Shaykh Jamir Meah clears up confusion about Christian articles of faith and the mistaken picture of Jesus found therein.
Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
Recently I have been having waswasa or something about Christianity. I am a Muslim but I am confused about the following things:
1. Religious Christians describe finding Jesus as peaceful. They talk about how they find peace in hard times through him; how they have faith in difficult situations (like tawakkul but they direct it at Jesus) and so on. How can they feel such peace if they are misguided? And how can I know if the peace we get from the Islamic tawakkul is truly the truth when others feel the same thing without following Islamic tawhid and so on?
2. How can we understand the many near death experiences where people claim to have seen Jesus, hell, paradise, etc., and then wake up and become practicing Christians because what they saw convinced them to accept Jesus as their savior and to live a different life?
Please answer me, it doesn’t have to be published but still send me a reply as an email. I want to have yaqin in Islam but I am struggling with this.
Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.
Religions have many aspects to them and it is often quite easy to get stuck in one facet of the religion and forget about all the other parts of the ‘jigsaw’ which give a fuller, complete picture. This approach is akin to a person who only takes religious understanding from the Qur’an and ignores the sunna or life of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, or vice versa. Both of these are forms of extremism.
I have extracted the various issues embedded in your questions and answered them below. Following this, I have included some further points to consider in regards Christianity, the person of Jesus Christ, peace and blessings be upon him, the importance of looking at a religion in it’s entirety, and how it compares to Islam.
Q1: Religious Christians describe finding Jesus as peaceful and Christians talk about how they find peace in hard times through him. How can they feel such peace if they are misguided?
Finding solace in something in times of difficulties is not exclusive to Christians, nor Muslims. There are many people who are Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Jewish, and even humanists, materialists, Scientologists, etc., who also speak of finding peace in and deriving strength from their deity or particular belief system. Therefore, finding peace and solace in a matter, even if experienced very deeply, is not a criterion for the validity of that belief, rather other things must be considered.
To understand why many people of all faiths may find peace and reliance in their belief, we look at the common factor that is shared between all types of “believers” that claim they find “peace.” That shared factor is the belief in a Higher Being, Force, Intelligence, Architect, etc. Whatever one wants to call this Power, they all return to a basic belief that something exists that is more powerful than ourselves, whether it be God, gods, nature, love etc.
We do not negate other people’s sense of inner peace, nor deny that we all share this common factor at the very basic level of faith from which strength and comfort can be derived. This is because this common factor belongs to the primordial state (fitra) that is a part every being.
However, acknowledging this does not conclude that the entire belief system of each faith is agreeable or sound. In fact, some may be complete misguidance and perversion, others partially true, and, because absolute truth can only be one, one faith is absolutely true. Additionally, God is Peace and the Giver of peace, thus He gives peace to whomever He pleases among his creation, and this giving of peace to an individual could be for many reasons.
Furthermore, for Muslims, this world is one of toil and struggle. It is not a place for peace and relaxation. This life is the land that we toil on, and its harvest and reward is in the next life. This is why God says in the Qur’an, “Indeed, We have created humanity in [constant] struggle.” [90:4], and the Prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, said, “The world is a prison for the believer and a paradise for the unbeliever.” (Muslim)
Muslims toil on earth because it is a prison for them, for they are shackled by the burden of legal and moral responsibility. Tests come in waves in this life, and you may see Muslims struggle and sometimes even despair, and perhaps struggle with the practice of their faith, but this is the nature of humans, and not to be confused with the invalidity or validity of their faith.
Contrast this to person who is told that they are not bound by any binding law, no obligations, restrictions etc., and they are told that another person has suffered for their sins so they don’t have to. With such premises for belief and salvation, it is to be expected that this person would feel generally happier in life because they have freedom to do as they please, and worship God how and when they please. Though despite this, it would be a sweeping statement to say all Christians find peace in their “savior,” for the ills and struggles within Christian communities, including within the church, are no different to anyone else.
The strong believer realizes that difficult and dark times are part of the believer’s portion on this earth and part of an essential alchemical process of the soul, for these times are the smelting furnace from which a believer rises above the dregs of his mortal self to a being of pure eternality.
Thus, true peace and contentment is not seeing everything around you as successful and harmonious, but rather true peace is the contented state of one’s heart with God and His Decree, despite the chaos and darkness of life.
This would be agreed upon by people of almost all faiths, not just some Christians. Muslims who possess these states have been, and still are, are found in multitudes across the world. Their source of reliance and locus of peace and hope is Allah Most High and his Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him. May Allah make us among them.
Q2: How can we understand the many near death experiences where people claim to have seen Jesus, hell, paradise etc and then woken up and become practicing Christians because what they saw convinced them to accept Jesus as their savior and to live a different life?
Please refer to this previous answer that discusses this matter: Why We Shouldn’t Take Christian Miracles at Face Value.
Further Points to Consider
Jesus was a prophet of God, so is characterized by perfect attributes like all other prophets. Each prophet, just like every other person, has his own personality. We have five specific prophets known as the ‘Ul al-‘azm’, Those of high and firm resolve; Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them all.
