Who made up the Trinity?
From 70 AD to a period situated sometime before 110 AD the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were produced. They do not constitute the first written Christian documents: the letters of Paul date from well before them. According to O. Culmann, Paul probably wrote his letter to the Thessalonians in 50 AD. He had probably disappeared several years prior to the completion of Mark’s Gospel.
Paul is the most controversial figure in Christianity. He was considered to be a traitor to Jesus’s thought by the latter’s family and by the apostles who had stayed in Jerusalem in the circle around James. Paul created Christianity at the expense of those whom Jesus had gathered around him to spread his teachings. He had not known Jesus during his lifetime and he proved the legitimacy of his mission by declaring that Jesus, raised from the dead, had appeared to him on the road to Damascus.
It is quite reasonable to ask what Christianity might have been without Paul and one could no doubt construct all sorts of hypotheses on this subject. As far as the Gospels are concerned however, it is almost certain that if this atmosphere of struggle between communities had not existed, we would not have had the writings we possess today. They appeared at a time of Hence struggle between the two communities. These ‘combat writings’, as Father Kannengiesser calls them, emerged from the multitude of writings on Jesus.
These occurred at the time when Paul’s style of Christianity won through definitively, and created its own collection of official texts. These texts constituted the ‘Canon’ which condemned and excluded as unorthodox any other documents that were not suited to the line adopted by the Church.
The Judeo-Christian have now disappeared as a community with any influence, but one still hears people talking about them under the general term of ‘Judaistic’. This is how Cardinal Daniélou describes their disappearance:
‘When they were out off from the Great Church, that gradually freed itself from its Jewish attachments, they petered out very quickly in the West. In the East, however, it is possible to find traces of them in the Third and Fourth centuries AD, especially in Palestine, Arabia, Transjordania, Syria and Mesopotamia. Others joined in the orthodoxy of the Great Church, at the same time preserving traces of Semitic culture; some of these still persist in the Churches of Ethiopia and Chaldea,’
The ‘official’ confirmation of the ‘victory’ over the true followers of Jesus by Paulinian Christianity was enshrined, as we have already seen, in the outcome of the famous Council of Nicea which was held in 325 AD – when the Roman Emperor Constantine, who at the time claimed to be ‘neutral’ on the grounds that he was not a Christian, decided that the Paulinian version of Christianity represented the true teachings of Jesus, and that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John should become the officially accepted gospels, and that all other gospels, including the Gospel of Barnabas, were to be destroyed – along with whoever was found to have them in their possession – a decision which resulted in many of the early gospels being lost for good, and millions of Unitarian Christians being martyred in the years that followed.
It was also at the Council of Nicea, after over two centuries of debate, that Jesus was officially granted divine status, and, with the official instatement at the Council of Constantinople in 381 AD of ‘the Holy Ghost’ as the ‘third person’, the doctrine of Trinity which had begun to emerge during the intervening period finally came of age, some three and a half centuries after the disappearance of Jesus.
Shortly after the Council of Constantinople, the Roman Emperor Theodosius made it a capital offence to reject the doctrine of Trinity, thereby laying the foundations for the Mediaeval and Spanish Inquisitions which were to flourish centuries later – by which time the doctrines of the New Covenant, and of Original Sin, and of the Atonement and Forgiveness of Sins, and of the Trinity, had become so deeply embedded in the Christian psyche that no amount of reformations, ancient or modem, and however well-intentioned, could dislodge them.
Thus it is a matter of historical fact that it took several centuries for the doctrine of Trinity to be developed – as part of a long drawn out cultural and philosophical process, characterised by fierce conflict and at times often confused debate – which explains why the doctrine is never actually described in detail within any of the texts of even the official Paulinian version of the New Testament as being central to Jesus’s teaching.
This can only be because the contents of the early Christian writings – both of the Judeo-Christian and of the Paulinian Christians – had already been finalised prior to the formulation of the doctrine, and were already too well-known to be tampered with too extensively, by the time that the doctrine had reached the stage where it was formally expressed in writing.
The most that the Paulinian Church could hope to achieve was the systematic and complete suppression of all the Judeo-Christian writings which clearly and unequivocally affirmed the Oneness of God as well as confirming the continuity of both teaching and behavior which existed between Moses and Jesus, peace be on them.
Once the doctrine of Trinity had been formally adopted and declared to be the official doctrine of the Pauline Church, one of the inevitable consequences of this decision was that out of the three hundred or so Gospels extant at that time, only the four which were selected as the official Gospels of the Pauline Church were permitted to survive. The remaining Gospels, including the Gospel of Barnabas, were ordered to be destroyed completely.
It was also decided that all Gospels written in Hebrew should be destroyed. Edicts were issued stating that anyone found in possession of an unauthorized Gospel would be put to death. This was the first well-organized attempt to remove all the records of Jesus’s original teaching, whether in human beings or books, which contradicted the doctrine of Trinity. In the case of the Gospel of Barnabas, these orders were not entirely successful, and mention of its continued existence has been made up to the present day:
Pope Damascus (304-384 AD), who became Pope in 366 AD, is recorded as having issued a decree that the Gospel of Barnabas should not be read. This decree was supported by Gelasius, Bishop of Caesaria, who died in 395 AD. The Gospel was included in his list of Apocryphal books. ‘ Apocrypha’ simply means ‘hidden from the people’. Thus, at this stage, the Gospel was no longer available to everyone but was still being referred to by the leaders of the Church. In fact, it is known that the Pope secured a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas in 383 AD, and kept it in his private library.
There were a number of other decrees which referred to the Gospel. It was forbidden by the Decree of the Western Churches in 382 AD, and by Pope Innocent in 465 AD. In the Gelasian Decree of 496 AD, the Evangelium Barnabe is included in the list of forbidden books. This decree was reaffirmed by Hormisdas, who was Pope from 514 to 523 AD. All these decrees are mentioned in the Catalogue of Greek Manuscripts in the Library of Chancellor Seguier, prepared by B. de Montfaucon
The writings of Barnabas – which include his Epistle as well as his Gospel’ – are also mentioned in the Stichometry of Nicephorus as follows:
Serial No. 3: Epistle of Barnabas … Lines 1,300
and again in the list of Sixty Books as follows:
Serial No. 17: Travels and teaching of the Apostles.
Serial No. 18: Epistle of Barnabas.
Serial No. 24: Gospel According to Barnabas.
This famous list was also known as the Index, and Christians were not supposed to read any of the books listed in it On pain of eternal punishment.
It is interesting to note in passing that a Greek version of the Epistle of Barnabas (which is mentioned by two of the most well known early church fathers, Origen (185-254 AD) and Eusebius (265-340 AD) in their writings) is in fact to be found in the Codex Sinaiiicus – perhaps the earliest Greek version of the New Testament known to be in existence today and dating from the 4th or 5th century AD – although it has been excluded from all modem versions of the Bible.
Although Christian polemicists have repeatedly attempted to allege not only that the Italian translation of the Gospel of Barnabas is a mediaeval forgery, but also by implication that the Gospel itself is a forgery – written by a Muslim convert in the fifteenth or sixteenth century AD – this clearly cannot be correct, given the number of recorded references to the Gospel of Barnabas which were often made long before the coming of the Prophet Muhammad.
As regards other later references to the Gospel of Barnabas, the Gospel is also, recorded in the 206th manuscript of the Baroccian Collection in the Bodleian Library in Oxford which dates from the 6th or 7th century AD. Cotelerius, who catalogued the manuscripts in the Library of the French king, listed the Gospel of Barnabas in the Index of Scriptures which he prepared in 1789. There is also a solitary fragment of a Greek version of the Gospel of Barnabas to he found in a museum in Athens, which is all that remains of a copy which was burnt:
It is interesting to note that consistent with the observation by Grabe in Spicilegium Patrum, I, 302, Toland found that the 39th Baroccian manuscript contains a fragment that is an Italian equivalent to the Greek text. Thus Toland’s conclusion was that the extant Italian translation of the Gospel of Barnabas was identical to the ancient Gospel of Barnabas. In the same year, Reland in De religione Mahommedica (1718) discovered that the Gospel also existed in Arabic and Spanish.
Mr. Johnson’s conclusions regarding all the various references to the various versions of the Gospel of Barnabas are significant:
Grabe’s knowledge of a Greek version of the Gospel and its equivalence to the later Italian manuscript makes it highly plausible that today’s Gospel of Barnabas is in fact the Evangelium Barnabae listed by the Sixth century Gelasian Decretal and the Sixth or Seventh century Cod. Barocc, 206’s list of 60 books. I say, ‘highly plausible’ because no early Greek manuscript is known to be in existence today.
However, it is equally certain that Christian claims that the Gospel of Barnabas is a forgery of some fifteenth or sixteenth century renegade Muslim, are simply vain attempts to dismiss a Gospel that strikes at the heart of contemporary Christian Christology. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians admitted the centrality of this doctrine to the entire body of Christian faith:
“Tell me, if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how is it that some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is void of content and your faith is empty too. Indeed, we should then be exposed as false witnesses of God, for we have borne witness before Him that He raised up Christ … “
Clearly, if there is an early Greek or Hebrew copy of the Gospel of Barnabas in existence somewhere, then a comparison between it and the Italian translation would end the dispute as to the authenticity and reliability of the Italian version once and for all.
In the fourth year of the Emperor Zeno’s rule in 478 AD, the remains of Barnabas were discovered, and a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas, written in his own hand, was found on his breast. This is recorded in the Acta Sanctorum, Boland Junii, Tome II, pages 422 450, published in Antwerp in 1698. It has been claimed by the Roman Catholic Church that the Gospel found in the grave of Barnabas was that of Matthew, but no steps have been taken to display this copy. The exact contents of the twenty-five mile long library of the Vatican continue to remain in the dark.
The manuscript from which the current English translation of the Gospel of Barnabas was made, was originally in the possession of Pope Sixtus V (1589-1590). He had a friend, a monk called Fra Marino, who became very interested in the Gospel of Barnabas after reading the writings of Iraneus, who quoted from it extensively. One day he went to see the Pope. They lunched together and, after the meal, the Pope fell asleep. Father Marino began to browse through the books in the Pope’s private library and discovered an Italian manuscript of the Gospel of Barnabas. Concealing it in the sleeve of his robe, he left and came out of the Vatican with it.
This manuscript then passed through different hands until it reached ‘a person of great name and authority’ in Amsterdam, ‘who, during his life time, was often heard to put a high value to this piece.’ After his death, it came into the possession of J.E. Cramer, a Councilor of the King of Prussia. In 1713, Cramer presented this manuscript to the famous connoisseur of books, Prince Eugene of Savoy. In 1738, along with the library of the Prince, it found its way into the Hofbibliothek in Vienna, where it now rests.
Toland, a notable historian of the early Church, had access to this manuscript, and he refers to it in his Miscellaneous Works, which was published posthumously in 1747. He says of the Gospel: ‘This is in scripture style to a hair,’ and continues:
“The story of Jesus is very differently told in many things from the received Gospels, but much more fully … and particularly this Gospel … being near as long again as many of ours. Someone would make a prejudice in favour of it; because, as all things are best known just after they happen, so everything diminishes the further it proceeds from its original.”
The following extract from the Gospel of Barnabas, for example, (which is taken from the translation of Lonsdale and Laura Ragg) describes what is alleged to have taken place immediately before the miraculous feeding of the five thousand – an account which, as well as furnishing an explanation as to why such a large crowd had gathered in the first place, cannot be found in the four officially accepted Gospels, and for obvious reasons, since it describes how Jesus publicly demonstrated that he could not possibly be identified with God, simply by comparing his human attributes with God’s divine attributes:
“Accordingly the governor and the priest and the king prayed Jesus that in order to quiet the people he should mount up into a lofty place and speak to the people. Then went up Jesus on to one of the twelve stones which Joshua made the twelve tribes take up from the midst of Jordan, when all Israel passed over there dry shod; and he said with a loud voice: ‘Let our priest go up into a high place whence he may confirm my words.’
Thereupon the priest went up thither; to whom Jesus said distinctly, so that everyone might hear: ‘It is writ ten in the testament and covenant of the living God that our God has no beginning; neither shall He ever have an end.’
The priest answered: ‘Even so it is written therein.’
Jesus said: ‘It is written there that our God by His word alone has created all things.’
‘Even so it is,’ said the priest.
Jesus said: ‘It is written there that God is invisible and hidden from the mind of man, seeing He is incorporeal and uncomposed, without variableness.’
‘So it is truly,’ said the priest.
Jesus said: ‘It is written there how that the heaven of heavens cannot contain Him, seeing that our God is infinite.’
‘Sa said Salomon the Prophet,’ said the priest, ‘O Jesus.’
Said Jesus: ‘It is written there that God has no need forasmuch as He eats not, sleeps not, and suffers not from any deficiency.’
‘So is it,’ said the priest.
Said Jesus: ‘It is written there that our God is every where, and that there is not any other god but He, Who strikes down and makes whole, and does all that pleases Him.’
‘So it is written,’ replied the priest.
Then Jesus, having lifted up his hands, said: ‘Lord our God, this is my faith wherewith I shall come to your judgement: In testimony against every one that shall believe the contrary.’
And turning himself towards the people, he said, “Repent, for from all that of which the priest has said that it is written in the book of Moses, the covenant of God for ever, you may perceive your sin; for that I am a visible man and a morsel of clay that walks upon the earth, mortal as are other men. And I have had a beginning, and shall have an end, and am such that 1cannot create a fly over again.”
The publicity which Toland gave to the Vienna manuscript made it impossible for it to share the same fate as another manuscript of the Gospel in Spanish which also once existed. This manuscript was presented to a college library in England at about the same time that the Italian manuscript was given to the Hofbibliothek. It had not been in England long before it mysteriously disappeared.
The Italian manuscript was translated into English by Canon Lonsdale and Laura Ragg, and was printed and published by the Oxford University Press in 1907. Nearly the whole edition of this English translation abruptly and mysteriously disappeared from the market. Only two copies of this translation are known to exist, one in the British Museum, and the other in the Library of Congress in Washington. A microfilm copy of the book in the Library of Congress was obtained, and a fresh edition of the English translation was printed in Pakistan. A copy of this edition was used for the purposes of reprinting a revised version of the Gospel of Barnabas thereafter,
The new English edition, understandably, has caused the present Christian Church a certain degree of irritation – for if the contents of the Gospel of Barnabas are true, then it clearly follows that most of the versions of Christianity which exist today – and accordingly the various Churches which promote them – do not have very firm foundations
This is because the Gospel of Barnabas confirms that Jesus was not God, nor the ‘son’ of God, and that he was neither crucified in the first place, nor subsequently ‘raised from the dead’ thereafter. As we have already seen, it was Paul himself who pointed out that if Jesus was neither crucified nor raised from the dead, then the bottom falls out of the Paulinian thesis:
“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead …”
Accordingly virtually all the established churches, however near or far they are to each other, have united in their various efforts to discredit the English version of the Gospel of Barnabas by discrediting the Italian edition from which it was translated.
In a manner reminiscent of the way in which the Russian edition of The Protocols of the EIders of Zion has been constantly branded as ‘ a forgery’ in order to discredit any translation of it into another language, so with the Spanish and English translations of the Gospel of Barnabas, it has been claimed that the Italian version is a forgery – and, by implication, that even the much earlier Hebrew and Greek versions which, as we have just seen, are known to have existed at a very early stage in the history of Christianity, must also have been ‘forgeries’!
Perhaps the most sustained and scholarly attempt aimed at discrediting the English edition of the Gospel of Barnabas has been the book written by David Sox entitled, somewhat misleadingly, ‘The Gospel of Barnabas’. Only a few lines of the English translation are actually quoted by him, and the underlying purpose of his book is clearly to put off as many people as possible from actually reading the Gospel of Barnabas itself and making their own minds up about its authenticity!
Given that David Sox’s brief was to ‘prove’ that the Italian version of the Gospel of Barnabas is a forgery, his methodology is transparently clear:
Having ascertained that the binding of the manuscript in Vienna dates from approximately the 16th or 17th century – although not necessarily the manuscript itself, which may date from an earlier period and which could have been bound and rebound several times before ending up in its present binding for all we know, but certainly not an earlier manuscript from which it may have been copied, let alone an even earlier manuscript in Greek or Hebrew from which it may have been translated – David Sox then had to find a likely forger:
It had to be someone who was clearly familiar with both the Old and the New Testaments as represented in the Vulgate Bible – so that repeated references could be made to Old Testament events and prophecies whenever this was appropriate; it had to be someone who had converted to Islam, but who nevertheless would be ‘clever’ enough not to make the ‘forgery’ correspond too closely or entirely with what the Quran says about Jesus (for example, describing the Prophet Muhammad as ‘the Messiah’ who would come after Jesus, whereas the Quran confirms that Jesus was the Messiah whose coming had been foretold by Moses; or, for example, confirming the traditional nativity story given in the officially accepted Gospels, rather than giving an account of the birth of Jesus which corresponded with the account which is given in the Quran;
or, for example, not mentioning various miracles of Jesus which, as we shall see in Chapter Eleven, are described in the Quran, but not in the officially accepted Gospels); and it had to be someone who had the ability to ensure not only that the ‘forgery’ did not correspond exactly with what is in the Quran, but also that at least a third of the contents of the ‘forgery’ confirmed exactly what is in the other officially accepted Gospels, that at least another third expanded on what is in the other officially accepted Gospels without contradicting them, and that the remaining third – even if it contradicted what is in the other officially accepted Gospels – nevertheless appeared to be ‘in scripture style to a hair’, to use the phrase coined by Toland. It could not have been a particularly easy brief!
