesus never revealed himself except to a select few. Little wonder that Jesus is also mysterious to the point that today some even deny the reality of his ever having existed. It was John the Baptist who would face the great opposition and not Jesus, and this is why I believe that God told him, O Yahya, take hold of the scripture with might (Q. 19:12).
Geri: Agron, you have dismissed the story of John’s beheading as fiction, have you not?
Agron: Yes. It causes an inconsistency within the Quran. As far as we know, all the prophets mentioned by name in the Quran were delivered from their enemies. Yet, the Prophet Yahya, whose name ironically means He Who Lives, is popularly supposed to have been put to death. Also, concerning Jesus, in the Quran we read: Peace on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day I will be raised up again. (Q. 19:33) The verse states that Jesus was given safety and security in these three situations. But what about the prophet Yahya? We find the same description for him as we find for Jesus, Peace on him the day he is born, the day he dies, and the day he is raised up again. (Q. 19:15) How can any Muslim explain the chopping off of his head and its being served on a platter as the fate of one who is safe and secure?
Geri: But you have John on the cross, and not Jesus. How do you explain this as peaceful?
Agron: John’s being put on the cross would in no way impugn the peace of God given to other prophets, such as Abraham who was given the same peace, thrown into the fire and rescued from it by the Almighty. We said: O fire! Be coolness and peace for Abraham! (Q, 21:69) John was put on the cross, but he lived; hence, the name Yahya “he who lives.”
Geri: By the way, I see that Dr. Jay R. Crook edited the book and was responsible for the notes. He also is the author of the essay Rethinking John the Baptist appended to the back of the book.
Agron Belica: Dr. Crook has done a lot of work on comparative religion and has also translated several Persian classics. His most important work is The Bible: An Islamic Perspective in three volumes, a comprehensive work comparing the Quranic versions of the Biblical stories with the Bible itself and the early Christian era, from the Creation to St. George. It has also been formatted in a 12-volume series of independent books. All are available at Kazi Publications. Rethinking John the Baptist is a critical study of the relevant texts, principally the New Testament and Josephus, of the history and chronology of the times that demonstrates that John survived at least until a few years after the most accepted dates of the Crucifixion and perhaps longer. This provides a serious foundation for many of my theories about what actually happened, as reflected in The Crucifixion: Mistaken Identity? His work was crucial for the development of my ideas.
Geri: Well, that is very interesting, perhaps at first even shocking. You cite a lot of supportive evidence that might cause the reader to reassess the conventional take on those events in the Palestine of the first century. I see that you made the local newspapers in Massachusetts as well as some popular on-line news sites.
Agron: Yes I did. The story was also published on Salem-News.com in Oregon. For this, I was very grateful, simply because I was on a news site which I call one of the best. Tim King, the founder and executive editor along with his staff, strive hard to give the world an honest view of events around the globe. May God protect him and assist him and his crew in their efforts.
Geri: I’d like to thank you for taking time out to respond to my questions. I think your book will be of interest to a lot of people. Good luck with it.
Agron: My pleasure,
Geri. Thanks very much for your interest and your time.
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