Noah and Moses are described as being more direct and hardy personalities, while Abraham and Jesus more gentle and compassionate in nature, each being perfect for the fulfillment of their mission. Sayyidna Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, is the apex and perfect balance between all the Prophets.
This is why he, peace and blessings be upon him, said to his two companions, may Allah be pleased with them both, “God has rendered the hearts of some men soft for him, until they are softer than milk. He has made the hearts of others hard, until they become harder than stone. Your likeness, Abu Bakr, is to Ibrahim, peace be upon him, who said, ‘Whoever follows me is of me, as for whoever disobeys, you are most forgiving, merciful’. Your likeness, Abu Bakr, is to ‘Isa, who said, ‘If you punish them, they are your servants; if you forgive them, you are most powerful, wise’. Your likeness, ‘Umar, is to Nuh, who said, ‘Lord, do not leave on the earth an abode of the disbelievers’. Your likeness, ‘Umar, is to Musa, who said, ‘Harden their hearts, such that they do not believe until they see a painful punishment” (Ahmad)
In regards the merciful personality of Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him), the following must be remembered:
a. Jesus was sent as a reviver and reformer, not as an abrogator with a new message or religion. Part of his reformation was to do away with the legal and ritual encumbrances, excesses, and additions that had crept into the Judaic tradition, as well as to admonish the corruption and transgression of the Judaic ministry. Thus, his mission was to restore balance to Judaism, which necessitated that he shows his people a path of compassion, mercy, and emphasis the spirit of the law to equilibrate the liturgical and ritual aspects of the faith.
It is this spiritual and peaceful aspect of the mission of Christ which many exclusively focus upon. However, Jesus also harshly rebuked the Pharisees and those who perverted the law, while at the same time, affirming the importance of adhering to sacred law and legal and moral responsibility.
b. Jesus actually preached on earth for a very limited space of time; one to three years. His followers were very few, and unlike other Prophets, his time on earth did not see him become established as a leader of a whole nation or of a state, which necessarily requires setting up state funds, legal institutions, welfare system, markets for commerce, a military, relations with other faith groups within one’s land, international relations with foreign countries and opposing empires, alongside the spiritual education. Jesus’ short time on earth is why there still remains a certain level of enigma for Christians around the facts of his personality, life, and the full import of his teachings.
Compare this to the life of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, whose life encompassed all of the above, as well as his personal relationships. His entire private and public life was scrupulously recorded and checked and confirmed in painstaking details.
c. Jesus was sent only to the Israelites and no other people, while Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon them both, was sent to all of mankind.
d. While historians and scholars agree that Jesus existed historically, there is disagreement on the historical reliability of the Gospels and how closely the character of Jesus Christ portrayed in the Bible reflects the historical Jesus. There is no such disagreement in the studies on the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him.
e. The Bible as we find it today is not the original revelation sent to man, but written over periods of time after Jesus by different people. Extensive critique has been done on the accuracy and reliability of the Gospels which cast much doubt on its content, which of course had a profound effect on how subsequent Christians understand the person of Jesus. Figures are often setup to fulfill a need of those who create them.
f. Bearing in mind that the Gospel’s authenticity is uncertain, we find many sayings of Jesus in it which seem to go against the typical image of Jesus put forward, such as, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.” (Matthew 10:34-36) Bible exegesis explains this paragraph as referring to eschatological events, but this interpretation is also open to critique, just as any other religious text is.
g. To base the legitimacy of one’s faith based on the personality of a person, without understanding the theological, legal, rational, and even historical aspects of a religion is not only naive, but extremely dangerous and subject to manipulation and exploitation. Yes, faith is in the heart, but authentic textual basis and the rational intellect, even at a basic level, play a crucial role in the validity of that conviction. Islam satisfies and appeals in all the areas of faith we have described.
h. The doctrine of the Trinity, the general concept of God incarnating in a created being, and the doctrine of the original sin, are all highly problematic from a theological and rational point of view, and contrary to textual evidence.
i. Believing that the man Jesus is the son of God, or one aspect of God, necessities for him everything that is connected to God. The Bible, even as it is today, is replete with references not only to the immense love and mercy of God, but also the terrifying wrath and vengeance of God. It also speaks of the bliss of paradise and the damnation of hell.
This would mean that divine reward and divine punishment, whether on earth or in the hereafter, is the will and action of God alone, His son alone, or both. Therefore, if Jesus is believed to be God, or the son of God, or both God and son, then one must logically accept that this person or duo is characterized by the attributes of not only peace and mercy, but also of a terrible wrath and retribution. According to this understanding then, it is wrong to only view the person of Christ as purely characterized by the attribute of love and mercy, as this would entail denying the other necessary attributes that must be connected to an absolute deity.
Lastly, I advise you to study Islamic creed and the sirah with a qualified traditional scholar. In person is best, but if not possible, consider taking one of our Islamic belief courses here on SeekersGuidance.
Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.