There was, however, one obvious possible candidate: According to the Preface to the Spanish translation of the Gospel of Barnabas, Fra Marino – the monk who is said to have stolen the Pope’s copy of the Italian version – had subsequently embraced Islam. ‘If we can only prove that he did not really steal the Pope’s copy at all,’ we can see David Sox thinking, ‘but that in fact he actually wrote it himself – then we will have succeeded!’ Naturally this hypothesis would depend heavily on establishing beyond any doubt that not only the binding, but also the Italian manuscript itself was written between approximately 1580 and 1600 any proof of which is very conspicuous by its absence.
Of course, short of having access to an authentic and voluntary confession by Fra Marino, it would be impossible to ‘prove’ such a thesis, some four centuries after the alleged event, even ‘on the balance of probabilities’, and let alone ‘beyond any reasonable doubt’, as David Sox in a roundabout way himself accepts, when he admits that ‘the reader is faced with a great amount of speculation’ in his book. However he nevertheless attempts the impossible, perhaps in the hope that, by at least raising this possibility and making it seem plausible, any version of the Gospel of Barnabas might as a result be sufficiently discredited not to be taken too seriously by anyone who happened to come across it.
We are accordingly presented with the fruits of David Sox’ s laborious searches through the official records for the period within which the Italian manuscript was probably bound to see if there is any mention of a Fra Marino who not only had the requisite talents to be able to produce such an interesting ‘forgery’, but who also would have had the necessary motive needed to sustain what would have been such a demanding and, if he were to be found out by the Inquisition, such a dangerous, task.
David Sox was only able to come up with one possible candidate: a former Inquisitor of Venice – who probably would have been more likely to have burnt the Gospel of Barnabas than written it! – who according to the records was officially reprimanded on two occasions for being too lenient with heretics, and who was subsequently demoted from his position and replaced. From these scant details, David Sox concludes that Fra Marino was not only somehow driven to embrace Islam, but also must have decided to forge the Italian version of the Gospel of Barnabas as an act of revenge against his successor, although how such an act could have actually adversely affected his successor (who probably would have been delighted to burn the offending ‘forgery’ had he ever come across it) is never clarified.
This scenario is extremely tenuous, to say the least, especially when in fact the Italian manuscript receives hardly any publicity whatsoever for the next four hundred years and not until the English version of it begins to be widely circulated some seventy years after the Italian version has been translated into English by Canon Lonsdale and Laura Ragg!
Unfortunately for David Sox there are no contemporary records which depict the successor of an ex-Inquisitor (who happens to be called Fra Marino) tearing his hair out in desperation as hundreds of gullible Italians inexplicably embrace Islam after reading the infamous Gospel of Barnabas. Indeed there is no real ‘proof’ that the Fra Marino to whom the Preface to the Spanish version refers is none other than our ex-Inquisitor from Venice.
In all probability there were literally tens, if not hundreds, of Fra Marinos in Italy during the time of Pope Sixtus V not all of whom would have been recorded in what few records have survived up until today, and any one of whom might have been the Fra Marino who stole the Pope’s copy of the Gospel of Barnabas.
Furthermore, as regards the Fra Marino selected by David Sox, although it is recorded that he was an Inquisitor, and that he was reprimanded, and that he was demoted (but not dismissed), there is no record that he either subsequently embraced Islam, or that he was burnt at the stake for embracing Islam, or that he fled the country in order to avoid the clutches of the Inquisition after accepting Islam. If, as David Sox has attempted to argue, Fra Marino himself wrote the Gospel of Barnabas ‘in revenge against his successor’, surely the Gospel would have been publicised at the time, and surely there would have been a public outcry as a result. It appears that David Sox could find no such record.
Thus in spite of all his long hours of research, his carefully arranged footnotes and cross-references, and his lucid style, David Sox’s hypothesis remains unlikely, implausible and unconvincing. It is highly unlikely that any impartial court of law today could possibly conclude, on the ‘evidence’ presented by David Sox, that the link needed to substantiate his allegation of forgery which he seeks to establish in his book has been proved. Indeed one cannot help concluding that perhaps the main reason why he has gone to such great lengths in his attempts to prove the highly improbable, may well be that it is because the contents of the Gospel of Barnabas are in fact true.
It is however to his credit that in spite of all the farfetched speculation – of which, as we have already seen, he admits there is ‘a great amount’ – David Sox does have the intellectual honesty to admit that, ‘The Jesus of the Gospel of Barnabas is on many occasions similar to that of the canonical Gospels,’ – although he then adds, ‘ because, of course, the former book depends on material contained in the latter.’ It is possible, however, that it is in fact the converse of that statement which is nearer the truth:
It is possible that the reason why there is, in fact, such a marked similarity between the contents of The Gospel of Barnabas and that of the other Gospels is that the Italian translation is not a ‘forgery’, but rather a faithful translation of a much earlier Greek or Hebrew or even Aramaic version, which was in existence long before the Quran was revealed, and on which the writers of the four officially accepted Gospels perhaps depended -for it is now generally accepted that the three earliest accepted Gospels, known as the Synoptic Gospels, were in part derived from an earlier unknown Gospel which today’s researchers often refer to as the ‘Q’ Gospel, for want of a better name.
It is possible that this earlier unknown Gospel could be the original Gospel of Barnabas, although it is clear from the following analysis contained in Dr. Maurice Bucaille’s book, The Bible, the Quran and Science, that the ‘Q’ Gospel may well have been a collection of different narrations, rather than one complete document:
The problem of sources was approached in a very simplistic fashion at the time of the Fathers of the Church. In the early centuries of Christianity, the only source available was the Gospel that the complete manuscripts provided first, Le. Matthew’s Gospel. The problem of sources only concerned Mark and Luke because John constituted a quite separate case. Saint Augustine held that Mark, who appears second in the traditional order of presentation, had been inspired by Matthew and had summarised his work. He further considered that Luke, who comes third in the manuscripts, had used data from both; his prologue suggests this and has already been discussed.
I’m very honored to have this opportunity to address you here. And I want to say that this is not a lecture…I don’t think that I’m prepared to lecture. But it’s sort of…advice to myself. Because I see myself sitting in these chairs in front of me. Just a few days ago, few years ago, just a little while ago – I was sitting right there where you are, whatever nationality – it doesn’t matter. A human being that was not aware of Islam. And at that particular time, I was someone who did not really understand… the purpose of life!
So with that note, I would request you to think of what I’m saying to you just as information and as advice – not a lecture. The information which I wish to share with you, it may seem a bit extensive. When you consider the capacity of the human brain and the amount of information it can store and that it can decipher – then with the few pages of information today, I’m sure it will not overburden you.
It is my responsibility to address the topics of our discussion today – what is the purpose of our life? And also ask the question – “What do you know about Islam?” I mean – what do you really know about Islam? Not what you’ve heard about Islam; Not what you’ve seen as actions of some Muslims, but – what do you know about Islam?
I’m honored to have this opportunity, and I would like to begin by saying that all of you have an equal responsibility… And that responsibility is to read or listen – with an open heart and an open mind.
In a world filled with prejudice and cultural conditioning, it is very hard to find people that are able to take a moment to think. To think about life objectively, to try to arrive at the truth about this world and the real purpose of our lives. Unfortunately, when you ask most people the question – “What is the purpose of our life?” which is such a fundamental and important question, they will not tell you what they have concluded through observation or analytical reasoning. In most cases, they will certainly tell you what someone else said… Or they will tell you what is commonly presumed by others. What my father said the purpose of life is, what the minister of my church said the purpose of life is, what my teacher in school said, what my friend said.
If I ask anyone about the purpose of eating, “Why do we eat?” Most people will answer, in one word or another, “It’s for nutrition!” Because nutrition sustains life… If I asked anyone why they work? They will say, because it’s necessary in order to support themselves and to provide the needs of their family. If I asked anyone why they sleep, why they wash, why they dress, etc., they will answer – “This is a common necessity for all human beings.” We can follow this line of questioning with a hundred questions, and receive the same or similar answers from anyone, in any language, in any place in the world, simple! “Why is it, that when we ask the question, ‘What is the goal and the purpose of life?’, that we get so many different answers?” That’s because people are confused, they don’t really know. They’re stumbling in the dark. And rather than saying, “I don’t know,” they just offer any answer that they’ve been programmed to answer.
Let’s think about this. Is our purpose in this world simply to eat, sleep, dress, work, acquire some material things and enjoy ourselves? Is this our purpose? Why are we born? What is the object of our existence, and what is the wisdom behind creation of man and this tremendous universe? Think about that question!
Some people argue that there is no proof of any divine origin, there is no proof that there’s a God, there’s no proof that this universe has come about through any divine purpose. There are people who believe this way – and they say that perhaps this world came about by chance. A big bang, and this whole great world with all of its orchestration just came together. And they argue that life doesn’t have any definite purpose and that there’s nothing that can be proven through either logic or science that there is a God, or purpose, or any divine reason behind this world.
Here I would like to mention a few verses from the Quran that address this subject.
“Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding, who remember Allah standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the creation of the heavens and the earth, (and conclude), “Our Lord! You have not created all this without purpose, glory to You! Grant us salvation from the torment of the Fire.” [Quran 3: 190-191]
In the above verses, Allah has mentioned very clearly to us, by first drawing our attention to the creation of our own being. The different postures of the human body, the different attitudes of people. He draws our attention to the heavens. The alternation of the night and the day. The firmament, the stars, the constellations… And then He says to us that He has not created all of this for any foolish purpose! Because when you see the design of it, you know that the design of it is very powerful and very precise. And something very powerful and very precise that is beyond our own calculation and imagination – it cannot be foolish. It cannot be just thrown together.
For instance, if you took ten marbles and numbered them one to ten. And all of them were different colors. And you put them inside of a bag and you shook the bag. And then, closing your eyes, reached inside that bag and I told you, “Pull out marble number one. And then pull out marble number two. And then pull out marble number three, in order.” What’s the chance of you pulling out those marbles in order? Do you know what the chances are? Twenty six million to one! So what are the chances of the Heavens and the Earth being thrown in a big bang, and being orchestrated like they are? What’s the chance of that?
My dear respected guests- we have to ask ourselves one more question… When you see a bridge, a building, or an automobile – you automatically consider the person or the company that constructed it. When you see an airplane, a rocket, a satellite, or a large ship – you also think about how incredible a vehicle that it is. When you see a nuclear plant, an orbiting space station, an international airport equipped with everything, also if you consider other structures that exist here, in this country – you have to be thoroughly impressed with the engineering dynamics that are involved.
Yet, these are just things that are manufactured by human beings. What about the human body with its massive and intricate control system? Think about it! Think about the brain— how it thinks, how it functions, how it analyzes, stores information, retrieves information, distinguishes and categorizes information in the millionth of a second! The brain does all of it constantly. Think about a brain for a moment. This is the brain that made the automobile, the rocket ship, the boats, and the so and so. Think about the brain and who made that. Think about the heart, how it pumps continuously for sixty or seventy years – in taking and discharging blood throughout the body, and maintaining that steady precision throughout the life of that person. Think about it! Think about the kidneys – what kind of function they carry? The purifying instrument of the body, which performs hundreds of chemical analyses simultaneously and also, controls the levels of toxicity in the blood. It does this automatically. Think about your eyes – the human camera that adjusts focus, interprets, evaluates, and applies color automatically. The natural reception and adjustment to light and distance – all automatically. Think about it – who created that? Who has mastered that? Who plans that? And who regulates that? Human beings – themselves? No… of course not.
What about this universe? Think about this. The Earth is one planet in our solar system. And our solar system is one of the systems in the Milky Way. And the Milky Way is one of the constellations in that galaxy. And there are millions of galaxies like the Milky Way. Think about that. And they are all in order. They are all precise. They are not colliding with each other; they are not conflicting with each other. They are swimming along in an orbit that has been set for them. Did human beings set that into motion? And are human beings maintaining that precision? No, of course they’re not.
Think about the oceans, the fish, the insects, the birds, the plants, and bacteria, the chemical elements that have not been discovered and cannot be detected even with the most sophisticated instruments. Yet, each one of them has a law which they follow. Did all of this synchronization, balance, harmony, variation, design, maintenance, operation, and infinite numeration – did this happen by chance? And also, do these things function perpetually and perfectly also by chance? And do they keep on reproducing themselves and maintaining themselves also by chance? No, of course not.
To think so would be illogical and foolish. At the very least it would indicate that however it came to be, it is totally outside the realm of human capabilities. We would all agree to that. The being that is deserving of praise and gratitude is the almighty power – God. God created all of this, and is responsible for maintaining all of this. Therefore, God is the only one that deserves of praise and gratitude.
If I gave each one of you a hundred dollars, for no reason, just for coming here, you would at least say, “Thank you.” However, what about your eyes, your kidneys, your brain, your life, your breath, your children? What about that? Who gave you that? Is He not worthy of praise and thanks? Is He not worthy of your worship and your recognition? My brothers and sisters that, in a nutshell, is the purpose and the goal of this life.
Allah says in the Quran:
“I have not created the jinn, the spirits, nor the human beings, for any other purpose except to worship Me.” (Quran 51: 56)
This is what God Almighty said. So our purpose in this life is to recognize The Creator and to be grateful to The Creator. To worship The Creator. To surrender ourselves to The Creator, and to obey the laws that He has determined for us. In a nutshell, it means worship. This is our purpose in this life. And whatever we do in the course of that worship– the eating, the drinking, the dressing, the working, the enjoyment between life and death– all of this is just consequential. We have been created for worship – that’s the purpose of our life. I believe that even someone who is scientific or analytical would agree with that purpose. They might have some other ulterior purpose within themselves, but that’s something they have to deal with between themselves and Almighty God.
Now on to the second half of our topic. What do you know about Islam? Not what you’ve heard about Islam. Not what you have seen in the actions of Muslims, because there’s a difference between Islam and Muslims. Just like there’s a difference between a man and a father. A man who has children – he is a father, but being a father is a responsibility. If a man does not fulfill those responsibilities, he is not necessarily a good father. Islam is a rule and an order. If a Muslim does not fulfill these rules and orders, he is not a good Muslim. So you cannot compare Islam by Muslims.
We hear the terms ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslims’ quite often. And we read about Islam and Muslims in the periodicals, textbooks of colleges and universities. We hear and see a lot of inaccurate, misleading, and purposeful misinformation through the media. And I have to admit that some of this misinformation and misrepresentation have been perpetuated by Muslims themselves. Yet one of every five persons in this world of some five billion people is a Muslim! One out of five people in this world is a Muslim! This is a statistic that you can verify in the encyclopedia, or the almanac, or in other sources that you like to look at. How is it that if one out of five people in this world is a Muslim, that we don’t know something about Islam? The facts about Islam. If I told you that one out of five people in this world was Chinese, which is a fact – there are one billion Chinese in the world, one out of five people is Chinese! Then we know the geographical, the social, the economical, the political, the philosophical, the historical factors about China and Chinese! How come we don’t know about Islam?
What is it that joins so many different nations and this universal configuration into a common fraternity? What makes a brother or sister in Yemen my brother or sister, and I’m from America. And makes this brother from Eritrea my brother or sister. And makes another brother from Indonesia my brother. And from Africa my brother. And another one from Thailand my brother. And from Italy, Greece, Poland, Austria, Colombia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, China, from Spain, from Russia, and so forth… What makes them my brother or sister!? We with different cultural and psychological backgrounds! What is it about Islam that automatically embraces us and joins us together as a brotherhood? What are the accurate characteristics of this misunderstood way of life that is followed by a great part of humanity?
I will try to provide you with some facts. But in addition to this, as I’ve mentioned to you before, it is necessary for you to be open-minded and open-hearted – because, if I turned the glass upside-down and poured water on it, I’ll never get a glass of water. It has to be the right side up. Facts alone do not lead to understanding, but rather a combination of tolerance, ambition, and the ability to appreciate and accept the truth when you hear it.
The word ‘Islam’ means surrender, submission, and obedience. Surrender, submission, and obedience to the law of Almighty God. You can say ‘Allah.’ You can say ‘The Creator.’ You can say ‘The Supreme God,’ ‘The Supreme Force,’ ‘The All-Wise,’ all of these are His names.
Muslims use the Arabic word for God, Allah, because in Arabic there is no other expression. The word Allah cannot be applied to any created thing. Other words that people use for Almighty are also applied to created things. For example, “the almighty dollar.” “Oh I love my wife, she is tops!” Or, “He’s the greatest.” No, no, no, no… But the word ‘Allah’ can only be applied to the One who has created all of this that we have previously described. So from this point, I’m going to use the word ‘Allah,’ and you know whom I’m speaking about.
The word ‘Islam’ is derived from the root ‘Salama’ – it means to be at peace. Therefore, a Muslim is a person who surrenders, submits, and obeys the law of Almighty God.
