Confused about Christianity

Shaykh Jamir Meah clears up confusion about Christian articles of faith and the mistaken picture of Jesus found therein.

Question:

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.

 

Answer:

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.

Warmest salams,

Jamir

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.


 

Photos of the Prophet, Peace Be upon Him

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat answers questions on images of the Prophet found online.

I am confused. The photos that are on Google and YouTube of the Messenger of Allah, blessings and peace be upon him, are they real or are they just uploaded by others to misguide Muslims?

I pray you are well.

Depicting the Prophets and Companions

Is is not permissible to depict the Messenger of Allah – or any other prophet, Allah bless them all and give them peace, in picture or video format. This is a matter of consensus and the verdict issued by al-Azhar University in 1968, the Islamic Research Council in 1972, the Egyptian Fatwa Ministry in 1980, and others more recently.

There are many reasons for this. One of them is that it opens the doors of derision directed to the prophets, Allah bless them and give them peace; whereas Allah has honored them to the highest degree. We live in a time where anyone and everyone can comment on matters online. Sadly, there are those whose vile comments are leveled against the greatest of people – due to ignorance, animosity, or sheer malice.

Therefore, the aversion of this is given precedence over any and all other potential benefits. Looking at such images, therefore, would have the same rulings.

Any pictures you do find, if they are there to depict his beauty, they cannot do it justice. And if they are there for any other vile purpose – it is best not to sully your sight with them.

The ruling has also been extended to depicting the Companions. Many of the sources used to produce such material are not sound, therefore there is the element of falsely ascribing events and quotes to people in this. There are other matters which further support this ruling.

Seeing the Messenger, Blessings and Peace Be upon Him

I recommend that you study the beautiful life and qualities of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace. Those who throw themselves into this and those who send many blessings upon him, are often blessed with seeing him in their dreams.

In a narration found in Sahih al-Bukhari, he said, “Whoever sees me in a dream will see me in a waking state; Shaytan cannot take my form.” Some of the ulema, such as Imam al-Suyuti, have commented on this hadith saying that some of the righteous – such as Abu al-Hasan al-Shadhili and others – see him in a waking state during their lives. For the generality of believers, this usually happens at the point of death, and through this great blessing they attain a good death. (Jassus, Qasim; Sharh Shamaʾil al-Tirmidhi)

May Allah honor us with the vision of His beloved, Allah bless him and give him peace, in this life before the next. Amin. 

Abdul-Rahim

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Calumny and the Prophetic Response

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat details the evils of calumny and how to respond.

I want to know what Shari‘a says of a women who falsely accuses husband of impotence and rejects all medical evidence. Not only that, she has spread word about the impotence of the husband throughout the community, thereby bringing him into disrepute.

I pray you are well.

Calumny

What you are describing is calumny (buhtan). It is a serious sin. Sins against oneself are bad – but sins against others are much worse.

The Messenger of Allah said, “Five particular sins have no expiation: Worshipping another besides Allah (this can be extended to disbelief in general), unjustly killing a person, calumny against a believer, fleeing from a battle, and a false oath causing a believer to lose his property.” (Ahmad).

What is understood from the hadith is that good deeds, Ramadan, etc., usually expiate and remove sins from a believer – even if he does not repent from them. These sins, however, are not expiated automatically. Whoever commits them must repent from them specifically, otherwise he will have to answer for them on the Day of Judgement.

The Prophetic Response

The best thing you can do is to respond as the noble Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, did, with patience and forgiveness.

Abu Hurayra narrated that the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace said, “No wealth has ever been diminished by charity; and Allah has never raised a servant due to his pardoning [those who wrong him] except in honor; and whoever humbles himself for the sake of Allah – Allah raises him.” (Bukhari). These are tried and tested truths – do your best to follow this advice.

You are not, however, expected to be a doormat to anyone. The believer does not allow people to humiliate him. If there is active harm coming your way from people you can do what you need to prevent it, and preserve your reputation. But beware of going to excesses in your response. We are human, and emotionally charged situations can take people there.

Get out of harm’s way, and keep forgiving internally to please Allah; and whatever happens externally will go in your favor – that I guarantee you.

May Allah inspire us to adopt the prophetic response in all situations.

Abdul-Rahim

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

Criticizing a Companion

Shaykh Jamir Meah is asked about speaking ill of the Companions.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa baraktuh.

If one has the i‘tiqad of Ahl al-Sunna, but criticizes, or speaks ill, or curses a Companion of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace, what is his state?

  1. Is he still among the Ahl al-Sunna, but with an opinion of Ahl al-Bid‘a?
  2. Or is he totally Ahl al-Bid‘a, because the i‘tiqad of Ahl al-Sunna cannot be separated, as iman (belief) cannot be separated?

Jazak Allah khayr.

I pray you’re well insha Allah.

While love and veneration of the Companions of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, is not a fundamental tenant of Sunni doctrine, it is nevertheless a benchmark of one’s belief in, love and obeisance of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, which is a central component of Islam.

Insulting the Companions

Those who insult or disrespect the Companions have disobeyed the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, and have a serious issue in their faith. This is clear from the many pre-emptive narrations of the Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him. Among them:

Do not abuse my companions, for if one of you were to spend the weight of mount Uhud in gold it would not surpass a small amount of their charity or even half of that. (Bukhari)

The best people are those living in my generation. (Bukhari)

The Ansar: no one loves them but a believer and no one hates them but a hypocrite. Whoever loves them, Allah will love him, and whoever hates them, Allah will hate him. (Bukhari)

Ruling on Those Who Insult the Companions

While Sunni scholars do not state that those who insult the Companions fall out of the pale of Islam, the position on such people are stern. Illustrious Imams such as al-Hafidh ibn Hajr and al-Dhahabi explicitly call such people zanadiqa (sing; zindiq), which is another name for a hypocrite (munafiq). (Al-Isaba fi Tamyiz al-Sahaba; al-Kaba’ir)

Warmest salams,

Jamir

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.

The Prophet’s Funeral Prayer

Shaykh Abdul-Rahim Reasat answers a question about the number of people who attended the Prophet’s funeral prayer, blessings and peace be upon him.

Question:

Assalam alaykum wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

Who is the only wife of Prophet, blessings and peace be upon him, who attended his funeral prayer?

Answer:

Wa alaykum assalam wa rahmat Allah wa barakatuh.

I pray you are well.

I could not find any reference to only one of the wives of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, attending his funeral prayer. Rather, the earlier, later, and contemporary experts on the Sira, such as Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad ibn Yusuf al-Salihi, and Muhammad Ali al-Sallabi, all say that first the male companions went in groups and prayed over him individually without an imam. They were then followed by the female companions, then children, and then the slaves.

The outward purport of this is that all of the wives of the Messenger of Allah, Allah bless him and give him peace, would have been there. There was no one to prevent them, and the prayer was not conducted in the mosque.

(Al-Sallabi, al-Sira al-Nabawiyya; al-Salihi, Subul al-Huda wa al-Rashad; Samira al Zayid, al-Sira al-Nabawiyya).

I hope that clarifies matters. May Allah grant you the best of both worlds.

Abdul-Rahim

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani.