Comparative Religion

Comparative Religion

bookIslam Versus Ahl Al Kitab Past And Present
By: Maryam Jameelah

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coverThe True Religion Of God
By: Abi Ameenah Bilal Philips

read by :7268

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bookWhat Is His Name
By: Ahmed Deedat

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sdfWomen In Islam versus Judaeo-Christian Tradition The Myth & The Reality
By: Sherif Abdel Azeem

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islamicwayoflifeIslamic Way Of Life
By: Syed Abul A’la Mawdudi

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The Sunnah: A Source of Civilization
By: Yusuf Al-Qaradawi

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101 Contradictions in the Bible

101_Contradictions_in_the_Bible

A factual book listing 101 contradictions in the Bible.

Concept of God in Major Religions

Concept_of_God_in_Major_Religions

There has always been a question in the minds of people about the existence of God. All major religions have believed in one god or another. Thus, believing in a supreme being that is omnipotent and omniscience is essential to the existence of mankind. This full-colored book tackles the issue of existence of God from a different perspective including starting off with how different people view God. It first categorizes the belief of the major religions into 5 types of religions. Then, it describes the concept of God for world’s several major religions including Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, and others. The book ends with a detailed analysis of concept of God in Islam and how it perfects the concept of God.

Crucifixion or Cruci-Fiction

Crucifixion_or_Cruci-Fiction

Sheikh Deedat challenges one of the most strongly held beliefs of the Christians and contends that the theory of crucifixion is no more than a myth.

Desert Storm, Has it ended?

Desert_Storm_Has_it_ended

Taken from introduction: Once more the plans of a dictator have been dashed – dashed in the desert sand with the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. Desert Storm will be remembered, by those involved, for years to come. But, it is not the first desert storm. A storm has been raging in the desert for more than 2000 years over a man called Jesus (peace be upon him) and his mission.

Islam is Your Birthright

Islam_is_Your_Birthright

“Islam is Your Birthright” is a commendable effort and a sincere call upon you to go through it, considerably thinking and impartially judging for yourself, whether or not, to follow a religion addressed to all humankind, everywhere, at all times. For an immediate wise judgement, you are cordially invited to read this booklet…

“Read! In the name of your Lord who has created: Created man, out of a (mere) clot of congealed blood: Read! Your Lord is Most Bountiful: He Who taught (the use of) the pen,
Taught man that which he knew not…”
(Surah 96:1-5 Al Alaq)

ABRAHAM (PEACE BE UPON HIM), COMPARATIVE RELIGION

Faith, Sacrifice, Commitment and Patience.

These are just some of the qualities that characterize Prophet Ibrahim or Abraham as he is called in English (peace be upon him).

So it should come as no surprise that he is revered not just in Islam, but in Christianity and Judaism as well. Prophet Ibrahim is also a great personality to discuss in dialogues between Muslims, Jews and Christians. Here is some basic information about him from the three perspectives:

1. Islam

“Salam (peace) be upon Abraham!” God says in the Quran (37:109).

In Islam, Prophet Ibrahim is the friend of God and the father of Prophets (Ismail or Ishmael in English and Ishaq or Isaac and the grandfather of Prophet Yaqub or Jacob). He is also one of the ancestors of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Anyone who rejects Prophet Ibrahim is not a true believer in Islam. Prophet Ibrahim plays a key role in this regard. In terms of beliefs, a Muslim must believe in all of the Prophets. This includes not just Prophet Ibrahim, but his sons Ismail, Ishaq, his grandson Yaqub and of course his descendant Prophet Muhammad.

When it comes to the five pillars of Islam, the importance of Prophet Ibrahim becomes even more evident.

The second pillar of Islam is Salah, the obligatory five daily prayers. Every Muslim who has reached the age of puberty is accountable for their prayers, be he male or be she female, whether they live in the desert of northern Arabia, a village of northern Pakistan or an urban center of North America.

During one part of each of these five prayers, Muslims must ask God to send His blessings upon Prophet Ibrahim. Now calculate this: you’ve got more than a few million Muslims, every day, five times a day, in virtually every time zone on this planet asking God to send His blessings on Prophet Ibrahim in the course of his/her prayer.

