- Christianity and Other World Religions
Muhammad (570-632 AD)
As an ordinary Arab (age 1-35).
Muhammad, a descendant of Ishmael, was born into a minor clan of the Quraish tribe in
Mecca. Orphaned at an early age (father died before Muhammad’s birth, mother when he was 6 years old, grandfather and guardian when he was 8), he was raised by an uncle, Abu Talib. As a child, he took care of herds. Later, he subsisted as a camel driver. Eventually Khadija, a wealthy widow, employed him. They fell in love and were married. As a wealthy merchant, Muhammad had contact with adherents of monotheistic religions on the trade routes and time to pursue religion.
As a religious seeker and visionary (age 35-52).
At the time, Mecca was a place where polytheism and animism thrived. Each tribe had its own deity and made annual pilgrimages to Mecca to pay homage. En toto, some 360 deities were worshipped. The first shrine that greeted pilgrims entering Mecca was a statue of God’s [Allah’s] three sensuous-appearing daughters (al-Lat, al-Manat, and al-Uzza). The Ka’ba that housed a black stone allegedly given to Abraham by Gabriel was dedicated to the god Habal.
In 610 AD, while meditating in a cave on Mt. Hira, overlooking the plain of Arafat, Muhammad fell into a trance. Trembling and sweating, he heard the angel Gabriel say to him, “Recite!” This was the beginning of a series of “recitations” given to him over a period of years.
Muhammad’s career as a prophet in Mecca began. His message to the Meccans was this: There is only one God to whose will people must submit, and there will be a day of judgment when all people will be judged in terms of whether or not they have obeyed God. Some accepted what he said and became Muslims; others (the majority) rejected his message.
His “Flight” and the Subsequent Growth of the Theocracy (age 52-62).
Rejection of Muhammad and his message by the leaders of the Quraish led him to look for some other place where this new religion could be established. The people of Yathrib (now Medina) had expressed interest and openness to Muhammad and his followers, so they left Mecca in 622 AD and settled there. Muslims use the date of the migration, the hijrah, as the start of the Muslim era. [AH = After the hijrah; not after revelation, not after commissioning as prophet, but after rise to power as a warlord].
In early January 630 AD [8 AH] Muhammad led an army of 10,000 to Mecca and conquered his enemies. The Ka’ba was cleansed of idols and shrines to pagan gods were destroyed. Muhammad retained Mecca as the center for pilgrimage, and certain holy places, such as the Ka’ba and the well Zamzam.
He died in 632 AD (10 AH).
The basic essentials in “The Practice of Islam” are summed up in the five pillars of faith.
1. The confession of faith (Shaháda), i.e. the recitation of the ‘Kalima’ (= word). “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger (apostle) of Allah”.
2. Prayer (Salat) [in arab. the ‘t’ at the end is not pronounced]. This is the duty of every Muslim (able to do so). The prescribed ritual prayers five times daily, at prescribed times, with the prescribed posture, have to be observed. During these five prayers a fixed prayer-text must be recited seventeen times altogether (twice in the morning; four times at noon; four times in the afternoon; three times in the evening and four times at night). This is called by many Persian and Indian Muslims ‘namaz’. The wording of this prayer is found in the appendix.
3. The giving of alms (Zakat) [again the ‘t’ is not pronounced] is a religious duty and should amount to not less than 2.5% of the income above ones needs.
4. Keeping the Fast during the month of Ramadaan (Sawm) is a duty for all, except the sick, travellers, pregnant women, nursing mothers and children. The fast is to last from the rising of the sun until sunset.
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj) is required once in a lifetime during the month of Zu’l-Hijjah, if the means allow this. There is also a minor pilgrimage (Umra), which is performed at other times. We ought to realize that very considerable cost is involved in a pilgrimage, quite apart from the travel fare.
6. Some add to this the Holy War (Jihaad). Today in the West this concept is often interpreted as ‘the spreading of your faith’.
Prophets who were also apostles left books for their people.
1. Moses revealed the law (Tawrat), David gave us the psalms (Zabur), Jesus left us the gospel (Injil), and Muhammad left us recitations (Qur’an) he received from God through Gabriel.
2. Jews and Christians have their holy books, just as Muslims have the Qur’an. The former are known as “people of the book.”
3. The Qur’an is the highest authority in Islam. It is the earthly version of a heavenly book and the um-al-kitab (mother of all books). The Qur’an is divided into Suras (chapters) and ayats (verses), and maintains its authoritative character only in Arabic.
