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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.


 

Can I Attend a Class Speaking About Christianity?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: Assalam aleykum

I study in a non muslim country and I think that the professor will sometimes talk about the bible or christianity in general even though the classes I attend aren’t about christianity. When he talks about it should I leave the class?

Answer: assalamu alaykum

You do not have to leave the class as there is no issue in a Muslim hearing someone in an academic class setting speaking about the Bible and Christianity.

The Qur’an, hadith, classical works of theology, exegesis, and history, etc., are replete with references to the Bible and Christianity. The Isra’iliyat traditions, namely the historical reports relayed by the People of the Book (ahl al-kitab), are common in tafsir literature and were extensively used by exegetes. Similarly, it was not uncommon for scholars in the past to study the scriptures and writings of the People of the Book. For example, Mulla Hafiz al-Din, a student of Shihab al-Din al-Marjani, studied the Torah with a Bukharan Jewish scholar named `Abd al-Rahim.

Indeed, the aforementioned points are simply to illustrate in brief that such knowledge-exchange and interaction is inevitable in any civilizational context. For Muslims today, there is no harm in studying the past and present as a way of enriching their knowledge and awareness of the world around them. Of course, it goes without saying that if an individual senses that such study may be harmful to his or her faith, they should avoid exposing themselves to these topics of study. This is a general rule, but absent this, there is nothing intrinsically problematic in learning about Christianity as a historical phenomenon in a university class setting.

[Ustadh] Salman Younas

Checked and approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani

Ustadh Salman Younas  graduated from Stony Brook University with a degree in Political Science and Religious Studies. After studying the Islamic sciences online and with local scholars in New York, Ustadh Salman moved to Amman where he spent five years studying Islamic law, legal methodology, belief, hadith methodology, logic, Arabic, and tafsir. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Oxford and continues his traditional studies with scholars in the United Kingdom.

Why We Shouldn’t Take Christian Miracles at Face Value

Answered by Shaykh Jamir Meah

Question: Assalamu alaykum

I keep reading about miraculous events happening in the support of Christianity. It seems that every time Christians are down miraculous interventions come into play and they are saved. The first crusade, Joan of Arc are examples of this. My faith is wavering because of this. What can I do?

Answer: Wa’alaykum assalam. Jazakum Allah khayr for your question. There is no need to be afraid for asking such questions. One must clear doubts in order to grow firmer in the religion.

Basis of religion

The basis of religion is Divine revelation and not the temporal events of this world or historical interpretations, no matter how extraordinary the events may seem to one. To doubt one’s faith in Islam because of historical accounts is like equating the eternal facts of the Qur’an with the information found in history books and current news reports.

When one views their faith through world events, their faith is open to misgivings, but when one views world events through faith, faith is reinforced.

Win or lose, miracle or fraud, none of these temporal events have any bearing on the statement ‘There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger’.

To prefer Christianity over Islam because of the events described in the question necessarily means one rejects the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad as the final revelation and Messenger. It also entails acceptance of every other point of Christian belief, the most objectionable being the concept of the Trinity.

Historical ‘Facts’

History books are man-written, not divine revelation, and they often function as political spin doctors in literary form.

The American Historian Carl Becker stated, ‘All historical writing, even the most honest, is unconsciously subjective, since every age is bound, in spite of itself, to make the dead perform whatever tricks it finds necessary for its own peace of mind.’ [The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth Century Philosophers]

What this means is that history can be written (or re-written), and often embellished, according to the purpose it needs to serve. In other words, used as propaganda, whether for good or bad motives.

Christian historians may well claim that such events were inspired by supernatural phenomena, but they do not constitute as facts.

Time does not allow us to counter argue all the examples mentioned in the question, however, without exception, all of the examples are certainly open for critique. Critical analysis of not only historical events is needed, but also of those who recorded such events.

Even if one accepted such phenomena, we may say that if it was before Islam, such as the ‘vision’ of Constantine on the eve of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, then it does not have any bearing on Islamic history, and if after Islam, then we have the words of Allah Most High, ‘He gives victory to whom He wills, and He is the Exalted in Might, the Merciful.’ [30:5].

Alexander the Great ruled a vast empire, yet he was an idol worshipper. The Anti-Christ will be given power over much of the earth and perform supernatural phenomena, yet he is the enemy of all believers.

Allah Most High has not made worldly victories or miraculous visions as the benchmark for validity of religion. Victory in this world does not equal victory in the next world. Nor do apparent or even real miracles prove anything. Who knows what Allah intends for that person through such vision or feats? In truth, scholars place little emphasis on miracles and visions.

Reading History

When reading History, it is important not to focus on singular events alone, but rather, as time unfolded, to observe what transpired in the long term.