More importantly, the direction in which every Muslim must face when praying is towards a structure Prophet Ibrahim built with his son Ismail: the Kaba, in Makkah, Saudi Arabia.

With regards to the Kaba, God says this about it: “The first House (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakka (another name for Makkah); full of blessings and guidance for all kinds of beings: in it are signs manifest, the station of Abraham-whoever enters it attains security; pilgrimage thereto is a duty men owe to God-those who can afford the journey; but if any deny faith, God stands not in need of any of His creatures”(Quran 3:96-97).

This leads to the second way in which this Prophet, described as the intimate friend of God (Quran 4:125), is revered: Hajj.

Hajj is the pilgrimage every Muslim must make to Makkah at least once in his/her lifetime. Hajj is also an obligation no Muslim is allowed to reject or ignore. It is in this rite that Prophet Ibrahim’s importance becomes even more prominent.

In general, Prophet Ibrahim’s centrality to this fifth pillar of Islam is indicated by the Prophet Mohammed’s statement, You must adhere to the traditions and rituals (of Hajj), for these have come down to you from (your forefather) Ibrahim in heritage (Tirmidhi).

First, the Kaba is the central structure around which the Hajj takes place. No Hajj is valid without going around this structure built by Prophets Ibrahim and Ismail in counterclockwise fashion seven times. Second, Muslims who perform the Hajj or Umra must run in the middle portion of the distance between Safa and Marwa (two hills close to the Kaba) seven times. This is a commemoration of the sacrifice of the wife of Abraham, Hajira (may God be pleased with her) for her son Prophet Ismail.

Prophet Ibrahim had settled his wife and son in the valley of Makkah by God’s order to pioneers a civilization. It was from this civilization that the Prophet Mohammed was born.

Finally, Prophet’s Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his beloved son Ismail for the sake of God exemplifies not only his sincere devotion to God. The commemoration of this sacrifice is practiced with the sacrifice of an animal during Hajj and one of the two Islamic holy days: Eid-ul-Adha.

Both father and son willingly submitted to God’s command. God substituted a ram in Ismail’s place at the last moment. God talks about this incident in Quran 37:100-107.

The sacrifice that is offered by Muslims all over the world every year (at Eid-ul-Adha) is in commemoration of the supreme act and spirit of sacrifice offered by Prophet Abraham in lieu of his son Ismail.

2. Judaism

According to A Concise Encyclopedia of Judaism by Dan Cohn-Sherbok (Oneworld Publications 1998), Prophet Abraham is the father of Jewish people. According to Scripture, he was the son of Terah and the father of Isaac, who was born to Sarah, and he is also the father of Ishmael, who was born to Hagar.

After leaving Ur of the Chaldees, Abraham traveled to Canaan, visited Egypt and returned to Hebron. God appeared to him in a vision. He promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land. God tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 11:26-25:10).

When the mother of Isaac, Sarah, died, Abraham bought the cave of Macpelah as a burial place. Abraham died at the age of 175.

According to the Oxford Concise Companion to the Jewish Religion by Louis Jacobs (Oxford University press 1999), the story of Abraham is narrated in the book of Genesis (11:27-25:18). Here is an excerpt from that section (from Genesis 22:2-13) which focuses on the Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac, according to Jewish tradition:

And He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you”.

So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place which God had told him.

Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.’

So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together.

But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’

And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” And the two of them went together.

Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an alter there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the alter, upon the wood.

And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.”

And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horn. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.

A majority of contemporary scholars think that he lived in approximately the eighteenth-century before the Christian Era.

In the Jewish tradition, he is the father of the Jews and Judaism.

God’s covenant with Abraham is expressed in the rite of circumcision (Genesis 17) and male Jewish children, to this day are, for the most part circumcised.

This act is called ‘entry into the covenant of Abraham our father’, and the name of the rite itself is the ‘berit’; the ‘covenant’.

Abraham is also considered the spiritual father of anyone who converts to Judaism. At a Jewish conversion ceremony, a convert is given a Hebrew name and is called a ‘child of Abraham our father’.

3. Christianity

It is through the central figure of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) that Prophet Abraham is given prominence in the Christian tradition.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia Volume 1 (1999, Kevin Knight, online version), in the New Testament, the generation of Jesus Christ is traced back to Abraham by St. Matthew.