We believe that the Qur’an is Allah’s words. He literally spoke it to Gabriel who conveyed it to the Prophet, peace be upon him: “Say (O Muhammad) the Holy Spirit has brought it down from your Lord in truth.” (16:102) “Truly it is the revelation of the Lord of the worlds brought down upon your heart by the Faithful Spirit so that you may be one of the warners, in a clear Arabic tongue.”(26: 192-5) (Muslim Creed)
The Qur’an is “confirming the scripture that was before it and stands as a guardian over it.” Thus, by the Qur’an Allah abrogated all the previous Books. Allah has also guaranteed its protection from any play or mischievous distortion. “Indeed, We sent down the message and We will guard it.” (15:9) That is because the Qur’an is a proof against mankind till the Day of Judgement. Ibid.
The previous scriptures were meant for a limited period that ended with the revelation of what abrogated them and exposed what had taken place in them of distortion and change. That is why they were not protected from corruption. They underwent distortion, addition and omission. “Some of the Jews pervert words from their meanings.” (4:46) “So woe to those who write the Book with their hands, and then say, ‘This is from Allah,’ that they may sell it for a little price. So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for their earnings.” (2:79) Ibid.
Sura 112:1-4. Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.
Allah, on the other hand, although calling himself merciful and gracious and all-forgiving, differs dramatically. He is the absolute Singular, he has no partners! (Suras 6:22-24, 136-137, 163). He has no son! (Sura 2:116; 6:100; 19:85; 23:91; 112:1-4). He forgives whom he pleases and punishes whom he pleases (Sura 5:20; see chapter on ‘Predestination’, p. 111ff). He is high above all else – remote from man, although the Qur’an also says: “We [i.e. Allah] are nearer to him [i.e. man] than his jugular vein” (Sura 50:16). Nels & Eric
God Most High is alone to be adored. He has neither associate nor equal. He is free from the imperfections of humanity. He is neither begotten nor does He beget. He is invisible. He is without figure, colour or parts. His existence has neither beginning nor end. He is immutable. If He so wills, He can annihilate the world in a moment of time and, if it seems good to Him, recreate it in an instant. Nothing is difficult to Him, whether it be the creation of a fly or that of the seven heavens. He receives neither profit nor loss from whatever may happen. If all the Infidels became believers and all the irreligious pious, He would gain no advantage. On the other hand, if all Believers became infidels, He would suffer no loss. Imam al-Barqavi
1. “There is no God but Allah” [La-ilaha-ill-allah]. This affirms
a. the oneness of God. [Note: The unforgivable sin in Islam is shirk, ascribing any of the exclusive power or rights of Allah to another or to an associate.]
b. the uniqueness of God.
2. “God is the greatest” [Allah-o-akbar]. This affirms that
a. God can do anything he wants.
b. God is far greater than all created beings.
c. God needs nothing.
3. “In the name of Allah, the most gracious and the most merciful” [Bis-millah-al-rahman-orahim]. This states that
a. God is most gracious.
b. God is most merciful.
4. “If God wills” [Insha-allah]–This affirms that God predestines everything that happens.
“They do blaspheme who say: ‘Allah is Christ the son of Mary’. But said Christ: ‘O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord’. Whoever joins other gods with Allah, Allah will forbid him the garden, and the fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. They blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a trinity; for there is no god except One Allah. Christ the son of Mary was no more than an apostle; many were the apostles that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth, they had both to eat their (daily) food.” Sura 5:72-75
“O people of the book! Commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah. And His Word, which he bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not “Trinity”: desist. It will be better for you: For Allah is One Allah. Glory be to Him; (For exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.” Sura 4:171
“It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be’, and it is.” Sura 19:35
“The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the Son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouths; (In this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used to say. Allah’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!” Sura 9:30
1. Each prophet is for a particular age.
2. Jesus was a prophet to the Jews.
a. The Qur’an affirms his virgin birth (3:45-47), his many miracles (3:49), and his ascension (4:158).
b. The Qur’an denies that he is God (5:117) and that he died on the cross (4:157). His substitutionary atonement is also denied.
c. According to hadith [tradition], signs inaugurating the last days include the prophecy that Jesus will return, take a wife, and have children. During his forty years on earth there will be peace such as has never previously existed. Then he will die and be buried alongside Muhammad. He will be resurrected with everyone else and judged by God.