And through this submission obtains peace and serenity for themselves. We can immediately see, that by such a definition, the Arabic word ‘Islam’ describes the same manner and behavior of all the well-known and respected prophets and messengers of Almighty God… All of them including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, John the Baptist, Suleiman, Jesus the son of Mary, and Muhammad (May Allah’s peace be upon them all.) All of these men, these prophets and messengers, came from the same Almighty God, with the same message, with the same chain of transmission, and they said one thing – obey God! Worship Almighty God and fulfill the purpose of life and do good actions, and you will be rewarded with another life. That’s all they said! Don’t make it more than that! That’s all they said, regardless of what language and what time, whom they came to – that’s all they said.
If you read the scriptures carefully, without your own interpretation or somebody else’s addition or fabrication – you will find that this was the simple message of all those prophets who confirmed one another. Not one of those prophets ever said, “I am God – worship me.” You will not find it in any of the holy books that you have – not the Bible, not the Torah, not the New Testament, not the Psalms of David – you will not find it in any book. You will not find it in the speech of any prophet. Go home tonight and palm through all the pages of your Bible, and I guarantee you – you will not find it once. Anywhere! So where did this come from? That’s something that you’ll have to investigate.
We can easily see that by such a definition, the Arabic word describes what all the prophets did. They all came and submitted themselves to God; Surrendered themselves to God; Called the people to God; And asked the people and insisted upon the people to do deeds of righteousness. The Ten Commandments of Moses – what was that? The speech of Abraham – what was that? The Psalms of David – what was that? The Proverbs of Solomon – what did he say? The Gospel of Jesus Christ – what did he say? What did John the Baptist say? What did Isaac and Ishmael say? What did Muhammad say? Nothing more than that!
“And they have been commanded no more than this: To worship Allah, offering Him sincere devotion, being true (in faith); to establish regular prayer, and to practice regular charity; and that is the Religion Right and Straight.” [Quran 98:5]
This is what Allah said. And they were ordered nothing except to worship Allah, being sincere toward Him. And this was the straightway, this was the original message.
By the same token, it would also be appropriate here to consider both prophets and messengers as Muslims, because a ‘Muslim’ is what? Don’t think about the Arabic terminology, don’t think about how we address them— don’t think about Mecca, or Saudi Arabia, or Egypt. No! Think about what the word ‘Muslim’ means. ‘He who surrenders himself to Almighty God, and obeys the laws of the Almighty God,’ in that case whether naturally or in a dialectical manner – everything that surrenders to the law of Almighty God is a Muslim!
So, when a child comes out of a womb of its mother at the time that God has ordered – what is it? It’s a Muslim. When the sun goes around in its orbit – what is it? It’s a Muslim! When the Moon goes around the Sun – what is it? It’s a Muslim! The law of gravity – what is it? It’s a Muslim law! Everything that submits to the Almighty God is a Muslim! Therefore, when we willfully obey Almighty God we are Muslims! Jesus Christ was a Muslim. His blessed mother was a Muslim. Abraham was a Muslim. Moses was a Muslim. All the prophets were Muslims! But they came to their people and they spoke different languages. The prophet Muhammad (SAW) spoke the Arabic language. And so, in the Arabic language, the one who submits and surrenders is Muslim. Every prophet and messenger of Almighty God brought the very same and fundamental message– ‘Worship Almighty God and be sincere towards Him.’ As we examine the message of each of the well-known prophets, we could easily conclude this fact.
Where there is a conflict, it is a result of false assertions, fabrications, exaggerations, personalized interpretations of alleged writers, historians, scholars, and individuals. For instance, let me point something out to you that you may have already looked at. As a Christian, I’ve looked at it before I became a Muslim and… I didn’t understand it. How come throughout the Old Testament God is always referred to as One–the Master and Lord and King of the Universe. And that in the first commandment given to Moses, He did not allow anybody to worship any graven images; Or to bow down to anything in the Heavens, or the Earth, or the sea below – He’d never allow that. All the prophets said that there is only One God. Throughout the Old Testament, this is repeated over and over again. And then, all of a sudden we get four testimonies – four Gospels called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Matthew who? Mark Who? Luke who? John who? Four different Gospels that were written forty- eight years apart. And none of these men, who did not collaborate with each other, none of them, wrote their last name. If I gave you a check for your pay this month and I wrote my first name on the check and told you to take it to the bank – would you accept that check? No, you wouldn’t… If the policeman stopped you and asked for your identification or passport and you only had your first name, would that be acceptable to him? Could you get a passport with your first name? Did your mother and father only give you one name? Where in the history of men is one name accepted as a documentation, where? Nowhere! Except in the New Testament.
And how can you base your faith upon four Gospels that are written by four men that didn’t seem to know their last names? Then, after those four Gospels, there are fifteen more books written by a man who was an apostate who killed Christians, tortured Christians, and then said that he in a vision saw Jesus. And he was commissioned as an Apostle of Jesus. If I told you that Hitler, after he killed all the Jews, then he himself decided that he wanted to be saved. And he met Christ or Moses on the path and he became a Jew. And he wrote fifteen books and added them to the Torah – would this be acceptable to the Jews? No, you wouldn’t accept that. So how can four books written by men without a last name, and fifteen other books written by another man–and this is the first time that God is called a man, and the first time that God is called three, and the first time God was given a son– how is this acceptable to Christians? How? Think about it! We won’t argue that point. I’ll just give you something to think about.
The advent of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) did not bring a new religion or a way of life as some people ominously claim. On the contrary, the prophet (SAW) confirmed the life and message of all the previous prophets and messengers. Both through his personal conduct and through divine revelations he received from the Almighty. The sacred scripture that Muhammad (SAW) brought is called the Quran. It means ‘that which is recited.’ Because Muhammad (SAW) did not write the Quran. He did not author the Quran. Nobody came and helped him write the Quran. And nobody collaborated with him on this. The Angel Gabriel recited the words to him! And Almighty God made his heart a receptacle of that. The Prophet Muhammad’s (SAW) heart was a receptacle of revelation and we have this Quran that has been preserved for years without any change. Is there any other book in the world that you know of that has been preserved as it was revealed without any change? No book… Only the Quran.
Don’t take my word for it! Go to the library and read what the Encyclopedia Britannica, or the World Encyclopedia, or the Americana’s Encyclopedia, or any other universal encyclopedia of the world that was not written by Muslims. Read what it says about Islam, the Quran, and Muhammad (SAW). Read what non-Muslims say about the Quran, Islam, and Muhammad (SAW). Then you will accept that what I’m saying is universally documented and clear! That Muhammad (SAW) is the most profound individual in the history of humanity. Read what they say. That the Quran is the most incredible, the most profound piece of literature in the annals of history! Read what they say. That the Islamic way of life is categorized and so precise and dynamic! …It has never changed.
The sacred scripture that Muhammad (SAW) received is called ‘The Quran.’ And each of the prophets and messengers also received the scripture. In the Quran, these prophets, their scriptures, their stories, and the principle of their mission is mentioned with profound detail. Did Muhammad (SAW) meet them, talk with them, eat with them, and collaborate with them to write their biographies? No, of course, he didn’t. In the Quran, Muhammad (SAW) is referred to as the messenger of Almighty God and the seal of the previous prophets– which is the limit of his role as a human being.
“Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.” [Quran 33:40]
Muslims do not worship Muhammad, we’re not ‘Muhammadans.’ We have not the right to change the name ‘Muhammad’ and say we are ‘Muhammadans.’ No, the people who had followed Moses, they were not ‘Moseans.’ The people who followed Jacob were not ‘Jacobites.’ Or the people who followed Abraham were not ‘Abrahamians.’ Or ‘Davidians.’ …No, no, no. So how do people call themselves ‘Christians?’ Christ did not call himself a ‘Christian,’ so how do people call themselves ‘Christians?’
Jesus Christ (PBUH) said that whatever he received from Almighty God was the word of God, and what he heard is what he said! That’s what he did! So how do people call themselves ‘Christians?’ We have to be Christ-like! And what was Christ like? He was a servant of the Almighty God; so we should be servants of Almighty God, that’s all!
As the final scripture and divine revelation, the Quran makes the very clear and concise statement, “This day have I perfected your religion and completed my favor upon you. And chose the Islam as a complete way of life.” [Quran 5:3]
So through the Quran, the word ‘Islam’ came. Because, when the building is complete, you call it ‘a house.’ When the car is on the assembly line, it is not ‘an automobile’ – it is in the process of assembly! When it has been completed, it has been certified, it has been test-driven – it is now ‘an automobile.’ When Islam was completed as a revelation, as a book, as an example through the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), it then became ‘Islam.’ It became a complete way of life.
So it is the word that was new… But not the practice…not the prophet…not the order from God…not a new God…not a new revelation…But only the name, Islam. And as I said previously, who were all the prophets? They were all Muslims. Another distinction to keep in mind is that Muhammad (PBUH), unlike his predecessors – he did not come to the Arabs or to his own people exclusively. No… Therefore, Islam is not a religion of the Arabs. Although the Prophet Muhammad, the son of Abdullah, was born in Mecca, a city in the Arabian Peninsula, and was an Arab by birth, he did not bring Islam to only the Arabs. He brought Islam to all people.
Although the Quran was revealed in the Arabic language, it dispels any inclinations or assertions that the message of Muhammad was limited or meant for the Arabs exclusively. In the Holy Quran Allah says, “And you have not been sent, oh Muhammad, except to the all of humanity.” [Quran 21:107]
The Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said: All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor a non Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a White has no superiority over a Black nor a Black has any superiority over a White; except by piety and good actions.
As such, Muhammad (PBUH) is the finality and crown of the great prophets and messengers before him. Most human beings–they simply don’t know this information. And since I am making reference to the Quran to support my presentation, I will give some background information on the Quran itself. First of all, the Quran makes the claim that it is the product of divine revelation. That is, it was sent down from the Almighty God to Muhammad for inspiration.
Allah says, “Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire.”
“It is no less than inspiration sent down to him.” [Quran 53:3-4]
Muhammad is not speaking for himself, his ideas, his own ambition, or his own emotion and feelings. But, this is a revelation which is being revealed to him! This is the statement of Allah. Therefore, if I am to convince you of the authenticity of the Quran, I must prove – one, that it was impossible for Muhammad to have manufactured such a book. Secondly, I must prove that it was equally impossible for any human agency to have created it. Let us think about this.
The Quran makes the statement, “And we created the human beings from the hanging clot that was clinging to the wall of the womb.”[Quran 23:13]
“Created man from a clinging substance.” [96:2]
How did the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) know that the embryo started out as a clot hanging and clinging to the wall of the uterus of the mother? Did he have a telescope? Did he have a cystoscope? Did he have some kind of x-ray vision? How did he receive this knowledge, when it was just discovered forty-seven years ago?
Likewise, how did he know that the oceans have a barrier between them to separate the salt and the fresh water?
“And it is He Who has let free the two seas (kinds of water), one palatable and sweet, and the other salt and bitter, and He has set a barrier and a complete partition between them.” [Quran 25:53]
How did he know this?
“It is He Who created the Night and the Day, and the sun and the moon: all (the celestial bodies) swim along, each in its rounded course.” [Quran 21:33]
How did he know that the Sun, and the Moon, and the planets are all swimming in an orbit that had been ordered for them? How did he know this? And on, and on, and on – how did he know these things? These things have just been discovered twenty five or thirty years ago. Technology and science, the sophistication of which you and I well know have just been discovered. How did Muhammad (PBUH), who lived more than 1500 years ago– an uneducated shepherd who was raised in the desert, not knowing how to read or write– how could he know something like this? How could he produce something like this? And how could anyone else living with him, before, or after, produce something that has just been discovered recently. That’s impossible!! How could a man who never left the Arabian Peninsula, a man who never sailed on a ship, who lived more than 1500 years ago –make such clear and astounding descriptions that were just recently discovered in this half of the twentieth century?
Also, if this is not enough, let me mention that the Quran has a hundred and fourteen chapters, over six thousand verses. And there were hundreds of people in the time of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) who memorized this book entirely. How did that happen? Was he some kind of genius? Did anyone memorize the Gospel – any of them? Did anybody memorize the Torah, the Psalms, the Old Testament, the New Testament? Nobody has done that. Not even the Pope.
But there are millions of Muslims today who have memorized this entire book. This is the ambition of every Muslim. Not some – but every! How many Christians have you ever met in your life, that has memorized the Bible? None. You’ve never met any Christian that memorized the whole Bible because you’ve never met a Christian who even knew what was the whole Bible. Why is that? Because, Christians themselves have over seven hundred different denominations, and there are approximately thirty-nine different versions of the Bible–with different books and different versions. The different number of verses and the different number of chapters. And they don’t agree to that. So how could they even memorize what they don’t agree about.
It’s just some facts about the Quran. The Quran has been universally preserved without the slightest alteration of any kind in fifteen centuries. And I’m not speaking in a condemning fashion. I’m a person who was a Christian. A person who found out these things by my own investigation. A person who is now sharing this information with you. Overturning some rocks for you to look under. And it’s up to you!
Just think about if all of this were true. Would you agree that this book is quite profound? And unique, to say the least? Would you be honest enough to say that? Of course, you would, if you were honest. And you are. Within yourselves, you have to come to that conclusion. Many other non-Muslims came to the same conclusion. People such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Winston Churchill, to name a few. Many more and I could go on, and on, and on. They came to the same conclusion. Whether they accepted Islam openly, or not. They came to that conclusion– that there is no other literature in the world as profoundly as the Quran, a source of wisdom and healing and direction.
Now that we have settled the issue of authenticity of the Quran, let us turn to another subject matter: the basic themes of the Quran. The supreme oneness of Almighty God, which includes His names, His attributes, the relationship between God Almighty and His creation, and how human beings should maintain that relationship. The continuity of prophets and messengers, their lives, their messages, and their overall mission. The insistence upon following the final and universal example of Muhammad (pbuh), the Seal of the Prophets and Messengers. Reminding human beings of the shortness of this life and calling them towards the eternity of the life hereafter. Life hereafter, meaning after here. Hereafter, you leave this place and you’re going somewhere; I don’t mean tonight. But after you die and you leave this Earth, you are going somewhere, whether you accept it, or don’t know about it; You’re going there, and you are responsible because you have been told– even if you have rejected it. Because the object of this life is not for you to sit here, and after this do nothing and have no effect. Every cause has an effect! And you came into this life for a cause and a purpose, and it must have an effect! It must warrant some sort of effect! You don’t go to school to just stay there! You don’t go to work not to get paid! You don’t build a house and don’t move into it! You don’t get a suit made and don’t wear it! You don’t grow up as a child and don’t become an adult! You don’t work without expecting a reward! You cannot live without expecting to die! You cannot die without the expectancy of the grave! And you cannot expect that the grave is the end. Because that would mean that God has created you for a foolish purpose. And you have not gone to school, worked, or done anything, or have chosen a wife, or chosen the name of your children for a foolish purpose. How could you assign to God something less than yourselves?
In an attempt to capture and convince the imagination and faculties of reasoning, the Quran goes through great length and beauty to expound upon the oceans and rivers, the trees and plants, the birds and insects, the wild and domestic animals, the mountains, the valleys, the expansion of the heavens, the celestial bodies and the universe, the fish and the aquatic life, the human anatomy and biology, human civilization and history, the description of paradise and hell, the evolution of the human embryo, the missions of all the prophets and messengers, and the purpose of life on Earth. And how could a shepherd boy, born in the desert, who grew up illiterate and could not read– how could he expound upon things that he was never exposed to? The most unique aspect of the Quran, however, is that it serves to confirm all the previous revealed scriptures. And, after examining the religion of Islam, you should decide to become a Muslim, you do not have to consider yourself changing your religion! You are not changing your religion…You see, if you lost some weight, you wouldn’t throw that $500 suit away–of course you wouldn’t! You would take it to a tailor and say, ‘Listen, take this in a little bit for me, please. Make some alterations to this because I like this suit.’ Likewise, with your belief, your honor, your virtue, your love of Jesus Christ, your attachment to God, your worship, your truthfulness, and your dedication to Almighty God – you don’t change that and throw it away! You hold on to that! But, you make alterations where you know that the truth has been revealed to you! That’s all!
Islam is simple: to bear witness that there’s none to be worshiped except Almighty God. If I asked any of you to bear witness that your father is your father–how many of you would say, ‘Yes, my father is my father; My son is my son; My wife is my wife; I am who I am.’ Then how is it that you hesitate to bear witness that the Almighty is One and the Almighty God is the only One, and that the Almighty God is your Lord and your creator? Why are you arrogant to do this? Are you being glorious? Do you possess something that God doesn’t possess? Or, are you confused? That’s the question you have to ask yourself.
If you had the chance to put things straight with your conscience, and to put things straight with God, would you do so? If you had the chance to ask God to accept the best of your deeds, would you do so? If you had the chance to do this before you died, and you thought that you would die tonight, would you not hesitate to bear witness that there’s only one God? If you thought that you would die tonight and that in front of you was paradise and in your back was hellfire, would you not hesitate to bear witness that Muhammad is the final messenger of God and representative of all the prophets? You would not hesitate to bear witness that you are one of those who would like to be written down in the book of God as those who submit!
But, you think you’re gonna live a little while. And of course, you’re not ready to pray every day! That’s because you think you’re gonna live a while. But how much is ‘a little while?’ How long ago was it when you had a full head of hair? How long ago was it when your hair was all black? You got aches and pains in your knees and elbows and in other places! How long ago was it when you were just a child, running and playing without a care? How long ago was it? It was yesterday! Yes. And you’re gonna die tomorrow. So how long you wanna wait?