Similarly, as the New Testament traces Prophet Jesus’ descent of Jesus to Prophet Abraham, it does the same of all Jews in terms of “carnal” descent.

However, in the New Testament, it is not this carnal descent from Abraham to which importance is attached but importance is placed on practicing the virtues attributed to Abraham in Genesis. Thus in John, 8, the Jews say (33): “We are the seed of Abraham”, and Jesus replies (39): “If ye be the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham”.

The Catholic Encyclopedia also notes that Prophet Abraham may be considered the source of Old Testament religion. From the days of Prophet Abraham, men were accustomed to speaking of God as the God of Abraham, while Prophet Abraham is not found referring in a similar way to anyone preceding him.
According to the A Concise Encyclopedia of Christianity by Geoffrey Parrinder (Oneworld Publications 1998), Abraham is a great Hebrew patriarch and is considered the common spiritual father of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Paul wrote of all those who have faith being children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7). Prophet Abraham’s faith and example is cited by many Christian authors.

According to Luke 16:22, Jesus spoke of Abraham’s bosom as a symbol of Paradise (Luke 16:22).

Christians believe God first gave Abraham a son through a bond woman named Hagar. This son was named Ishmael. God gave him a second son from his barren wife Sarah. He was named Isaac.

According to Christian tradition, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac “to prove that he was ‘worthy of becoming the father of a mighty nation, which would be as numerous as the stars in the sky or the grains of sand on the seashore’”

From “A History of God, the 4,000-year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam” by Karen Armstrong published by Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.

Islam and Judaism

Islam and Judaism hark back to a common ancestor, Abraham (Ibrahim), and thus are referred to as Abrahamic religions (along with Christianity). Further, Muslims believe in all the prophets of Judaism, such as Isaac (Ishaq) and Moses (Musa), all of whom are mentioned in the Qur’an, peace be upon them. While Jews trace their geneology to Isaac, Muslims have descended from Ishmael (Ismail), his half-brother, peace be upon them.

Not surprisingly, then, the two faiths are quite similar when it comes to their fundamental religious outlook, structure, jurisprudence and practice.

A Shared Golden Age, A History of Judeo-Muslim Relations in Spain

Saulat Pervez

When the Muslims conquered Spain in 711 C.E., Jewish people were relieved from the persecution of their Visigoth Christian rulers and enjoyed a time of full religious liberty. While they had survived centuries of marginalization under Christian rule, the dawn of tolerance in Muslim Spain enabled them to thrive. Thus began a period of nearly 800 years of singular achievements for the Jewish people.

As protected non-Muslims, or dhimmis, they paid an annual tax (jizya) of one golden dinar per capita1 , and conducted their affairs according to their own legal systems and social services. Their numbers increased as Jewish people from Africa flocked to the Iberian Peninsula.

This, however, was not the first time Muslim and Jewish history intertwined. In fact, Muslim interaction with the Jewish people began ever since the advent of Islam. Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, negotiated treaties with the Jews of Madina after migration. When Palestine was conquered by the Muslims in 637 C.E., Umar, the second caliph of Islam, allowed the Jewish people to practice their religion freely and live in Jerusalem, for the first time in 500 years since their expulsion from the Holy Land. The Jewish people formed academies in Iraq in the 10th century, spreading a unification of theological thought. They called this early time the period of Excellencies.

In A Short History of the Jewish People (Oxford University Press, 2000), Scheindlin writes,

“Most of the Jews in the world were now inhabitants of a single Islamic empire stretching from the Indus River in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west, including Spain. This development brought the Jews of Palestine, Egypt, and Spain nearly instant relief from the persecutions, harassment, and humiliation that they endured under hostile Christian rule. It also brought them, for the first time since the beginning of the Diaspora, into a single cultural, economic, and political system. Both these new conditions would enable them to flourish and to create the most successful Jewish Diaspora community of premodern times.”

This prosperity took shape within the Golden Age of Muslims, providing all and sundry, Muslim and non-Muslim, an opportunity to create, produce, invent, and innovate. This spirit was most apparent in Muslim Spain, heralding an era during which the Jewish people truly enjoyed their Golden Age.