3. Muhammad is the final prophet of God. He is considered to be the prophet like Moses foretold in Deuteronomy 18:15-18.
Al-Dajjal is the Islamic version of the Anti-Christ:
“It appears from many traditions that Dajjal was living or at least born at the time of the Holy Prophet. He will not die till he will be killed by Jesus. In the mean time, he has been kept in strong iron chains. The Holy Prophet has given his physical description. He will be squint of right eye, floating of the left eye, curly and coarse haired, having biting teeth, big and fat so much so that there will be a distance of 70 cubits between his two eyes. His father will be long statured with long nose like a beak, and his mother will be fat and long of two hands”. Mishkat IV, p. 51 – Commentary
Jesus will defeat Al-Dajjal:
“When Dajjal representing the embodiment of evils will let flow his poisonous teachings attended with general oppression and sham miracles, Jesus will come down from heaven placing his two palms upon the wings of angels and descend in [sic] the white minaret to the east of Damascus. He will pray behind Imam Mehdi thereby showing that he will establish the Shariat of the Holy Prophet of Arabia. He will destroy the Cross which represents the crucifixion of Jesus Christ because it is a gross misrepresentation. He will establish the kingdom of god on earth in which there will remain no mutual hatred, jealousy, enmity and rancour. The world will be filled up for a time with the melodious names of Allah. Thereafter almost all including the Jews and the Christians will accept Islam thus proving the truth of the Qur’anic verse: ‘He it is who sent his Apostle with guidance and true religion in order that He may cause it to prevail over all other religions’. After this Jesus will die and he will be buried at the Prophet’s sepulcher just by the side”. Mishkat IV, p. 80 – Commentary
Jesus will destroy all crosses:
“Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of Allah said: By One in whose hand there is my life, it is certainly near that the son of Mary will bring down to you justice and administration, that he will destroy the Cross, kill swines and abolish Jizya that wealth will increase so much so that nobody will accept it, so much so that one prostration will be better than the world and what will be therein. Afterwards Abu Hurairah said: Read if you like: And there will be none from among the People of the Book who will not believe in him before his death”. Mishkat IV, p. 81
Jesus will marry, have children, die and be buried next to Muhammad:
“Abdullah-b-Amr reported that the Messenger of Allah said: Jesus, son of Mary, will come down to the world. He will marry and there will be his issue, and he will live for forty five years and then die. He will be buried with me in my grave. Then I and Jesus, son of Mary, will stand up in one grave between Abu Bakr and Omar”. Mishkat IV, p. 82
God gave man spiritual qualities, but God is entirely unlike man; not only is He non-physical, He is not a person and not a spirit. God honored Adam and made him his viceroy (khalîfa) over the earth. The garden of Eden was probably not on earth. It is the same as paradise.
Adam repented and was forgiven. There was no spiritual fall, only a physical fall from the heavenly paradise to earth. Man continues to be born with a good nature, free from sin, although he is weak and forgetful of God’s laws.
All people (except Jesus and perhaps some prophets) commit offenses (dhunûb), but if they repent they are forgiven. They are punished for unforgiven offenses by spending time in hell. Not all people, however, commit transgressions (’ithm), and it is only this (’ithm) that permanently disqualifies a person from paradise, and then only if God chooses not to forgive it. God has kept prophets and saints from transgression. Some say that everyone has a kernel of transgression in their hearts.
The main reason people sin is because they are weak and forgetful of God’s laws. Ultimately, every good or evil action is the result of God’s predestination. Those whom He guides fulfill His requirements. (Q 2:35-36; 7:19ff; 20:115-123)
Man has misconceptions about God. Man is forgetful of God’s laws. Evil exists because God created it and wills it. God allows Satan to mislead those people whom God wants to destroy, but Satan has not power to harm, nor does anyone else.
A sin is a violation of one of God’s laws, such as swallowing one’s saliva during the day in Ramadan. The only relationship one can have with God is to obey His laws and perform the religious works that God requires. One has no duty to God beyond that. Man is forgetful but good; he only needs instruction in order to comply with all of God’s requirements.
Only great sinners and those who refuse to submit to Islam are condemned permanently to hell; most Muslims will pass through hell and then go to paradise. Nevertheless, God has already consigned to hell whomever He wanted, and there is nothing anyone can do to change it. There is no fellowship between God and mankind. It is not possible and God does not desire it. The only relationship is that of master and slave.
Man needs right guidance, but God sometimes allows Satan and others to mislead him. Physical death is not the result of sin. There is no concept of spiritual death. By right guidance and observing God’s laws man can please God.