You mentioned Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years’ War, and the vision of the Crusaders at Antioch. Even if we limit our understanding to history books, and even if the singular events were true, what does history tell us of the final outcome of these wars? Who were the ultimate victors? What happened to these people in the very end?

We should also remember, that for us, mankind’s history is not yet finished. In regards God, there is no such thing as history, for time and sequence of events do not exist for the One who created Time. Therefore, all that we require is the promise of Allah.

Miracles and Victories at the hands of Muslims

There were countless numbers of miracles performed, and victories won, in Islamic history and after the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

One only needs to read the biographies of the Rightly Guided Caliphs, the lives of the great Companions and about many other expeditions, miraculous happenings, as well the unparalleled military strategists and courageous warriors that we find throughout Islamic History. Not all miracles have to be supernatural and obvious. Khalid bin Walid, Nusayba bint ka’ab, and Salahuddin al Ayyubi among others maybe particular of interest to you.

Throughout history, and to this very day, miracles happen to the saints of Allah, whether one knows about them or not, and are far more profound than simply the winning of wars and occupation of lands.

I recommend that you turn your attentions to reading Islamic History. Reading general history is very beneficial, however one must only do so if one is able to read widely, critically, and has the ability to cross-reference, as well as a firm footing in their own faith.

Until then, it would be better to take a break from reading such books. Most importantly, I would urge you to increase your daily reading of the Qur’an and its meaning.

May Allah give you firm faith in Islam and guide you to what is pleasing to Him.

Warmest salams,
[Shaykh] Jamir Meah

Shaykh Jamir Meah grew up in Hampstead, London. In 2007, he traveled to Tarim, Yemen, where he spent nine years studying the Islamic sciences on a one-to-one basis under the foremost scholars of the Ribaat, Tarim, with a main specialization and focus on Shafi’i fiqh. In early 2016, he moved to Amman, Jordan, where he continues advanced studies in a range of Islamic sciences, as well as teaching. Jamir is a qualified homeopath.

Muslim Convert: Was the woman wearing a scarf to hide her cancer?

Laila from Mexico started asking “insolent” questions which led her to leave the Catholic faith at the young age of 13. She went from one Christian denomination to another always finding holes instead of answers. Later, she met a Muslim woman whom she thought was suffering from cancer and hiding her bald head with a scarf.

Laila eventually converted to Islam when she was 17 years old and found patience and empathy in her new faith. Watch on to learn more about Laila’s conversion to Islam. If you have concerns or confusions that are keeping you back from converting to Islam, email Overcome TV or send a YouTube message.

Resources for Seekers

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Muslim Convert: Could I still believe in Jesus as a Muslim?

Paris and her fiance planned on strengthening their faith as Christians but they became disillusioned by the churches they visited and reading the Bible created more questions than it answered. This search eventually led to both of them embracing Islam, with Paris converting first. Watch on to see how God guided her and helped her overcome her concerns.


If you have concerns or confusions that are keeping you back from converting to Islam, email Overcome TV or send a YouTube message.

Resources for Seekers

Muslim Convert: I asked the Priest to Forgive Me…

Very few converts accept Islam straight away. The rest go through a spiritual turbulence as they come to terms with the big decision that lies ahead. If that describes you, then you’ll be comforted to know that you’re not alone.

Watch this short interview with Ala, a Muslim convert, in which she talks about her journey to embracing Islam and how embracing Islam brought happiness to her life. She’s from Ukraine and embraced Islam when she was 28.

Self-development begins where your comfort zone ends. And true self-development begins by embracing truth when it comes your way. We hope that this convert to Islam has inspired you to push forward in your journey, even if it’s just an inch.

If you have concerns or confusions that are keeping you back from converting to Islam, email Overcome TV or send a YouTube message.

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Resources for seekers

Lessons from the Life of Prophet Jesus, by Habib Ali Al-Jifri

“Between me and him, there is no other prophet” – saying of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them both

Habib Ali al-Jifri spoke as part of the Muhammed: Master of Change campaign organised by the Radical Middle Way in the United Kingdom. Habib Ali visiting nine cities in 10 days, including St. Philip’s Centre, a Church in the city of Leicester that is well renowned for its extensive interfaith work and which is located next to a mosque names after Umar ibn al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him. The lecture was on the lessons to be learnt from the life of the Prophet Jesus, peace and blessings be upon him, on being a good neighbor and fostering co-existence.

Translation by Sidi Wael Zubi.

“Work for God and not for your stomachs” – meeting the Pope

“Work for God and not for your stomachs.”