The Beginning

“In that long interval between the arrival of Tariq in 711 and the reconquest under Queen Isabella in 1492, the unique mix of al-Andalus will produce marvelous innovations in architecture, music, literature, philosophy, medicine, and science,” writes Michael Hamilton Morgan in Lost History (National Geographic, 2007).

According to Wikipedia,

“Especially after 912, during the reign of Abd-ar-Rahman III and his son, Al-Hakam II, the Jews prospered, devoting themselves to the service of the Caliphate of Cordoba, to the study of the sciences, and to commerce and industry, especially to trading in silk and slaves, in this way promoting the prosperity of the country. Jewish economic expansion was unparalleled. In Toledo, Jews were involved in translating Arabic texts to the romance languages, as well as translating Greek and Hebrew texts into Arabic. Jews also contributed to botany, geography, medicine, mathematics, poetry and philosophy. During ‘Abd al-Rahman’s term of power, the scholar Moses ben Enoch was appointed rabbi of Córdoba, and as a consequence al-Andalus became the center of Talmudic study, and Córdoba the meeting-place of Jewish savants.”

From this period, the Jewish people celebrate Judah Halevi (poet, philosopher), Ibn Ezra (theologian), Moses de Leon (mystic), among many others. The best-known Jewish figure of this time is Musa ibn Maymun, known as Maimonides, who was born in Cordoba in 1135. Fluent in Arabic, Hebrew and Spanish, he spent his childhood in Cordoba. However, when an intolerant caliph took over, Maimonides and his family migrated from Spain. Interestingly, they chose to relocate not to Christian Europe but to Muslim North Africa. After studying medicine in Fez, Morocco, he decided to live in Cairo. “He and his family know that people of major urban centers of Islam are more tolerant and intellectually open than anyone in 12th-century Europe,” remarks Morgan. Maimonides was a doctor, a political advisor, philosopher and theologian.

Rabbi Hasdai ibn Shaprut rose to the second highest political position as de facto vizier and foreign minister under Caliph Abd-ar-Rahman III. Maimonides became court physician to the grand vizier in Cairo and later for Sultan Saladin, that famous paragon of tolerance.

Final Stages

The Golden Age began its end when the caliphate began to dissolve and Jewish freedom became restricted. Flash occurrences of violence also took place. For instance, the massacre of Granada in 1066 claimed the lives of 150 Jewish families, and the invasion of the Almoravids and Almohads in the 12th century meant harsher and intolerant treatment of Jewish people.

“But as much as or more than they are at odds or in conflict, the three groups [Muslims-Jews-Christians] will also coexist, and sometimes cross-fertilize one another, and quietly respect and even honor their rivals. … Alfonso the Wise will adopt the tri-religious model of the Umayyads, with Muslim and Jewish advisors at his side. Arabic inscriptions will continue to adorn Christian churches and Jewish synagogues long after the Umayyad caliphate has fallen,” writes Morgan.

During this uncertain period, the Jewish people went to Christian-ruled Toledo and participated in the School of Toledo, translating major Arab works into Latin. They also settled in Provence, another Christian pocket, which became a Jewish center of science and philosophy. Large-scale Jewish translations of Arab works were sponsored by local patrons and the Jewish people functioned as intermediaries between Christians and Muslims.

Jewish vibrancy continued in the Iberian peninsula until they were expelled en masse in 1492 by Queen Isabella. At this critical juncture, the Ottoman Turks came to their rescue by welcoming them into their empire. “Ottoman Turkey is one of the last incarnations of the sweet coexistence of many faiths that has flourished at times throughout the Muslim world,” Morgan states. This explains the sizeable Jewish communities of Turkey and North Africa in later years.

In fact, Christians and Jewish people also lived all across the Muslim world during the 15th and 16th centuries. While large minorities of Christians remained in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and India, sizeable Jewish communities thrived in cities in Egypt, Iran, Morocco and other parts of North Africa.

However, as the Islamic empire began to decline so too did the relations between Muslims and Jewish people. As a result of the downfall of Muslim rule, the rise of modern nationalism, and Zionism (among other factors), our current interaction is overshadowed by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is truly unfortunate that our shared glorious past has led to such a fractious present. In conclusion, one can only hope that our fates will hold a much brighter and more tolerant future.

1This tax, levied on able-bodied males, entitled them to state protection and exempted them from military service. The rulers used it to pay the salaries of state servants, pensions, and on charities. Critics often point to jizya as an example of discrimination against non-believers within Islamic law. In fact, the concept of jizya in Islam is in lieu of zakat, an obligatory religious tax for Muslims. The zakat money is used for various public services which both Muslims and non-Mulsims benefit from. Sayyid Sabiq mentions in Fiqh-us-Sunnah (Islamic Jurisprudence) that “Islam has legislated jizya (a tax) on non-Muslims living under Islamic rule, in counterpart to legislating zakat on Muslims, so that the two groups are equal (in obligations). This is because both live under the same banner and both enjoy all the rights and benefits from the services provided by the state in exactly the same manner.”

CHRISTIANITY, COMMON GROUND, JESUS (PEACE BE UPON HIM)

In Dialogues Concerning Jesus Christ the Messiah
By Shabir Ally

The Similarities

Jesus is one of the greatest persons ever to have walked the earth. Two world faiths hold him in high regard. Islam holds him to be God’s Messiah, Prophet, and Righteous Servant. Christianity holds him to be all of the above and even more. Some Christians believe that Jesus is God the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Some believe that he is the Son of God. Some take this title to mean the Divine Son of God. Others think that ‘Son of God’ is a title that can refer to a person who is especially favoured by God; and that it refers to Jesus more so because he was favoured by God to a remarkable degree.

Hence belief in Jesus is an element of faith that is common to Christianity and Islam even though the two faiths believe in him differently. Both faiths hold Jesus in high esteem. Muslims and Christians believe that Jesus entered the world in a miraculous manner; that he worked mighty deeds on earth; that his exit was mysterious; and that his second coming will be spectacular. His miraculous entrance is hailed by Christians as the virginal conception, as is mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The Quranic story of Jesus as found in chapters 3 and 19 has many elements in common with Luke’s Gospel, leading to the common interpretation and belief among Muslims in the virginal conception as well.

Jesus’ powerful deeds, especially during the last few years of his ministry, are detailed in the four Gospels in the New Testament. Likewise the Quran informs us that God supported Jesus with the Holy Spirit and that Jesus healed the leper, cured the blind, and even raised the dead back to life, all with God’s permission.

According to the Gospels, Jesus’ exit from the world was at first a mystery to his disciples. But the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John show that Jesus later appeared to his disciples and confirmed for them that God had raised him alive to heaven. The Quran, without describing the event in any detail, confirms for Muslims that “God raised Jesus to Himself” (Quran 4:157). The belief that Jesus is alive with God, then, is common to Muslims and Christians.

Muslims also generally believe that Jesus will return to earth before the Day of Judgment. This belief is not clearly stated in the Quran although two verses (4:158 and 43:61) have been interpreted as possible references to this event. This belief is, however, stated in many sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad and found in the most authentic collections of his sayings.

In short, Muslims and Christians share a common reverence for Jesus, and this can serve as a starting-point for dialogue leading to greater levels of mutual understanding, tolerance, and respect.

The Differences

Focusing on our commonalities, however, should not prevent us from being honest about our differences, for only in understanding our differences as well can we truly understand each other.

One area of difference is on the scriptural authority that settles questions for Muslims and Christians. For Christians the Bible is the Word of God. Some Christians add that the Bible is the Word of God and the word of man—that it is through the word of man that the Word of God is mediated. Many Christians believe that the authors of the Bible were basically free to write according to their knowledge and experiences, and that God controlled the process such that the result is in fact His Word without ceasing to be the words of the human authors. Some Christians believe that the process by which God inspired the writings that make up the Bible guarantees their inerrancy. Others believe that the Bible is free of error only in those matters on which human salvation depends.

Muslims believe in principle that any revelation from God must be accepted. Thus they believe in the Biblical prophets, especially as they are presented in the Quran. The Quran itself mentions some parts of the Bible as being based on scriptural revelations from God. In this way the Quran mentions the Torah of Moses, the Psalms of David, and the Gospel of Jesus. But Muslims see no reason to believe that the Bible is the final revelation from God. They believe that after the Old and New Testaments God revealed a final testament: the Quran. For Muslims, therefore, the ultimate authority is the Quran itself. They believe it to be the final revelation from God confirming the truth of the previous scriptures and yet acting as a quality control on the previous scriptures (Quran 5:48).