Islam is to bear witness that Almighty God is God, the only God, the only One without any partners. Islam is to acknowledge the existence of the Angels who were sent with the duty of revealing the revelations to the prophets. Carrying the message to the prophets. Controlling the winds, the mountains, the oceans, and taking the life of those whom God has ordered to die. Islam is to acknowledge that all the prophets and messengers of Almighty God were righteous men. And that they were all sent by Almighty God acknowledging the fact that there will be a final day of judgement for all creatures. Islam is to acknowledge that all good and evil has been proportioned by Almighty God. Finally, Islam is to acknowledge that there will definitely be a resurrection after death.
Islam is like a big house. And every house has to be built with a foundation and pillars to support a house. Pillars and a foundation. And you have to build a house with rules. The pillars are the rules! And when you build your house, you must follow the rules.
The fundamental duties incumbent upon every Muslim are simple, and are summed up in just 5 simple rules, the so-called Five Pillars of Islam: Belief, Worship, Fasting, Almsgiving, and Pilgrimage.
The most important rule of Islam is to uphold the strict code of monotheism. That is, to not accept any partners with God. Not to worship anything along with God. The believer worships God directly without the intercession of priests or clergy or saints. Not to say anything about God that you have no right to say. Not to say, ‘he has a father, a son, a daughter, a mother, an uncle, an aunt, a board of trustees.’ Not to say anything about God that you have no right to say. When you bear witness, you sentence yourself. You take the sentence that you want. You either sentence yourself to peace and paradise, or you sentence yourself to confusion, frustration, hellfire and punishment. You sentence yourself.
So ask yourself, “Do I bear witness that there is only one God?” When you ask yourself that question, you should answer, “Yes, I bear witness.” Then ask yourself the next question. Do I bear witness that Muhammad is a messenger of Almighty God? “Yes, I do bear witness.” If you bear witness to that, then you are a Muslim. And you don’t have to change what you were. You just have to make alterations in what you were–in your thinking and practice.
Finally, I ask you an honest and direct question: Have you have understood what I said to you? If you agree with what I said and are ready to enter Islam, you are ready to become a Muslim. To become a Muslim, you must first declare the Shahada “the testimony”; which is to declare the belief in the Oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God’s prophet.
Ash-hadu anlaa ilaaha ill-Allah, wa ash-hadu anna Muhammadan rasulu llah.
“Which means that you believe that there isn’t any God except the one and only true God who created everything “Allah” and Muhammad is the messenger of God.
Please see Video for correct pronunciation!
May Allah bless us. May Allah guide us. I would like to say to all of the non-Muslim readers of this publication—Be very honest with yourself. Think about what you have read. Take this information with you and absorb it. Sit down with a Muslim person and let them explain a little further to you the beauty of Islam. Take the next step!
When you are ready to accept Islam and become a Muslim, wash yourself before formally becoming a Muslim. Accept Islam. Know about Islam. Practice Islam. And enjoy the bounties that Allah has bestowed upon you, because faith is The most important rule of Islam is to uphold the strict code of monotheism. That is, to not accept any partners with God. Not to worship anything along with God. The believer worships God directly without the intercession of priests or clergy or saints. Not to say anything about God that you have no right to say. Not to say, ‘he has a father, a son, a daughter, a mother, an uncle, an aunt, a board of trustees.’ Not to say anything about God that you have no right to say. When you bear witness, you sentence yourself. You take the sentence that you want. You either sentence yourself to peace and paradise, or you sentence yourself to confusion, frustration, hellfire and punishment. You sentence yourself.
If you don’t put it into practice, you lose it like a fragrance. May Allah guide us. May Allah help us. And I appreciate the honor of being able to speak to you through this publication.
Assalamu Alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh
[Arabic for “Peace be unto you and so may the mercy of Allah and His blessings.”]
The Bible, the Quran, and modern science
On 9 November 1976, an unusual lecture was given at the French Academy of Medicine. Its title was ‘Physiological and Embryological data in the Quran. I presented my study on the existence in the Quran of certain statements concerning physiology and reproduction.
My reason for doing this was that our knowledge of these disciplines is such, that it is impossible to explain how a text produced at the time of the Quran (1400 years ago) could have contained ideas that have only been discovered in modern times.
There is indeed no human work prior to modern times that contains statements which were equally in advance of the state of knowledge at the time of they appeared and which might be compared to the Quran.
In addition to this, a comparative study of date of a similar kind contained in the Bible (Old Testament and Gospels) seemed desirable. This is how the project was formed of a confrontation between modern knowledge and certain passages in the Holy Scriptures of each monotheistic religion. It resulted in the publication of a book under the title, The Bible, the Quran and Science.
The first French edition appeared in May 1976. (Seglers, Paris-English and Arabic editions have now been published). It comes as no surprise to learn that Religion and Science have always been considered to be twin sisters by Islam and that today at a time when science has taken such great strides, they still continue to be associated, and furthermore certain scientific data are used for the better understanding of the Quranic text.
What is more, in a century where, for many, scientific truth has dealt a deathblow to religious belief, it is precisely the discoveries of science that, in an objective examination of the Islamic Revelation, have highlighted the supernatural character of certain aspects of the Revelation.
When all is said and done, generally speaking, scientific knowledge would seem, in spite of what people may say, to be highly conductive to reflection on the existence of God.
Once we begin to ask ourselves in an unbiased or unprejudiced way about the metaphysical lessons to be derived from some of today’s knowledge, (for example our knowledge of the infinitely small or the problem of life), we indeed discover many reasons for thinking along these lines. When we think about the remarkable organization presiding over the birth and maintenance of life, it surely becomes clear that the likelihood of it being the result of chance gets less and less, as our knowledge and progress in this field expand.
Certain concepts must appear to be increasingly unacceptable; for example, the one put forward by the French winner of the Nobel prize for Medicine who tried to get people to admit that living matter was self-created as the result of fortuitous circumstances under the effect of certain outside influences using simple chemical elements as their base.
From this it is claimed that living organisms came into being, leading to the remarkable complex called man. To me, it would seem that the scientific progress made in understanding the fantastic complexity of higher beings provides strong arguments in favour of the opposite theory: in other words, the existence of an extraordinarily methodical organisation presiding over the remarkable arrangement of the phenomena of life.
In many parts of the Book, the Quran leads, in simple terms, to this kind of general reflection. But it also contains infinitely more precise data which are directly related to facts discovered by modern science: these are what exercise a magnetic attraction for today’s scientists.
Encyclopedia knowledge necessary to understand the Quran
For many centuries, the man was unable to study them, because he did not possess sufficient scientific means. It is only today that numerous verses of the Quran dealing with natural phenomena have become fully comprehensible. I should even go so far as to say that, in the 20th century, with its compartmentalization of ever-increasing knowledge, it is not always easy for the average scientist to understand everything he reads in the Quran one is today required to have an absolutely encyclopedic knowledge, by which I mean, one which embraces very many disciplines.
I use the word ‘science’ to mean knowledge which has been soundly established. It does not include the theories which, for a time, help to explain a phenomenon or series of phenomena, only to be abandoned later in favour of explanations which have become more plausible thanks to scientific progress. I basically only intend to deal with knowledge which is not likely to be subject to further discussion. Wherever I introduce scientific facts which are not yet 100% established. I shall, of course, make this quite clear.
There are also some very rare examples of statements in the Quran which have not, as yet, been confirmed by modern science: I shall refer to these by pointing out that all the evidence leads scientists to regard them as being highly probable. An example of this is the statement in the Quran that life is of aquatic origin, and another is that somewhere in the Universe there are Earths similar to our own.
These scientific considerations should not, however, make us forget that the Quran remains a religious book par excellence and that it cannot, of course, be expected to have a ‘scientific’ purpose per se. Whenever man is invited to reflect upon the works of Creation and the numerous natural phenomena he can observe, the obvious intention, in using such examples, is to stress Divine Omnipotence.
The fact that, in these reflections, we can find allusions to data connected with scientific knowledge is surely another of God’s gifts whose value must shine out in an age where scientifically based materialistic atheism seeks to gain control at the expense of the belief in God.
Throughout my research I have constantly tried to remain totally objective. I believe I have succeeded in approaching the study of the Quran with the same objectivity that a doctor has when he opens a file on a patient: in other words, by carefully confronting all the symptoms he can find to arrive at a diagnosis.
I must admit that it was certainly not a faith in Islam that first guided my steps, but simple research for the truth. This is how I see it today. It was mainly fact which, by the time I had finished my study, had led me to see in the Quran a text revealed to a Prophet.
We shall examine statements in the Quran which appear today merely to record scientific truth, but which men in former times were only able to grasp the apparent meaning of. How is it possible to imagine that, were there any subsequent alterations to the texts, these obscure passages scattered throughout the text of the Quran were able to escape human manipulation?
The slightest alteration to the texts would automatically have destroyed the remarkable coherence which is characteristic of them, and prevented us from establishing their conformity with modern knowledge. The presence of these statements spread throughout the Quran looks to the impartial observer like an obvious hallmark of authenticity.
The Quran is a preaching which was made known to man in the course of a Revelation which lasted roughly twenty years. It spanned two periods of equal length on either side of the Hegira. In view of this, it was natural for reflections having a scientific aspect to be scattered throughout the Book. In the case of a study such as the one we have made, we had to regroup them according to subject, collecting them chapter by chapter.
How should they be classified? I could not find any indications in the Quran suggesting any particular classification. So I have decided to present them according to my own personal one.
It would seem to me, that the first subject to be dealt with is the Creation. Here it is possible to compare the verses referring to this topic with the general ideas prevalent today on the formation of the Universe. Next, I have divided up verses under the following general headings: Astronomy, the Earth, the Animal and Vegetable Kingdoms, Man, and Human Reproduction in particular; the latter is a subject which, in the Quran, is allotted a very important place. To these general headings it is possible to add subheadings. Furthermore, I thought it useful to make a comparison between Quranic and Biblical narrations from the point of view of modern knowledge. This has been done in the case of such subjects as the Creation, the Flood and the Exodus.
Creation of the universe
Let us first examine the Creation as described in the Quran. An extremely important general idea emerges: its dissimilarity with Biblical narration. This idea contradicts the parallels which are often, and wrongly, drawn by Western authors to underline solely the resemblance between the two texts.
When talking of the Creation, as of other subjects, there is a strong tendency in the West to claim that Muhammad only copied the general outlines of the Bible. It is indeed possible to compare the six days of the Creation as described in the Bible, plus an extra day of rest on God’s sabbath, with this verse from chapter 7:
“Your Lord is Allah Who created the Heavens and the Earth in six days”
We must point out straight away the modern commentators stress the interpretation of ayyam, one translation of which is ‘days’, as meaning ‘long periods’ or ‘ages’ rather than periods of twenty-four hours. What to me appears to be of fundamental importance is that, in contrast to the narration contained in the Bible, the Quran does not lay down a sequence for the Creation of the Earth and Heavens. It refers both to the Heavens before the Earth and the Earth before the Heavens, when it talks of the Creation in general, as in this verse of the chapter 20: “A revelation from Him Who created the Earth and the Heavens”
In fact, the notion to be derived from the Quran is one of a concomitance in the celestial and terrestrial evolutions. There are also absolutley fundamental data concerning the existence of an initial gaseous mass (duhkan) which is unique and whose elements, although at first fused together (ratq) subsequently became separated (fatq). This notion is expressed in the chapter 41: “And God turned to Heaven when it was smoke”
And the same is expressed in chapter 21: “Do not the Unbelievers see that the Heavens and the Earth were joined together, then We clove them asunder?”
The separation process resulted in the formation of multiple worlds, a notion which crops up dozens of times in the Quran, once it has formed the first verse in chapter 1: “Praise be to God, the Lord of the Worlds”
All this is in perfect agreement with modern ideas on the existence of primary nebula and the process of secondary separation of the elements that had formed the initial unique mass. This separation resulted in the formation of galaxies and then, when these divided, of stars from which the planets were to be born. Reference is also made in the Quran to an intermediary Creation between the Heavens and the Earth, as in chapter 25: “God is the One created the Heavens and the Earth and all that is between them”
It would seem that this intermediary Creation corresponds to the modern discovery of bridges of matter which are present outside organised astronomical systems.
This survey certainly shows us how modern data and statements in the Quran agree on a large number of points. We have come a long way from the Biblical text with its successive phases that are totally unacceptable; especially the one placing the Creation of the Earth (on the 3rd day) before that of the Heavens (on the 4th day), when it is a known fact that our planet comes from its own star, the Sun. In such circumstances, how can we imagine that a man who drew his inspiration from the Bible could have been the author of the Quran, and, of his own accord, have corrected the Biblical text to arrive at a general concept concerning the formation of the Universe, when this concept was not to be formed until centuries after his death.
Astronomy – Light and movement
Let us now turn to the subject of Astronomy. Whenever I describe the details the Quran contains on certain points of astronomy to Westerners, it is unusual for someone not to reply that there is nothing special in this, considering the Arabs made important discoveries in this field long before the Europeans.
This is, in fact, a singularly mistaken idea resulting from an ignorance of history. In the first place, science was developed in Arabian countries at a time that was considerably after the Quranic Revelation had occurred; in the second, the scientific knowledge prevalent at the high point of Islamic civilization would not have made it possible for a human being to have written statements on the Heavens comparable to those in the Quran.
Here again, the subject is so wide that I can only provide an outline of it. Whereas the Bible talks of the Sun and the Moon as two luminaries differing in size, the Quran distinguishes between them by the use of different epithets: light (noor) for the Moon, torch (siraj) for the Sun. The first is an interbody which reflects light, the second a celestial formation in a state of permanent combustion, and a source of light and heat. The word ‘star’ (najm) is accompanied by another qualifying word which indicates that it burns and consumes itself as it pierces through the shadows of the night: it is the word thakib.
In the Quran, the kawkab definitely seems to mean the planets which are celestial formations that reflect and do not produce light like the Sun. Today it is known how the celestial organisation is balanced by the position of stars in a defined orbit and the interplay of gravitational forces ralated to their mass and speed of movement, each with its own motion. But isn’t this what the Quran describes, in terms which have only become comprehensible in our own day, when it mentions the foundation of this balance in chapter 21: ”(God is) the One Who created the night, the day, the Sun and the Moon. Each one is travelling in an orbit with its own motion”
The Arabic word which expresses this movement is a verb sabbaha (yousabbihoon in the text); it carries with it the idea of a motion which comes from any moving body, be it the movement of one’s legs as one runs on the ground, or the action of swimming in water. In the case of a celestial body, one is forced to translate it in the original sense, that is, ‘to travel with one’s own motion’.
The description of the sequence of day and night would, in itself, be rather commonplace were it not for the fact that, in the Quran, it is expressed in terms that today are highly significant. This is because it uses the verb kawwara in chapter 39:5 to describe the way the night ‘winds’ or ‘coils’ itself about the day and the day about the night, just as, in the original meaning of the verb, a turban is wound around the head.
This is a totally valid comparison; yet at the same time the Quran was revealed, the astronomical data necessary to draw it were unknown. The evolution of the Heavens and the notion of a settled place for the Sun are also described. They are in agreement with highly detailed modern ideas.
The Quran also seems to have alluded to the expansion of the Universe. There is also the conquest of space. This has been undertaken thanks to remarkable technological progress and has resulted in man’s journey to the Moon. But this surely springs to mind when we read chapter 55: “O assembly of jinns and men, if you can penetrate regions of the Heavens and Earth, then penetrate them! You will not penetrate them save with (Our) Power”
This power comes from the All-mighty, and the subject of the whole chapter is an invitation to recognise God’s Beneficence to man.
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Let us examine, for example, “Hast tho not seen that God sent water down from the sky and led it through sources into the ground? Then He caused sown fields of different colours to grow”
Such notions seems quite natural to us today, but we should not forget that they were not prevalent long ago. It was not until the sixteenth century, with Bernard Palissy, that we gained the first coherent description of the water cycle. Prior to this, people talked about the theory whereby the water of the oceans, under the effect of winds, were thrust towards the interior of the continents. They then returned to the oceans via the great abyss, which, since Plato’s time, has been called the Tartarus.
In the seventeenth century, a great thinker such as Descartes believed in it, and even in the nineteenth century there was still talk of Aristotle’s theory, according to which water was condensed in cool mountains caverns and formed underground lakes that fed springs.
Today, we know that it is the infiltration of rainwater that is responsible for this. If one compares the facts of modern hydrology with the data to be found in numerous verses of the Quran on this subject, one cannot fail to notice the ramarkable degree of agreement between the two.
In geology, a fact of recently acquired knowledge is the phenomenon of folding, which was to form the mountain ranges. The same is true of the Earth’s crust, which is like a solid shell on which we can live, while the deeper layers are hot and fluid, and thus inhospitable to any form of life. It is also known that the stability of the mountains is linked to the phenomenon of folding, for it was the folds that were to provide foundations for the reliefs that constituted the mountains.
Let us now compare modern ideas with one verse among many in the Quran that deals with this subject. It is taken from chapter 78 “Have We not made the Earth an expanse and the mountains stakes?”
The stakes (awtad), which are driven into the ground like those used to anchor a tent, are the deep foundations of geological folds.
Here, as in the case of other topics, the objective observer cannot fail to notice the absence of any contradiction with modern knowledge. But more than anything else, I was struck, at first, by statements in the Quran dealing with living things, both in the animal and vegetable kingdoms, especially with regard to reproduction.
I must once again stress the fact, that it is only since modern times, that scientific progress has made the content of many such verses more comprehensible to us. There are also other verses which are more easily understandable, but which conceal a biological meaning that is highly significant: “And We got every living thing out of the water. Will they then not believe”
This is an affirmation of the modern idea that the origin of life is aquatic. Progress in botany at the time of Muhammad was in no country advance enough for it to be established as a rule that plants have both male and female parts. “God is the Who sent water down from the sky and thereby We brought forth pairs of plants each separate from the other”
Today, we know that fruit comes from plants that have sexual characteristics (even when it comes from unfertilized flowers, like bananas). In chapter 13 we read: “And fruit of every kind He made in pairs, two and two”
Reflections on reproduction in the animal kingdom were linked to those on human reproduction. We shall examine them presently. In the field of physiology, there is one verse which, to me, appears extremely significant: one thousand years before the discovery of the circulation of the blood, and roughly thirteen centuries it was known what happened in the intestine to ensure that organs were nourished by the process of digestive absorbtion, a verse in the Quran describes the source of the constituents of milk, in conformity with these notions.
To understand this verse, we have to know that chemical reactions occur in the intestine and that, from there, substances extracted from food pass into the bloodstream via a complex system, sometimes by way of the liver, depending on their chemical nature. The blood transports them to all organs of the body, among which are the milk-producing mammary glands. Without entering into detail, let us just say that, basically, there is the arrival of certain substances from the contents of the intestines into the vessels of the intestinal wall itself, and the transportation of these substances by the bloodstream.
This concept must be fully appreciated, if we are to understand this verse “Verily, in cattle there is a lesson for you. We give you to drink of what is inside their bodies, coming from a conjunction between the contents of the intestines and the blood, a milk pure and pleasant for those who drink it”
The creation of man
In the Quran the subject of human reproduction leads to a multitude of statements which constitute a challenge to the embryologist seeking a human explanation to them. It was only after the birth of the basic sciences which were to contribute to our knowledge of biology, and especially after the invention of the microscope, that man was able to understand such statements. It was impossible for a man living in the early seventh century to have expressed such ideas. There is nothing to indicate that, at this time, men in the Middle East and Arabia knew anything more about this subject than men living in Europe or anywhere else.
Today, there are many Muslims with a thorough knowledge of the Quran and natural sciences who have clearly recognised the comparisons to be made between the verses of the Quran dealing with reproduction and human knowledge. I shall always remember the comment of an eighteen year old Muslim, brought up in Saudi Arabia, replying to a reference to the question of reproduction as described in the Quran.
Pointing to it, he said, ‘But this book provides us with all the essential information on the subject. When I was at school they used the Quran to explain to me how children were born; your books on sex-education are a bit late on the scene!’ It is on this point in particular, that a comparison between the beliefs current at he time of the Quran, that were full of superstition and myths, and the contents of the Quran and modern data, leaves us amazed at the degree of concordance between the latter and the absence of any reference in the Quran to the mistaken ideas that were prevalent at the time.
Let us now isolate, from all these verses, precise ideas concerning the complexity of the fertilizing liquid and the fact that an infinitely small quantity is required to ensure fertilization, its ‘quintessence’ – if I may so translate the Arabic word ‘sulala’.
The implantation of the egg in the female genital organ is perfectly described in several verses by the word ‘Alaq’ which is also the title of the chapter in which it appears “God fashioned man from something which clings
I do not think there is any reasonable translation of the word ‘Alaq’ other than to use its original sense. The evolution of the embryo inside the maternal uterus is only briefly described, but the description is accurate, because the simple words referring to it correspond exactly to fundamental stages in its growth “We fashioned the thing which clings into a chewed lump of flesh and We fashioned the chewed flesh into bones and We clothed the bones with intact flesh.’ Then We developed out of it another creature. So blessed be Allah, the Perfect Creator”
The term ‘chewed flesh’ (mudga) corresponds exactly to the appearance of the embryo at a certain stage in its development. It is known that the bones develop inside this mass and that they are then covered with muscle. This is the meaning of the term ‘intact flesh’ (lahm).
The embryo passes through a stage where some parts are in proportion and others out of proportion with what is later to become the individual “We created you out of dust, then out of sperm, then We fashioned him into something which clings into a little lump of flesh, partly formed and partly unformed”
Next, we have a reference to the appearance of the senses and viscerae in chapter 32 “(God) appointed for you the senses of hearing, sight and the viscerae”
Nothing here contradicts today’s data and, furthermore, none of the mistaken ideas of the time has crept into the Quran.
The Quran and the Bible
We have now come to the last subject: it is the confrontation, with modern knowledge, of passages in the Quran that are also referred to in the Bible.
We have already caught a glimpse of the problem when talking of the Creation. Earlier I stressed the perfect agreement between modern knowledge and verses in the Quran, and pointed out that the Biblical narration contained statements that were scientifically unacceptable.
This is hardly surprising when we know that the great narration of the Creation contained in the Bible was the work of priests living in the sixth century BC, hence the term ‘Sacerdotal’ narration. This seems mainly to have been conceived as the theme of a preaching designed to exhort people to observe the sabbath. The narration was constructed with a definite end in view, and, as Father de Vaux (a former head of the Biblical School of Jerusalem) has noted, this end was essentially legalist in character.
The Bible also contains a much shorter and older narration of the Creation, the so-called ‘Yehvist’ version, which approaches the subject from a completely different angle.
They are both taken from Genesis, the first book of the Pentateuch or Taurah: Moses is supposed to have been its author, but the text we have today has, as we know, undergone many changes.
The Sacerdotal narration of Genesis is famous for its whimsical genealogies, that go back to Adam, and which nobody takes very seriously. Nevertheless, such Gospel authors as Matthew and Luke have reproduced them, more or less verbatim, in their genealogies of Jesus. Matthew goes back as far as Abraham, and Luke to Adam.
All these writings are scientifically unacceptable, because they set a figure on the age of the world and the time man appeared on Earth, which is most definitely out of keeping with what has today been established with certainty. The Quran, on other hand, is completely free of data of this kind.
Earlier on, we also noted how perfectly the Quran agrees with general, modern ideas on the formation of the Universe, whereas the Biblical narration stands in contradiction to them; the allegory of the primordial waters is hardly tenable, nor is the creation of light on the first day, before the creation of the stars which produce this light; the existence of an evening and morning before the creation of the Earth; the creation of the Earth on the third day before that of the Sun on the fourth; the appearance of beasts of the Earth on the sixth day after the appearance of the birds of the air on the fifth day, although the former came first: all these statements are the result of beliefs prevalent at the time this text was written and do not have any other meaning.
As for the genealogies contained in the Bible, which form the basis of the Jewish calendar and assert that today the world is 5738 years old, these are hardly admissable either. Our solar system may be over 41/2 billion years old, and the appearance on Earth of man, as we know him today, may be estimated in tens of thousands of years, if not more. It is absolutely essential, therefore, to note that the Quran does not contain any such indications as to date and that these are specific to the Biblical text.
There is a second, highly significant, subject of comparison between the Bible and the Quran: this is the Flood. In actual fact, the Biblical narration is a fusion of two descriptions in which events are related differently. The Bible speaks of a universal flood and places it roughly 300 years before Abraham. According to what we know of Abraham, this would imply a universal cataclysm around the twenty-first or twenty-second century B.C. This would be untenable in view of historical data.
How can we accept the idea that, in the twenty-first or twenty-second century BC, all civilization was wiped off the face of the Earth by a universal cataclysm, when we know that this period corresponds, for example, to the one preceding the Middle Kingdom in Egypt, at roughly the date of the first Intermediary period before the eleventh dynasty?
None of the preceding statements is acceptable according to modern knowledge.
From this point of view, we can measure the enormous gap separating the Bible from the Quran.
In contrast to the Bible, the narration contained in the Quran deals with a cataclysm that is limited to Noah’s people. They were punished for their sins, as were other ungodly peoples. The Quran does not locate the cataclysm in time. There are absolutely no historical or archeological objections to the narration in the Quran.
The third point of comparison, which is extremely significant, is the story of Moses, and especially the Exodus from Egypt of the Hebrews enslaved to the Pharaoh. Here I can only give a highly compressed account of the study of this subject that appears in my book. I have noted the points where the Biblical and Quranic narrations agree and disagree, and, for some details, I have found points where the two texts complement each other in a very useful way. Among the many hypotheses concerning the position occupied by the Exodus in the history of the Pharaohs, I have concluded that the most likely is the theory which makes Merneptah, Ramses II’s successor, the Pharaoh of the Exodus. The confrontation of the data contained in the Scriptures with archaeological evidence speaks strongly in favour of this hypothesis.
I am pleased to be able to say that the Biblical narration contributes weighty evidence leading us to situate Moses in the history of the Pharaohs: Moses was born during the reign of Ramses II. Biblical data are therefore of considerable historical value in the story of Moses. The medical study of the mummy of Merneptah has yielded further useful information on the possible causes of this Pharaoh’s death. The fact that we today possess the mummy of this Pharaoh, which to be exact, was discovered in 1898, is one of paramount importance. The Bible records that it was engulfed in the sea, but does not give any details as to what subsequently became of the body. The Quran, in chapter 10 notes that the body of the Pharaoh, who was to be damned, would be saved from the waters.
“So this day We shall save your (dead) body that you may be a sign for those who come after you! And verily, many among mankind are heedless of Our signs”
A medical examination of this mummy, has moreover, shown that the body could not have stayed in the water for long, because it does not show signs of deterioration due to prolonged submersion. Here again, the confrontation of the narration in the Quran with the data provided by modern knowledge does not give rise to the slightest objection from a scientific point of view.
The Old Testament constitutes a collection of literary works produced in the course of roughly nine centuries and which has undergone many alternations. The part played by man in the actual composition of texts of the Bible is quite considerable.
The Quranic Revelation has a history which is radically different. From the moment it was first communicated to man, it was learnt by heart and written down during Muhammad’s own lifetime. It is thanks to this that the Quran does not pose any problem of authenticity.
A totally objective examination of it, in the light of modern knowledge, leads us to recognise the agreement between the two, as has already been noted on repeated occasions. It makes us deem it quite unthinkable for a man of Muhammad’s time to have been the author of such statements, on account of the state of knowledge in his day. Such considerations are part of what gives the Quranic Revelation its unique place, and forces the impartial scientist to admit his inability to provide an explanation which calls solely upon materialistic reasoning.
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What is life?
Man’s existence in this world and the creation of this entire universe are not mere accidents or products of a fortuitous nature. This universe, every single atom of it, manifests and points us to the realization of a Loving, Merciful and All-powerful Creator. Without a Creator, nothing can exist. Every single soul knows that he is existing and that his existence is dependent on a Creator – he knows for sure that he cannot create himself. Therefore it is his duty to know his master creator – God.
Man is a unique creature. God establishes man as His Representative or Deputy to govern over all other creatures in this world. He is endowed with the faculty of reason, which differentiates him from all other animals. The Prophet says: ”God has not created anything better than Reason or anything more perfect or more beautiful than Reason…” Together with this faculty to discriminate and discern, Man is given the freedom (free-will) to choose for himself a way of life worthy of his position as God’s Representative or to fall lower than the lowest of all animals or creations. Man is born pure and sinless. He is given the free will to do righteous deeds or to indulge in sins.
God, out of his abundant Love and Mercy for mankind has not left us in darkness to discover the right path by trial and error alone. Coupled with our intellectual capability to reason, God bestowed upon us divine guidance that outlines the Criterion for truth and the knowledge and reality of our existence in this world and the Hereafter.
From the beginning of mankind, God sent prophets to convey His revelation and to invite to the path of true peace and obedience to One true God. this is Islam. This message conveyed to successive generations of man through different Prophets, all inviting mankind to the same path. However, all the earlier messages or revelations from God were destroyed by people of later generations. As a result, pure Revelation from God was polluted with myths, superstition, idol worship, and irrational philosophical ideologies. The religion of God was lost in a plethora of religions. Human history is a chronicle of man’s drift between light and darkness, but God out of His Abundant Love for mankind has not forsaken us.
When mankind was in the depth of the Dark Ages, God sent the final Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (May peace be upon him) to redeem humanity. The revelation to Prophet Muhammad represents the ultimate and permanent source of guidance for mankind.
Criteria for truth
How do we know that a revelation like the Quran is the word of God? The criteria for truth can be easily understood by all:
1) Rational teachings: Since God bestowed reason and intellect on mankind, it is our duty to use it to distinguish truth from falsehood. True undistorted revelation from God must be rational and can be reasoned out by all unbiased minds.
2) Perfection: Since God is all perfect, His revelation must be perfect and accurate, free from mistakes, omissions, interpolations and multiplicity of versions. It should be free from contradictions in its narration.
3) No myths or superstitions: True revelation from God is free from myths or superstitions that degrade the dignity of God or man.
4) Scientific: Since God is the Creator of all knowledge, true revelation is scientific and can withstand the challenge of science at all times.
5) Prophecy: God is the Knower of the past, present, and future. Thus His word of prophecies in His revelation will be fulfilled as prophesied.
6) Inimitable by man: True revelation from God is infallible and cannot be imitated by man. God’s true revelation is a Living miracle, an open Book challenging all mankind to see and prove for themselves.
The purpose of life
This is, perhaps, the most important question that has ever been asked. Throughout the ages, philosophers have considered it to be the most fundamental question. Scientists, historians, philosophers, writers, psychologists and the common man all wrestle with the question at some point in their lives.
Is reason a sufficient guide?
Why do we eat? Why do we sleep? Why do we work? The answers we would get to these questions would be similar. I eat to live. I sleep to rest. I work to support myself and my family. But when it comes to what the purpose of life is, people are confused. We see their confusion by the type of answers we receive.
Youths may say, I live for booze and bikinis. The middle-aged professional might say, I live to save enough for a comfortable retirement. The old man would probably say, I have been asking why I am here most of my life. If there is a purpose, I do not care anymore. And perhaps the most common answer will be, I really don’t know!
How, then, do you discover the purpose of life? We basically have two options. The first is to let human reason – the celebrated achievement of the Enlightenment – guide us. After all, the Enlightenment gave us modern science based on careful observation of the natural world. But have post-Enlightenment philosophers figured it out? Camus described life as “absurd”; Sartre spoke of “anguish, abandonment, and despair.”
To these Existentialists, life has no meaning. Darwinians thought the meaning of life was to reproduce. Will Durant, capturing the predicament of postmodern man, wrote, “Faith and hope disappear; doubt and despair are the order of the day… it is not our homes and our treasuries that are empty, it is our hearts.”
When it comes to the meaning of life, even the wisest philosophers are just guessing. Will Durant, the most noted philosopher of the last century, and Dr. Hugh Moorhead, a philosophy professor at Northeastern Illinois University, both wrote separate books titled The Meaning of Life. They wrote to the best-known philosophers, scientists, writers, politicians, and intellectuals of their time in the world, asking them, “What is the meaning of life?” Then they published their responses. Some offered their best guesses, some admitted that they just made up a purpose for life, and others were honest enough to say they were clueless. In fact, a number of famous intellectuals asked the authors to write back and tell them if the purpose of life was discovered!
Let the heavens ‘speak’
If the philosopher has no definitive answer, perhaps the answer can be found within the heart and mind that we ourselves possess. Have you ever looked at the open sky on a clear night? You will see an incalculable number of stars. Look through a telescope and you will see gigantic spiral galaxies, beautiful nebula where new stars are being formed, the remnants of ancient supernova explosion created in a stars final death throes, the magnificent rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter.
Is it possible not to be moved by the sight of these countless stars in the night sky shining like diamond dust on a bed of black velvet? Multitudes of stars beyond stars, stretching back; becoming so dense that they appear to merge into delicate wisps of sparkling mist. The grandeur humbles us, thrills us, inspires a craving for investigation, and calls for our contemplation. How did it come into being? How are we related to it, and what is our place in it? Can we hear the heavens “speak” to us?
“In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of night and day,- there are indeed Signs for men of understanding, men who celebrate the praises of God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and contemplate the wonders of creation in the heavens and the earth, With the thought: “Our Lord! not for naught Hast, you created all this! Glory to you! Give us salvation from the penalty of the Fire.”
When we read a book, we accept that an author exists. When we see a house, we accept that a builder exists. Both of these things were made with a purpose by those who made them. The design, order, and complexity of the universe, as well as the world around us, are evidence of the existence of a supreme intelligence, a perfect designer. All the heavenly bodies are controlled by precise laws of physics. Can there be laws without a lawmaker? Rocket scientist Dr. von Braun said:
“The natural laws of the universe are so precise that we have no difficulty building a spaceship to fly to the moon and can time the flight with the precision of a fraction of a second. These laws must have been set by somebody.”
Paul Davies, a professor of physics, concludes that mans existence is not a mere quirk of fate. He states: “We are truly meant to be here.” And he says regarding the universe: “Through my scientific work, I have come to believe more and more strongly that the physical universe is put together with an ingenuity so astonishing that I cannot accept it merely as a brute fact. There must, it seems to me, be a deeper level of explanation.”
The universe, the earth, and living things on the earth all give silent testimony to an intelligent, powerful Creator.
If we were made by a Creator, then surely that Creator must have had a reason, a purpose, in creating us. Thus, it is important that seek to know Gods purpose for our existence. After coming to the realization of this purpose, we can choose whether we want to live in harmony with it. But is it possible to know what is expected from us left to our own devices without any communication from the Creator? It is natural that God Himself would inform us of this purpose, especially if we are expected to fulfill it.
The alternative to speculation: Ask God
This brings us to the second option: the alternative to speculation about the meaning and purpose of life is the revelation. The easiest way to discover the purpose of an invention is to ask the inventor. To discover the purpose of your life, ask God.
Can Christianity answer the question?
In Christianity, the meaning of life is rooted in faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ, in finding Jesus as Savior. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
However, the proposition is not without serious problems. First, if this is the purpose of creation and the precondition for eternal life, why was it not taught by the prophets to all the nations of the world? Second, had God turned into man close to the time of Adam all mankind would have had an equal chance to eternal life, unless those before the time of Jesus had another purpose for their existence! Third, how can people today who have not heard of Jesus fulfill the Christian purpose of creation? Naturally, such a purpose is too narrow and goes against divine justice.
Islam is the response to humanities search for meaning. The purpose of creation for all men and women for all times has been one: that is to know and worship God the Only One. He teaches us that every human being is born conscious of God:
“When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam – from their loins – their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): ‘Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?’- They said: ‘Yea! We do testify!’ (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: ‘Of this we were never mindful’: Or lest ye should say: ‘Our fathers before us may have taken false gods, but we are (their) descendants after them: wilt Thou then destroy us because of the deeds of men who were futile?’”
The Prophet of Islam teaches us that God created this primordial need in human nature at the time Adam was made. God took a covenant from Adam when He created him. God extracted all of Adams descendants who were yet to be born, generation after generation, spread them out, and took a covenant from them. He addressed their souls directly, making them bear witness that He was their Lord. Since God made all human beings swear to His Lordship when He created Adam, this oath is imprinted on the human soul even before it enters the fetus, and so a child is born with a natural belief in the Oneness of God.
This natural belief is called fitra in Arabic. Consequently, every person carries the seed of belief in the Oneness of God that lies deeply buried under layers of negligence and dampened by social conditioning. If the child were left alone, it would grow up conscious of God – a single Creator – but all children are affected by their environment.
Prophet Muhammad said “Each child is born in a state of fitra, but his parents make him a Jew or a Christian. It is like the way an animal gives birth to a normal offspring. Have you noticed any young born mutilated before you mutilate them?”
So, just as the child’s body submits to physical laws, set by God in nature, its soul submits naturally to the fact that God is its Lord and Creator. However, its parents condition it to follow their own way, and the child is not mentally capable of resisting it. The religion which the child follows at this stage is one of custom and upbringing, and God does not hold it to account for this religion. When a child matures into an adult, he or she must now follow the religion of knowledge and reason. As adults, people must now struggle between their natural disposition towards God and their desires in order to find the correct path.
The call of Islam is directed to this primordial nature, the natural disposition, the imprint of God on the soul, the fitra, which caused the souls of every living being to agree that He Who made them was their Lord, even before the heavens and earth were created: “I have only created Jinns and men, that they may worship Me.”
The basic message which God has revealed through all prophets, from the time of Adam to the last of the prophets, Muhammad was the same one “For We assuredly sent amongst every People a messenger, with the Command, ‘worship Allah, and eschew Evil’: of the People were some whom Allah guided, and some on whom error became inevitably established”.
The original sin
The concept of original sin is completely foreign to Judaism and Eastern Christianity, having achieved acceptance in only the Western Church.
Furthermore, Christian and Islamic concepts of sin are virtual opposites with respect to certain nuances. For example, there is no concept of “sinning in the mind” in Islam; to a Muslim, an evil thought becomes a good deed when a person refuses to act upon it.
Overcoming and dismissing the evil thoughts which forever assail our minds is considered deserving of reward rather than punishment. Islamically speaking, an evil thought only becomes sinful when fulfilled.
Conceiving good deeds is more contrary to the base nature of man. Since our creation, if not bound by societal or religious restrictions, humankind has historically dined on the banquet of life with lust and abandon.
The orgies of self-indulgence that have carpeted the corridors of history envelop not only individuals and small communities but even major world powers which ate their fill of deviancy to the point of self-destruction.
Sodom and Gomorrah may top most lists, but the greatest powers of the ancient world-to include the Greek, Roman and Persian empires, as well as those of Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great – certainly, bear dishonorable mention. But while examples of communal decadence are innumerable, cases of individual corruption are exponentially more common.
So, good thoughts are not always the first instinct of humankind. As such, the Islamic understanding is that the very conception of good deeds is worthy of reward, even if not acted upon. When a person actually commits a good deed, Allah multiplies the reward even further.
The concept of original sin simply does not exist in Islam, and never has. For the Christian readers, the question is not whether the concept of original sin exists in the present day, but whether it existed during the period of Christian origins. Specifically, did Jesus teach it?
Apparently not. Whoever dreamt up the concept, it certainly wasn’t Jesus, for he reportedly taught, “Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven”.
We may well wonder how “for of such” could be “the kingdom of heaven” if the unbaptized are hell‑bound. Children are either born with original sin or are bound for the kingdom of heaven. The church can’t have it both ways. Ezekiel 18:20 records, “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son.
The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”
Deuteronomy 24:16 repeats the point. The objection may be raised that this is Old Testament, but it’s not older than Adam! If original sin dated from Adam and Eve, one wouldn’t find it disavowed in any scripture of any age!
Islam teaches that each person is born in a state of spiritual purity, but upbringing and the allure of worldly pleasures may corrupt us. Nonetheless, sins are not inherited and, for that matter, not even Adam and Eve will be punished for their sins, for God has forgiven them. And how can humankind inherit something that no longer exists?
No, Islamically speaking, all of us will be judged according to our deeds, for “man can have nothing but what he strives for” (TQM 53:38–39), and “Who receives guidance, receives it for his own benefit: who goes astray does so to his own loss: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another…”
Each person will bear responsibility for his or her actions, but no infant goes to hell for being unbaptized and burdened with sin as a birthright – or should we say a birth wrong?
Islam and Unitarians
Islam is a corrective to, not an aberration from, Christianity. ”Unitarians and Muslims both believe that the New Testament is an uncertain guide to the actual events of this early period. Muslims regard the books of the New Testament as mainly the product of the followers of Paul of Tarsus, who did not know Jesus, but whose followers became dominant.”
Those Muslims who are aware of Unitarianism see it primarily in theological terms – as those followers of Jesus who insist upon the unity of God. They might be nonplussed by the modern form Unitarianism has taken, a form which elevates reason to the level of revelation. Some Unitarians accept reason as the only arbiter in religion, others see reason as working with imperfect scripture, to indicate directions for life.
A long association
Historically, from the viewpoint of Islam, there has been a long association between Christian Unitarians and Muslims. Indeed when the seventh century Byzantine Emperor Heraclius first heard of Prophet Muhammad and his message, he thought it was just another Arian heresy coming from the depths of the desert. Byzantine Christianity had a long history of dealing with heresies and had used the old Roman technique of ferocious repression, usually coupled with the blinding and imprisonment of the heretic, to eradicate it. The diversity of religion was long seen as a threat to the state, a form of treason.
Muslims believe that the upsurge of Unitarian belief which occurred in western Europe from the 1500s was directly related to the translation of the Bible into the language of the people. While it had been kept from them, the priests and the pictures in churches told the Gospel story to them. Once the laity could actually read the Bible, they found no trace of pope, of priests, of bishops, of trinities, of riches amongst those who followed Jesus. It is this modern form of Unitarianism which became so influential in western Europe and thence in the United States. However, like these early modern readers of the Bible, Muslims trace the roots of Unitarian belief back to Jerusalem and the message of Jesus himself.
Unitarians and Muslims both believe that the New Testament is an uncertain guide to the actual events of this early period. This does not mean that there is not truth there, although details and interpretations vary. Muslims regard the books of the New Testament as mainly the product of the followers of Paul of Tarsus, who did not know Jesus, but whose followers became dominant. It is worthy of note that of the many epistles in the New Testament, only one comes from James, called the brother of Jesus, while the rest appear to come from Paul or his followers.
Jesus did not claim to be God. In the Gospel according to John it is recorded that Jesus said “…the Father is greater than I”That a prophet would even state this is unlikely as there was no doubt in the minds of the early followers of the Gospel that God was one and no human could claim divine attributes. Such notions were pagan. Like other prophets, Jesus explained that he was teaching only what God had given to him.
The difficulties of dealing with what is written in the Bible can be illustrated by the reporting of an example of Jesus’ teaching. In the King James Bible, Matthew 19:16-17 there is a very important exchange between Jesus and a young man.
“And behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life. And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one; that is God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”
This is a very clear indication that Jesus did not portray himself as God. Yet such clarity can be relatively easily clouded over by a slight change in translation. In a more recent version of the Bible, the Jerusalem Bible, the exchange is translated as follows: “And there was a man who came to him and asked, “Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
James the just
The next leader of the Community of the Gospel, James the Just, unlike Paul of Tarsus, lived and walked with Jesus. Leadership was passed, according to the history of the church, to James the Righteous, John and Peter. James, the brother of Jesus, was chosen by the others as leader of the community or, as Eusebius says, “Bishop of Jerusalem”. In the Gospel of Thomas, a copy of the teachings of Jesus which was not included in the Christian Bible, it mentions the importance of James. Saying 12 reads: “The disciples said to Jesus, ‘We know that you are going to leave us. Who will be our leader?’ Jesus said to them, ‘No matter where you are, you are to go to James the Just….”
Over the centuries there appears to have been a deliberate attempt to obscure the role of James the Just. Eusebius, a third century Bishop in Palestine wrote of him “Because of his unsurpassable righteousness he was called the Righteous and Oblias – in our own language ‘Bulwark of the People, and Righteousness’ – fulfilling the declarations of the prophets regarding him.” Like the followers of Unitarianism after him, James was a defender of justice and of the people.
Only one letter of James to the early church is preserved in the New Testament. Some Christian scholars argue that it was written as a reply to the letters of Paul. It was certainly directed at the followers of Jesus from amongst the Jews, those who accepted the Law of Torah. He warned the believers not to make distinctions between people on the basis of social class as this was breaking the Law. If a man breaks one part of the Law, he argued, it is the same as breaking it all. He also warned that belief in the One God was not enough. The demons believe as well. What is necessary are good deeds. This was in direct contradiction to Paul’s teaching that faith was enough for salvation.
He wrote in chapter 5: “Well now, you rich! Lament. Weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is rotting, your clothes are all moth-eaten. All your gold and your silver are corroding away and the same corrosion will be a witness against you and eat into your body. It is like a fire which you have stored up for the final days. Can you hear crying out against you the wages which you kept back from the laborers mowing your fields”? The cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord Sabaoth. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter, you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the upright and killed them; they offered you no resistance.”
The different treatment of Paul and James by Rome
In Acts chapter 21 from verse 17, there is an account of a demand from James and the elders, that Paul should show that those who had said he told people to disobey Moses were in error by undertaking public penance in the Temple, according to the Law. In the Temple, he was recognized and denounced as one who preached against the Law. A riot ensued. He was put under the protection of the occupying Roman troops, as a Roman citizen. He had to be taken by those troops to safety in Caesarea where he remained in the Governor’s Palace, under house arrest for two years. While there he had frequent discussions with the governor Felix until Felix was replaced in about 60 CE.
The new governor Festus visited Jerusalem early in his term of office and the case of Paul was again raised. Called before his tribunal, Paul again argued that he had committed no offense against the Jewish law, the Temple or Caesar. When Festus suggested he appear before him in Jerusalem, Paul appealed to Caesar so that he would not have to return there.
The Roman puppet, King Agrippa II and his sister Bernice, with whom he was widely believed to be living in an incestuous relationship, visited Caesarea not long after this where they met Paul. The strength of the links between these puppet Herodians and the Romans is indicated by the fact that Bernice later on became the mistress of Titus, second in command to Vespasian at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem and later Emperor of Rome.
Paul speaks to Agrippa as to a fellow believer. Agrippa, according to the author of Acts, is so moved by Paul’s eloquence that he declares ‘A little more, and your arguments would make a Christian of me.’ (Acts 26:28) ‘And Agrippa remarked to Festus, ‘the man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’
A rather different attitude from that of Herod the Tetrarch to John the Baptist or of Pharaoh to Moses. The ideology of Paul is revealed by such writing. He has thrown off what the followers of the Law regarded as fundamental, advocacy of the truth, especially before tyrants. He had indeed shown himself to be one of the ‘seekers after smooth things’ who are so strongly condemned in the Dead Sea Scrolls.
The nature of these Roman rulers and their puppets is indicated by the report of Josephus in “The Jewish War”. After the fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE, and the capture of thousands of its inhabitants, Titus visited Caesarea on the coast and then went to Caesarea Philippi ‘…where he stayed a long time exhibiting shows of every kind. Many of the prisoners perished here, some thrown to wild beasts, others forced to meet each other in full-scale battles.’ Another 2,500 were similarly dealt with, some being burnt alive, to celebrate his brother’s birthday in Caesarea a few months later.
At such time, when Roman magistrates were severely persecuting the followers of Jesus, Paul wrote in his Letter to the Roman Christians:
“You must all obey the governing authorities. Since all government comes from God, the civil authorities were appointed by God, and so anyone who resists authority is rebelling against God’s decision, and such an act is bound to be punished. Good behavior is not afraid of magistrates; only criminals have anything to fear… The State is there to serve God for your benefit.”
When Festus died unexpectedly in 62 CE, the position of Roman Governor was temporarily unfilled. Agrippa took the opportunity to have James the Righteous murdered. He was tricked into appearing on the parapet of the Temple, was thrown down and beaten to death. While Agrippa may have been sympathetic towards Paul, he showed no such feelings for the leader of the Jerusalem Community, whom even Paul recognized as one of the ‘Pillars of the Church’. This provides further substantiation for the view that James represented the party which threatened the power of the tyrants, while Paul represented something else. Advocates of justice have never been popular with dictators.
James the Righteous, ‘the Bulwark of the People’, was martyred for his uncompromising adherence to the Law and the Gospel of Jesus.
This early community of the gospel was led by relatives of Jesus for many years. It was called the “Church of the Circumcision” by the Greek Christians, for all the leaders of the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem until 135 C.E. were Hebrews and followers of the Law. The line ended when the Roman Emperor Hadrian expelled all Jews from Jerusalem. They had risen up in full-scale revolt against Roman rule but were defeated. The Jerusalem Community dispersed in Transjordan and Syria. They were known as “the Poor” or in Hebrew the Ebionim. The city was destroyed and rebuilt as Aelia. It was subsequently inhabited by Gentiles and the leadership of the church there passed to those who followed the tradition of Paul and the teaching that the pagan tyrants should be obeyed.
The Jews did not return to Jerusalem until the Muslims captured it from Byzantine rule in the seventh century.
These early followers of the Gospel of Jesus are regarded as people who submitted to God, i.e. they were “Muslims”. (Editor’s note – Although we tend to think of a Muslim as being someone who adheres to the organized religion of Islam, technically “Muslim” simply means someone who submits to the will of God, even in the pre-Islamic era). The name the Poor or Ebionim indicated not their financial situation but rather their acceptance of total dependence upon God, a notion familiar to modern Muslims. That, of course, does not assume passivity in face of the world, but rather effort combined with patience. They were also amongst those who asserted the sovereignty of God, in contrast with those who accepted the sovereignty of the Divine Emperor.
Two hundred years later, at about the time of the Council of Nicaea, which Eusebius the respectable Bishop of Caesarea attended, there were recurring “heresies” which Eusebius vehemently denounced. They were mainly arguments that Jesus was a human prophet with a message from God. The now totally Pauline dominated church regarded the teaching that Jesus was a human being, as an ancient “heresy”, something invented. The teachings of the Ebionim had been forgotten. This so-called heresy, in fact, a truth, was revived by Paul of Samosata who had been appointed the bishop in 264 C.E.
Paul of Samosata taught that Jesus was a man, he denied the doctrine of incarnation, i.e. that God became a man, and he refused to allow hymns to Christ to be sung in the churches because he considered them to be innovations.
The Paulician view of Jesus and the Islamic view of Jesus are identical. The Paulicians, followers of Paul of Samosata, lasted as an identifiable group for hundreds of years and were subjected to continuous persecution for their beliefs by the official church. The Muslims, when they came upon the scene, recognized that these Paulicians were allies against the Byzantine Empire. They combined with the Paulicians in the area around Constantinople in resistance to the imperial army. Many of the Paulicians accepted Islam, recognizing the similarities to their own Unitarian ideas. A small number called themselves Paulicians even after they had accepted Islam.
Arianism and Spain
When the Muslims entered Spain in 711, at the request of the Christian Governor of Tangier and Ceuta, Julian called Ilyan by the Arabs, they found a population hostile to the ruling King Roderick, who was supported by the official Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church had only recently been able to establish its control of the monarchy, for Visigoth Spain had been Arian (Unitarian) for many centuries. The newly Catholic monarchy wanted to suppress the sources of dissent – the Jews and the Arians. Just 18 years before the arrival of the Muslims a Jewish revolt had been crushed by this king, with much bloodshed. They welcomed the Muslims.
The culture of Arianism had also remained strong in the minds of the people and the clergy. For the first time in the spread of Islam, large numbers of clergy accepted Muhammad as a prophet, a stunning example to their laity. While many remained Christian, large numbers of locals became Muslims.
Islamic culture became the fashionable culture and one monk, Alvar, complained in 854 CE that the young Christian men were following the fashions, the education and the philosophy of the Chaldeans (Muslims).
Tudors and Stuarts
Leaping forward 800 years, in his recent book Islam in Britain 1558-168, Nabil Matar, a Christian Palestinian, was interested in following up reports of English converts to Islam in England but found the issue confounded with Unitarian matters. He writes of the perceived link between Unitarianism and Islam at that time.
“What makes the search for possible English converts to Islam in England more complicated is the imprecision with which the term “Mahometan” was used. It referred not only to Muslims but sometimes to the Christians who did not believe in the Trinity and was therefore suspected of leaning towards Islam.
“If any Christians turn Mahometans,” wrote Thomas Calvert in his translation/elaboration of a rabbi’s statement of conversion to Christianity, “they begin with Arianism and Socinianism, and then Turcism (Islam) is not so strange a thing.”
Such an association between Unitarianism and Islam was common in this period… Evidently, those who ventured into anti-Trinitarian theologies were viewed as crypto-Muslims: as a result, orthodox theologians started seeing Muslims wherever they saw Unitarians.”
“…the Unitarians, or “Socinians,” as they were derisively called, were the most active group… to proclaim that Islam was closer to their theology than the Protestant or the Catholic traditions. For them, Muslims were religious allies who proved the accuracy of their interpretation of the Christian Scriptures because they concurred with them in rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity. Although the Unitarians recognized what they termed as “errors” in the Quran, they praised Muslim theology because it had maintained, unlike the post-Chalcedon tradition in Christianity, the unity of God.
In A Letter of Resolution concerning the Doctrine of the Trinity and Incarnation (1693), an anonymous writer pointed to Muslim theology and military supremacy as a vindication of Socinian Unitarian arguments. In the world, he stated, Muslims were more numerous than Christians, not because of force but because of the Muslim proclamation of “one Truth in the Alcoran, the Unity of God.” Islam was stronger than Christianity because its doctrine was correct and Christianity’s was wrong. Indeed, when Christians had tried to convert the Tartars in the thirteenth century, he noted, the latter rejected the faith because of its Trinitarianism and subsequently espoused Islam because of its unity. …for the Socinian writer…Islam was a corrective to, not an aberration from, Christianity.”
A closeness in theology, a positive attitude to rationality in religion, and opposition to the cruelty and suppression involved in the religious intolerance of the Inquisition-ridden Catholic Church of that time, meant that even in those less tolerant times when difference in ideology was usually seen as wickedness, many Unitarians saw that there was a link with the world of Islam.
There was a great flowering of religious investigation and dissent during the European Enlightenment, that time in which the old accepted traditions began to be questioned as never before. It signaled the end of feudalism in political life, economic life and religion. Ideas about the equality of man, the right of all people to participate in government, the stupidity of monarchy, freedom of investigation and expression became its banners.
Defenders of the Rights of Man, Unitarians like Joseph Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen, were forced to flee from Britain by the reactionaries during the French Revolution. He found liberty in American democracy. Thomas Jefferson, another great Unitarian who did his own translation of the New Testament, died in 1826. He chose as his epitaph “Here was buried Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence, of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and Father of the University of Virginia.” Political liberty, religious toleration, and serious education, three pillars of the Enlightenment and of Unitarianism.
The unity of God and the desire for justice
Why did the Unitarian follower of Jesus, James the Righteous, become remembered for 2000 years for his role as ‘Bulwark of the People’? Why were the Ebionim suppressed and denounced as heretics by the Pauline church? Why did the Byzantine government try to exterminate the Paulicians, who followed Paul of Samosata? Why did so many Spaniards reject the official church and accept Islam in the eighth century? Why did the Trinitarians in England in the 1600s link Unitarian ideas with drifting into “Turcism”?
Why are ideas like those of Thomas Jefferson so respected by modern Muslims? It had much to do with the rejection of the Pauline Church. With the dispersal of the Community of the Gospel from Jerusalem, the ebionim declared heretical, Christianity became the quietistic religion advocated by Paul, accepting the authority of the Roman Emperor. In fact Paul has been denounced by Unitarians, since the time of the Ebionim as a renegade and apostate.
This Pauline church joined in the general anti-Jewish attitudes of the Empire following the Jewish Revolts of 66 CE and 135 CE. The anti-Jewish tone of much of the New Testament can be traced to this disassociation of the Pauline Christians from Judaism and the desire to appease the Roman authorities as to the loyalty of the Christians to the State. The writing up of the role of the Roman authorities in protecting Paul from the Jews which can be found in the Acts of the Apostles may have been rooted in this same desire.
This personal religion in time became the State Church of Constantine, in which Jesus became intertwined with Sol Invictus, the Sun god. The East, the source of the Rising Sun, became the direction towards which Christians prayed and the rays of the sun around the head of the elect denoted holiness in religious art. Far from challenging the pretensions to the sovereignty of the Emperor, this religion supported them, for the state became the mighty protector of Pauline orthodoxy. The Emperor became God’s representative on earth. Heresy, a deviation from official doctrine, became a criminal offence and opposition to the state became a sin against the church.
In 325 CE with the Council of Nicaea, the state religion became Trinitarians and the Unitarian view of Jesus was suppressed. From thenceforth, adherence to Unitarianism was a dangerous ideology, resulting in the martyrdom of many a Unitarian. Unitarianism until very recent times became identified with ideological rebellion against the whole apparatus of the society which was inherited from Rome.
From the Islamic viewpoint, declaration of the unity of God involves acceptance of the sovereignty of God. In the New TestamentJesus summarises the Law with the statement “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.” When put into effect, such a philosophy does not sit well with oppression.
There is no god but God
The notion that there is no god, no object worthy of worship, is halfway to Islam. The last bit “illallaah” (except the One God) is, however, the clincher. This is the Islamic declaration of faith in the Unity and the Sovereignty of God.
The proclamation that there is no god but the One God is meant to remove for all time from the political spectrum those who claim this role of godhood. The formal declaration of the slogan does not bring this about of course, but it is the aim of the prophets.
There is great depth in what it emphasizes is NOT god, i.e. tyranny over the masses by emperors, kings, dictators and priests. One scholar, Maulana Maududi, much maligned in recent times, explains the political implications in his address delivered in Lahore Oct. 1939 “The Political Theory of Islam”.
Amongst all creation it is only humans who can and do claim godhood in relation to their fellow beings: “The desire for godhood can take root only in the head of man. It is only man’s excessive lust for power and desire for exploitation that prompts him to impose himself on other people as a god and compel their obedience, force them to bow down before him in reverential awe and make them instruments for his self-aggrandizement. The pleasure of posing as a god is more delicious than anything that man has yet been able to discover.”
Maududi writes of the two types of people who seek this status of a god. They can be like Pharaoh, with state power, a system of law courts and police and an army. In the past, this was associated with direct claims to divine status. Emperor Augustus was proclaimed a god by the Roman Senate. Pharaoh was the living god, an incarnation of Horus. In modern times they are more likely to be a president for life or the founder of a national ideology with a greater than human status. Maududi writes of this type of aspirant to godhood:
“For instance, there was Pharaoh who was so drunk with power and so proud of his empire that he proclaimed to the inhabitants of Egypt: ‘I am your highest lord’ and ‘I do not know any other objects of worship for you but myself.’
When the Prophet Moses approached him with a demand for the liberation of his people and told him that he too should surrender himself to the Lord of the universe, Pharaoh replied that since he had the power to cast him into prison, Moses should rather acknowledge him as his object of worship.
Similarly, there was another king (Nimrod) who had an argument with the Prophet Abraham. Ponder a little carefully over the words in which the Quran has narrated this episode. It says:
“Think of him who had an argument with Abraham about his Lord, because God had given him the kingdom; how, when Abraham said; ‘My Lord is He who gives life and causes death.’ He answered: ‘I give life and cause death’. Abraham said: ‘God causes the sun to rise in the east – can you make it rise in the west.’ So was the resister of truth shamed into silence.”
Nimrod’s claim was based on the absolute power he had over his subjects, over their lives and property. That is why he demanded that Abraham should serve and obey him.
“This claim to godhood which Pharaoh and Nimrod had put forth was by no means peculiar to them. Rulers all over the world in the past, as in the present, have made such claims.”
The second species of claimants to godhood are those who use the gullibility of the people or their ignorance and superstition to assert that they are in some way the mouthpiece of God. These people may claim that they too obey God but that they are the intermediaries through whom humanity must approach Him. They alone must carry out the sacred ceremonies and they alone can guide us:
“Constituting themselves the mouthpieces of God they start dictating to others what is lawful (halal) and what is not (haram). In this way their word becomes law and they force people to obey their own commands instead of those of God. This is the source of that Brahmanism and Pope-like authority which has prevailed under various names and in diverse forms in all parts of the world from time immemorial down to the present day, and in consequence of which certain families, races and classes have imposed their dominion over large masses of men and women.”
According to Maududi, “…the root cause of evil and mischief in the world is the domination of man over man, be it direct or indirect. This was the origin of all troubles and even today this remains the main source of all the plentiful vices which have brought untold misery on the suffering masses all the world over.”
The prophets throughout all history have called us to the path of liberation, away from the slavery which worship of invented gods creates. This call was always in the past and is still today, accompanied by hostility from those whose power was or is threatened. The threat is real. It means the end of personal power over others, the end of domination. Maududi explains it in these terms:
“This was the radical reformation effected by the prophets in the life of humanity. They aimed at the demolition of man’s supremacy over man. Their real mission was to deliver man from this injustice, this slavery to false gods, this tyranny of man over man, this exploitation of the weaker by the stronger. Their object was to thrust back to their proper limits those who had overstepped them and to raise to the proper level those who had been forced down from it. They endeavored to evolve a social organization based on human equality in which man should be neither the slave nor the master of his fellow-beings and in which all men should become the slaves of God.”
The search for justice is an intrinsic part of this acceptance of the sovereignty of God and the root from which the early Unitarians took their stand. They rejected the confusion of the message of Jesus with obscurantist theology, looked at what is given of his message to the world in the Gospels, and sought to defend that message. The confusion of the doctrine of original sin and the need for God to sacrifice His Son to Himself to remove that sin as the core of the message of Jesus was rejected. It was the Gospel of justice which was his purpose.
The confused Trinitarian notion of God, the emperor as the shadow of God on earth, the identification of the state with one religious view, and the oppression this necessitated from the very beginning, is what each revival of Unitarianism fought against.
Put simply, love of God and love of one’s neighbor means love of humanity, not irrational obedience to state and church. Here in this church, the slogan above the front door, “Seek the Truth and serve Humanity” summarizes this quest.
Shared ideas of Unitarians and Muslims
We share the understanding that human beings as such enjoy an intrinsic dignity which must inform all of our philosophies and our actions. The right of those human beings to sustenance, to the means of a respectable and enjoyable life, to be educated, to be able to express themselves freely and to be consulted in affairs of their community are essential.
The status of the human is illustrated in chapter 2: “And behold, We said to the angels: “Bow down to Adam” and they bowed down. Not so Satan: he refused and was haughty: He was of those who reject Faith.”
Human beings in their natural state are higher in dignity than the angels. The one who believed he was higher than the human because he was made of fire, Satan, thus became the first racist.
To Islam, human beings are representatives of God equipped with free will. All human beings are equal. The only distinction made by God is in their degree of righteousness. Islam allows no distinction amongst people on the basis of tribe or race, ethnic group or amount of wealth. The Muslims are different from other people only in that they are conscious of the importance of submission to God’s decrees.
No one has the right to oppress people, to take away their freedoms, for to do so is to take away those rights given by God. The right to choose, the right to know, the right to sustenance are intrinsic human rights. Those who take them away are posing as gods.
Love of justice, part of which is the protection of God-given rights, is another shared ideal of Unitarians and Muslims. The Quran orders Muslims “O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both. Follow not the desires (of your hearts), lest you swerve, and if you (distort) justice or decline to do justice, truly Allah is well acquainted with all that you do.”
Unitarians battled slavery in the USA and battled racism in the Civil Rights campaigns of the 1960s. In Britain, the USA and Australia, they have long been proponents of peace and opponents of the war. The teachings of Islam on racism are clear. It has never been a part of Muslim societies and even today in the Dark Age of Islam, it is unknown. In his last sermon on the final pilgrimage, Muhammad specifically forbade any idea that an Arab was superior to a non-Arab, or a non-Arab was superior to an Arab, or that a black was superior to a white or that a white was superior to a black. The only distinction is in righteousness and that is known to God.
Although slavery was not immediately abolished by the Quran, it was restricted so that it declined and was never of the type of the post-Roman world with the horrible latifundia (large Roman and post-Roman agricultural estates) on which human beings were treated like beasts of burden. To free a slave was a popular good deed and sometimes slaves were bought to be freed. Prisoners of war were slaves and were freed if they were ransomed, according to the common practice of the time, of if they taught a Muslim to read.
A Hadeeth of Muhammad indicates that the position of the slave was not to be onerous. They were expected to have the same standard of living as the master. “I saw Abu Dhar Al-Ghifari wearing a cloak, and his slave, too, was wearing a cloak. We asked him about that (i.e. how both were wearing similar cloaks). He replied, “Once I abused a man and he complained about me to the Prophet. The Prophet asked me, ‘Did you abuse him by slighting his mother?’ He added, ‘Your slaves are your brothers upon whom Allah has given you authority. So, if one has one’s brothers under one’s control, one should feed them with the like of what one eats and clothe them with the like of what one wears. You should not overburden them with what they cannot bear, and if you do so, help them (in their hard job).’
In “Encountering Islam,” A sermon by the Rev. Roger Bertschausen, Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Wisconsin, January 25-26, 2003, a similar evaluation is given.
He writes, after commenting on our disbelief in the Trinity and our denial of the notion of original sin: “Another similarity to Unitarianism and Universalism is Islam’s view that religion is far more about practice and deeds than about theology and creeds. Islam is a religion primarily of action and works—just like Unitarian Universalism. How we live in the world is the crux of both us and Muslim spirituality.
The heart of Islam is action. This action is embodied in the Five Pillars: the declaration of faith, saying prayers five times a day, supporting the poor through giving away 2.5 percent of one’s total wealth and assets each year (not just income), the annual month-long Ramadan fast, and making the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one’s life if it’s at all possible.
So take the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus out of Christianity, get rid of belief in original sin and the resurrection of Jesus, focus on practice and deeds rather than theology and creeds, and you have not just Islam, but Unitarian Universalism. Ours are truly kindred faiths.”
The Quran and Muhammad
The great difference between us is that Muslims view the Quran as the revealed word of God and Muhammad as the Messenger of God. His life, his actions, his speech and his silence are taken as exemplary by all Muslims. The role of his Companions, those who lived with him, worked with him and discussed issues with him, is also highly significant. They passed on the Hadeeth to us, the sayings of Muhammad (p) which are taken as elucidating the Quran.
We will not agree on many matters, and Muslims accept that this is part of the world we live in. We are told in the Quran: “If it had been your Lord’s Will, they would all have believed, all who are on earth! Will you then compel humankind, against its will, to believe!” –
Of course, human beings cannot and should not be compelled to believe. We are free to make our own choices, a God-given right. And to make matters crystal clear, compulsion is specifically prohibited: “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from Error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah hath grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah heareth and knoweth all things.”
Muslims have always joined with other people of good will in good things. On the 90% of what we agree upon there is a firm foundation for common action, particularly in pursuit of justice.
Avoid Fitnah! Don’t be Deceived by the West and the Ikhwaanis.
Are The Following People Bootlickers of the Wicked Rulers?
Al-Imam Abu Daud reported in his “Sunan” from Aasim bn Bahdalah who said:
“سَمِعْتُ الْحَجَّاجَ، وَهُوَ عَلَى الْمِنْبَرِ يَقُولُ اتَّقُوا اللَّهَ مَا اسْتَطَعْتُمْ لَيْسَ فِيهَا مَثْنَوِيَّةٌ وَاسْمَعُوا وَأَطِيعُوا لَيْسَ فِيهَا مَثْنَوِيَّةٌ لأَمِيرِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ عَبْدِ الْمَلِكِ وَاللَّهِ لَوْ أَمَرْتُ النَّاسَ أَنْ يَخْرُجُوا مِنْ بَابٍ مِنْ أَبْوَابِ الْمَسْجِدِ فَخَرَجُوا مِنْ بَابٍ آخَرَ لَحَلَّتْ لِي دِمَاؤُهُمْ وَأَمْوَالُهُمْ
(I heard al-Hajjaj say on the pulpit: Fear Allah as much as possible; there is no exception in it.
Hear and obey the Commander of the Faithful ‘Abd al-Malik; there is no exception in it.
I swear by Allah if I order people to come but from a certain gate of the mosque, and they come out from another gate, their blood and their properties will be lawful for me.
I swear by Allah, if I seize the tribe of Rabi’ah for the tribe of Mudar, it is lawful for me from Allah.
Who will excuse me and not blame me, if requite the slave of Hudhail (i.e. ‘Abd Allah b. Mas’ud) who thinks that his reading of the Quran is from Allah.