These words of Jesus, as recorded in Muslim scholarship, offer critical advice in a modern world dominated by greed and ego. By working for God, one makes the greater good their ultimate aim, leaving aside merely personal interests for those that bring wholeness, beauty and wisdom to the community at large – then, ultimately, back to oneself.

In a world dominated by a culture of ‘me, myself and I,’ that is no small task. With the tide of popular culture and the mass media moving against traditional values like selflessness and charity, Muslims hoping to embody the above wisdom need partners in their efforts to bring light into our societies. One of the critical partners for that task, according to many scholars, are those who also love the man who uttered the above words: the Catholic Church and its millions of followers.

Khalid-Latif-PopeRecent events confirm this. Imam Khalid Latif, executive director of NYU’s Islamic Center, met with Pope Francis during the pontiff’s U.S. tour in September. He came away from the meeting further convinced that the door to a deeper relationship between the Muslim and Catholic communities is not only possible but necessary.

A pope with a history of warm interactions with the Muslim community, Pope Francis touched the hearts of many when he began his evening prayer in New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral by going offscript and making a spontaneous supplication for the Muslims who died during the Hajj. His outreach to Muslim communities has been deeper, however, as he has also called on all of Europe’s 120,000 parishes to each take in one family of Syrian refugees – the vast majority of those refugees being Muslims.

To take the hands of people such as this is essential, said Imam Khalid, if we want to emulate the Prophetic model in creating the institutions needed to support a flourishing society.

“The underlying premise of sharia is the increase in benefit and the reduce in detriment. For me personally, I would say that that is without condition or qualification. If you have a means and ability to be of assistance and be helping others, then you want to be able to do so just because it’s the right thing to do,” said Imam Khalid, also chaplain at NYU and the NYPD.

“There are many indiviudals that need for us to be able to understand their narrative and reality so that we can either build with them or that we can build for them.”

A Deeper Partnership

One small example of how interfaith partnerships can have a tangible impact on society is in Imam Khalid’s work with various religious groups to take on sex trafficking and poverty. Other examples include multi-faith coalitions providing support for Syrian refugees in different parts of the world. In working with these groups, one is inspired to take take one’s own sincerity in such acts to a higher level.

Muslim-Christian-cross-crescent“When you have partners who understand where you’re coming from, it allows for there to be a different depth to your relationship,” said Imam Khalid on working with other faith groups.

“They’re not seeing it as a PR kind of thing but they actually have a deep-rooted [intention] governed by their moral compass. As an individual, to be in the presence of someone who is motivated through a set of values and principles also becomes important as a learning process.”

While many faiths and philosophies offer rich opportunities as partners for Muslims hoping to improve society, the global Catholic community is an especially important candidate for such a partnership. Shaykh Abdal-Hakim Murad, director of the Cambridge Muslim College and a lecturer at Cambridge University, has often written that as one of the few major groups who still believe in timeless moral absolutes, the Catholic community is a critical ally for Muslims trying to bring mercy and justice into a world filled with ideology and ego.

Additionally, although religiosity has fallen in much of the West, the institution of the Vatican is still highly respected in many secular Western circles, wrote Shaykh Abdal-Hakim. As such, it can play a critical role as an interface of sorts between Muslims and a Western climate threatened by increasing Muslim immigration and experiencing a steady rise of Islamophobia.

“An asset to his community”

This is a reminder that ultimately, engaging with other faith groups not only brings benefit to the society at large, but also brings benefit back to the Muslim community itself. Our history offers many such precedents, said Imam Khalid, a major one being the example of the Prophet’s companion Abu Bakr.

As Abu Bakr was preparing to leave Mecca in order to worship Allah without fear of persecution by the Quraysh, he was stopped by a Meccan man who asked where he was going. Abu Bakr explained he was leaving the city so he could practice his religion freely. The man begged him to stay, saying that he would keep Abu Bakr under his protection from then on. The reason, according to Imam Khalid, was one Muslims today must take to heart: he was an asset to his community.

“The way Abu Bakr lived his Islam, or his life and values, was in a way that the entire population felt his presence,” said Imam Khalid. “And they were then willing to stand up for him because they understood the benefit he brought to them.”

With Pope Francis’s moves of outreach towards the Muslims community now on the table, Imam Khalid said that the Muslim community should mobilize in order to make the most of this situation.

Pope-FrancisLamenting that the Muslim community did not use the 9/11 memorial service as an opportunity to publicize the American Muslim narrative nor use the Pope’s visit to cement the American Muslim community’s relationship with its Catholic peers, Imam Khalid said he hoped that noting these missed opportunities could be a catalyst that prompts better community organization around unique opportunities for interfaith engagement such as this in the future.