Hence in principle Muslims accept as Divine revelation those parts of the Bible which are in agreement with the Quran. They hesitate, however about those parts which are in disagreement. For them, if the disagreeable part refers to the practices of the faith then the Quranic practices abrogate the old, and they follow the new. If the differences are matters of history or theology Muslims may consider these due to something lost in the translation or transmission of the Bible over the ages. Often in dialogue Muslims point to some passages which are noted in many modern Bibles as having been changed over time. An example of this is The First Letter of John, chapter 5, verse 7 which used to say, “There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and that these three are one” (1John 5:7). These words, however, have been removed from the verse in most modern versions because Biblical scholars have discovered that it is absent from the earliest and most reliable manuscripts of John’s first letter.

Because Muslims and Christians accept different scriptural authorities, they may be expected to arrive at different conclusions about what to believe. This is why Muslims do not believe that Jesus died on the cross as depicted in the Gospels. The Quran does not describe in detail what happened, but insists that Jesus’ enemies did not manage to kill him. In response to those who said, “We killed the messiah, Jesus Son of Mary, the Messenger of God,” the Quran says:
They killed him not, nor crucified him, but it was made so to appear to them. And those who differ about him are in doubt about him. They have no knowledge of him except the pursuit of a conjecture. They killed him not for certain. But God raised him to himself. And God is Mighty, Wise” (Quran 4:157).

The Quran does not say specifically how Jesus managed to escape the plot of his opponents. But Muslims believe that the Quran, though very brief, gives God’s viewpoint on the story of Jesus.

But the main point of difference on the question of Jesus’ crucifixion is about the purpose of his purported death. For Christians, his death was not merely caused by sinful people, but was for the cause of sinful people. Jesus laid down his life for the sins of many, or, in an alternative view, for all people. There are various ways of explaining the efficacy of Jesus’ death. Some believe that God accepts the death of Jesus as a substitute for sinful people who are henceforth spared their deserved penalties. Others believe that the death of Jesus appeased the wrath of God and made it possible for people to be forgiven.

Muslims, however, believe that the matter is simple. God is Gracious. He can forgive his servants if he chooses; nothing impedes him. His promise is that he will forgive those who turn to him in repentance. If we sincerely repent of our sins against him, and do our best to repair the harm we have done to his creatures, his forgiveness is assured. On this point Muslims and Christians seem to agree. For even on the view that Jesus died for our sins Christians also insist on the need for repentance and a return from sinful ways. Moreover, Muslims find it difficult to understand how a just God can punish an innocent person in order to free the guilty.

Finally, despite their agreement about Jesus, Muslims and Christians also disagree about him. Muslims find it puzzling to think of Jesus as God and man at the same time, for this seems to combine two contrary features in the same person. If he was God he only appeared to be a man. And if he was really a man with some of the imperfections this entails then he was not the perfect God in whom Muslims and Christians believe.

Even more perplexing for Muslims is the doctrine that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity. For Muslims, there is only one God, and Jesus is one of his greatest creatures. Christians agree that there is only one God. But they add that the one God subsists in three persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. To Muslims, however, the Holy Spirit is the angel Gabriel; and of the three persons only The Father, whom Muslims call Allah, can be truly God. Hence the simple Muslim declaration of faith: “There is no god but God.”

The dialogue between Christians and Muslims must continue, and this will, we hope, lead to a greater level of understanding, tolerance and mutual respect. We have only sketched here some of the main issues that need to be discussed as starting points for the achievement of such mutual appreciation. These two world faiths together are followed by half of the world’s population. If they work together they can combat many of the ills that plague our world at present.

Concept of God in Christianity

by Dr. Zakir Naik

I) Position of Jesus (pbuh) in Islam:

(i) Islam is the only non-Christian faith, which makes it an article of faith to believe in Jesus (pbuh). No Muslim is a Muslim if he does not believe in Jesus (pbuh).

(ii) We believe that he was one of the mightiest Messengers of Allah (swt).

(iii) We believe that he was born miraculously, without any male intervention, which many modern day Christians do not believe.

(iv) We believe he was the Messiah translated Christ (pbuh).

(v) We believe that he gave life to the dead with God’s permission.

(iv) We believe that he healed those born blind, and the lepers with God’s permission.

II)Concept of God in Christianity

1. Jesus Christ (pbuh) never claimed Divinity

One may ask, if both Muslims and Christians love and respect Jesus (pbuh), where exactly is the parting of ways? The major difference between Islam and Christianity is the Christians’ insistence on the supposed divinity of Christ (pbuh). A study of the Christian scriptures reveals that Jesus (pbuh) never claimed divinity. In fact there is not a single unequivocal statement in the entire Bible where Jesus (pbuh) himself says, “I am God” or where he says, “worship me”. In fact the Bible contains statements attributed to Jesus (pbuh) in which he preached quite the contrary. The following statements in the Bible are attributed to Jesus Christ (pbuh):

(i) “My Father is greater than I.”

[The Bible, John 14:28]

(ii) “My Father is greater than all.”

[The Bible, John 10:29]

(iii) “…I cast out devils by the Spirit of God….”

[The Bible, Mathew 12:28]

(iv) “…I with the finger of God cast out devils….”

[The Bible, Luke 11:20]

(v) “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgement is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”

[The Bible, John 5:30]

2. The Mission of Jesus Christ (pbuh) – to Fulfill the Law

Jesus (pbuh) never claimed divinity for himself. He clearly announced the nature of his mission. Jesus (pbuh) was sent by God to confirm the previous Judaic law. This is clearly evident in the following statements attributed to Jesus (pbuh) in the Gospel of Mathew:

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

[The Bible, Mathew 5:17-20]

3. God Sent Jesus’ (pbuh)

The Bible mentions the prophetic nature of Jesus (pbuh) mission in the following verses:

(i)”… and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.”

[The Bible, John 14:24]

(ii)”And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.”

[The Bible, John 17:3]

4. Jesus Refuted even the Remotest Suggestion of his Divinity

Consider the following incident mentioned in the Bible:

“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.’ ”

[The Bible, Mathew 19:16-17]

Jesus (pbuh) did not say that to have the eternal life of paradise, man should believe in him as Almighty God or worship him as God, or believe that Jesus (pbuh) would die for his sins. On the contrary he said that the path to salvation was through keeping the commandments. It is indeed striking to note the difference between the words of Jesus Christ (pbuh) and the Christian dogma of salvation through the sacrifice of Jesus (pbuh).

5. Jesus (pbuh) of Nazareth – a Man Approved of God

The following statement from the Bible supports the Islamic belief that Jesus (pbuh) was a prophet of God.

“Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know.”

[The Bible, Acts 2:22]

6. The First Commandment is that God is One

The Bible does not support the Christian belief in trinity at all. One of the scribes once asked Jesus (pbuh) as to which was the first commandment of all, to which Jesus (pbuh) merely repeated what Moses (pbuh) had said earlier:

“Shama Israelu Adonai Ila Hayno Adonai Ikhad.”

This is a Hebrew quotation, which means:

“Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.”

[The Bible, Mark 12:29]

It is striking that the basic teachings of the Church such as Trinity and vicarious atonement find no mention in the Bible. In fact, various verses of the Bible point to Jesus’ (pbuh) actual mission, which was to fulfill the law revealed to Prophet Moses (pbuh). Indeed Jesus (pbuh) rejected any suggestions that attributed divinity to him, and explained his miracles as the power of the One True God.

Jesus (pbuh) thus reiterated the message of monotheism that was given by all earlier prophets of Almighty God.

NOTE: All quotations of the Bible are taken from the King James Version.

III) Concept Of God in Old Testament:

1. God is One

The following verse from the book of Deuteronomy contains an exhortation from Moses (pbuh):

“Shama Israelu Adonai Ila Hayno Adna Ikhad”.

It is a Hebrew quotation which means:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord”

[The Bible, Deuteronomy 6:4]

2. Unity of God in the Book of Isaiah

The following verses are from the Book of Isaiah:

(i) “I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour.”

[The Bible, Isaiah 43:11]

(ii) “I am Lord, and there is none else, there is no God besides me.”

[The Bible, Isaiah 45:5]

(iii) “I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me.”