No one can be a substitute to bear the judgment for the sins of someone else, but ablutions may wash away sin, and fasting and alms may atone for them. Man’s sin did not affect the natural world.
Islam presents actually three ‘ways of salvation’, if one may call them by this name:
SALVATION BY RIGHT ACTION
“The balance that day will be true (to a nicety). Those whose scale (of good) will be heavy, will prosper.
Those whose scale will be light, will find their souls in perdition, for that they wrongfully treated our signs.” Sura 7:8+9
SALVATION THROUGH MERCY AND FORGIVENESS
“Say: If ye do love Allah, follow me: Allah will love you, and forgive you your sins. For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” Sura 3:31
SALVATION BY PREDETERMINATION
“Say: Why then doth He punish you for your sins? Nay, ye are but men – of the men He hath created. He forgiveth whom He pleaseth, and He punishes whom He pleaseth. And to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between.”
“He leads astray whom He pleases and guides whom He pleases: but ye shall certainly be called to account for all your actions.”Sura 16:93
“This, then, is the Muslim idea of salvation. It consists, not in being saved from the consequences of our sins by the suffering or the merits of others, nor in Nirvana, or annihilation or absorption – but in the achievment, the attainment of all desires, the felicity in excelsis.
This is our idea of salvation: the negative avoidance of all the consequences of evil, and the positive attainment of all – and more than all – that our hearts could possibly desire. For God’s bounty outstrips anything that our eyes have seen, or our ears have heard of, or our imagination can conceive”. Qur’anic footnote
“…If you love Allah, then follow me (Mohammed)…” (Sura 3:31).
“Ye have indeed in the Apostle of Allah a beautiful pattern of (conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day.” (Sura 33:21).
“I leave with you two things. If you hold fast by them both, you will never be misguided – the Book of Allah and Sunnah [sayings and living habits] of the Prophet.” (“Mishkat” I, page 173).
“Whoso obeys me shall enter Paradise and whoso disobeys me, has indeed rejected the truth.” (ibid. pages 5 and 159). “All the utterances and deeds of the Holy Prophet are divinely inspired, and in them alone can one find the true meaning and the real significance of the will of Allah…The Prophet alone is best fitted and, therefore, divinely authorized to determine the meanings of the Holy Quran, to unfold before humanity the deep wisdom contained in it…It is by following Muhammad that we can achieve the cherished goal of winning Allah’s favour. (“Sahih Muslim” I, Introduction pp. I-ii). Nels
Sura 17:22-39 Do not associate with Allah any other god, lest you sit down despised, neglected. And your Lord has commanded that you shall not serve (any) but Him, and goodness to your parents. If either or both of them reach old age with you, say not to them (so much as) “Ugh” nor chide them, and speak to them a generous word. And make yourself submissively gentle to them with compassion, and say: O my Lord! have compassion on them, as they brought me up (when I was) little. Your Lord knows best what is in your minds; if you are good, then He is surely Forgiving to those who turn (to Him) frequently. And give to the near of kin his due and (to) the needy and the wayfarer, and do not squander wastefully. Surely the squanderers are the fellows of the Shaitans [Satans] and the Shaitan is ever ungrateful to his Lord. And if you turn away from them to seek mercy from your Lord, which you hope for, speak to them a gentle word. And do not make your hand to be shackled to your neck nor stretch it forth to the utmost (limit) of its stretching forth, lest you should (afterwards) sit down blamed, stripped off. Surely your Lord makes plentiful the means of subsistence for whom He pleases and He straitens (them); surely He is ever Aware of, Seeing, His servants. And do not kill your children for fear of poverty; We give them sustenance and yourselves (too); surely to kill them is a great wrong. And go not nigh to fornication; surely it is an indecency and an evil way. And do not kill any one whom Allah has forbidden, except for a just cause, and whoever is slain unjustly, We have indeed given to his heir authority, so let him not exceed the just limits in slaying; surely he is aided. And draw not near to the property of the orphan except in a goodly way till he attains his maturity and fulfill the promise; surely (every) promise shall be questioned about. And give full measure when you measure out, and weigh with a true balance; this is fair and better in the end. And follow not that of which you have not the knowledge; surely the hearing and the sight and the heart, all of these, shall be questioned about that. And do not go about in the land exultingly, for you cannot cut through the earth nor reach the mountains in height. All this– the evil of it– is hateful in the sight of your Lord. This is of what your Lord has revealed to you of wisdom, and do not associate any other god with Allah lest you should be thrown into hell, blamed, cast away.
THE RESURRECTION DAY
With the first blowing of the Trumpet, the Hour of Destruction will come to pass, and then after a lapse of forty years in Barzakh (intermediate state, similar to soul-sleep) the Resurrection will take place. Then it shall be blown again, when lo they shall stand up awaiting. And the earth shall shine with the light of its Lord and the book shall be laid down and the prophets and the witnesses shall be brought up (Sura 39:69). And the whole earth shall be in His grip on the Resurrection Day and the heavens will be rolled up in His right hand (Sura 39:67). And the Trumpet shall be blown when lo from their graves they shall hasten on to their Lord. They shall say: O woe to us! who has raised us from our sleeping-place … There shall be nought but a single cry when lo they shall be all brought before Us (Sura 36:51). Mishkat IV, p. 94+95 – Commentary
“Much intellectual blood is being spent on the question whether man will rise with body or without body. The old theory of dogmatic religion upholds the doctrine of only physical resurrection, while the new school of thought inclines to adopt only the spiritual resurrection. We cannot definitely answer either of the two questions as our vision of comprehension does not extend so far. The Qur’an and Hadith give us some clue by upholding the doctrine of spiritual resurrection combined with a physique made out of the good and evil deeds of a man”. Mishkat IV, p. 97 – Commentary
THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
“There will be none left who will not be asked these four things – his age, in what way he spent it; his actions, with what object he did them; his body, how he had worn it out; and his wealth, wherefrom he acquired it and how he spent it. All these questions will be put to him in presence of all the creatures from the beginning of the world up to its end”.
There is a Book of Deeds
“Then the Book of Deeds will be placed in his hands, such a book as had omitted nothing, small or great from being written. The Qur’an says: And the Book shall be placed, then you will see the guilty fearing from what is in it, and will say: Ah! woe to us! what a book is this? It has not omitted any great one but numbers them all [sic]. And they shall find what they done, and your Lord does not deal unjustly with any man (Sura 18:49).We made everyman’s actions to cling to his neck, and will We bring forth to him on the Resurrection Day a book which he will find wide open (Sura 17:13).
Sinners are chained
“For the sinners in general, the Lord will pass order to the angels: Lay hold on him, then put a chain on him, then thrust him into a chain the length of which is seventy cubits (Sura 69:30). At this time, the heavens and earth will weep for him at his disaster”.
The balance decides in case of doubt
“After those that will enter Paradise without account and those that will enter the Fire, there will remain a class of too numerous people who mixed good with evil and thus committed both virtues and sins. the virtues and sins of only these people will be weighed in the Balance. The Qur’an says: We will not set up a balance for them [unbelievers] on the Day of Resurrection (Sura 18:105). The first class will be the people who spent their nights by standing in prayer and whom neither the commodities of this world, nor its riches could have diverted from the remembrance of Allah (Sura 24:37). The second class will be the polytheists and unbelievers – those that set up partnership with God and disbelieved the Prophet and the simple articles of religion. The trial at the Balance will be very severe and there will be none left who will not be overwhelmed with fear, bewilderment and crushing anxiety”.
Saved when good deeds outweigh bad ones
“If his virtues outweigh, the man will be fortunate and will enter Paradise; if his sins outweigh, the man will be unfortunate and enter Hell. It is to this fact that the Qur’an says: Then as for one whose measure of good deeds is heavy, he shall have a pleasant life, and as one whose measure is light, his abode shall be the abyss. And what will make you know what it is? A burning fire (Sura 101:6)”.
After the measurement is over, the people will be driven towards the Great Path which runs over a bridge extended over the back of the Hell-fire. The bridge is sharper than knife and thinner than hair. There will be the fire of which the flames will be rising high just below the bridge and there will be thorny plants raising their heads above in the fire. Only those who were steadfast to the straight path of Islam will be able to cross it safe by virtue of their good deeds, and those who went astray and made their backs heavy will slip down unto Hell at the first step they will take on the Path. The Path will be enveloped in darkness and only those that will have light of good deeds will be able to pass it, some in the twinkling of an eye, some like the passing of air, some galloping, some walking, some crawling and falling down. This will occur according to the light of good deeds”.
“The Holy Prophet will be the first to cross the Path with his pious followers. None would speak except one whom the Beneficent God permits (Sura 78:38). Nothing but pious deeds will be true friends at the great crisis”. All previous quotes from Mishkat IV, pp. 109-112 – Commentary