I swear by Allah, it ( Mas’ud’s recitation) is a rhymed prose of the Bedouins. Allah did not reveal it to his Prophet (Peace be upon him).
Who will excuse me for these clients (non-Arab) and will not blame me!. One of them thinks that he will throw a stone and when it falls (on the ground) he says: Something new has happened. I swear by Allah, I shall leave them (ruined and perished) like the day that passes away.)
Al-Imam al-Bukhari also recorded in his “as-Sahih from az-Zubair bn ‘Adiy who said,
“أَتَيْنَا أَنَسَ بْنَ مَالِكٍ فَشَكَوْنَا إِلَيْهِ مَا نَلْقَى مِنَ الْحَجَّاجِ فَقَالَ ” اصْبِرُوا، فَإِنَّهُ لاَ يَأْتِي عَلَيْكُمْ زَمَانٌ إِلاَّ الَّذِي بَعْدَهُ شَرٌّ مِنْهُ، حَتَّى تَلْقَوْا رَبَّكُمْ ”. سَمِعْتُهُ مِنْ نَبِيِّكُمْ صلى الله عليه وسلم.”
(We went to Anas bin Malik and complained about the wrong we were suffering at the hand of Al- Hajjaj. Anas bin Malik said,
“Be patient till you meet your Lord, for no time will come upon you but the time following it will be worse than it. I heard that from the Prophet”)
This is al-Hajjaaj that killed a lot of scholars such Abdullah bn az-Zubair ( a companion) , Saeed bn Jubair and others. He also wished Ibn Mas’ud were alive so that he could deal with him.
He wronged a lot of people to the extent that some gathered themselves and organized a revolt against him. However, the revolt was not fruitful; rather they were mercilessly dealt with.
Ibn Sa’d reported from Suleiman bn Aliyy ar-Rab’ii who said,
” لَمَّا كَانَتِ الْفِتْنَةُ ، فِتْنَةُ ابْنِ الأَشْعَثِ إِذْ قَاتَلَ الْحَجَّاجَ بْنَ يُوسُفَ ، انْطَلَقَ عُقْبَةُ بْنُ عَبْدِ الْغَافِرِ ، وَأَبُو الْجَوْزَاءِ ، وَعَبْدُ اللهِ بْنُ غَالِبٍ فِي نَفَرٍ مِنْ نُظَرَائِهِمْ .
فَدَخَلُوا عَلَى الْحَسَنِ ، فَقَالُوا : يَا أَبَا سَعِيدٍ ، مَا تَقُولُ فِي قِتَالِ هَذَا الطَّاغِيَةِ الَّذِي سَفْكَ الدَّمَ الْحَرَامَ ، وَأَخَذَ الْمَالَ الْحَرَامَ ، وَتَرَكَ الصَّلاَةَ ، وَفَعَلَ وَفَعَلَ ؟ قَالَ : وَذَكَرُوا مِنْ فِعْلِ الْحَجَّاجِ.
قَالَ : فَقَالَ الْحَسَنُ : أَرَى أَنْ لاَ تُقَاتِلُوهُ ؛ فَإِنَّهَا إِنْ تَكُنْ عُقُوبَةً مِنَ اللهِ فَمَا أَنْتُمْ بِرَادِّي عُقُوبَةِ اللهِ بِأَسْيَافِكُمْ
قَالَ : فَخَرَجُوا مِنْ عِنْدِهِ وَهُمْ يَقُولُونَ : نُطِيعُ هَذَا الْعِلْجَ ؟ قَالَ : وَهُمْ قَوْمٌ عُرْبٌ.
قَالَ : وَخَرَجُوا مَعَ ابْنِ الأَشْعَثِ قَالَ : فَقُتِلُوا جَمِيعًا.”
(When the fitnah of Ibn al-Ash-‘ath happened when he fought al-Hajjaaj bn Yusuf. ‘Uqbah bn AbdilGaafir , Abul Jawzaai and Abdullah bn Gaalib set out together with a group of their counterparts.
They entered upon al-Hasan and said to him
” O Abu Sa’eed ! What do you see to fighting the tyrant who spilled the sacred blood, taken the sacred wealth, has abandoned the Salat and done so and so ? They mentioned of the acts of al-Hajjaaj .
He ( al-Hasan) said ” My opinion is that you should not fight him. If he is a punishment from Allah you can not ward off the punishment of Allah with your swords. And if he is a trial, be patient until Allah passes [His] judgment for He is the best of the Judges.
He said, they went out from his [ house] saying ” Are we going to follow the this ‘ilj ” He[ ar-Rab’ii] said ” And they Arab people”
He [ ar-Rab’ii] said, ” And they revolted [against al-Hajjaaj and they were all killed” )
Ibn Sa’d also reported in his ” at-Tabaqaat” that al-Basri said,
” إن هذه الفتنة إذا أقبلت عرفها كل عالم وإذا أدبرت عرفها كل جاهل ”
(When this turmoil approaches, the knowledgeable ones know it; however, when it leaves with its devastating effects, the ignorant ones come to realize it)
Ibn Abi Shaybah also reported in his ” Musannaf ” from Suwaid bn Gaflah who said,
” ﻗﺎﻝ ﻟﻲ ﻋﻤﺮ: ﻳﺎ ﺃﺑﺎ ﺃﻣﻴﺔ , ﺇﻧﻲ ﻟﺎ ﺃﺩﺭﻱ ﻟﻌﻠﻲ ﺃﻥ ﻟﺎ ﺃﻟﻘﺎﻙ ﺑﻌﺪ ﻋﺎﻣﻲ ﻫﺬﺍ , ﻓﺎﺳﻤﻊ ﻭﺃﻃﻊ ﻭﺇﻥ ﺃﻣﺮ ﻋﻠﻴﻚ ﻋﺒﺪ ﺣﺒﺸﻲ ﻣﺠﺪﻉ , ﺇﻥ ﺿﺮﺑﻚ ﻓﺎﺻﺒﺮ , ﻭﺇﻥ ﺣﺮﻣﻚ ﻓﺎﺻﺒﺮ , ﻭﺇﻥ ﺃﺭﺍﺩ ﺃﻣﺮﺍ ﻳﻨﺘﻘﺺ
Umar said to me ” O Abu Ummayah ! I don’t know if I may not meet you after this year. Listen to and obey [ the authorities] even if an Ethiopian slave, whose limbs have been cut, were to be imposed on you as a ruler.
Even if he beats you, be patient; even if he denies you your rights be patient.
However, if he wants from you something that will diminish your religion, say ” I am ready to listen and obey but my blood is in place of my religion ”
All these people scholars bootlickers of the wicked rulers? The answer to that is that they are acting according to the ahadith of the Prophet ( sallaa Allahu alayhi wa sallam) .
The Prophet ( sallaa Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said,
” يَكُونُ بَعْدِي أَئِمَّةٌ لاَ يَهْتَدُونَ بِهُدَاىَ وَلاَ يَسْتَنُّونَ بِسُنَّتِي وَسَيَقُومُ فِيهِمْ رِجَالٌ قُلُوبُهُمْ قُلُوبُ الشَّيَاطِينِ فِي جُثْمَانِ إِنْسٍ ”
( There will be leaders who will not be led by my guidance and who will not adopt my ways. There will be among them men who will have the hearts of devils in the bodies of human beings)
Hudhayfah then asked the Prophet ( sallaa Allahu alayhi wa sallam)
“كَيْفَ أَصْنَعُ يَا رَسُولَ اللَّهِ إِنْ أَدْرَكْتُ ذَلِكَ ؟ “
( What should I do O Messenger or Allah if I live till that time?”
Messenger of Allah responded ”
“ تَسْمَعُ وَتُطِيعُ لِلأَمِيرِ وَإِنْ ضُرِبَ ظَهْرُكَ وَأُخِذَ مَالُكَ فَاسْمَعْ وَأَطِع”
(You will listen to the Amir and carry out his orders; even if your back is flogged and your wealth is snatched, you should listen and obey.) This is in Sahih Muslim, kitab al-Imaarah, [the Book on Government ].
This, however, does not mean the unjust and tyrannical leaders are going to go scotfree on the day of resurrection.
Al-Bukhari reported that al-Hasan al-Basri reported from Ma’qil bn Yasaar that the Prophet ( sallaa Allahu alayhi wa sallam) said,
“مَا مِنْ وَالٍ يَلِي رَعِيَّةً مِنَ الْمُسْلِمِينَ،
“If any ruler having the authority to rule Muslim subjects dies while he has cheated them, Allah will forbid Paradise for him”
( Sahih al-Bukhari, kitab al-Ahkaam [ the Book of Judgements])
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This is a conversation that happened between a Muslim father and his 5-year-old son. For privacy reasons, they are not named.
A 5-year-old knows it.
I was flicking through the TV channels and came across a program that was showing some Buddha worship. My son suddenly said, “Papa I’m drawing this at school.” I looked at him in surprise and a bit shocked.
Then, he said, “Papa what are they doing?”
I said, “They are praying. We pray to Allāh. They are praying to Buddha.”
“Who is Buddha? Like Chinese Allāh?”
I chuckled and replied knowing too well where this is heading to, “No, remember there is only One Allāh.”
He asked, “Then why are they praying to a statue?”
Feeling intrigued that a 5 years old is able to raise this question yet millions do so without really questioning.
I replied, “Because they think Allāh is in the statue or the statue will help to connect them with Allāh.”
After some moments of silence, he said again something so simple to understand,
“But stones can’t help us, only Allāh can.”
All praises belong to Allāh alone for bestowing such innate wisdom in children, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the young ones have this natural disposition to believe in One God alone.
Let us, the parents, make sure their questions are answered with wisdom and good speech – the best of which is referring to the book of Allāh itself.
In the Qur’ān (29:17), Allāh tells us what Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) said to those who worshipped stones and idols:
إِنَّمَا تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ أَوْثَانًا وَتَخْلُقُونَ إِفْكًا إِنَّ الَّذِينَ تَعْبُدُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ لَا يَمْلِكُونَ لَكُمْ رِزْقًا فَابْتَغُوا عِندَ اللَّهِ الرِّزْقَ وَاعْبُدُوهُ وَاشْكُرُوا لَهُ إِلَيْهِ تُرْجَعُونَ
“You worship besides Allāh only idols, and you only invent falsehood. Verily, those whom you worship besides Allāh have no power to give you provision, so seek your provision from Allāh (Alone), and worship Him (Alone), and be grateful to Him. To Him (Alone) you will be brought back.”
So, a message to the non-Muslims who pray to idols in the hope they will get God Almighty’s mercy, how can a stone listen to you? Why do you need to ask help from a dead person, no matter how pious the person was when he lived? Allah says in the Qur’an (35:22):
وَمَا يَسۡتَوِى الۡاَحۡيَآءُ وَلَا الۡاَمۡوَاتُ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰهَ يُسۡمِعُ مَنۡ يَّشَآءُ ۚ وَمَاۤ اَنۡتَ بِمُسۡمِعٍ مَّنۡ فِى الۡقُبُوۡرِ
“And not equal are the living and the dead. Indeed, Allah causes to hear whom He wills, but you cannot make hear those in the graves.”
Why do you not simply ask the One who created you and everything between the heavens and the earth? After all, can there be anyone who can do anything without His will, so why do we need an intermediary when Allah, God Almighty, Himself is telling us that (2:186):
وَاِذَا سَاَلَـكَ عِبَادِىۡ عَنِّىۡ فَاِنِّىۡ قَرِيۡبٌؕ اُجِيۡبُ دَعۡوَةَ الدَّاعِ اِذَا دَعَانِ فَلۡيَسۡتَجِيۡبُوۡا لِىۡ وَلۡيُؤۡمِنُوۡا بِىۡ لَعَلَّهُمۡ يَرۡشُدُوۡنَ
“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.”
The Signs are listed in roughly chronological order, although the order is not necessarily precise, especially for those in the future.
This is a brief summary of the signs; there are many books, articles, cassettes etc. which discuss these in greater detail. May Allah enable us to recognise and heed the Signs, and strengthen us in the times of tribulation.
“Are they waiting for anything except the Hour, to come to them suddenly? But its Signs have already come!” [Al-Qur’an 47:18]
1. Splitting of the Moon.
2. Death of the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.
3. A form of death which will kill thousands of Muslims – understood to refer to the plague of Amwas during the caliphate of ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab.
4. A major fighting in Madinah – understood to refer to the battle of Al-Harrah during the caliphate of Yazid, 63H.
5. The Muslim conquest of Jerusalem.
6. The Muslim conquest of Constantinople.
7. Two large groups of Muslims will fight in war.
8. A war between the Muslims and a reddish people with small eyes, wearing sandals made of hair – understood to refer to the Mongol Tatar invasion of the Islamic lands.
9. A peace agreement between the Muslims and non-Muslims from the Chinese, Mongols, etc.
10. Thirty impostors (dajjal) will appear, each thinking he is a Prophet.
11. Naked, destitute, barefoot shepherds will compete in building tall buildings.
12. The slave-woman will give birth to her master or mistress.
13. A trial (fitnah) which will enter every Arab household.
14. Knowledge will be taken away (by the death of people of knowledge), and ignorance will prevail.
15. Wine (intoxicants, alcohol) will be drunk in great quantities.
16. Illegal sexual intercourse will become widespread.
17. Earthquakes will increase.
18. Time will pass more quickly.
19. Tribulations (fitan) will prevail.
20. Bloodshed will increase.
21. A man will pass by the grave of another and wish he was in the latter’s place.
22. Trustworthiness will be lost, i.e. when authority is given to those who do not deserve it.
23. People will gather for prayer, but will be unable to find an Imam to lead them.
24. The number of men will decrease, whilst the number of women will increase, until for every man there are 50 women.
25. The Euphrates will reveal a treasure of gold, and many will die fighting over it, each one hoping to be the one who gains the treasure.
26. The Romans (Europeans) will come to a place called A’maq or Wabiq, and an army of the best people will go forth from Madinah to face them.
27. The Muslim conquest of Rome.
28. The Mahdi (guided one) will appear, and be the Imam of the Muslims.
29. Jesus Christ will descend in Damascus, and pray behind the Mahdi.
30. Jesus will break the cross and kill the swine, i.e. destroy the false christianity.
31. The Antichrist (al-masih ad-dajjal, the false christ) will appear, with all his tools of deception, and be an immense trial. He will be followed by 70,000 Jews from Isfahan (present-day Iran).
32. The appearance of Ya’juj and Ma’juj (Gog and Magog), and the associated tribulations.
33. The emergence of the Beast from the Earth, carrying the Staff of Moses and the Seal of Solomon, who will speak to the people, telling them they did not believe with certainty in the Divine Signs.
34. A major war between the Muslims (including Jews and Christians who truly believe in Jesus after his return) led by the Imam Mahdi, and the Jews plus other non-Muslims led by the Antichrist.
35. Jesus will kill the Antichrist at the gate of Ludd (Lod in present-day Israel, site of an airport and a major Israeli military base).
36. A time of great peace and serenity during and after the remaining lifetime of Jesus.
37. Wealth will come so abundant that it will become difficult to find someone to accept charity.
38. Arabia will become a land of gardens and rivers.
39. Society will then decay.
40. The buttocks of the women of the tribe of Daws will again sway in circumambulation (tawaf) around the idol Dhul-Khulsah.
41. A great fire in the Hijaz, seen by the inhabitants of Busra.
42. Three major armies will sink into the earth: one in the east, one in the west, one in Arabia.
43. An Abyssinian leader with thin shins will destroy the Ka’bah.
44. The huge cloud of smoke.
45. The sun will rise from the west (its place of setting).
46. A gentle wind which will take the souls of the believers.
47. There is no-one left on the earth saying, “Allah, Allah” or “There is no god except Allah.”
48. Eventually the Day of Judgment is established upon the worst of the people, who copulate like donkeys in public.
49. The blowing in the Trumpet by the Angel Israfil, upon which everyone will faint except as Allah wills.
50. The second blowing in the Trumpet, upon which everyone will be resurrected.
(s) From a lecture hosted by Cambridge University Islamic Society, Shawwal 1420H / January 2000CE.
Whom did Jesus come to save?
It is humanbeings (according to the Christians), but according to the Bible, JESUS COME TO SAVE GOD;
Here God is in trouble and not Adam, that is why, in order to solve this trouble, God sacrificed a sinless person. Adam was punished by getting out from the Garden, and the one in trouble now is God. He wants to punish but He cannot because He is merciful. He wants to forgive but He cannot becouse He is just; He is in trouble.
So He incernated in an innocent and sinless man (according to Christians) and killed him on the cross to get out of this trouble.
In fact, who said God cannot forgive without Crucifixion?
According to the Bible in several times God forgives people without crucifiction:
“And the Lord repented of evil which He thought to do unto His people.”
Which means that God forgives sins and that was thousands of years before Jesus.
Forthermore, Jesus never talked about crucifixion or the original sin or eve uttered the name of such things by his tongue.
Furthermore, in the Old Testament it says:
“For God will bring every work into Judgment, including every secret thing, wether good or evil.”
[1 Corinthians, 3:8].
“But every one shall die for his own iniquity.”
“The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.”
Thus, according to the Bible, every one is responsible for his or her own actions.
In addition, the Bible says that ALL HUMAN BEINGS ARE BORN PURE AND SINLESS:
“But Jesus said, suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me; FOR SUCH IS THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.”