[The Bible, Isaiah 46:9]

3. Old Testament condemns idol worship

(i) Old Testament condemns idol worship in the following verses:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:”

“Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.”

[The Bible, Exodus 20:3-5]

(ii) A similar message is repeated in the book of Deuteronomy:

“Thou shalt have none other gods before me.”

“Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that in the earth beneath, or that is in the water beneath the earth.”

“Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them; for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God.”

[The Bible, Deuteronomy 5:7-9]

Source: http://www.irf.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=127&Itemid=100

Mary, the Mother of Jesus

By Sabeen Khan

The Virgin Mary. Mary, the Pure. Mariam, upon whom be peaceThis blessed woman’s life is evident through many stories and teachings. She has a prominent, significant, and revered role in the Quran and Islam.

The story of the Blessed Mary is a truly beautiful one. She descended from the family of Amram, the father of Moses. Her parents were Anne and Joachim (Imran in Arabic). They were both very pious, religious people. Anne was also immensely caring and motherly. She loved children, and both Anne and Imran yearned for a child. They were both very old, but by the grace of God, Anne conceived. They were both utterly overjoyed. Anne dedicated her unborn child to be a muharrar – a person freed from all worldly affairs and specially committed to the service of God.

Tragically, Imran died during Anne’s pregnancy. Anne realized her baby would need a father to raise her child. She was expecting a boy, who she believed would grow into a prophet. However, God sent her a girl. She was pleased with this, despite the fact that she’d been expecting a boy, and was very grateful. She prayed to God for refuge for her child.  Lots were drawn to decide who would care for the child between several men. Anne’s sister’s husband, Zachariah, was a prophet. Zachariah had no children of his own. Many men tried to cheat and draw the lots in their direction, as they wanted to raise Mary, but the wind repeatedly drew it towards Zachariah.

Zachariah was very good to Mary, who grew into an extremely righteous, gentle woman. She was so pious that she was given her own special section of the temple in which she was brought up to worship God and study her religion. She dedicated her days to God.

God would provide Mary with food. When Zachariah would come to feed her, he would find that she already had provisions. At first he assumed that someone else in the temple had given it to her, but soon after he realized that the food was unseasonable. He asked Mary where it had come from. She replied that it was from God.

Whilst Mary was in her temple, the Angel Gabriel came to her. He informed her that she would be giving birth to Jesus. Mary was a pious woman, and she was entirely chaste, so naturally she asked how this would happen. The Angel told her that God needs only to say, ‘Be,’ and it will be done.

Mary went to a remote place, usually described as an island, as the time of labor drew closer. She was alone – Joseph was not with her, as he is in other tellings of the story. According to the Quran, Mary is completely alone. This gives her more of an honor. She was not only alone while giving birth, she also later endured the stigma of being a single mother. In that place and in that time, this was an extremely difficult thing. She had no one except God, and according to the Quran, she put her full and complete trust in Him, despite the enormity of the task.

Mary, despite being Blessed, was as human as any of us, and she suffered the pangs of labor. She was comforted with food and water. She only had to shake the tree she lay under, and food would be provided to her. She eventually gave birth to Jesus, and returned to her home.

Homecoming was not easy for Mary. Her people immediately accused her of being unchaste. They said that she was born of good people who she had shamed. Mary did not reply to them, but instead she pointed to the baby Jesus. The people mocked her, asking her how she could expect an infant to reply.

Jesus, though he was only a baby, spoke to them. He began, “Surely I am a servant of God; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet” (Quran, 19:30). Immediately this shows that Jesus was a human as well, just as his mother was. Mary then brought up her son for the duration of her life.

Mary was a great woman, not only for her story but for who she was. She was chosen by God to give birth to one of the most important figures in mankind. She was always kind, gentle, sweet, and pious. In Islam, she is very highly regarded. She has a chapter in the Quran entirely dedicated to her, and is seen as one of the most important women. Furthermore, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said that the best women of humankind are four: Mary, the mother of Jesus, Asiya, the wife of the Pharoah, Khadija, the wife of Prophet Muhammad, and Fatima, his own daughter.

In summary, Mary is one of the most revered women in history and in Islam. She was one of the greatest people in the history of humankind.

The angels said to Mary: “Mary, God has chosen you and made you pure: He has truly chosen you above all women.” (Quran, 3:42)

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