He also hoped that the community could work together to not merely respond to outreach from other faiths, but to also begin initiating partnerships with other religious groups.

“There [are] very distinct theolgical differences between any of the world religions,” said Imam Khalid. “But if we [understand the] foundational values we share [we can] then move forward in a way that brings benefit to people in pursuit of the pleasure of the divine.”

Reporting by Nour Merza

 

Pauline Christianity, the Prophet’s Access to the Bible, and Similarities in the Gospels

Answered by Ustadh Ali Ataie

Question: Asssalamu alaikum. My wife is a Christian and she is currently exploring both Islam and Christianity.  She asked how is it possible for Paul to write that well, obviously with some flaws in the Bible, after our prophet Isiah (Jesus {peace and blessing be upon him}) departure many hundred years later? I know he cooperated with King Constantine and gave in to his demand for one Bible. Are his eleven Apostles right and correctly written in the Bible. Are David’s psalms correct?

Second, Did RasulUllah [saws, peace and blessing be upon him] have access to a Bible in anyway?

Third, How come Matthew, Mark and others are so similar?

Fourth, was Paul really inspired by Jesus [peace and blessing be upon him] to jot down all his statements in the Bible. How did he come to know so much of what to say in the Bible?

Answer: As-salam alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu,

I hope you are well insha’Allah. You have raised many important issues and questions that deserve a lot of research and reflection. Here are a few quick answers. I hope you follow-up and investigate further.

Paul and our Master Jesus (peace be upon him)

First of all, Paul did not live “many hundred years” after our Master Jesus (peace and blessing be upon him); he was his contemporary but the two men never actually met each other during their historical lives. Paul did not meet Constantine as the latter lived three centuries later; and Constantine did not have anything to do with codifying the biblical text; he was mainly concerned with Christology, that is, the nature and function of Jesus Christ – was he equal (homoousian in Greek) with the Father or not. This was why he convened the infamous Council of Nicea in 325 CE. You noted that “Isaiah” is another name for Jesus. This is incorrect.

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah (d. 7th century BCE) is not mentioned in any definitive Muslim proof-text as far as I know. Jesus (peace and blessing be upon him) is ‘Isa in the Qur’anic text or Yeshu’a in Syriac, meaning “saved by God” (see Psalm 20:6). According to the book of Acts as well as Paul’s own account in his various epistles canonized in the New Testament, Paul encountered a vision of the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus a short time after the ascension of Jesus (peace and blessing be upon him) in which Christ commissioned Paul to admonish the Gentiles and build believing Christian congregations (Acts 9, 22, 26; Gal. 1-2).

Paul does not represent ‘Isa (as)

However, according to renown biblical scholars/philosophers F.C. Bauer, Walter Bauer, and Soren Kierkegaard, and others (even Thomas Jefferson), Paul is the initial corrupter of the rigidly monotheistic Gospel of the holy prophet Jesus Christ (peace and blessing be upon him). Paul fails to accurately quote Jesus even one time in his fourteen letters and epistles (actually seven [Romans, Galatians, Philippians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon]; the other seven are viewed by the vast majority of New Testament scholars to be pseudonymous – forgeries attributed to Paul by Pauline elements).

By his own admission, Paul has fundamental differences of opinion with the Jerusalem apostolic leadership, namely James the Just, the brother of Jesus (peace and blessing be upon him) and his successor (See the book of Galatians). Paul accuses Peter, James, and Barnabas of hypocrisy and condemns these eminent apostles as adhering to “another Gospel” (ετερον ευαγγελιον), Gal.1:6. Paul also admits that he does not possess a “letter of recommendation” (ijazah) from any authoritative apostle licensing him to teach the Gospel (2 Cor. 3:1)

Pauline Christianity is Today’s Christianity

Paul’s influence has led many scholars to conclude that he is the actual principal founder of the religion of Christianity; various dogmas such as vicarious atonement, incarnation, and divine sonship find clear origin in the Pauline corpus of the New Testament. The early believing community was split between Jamsonian Christianity, centered in Jerusalem and Semitic (Ebionite) in its theological orientation and Pauline Christianity, centered on Paul and his missions and proto-trinitarian in its theological (Christological) orientation.

The only two books of the New Testament that reflect the Jamsonian school are the books of James and Jude, both family members of Jesus (peace and blessing be upon him), the former labeled “a epistle of straw” by staunchly pro-Pauline theologian and spearhead of the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther (d. 1546 CE). There are several other writings that reflect the Jamsonian school of theology that did not make it into the New Testament due to their so-called heretical stances (the Clementine literature, the Didache, Liturgy of St. James, Gospel of the Ebionites, Gospel of the Hebrews, etc).

The Other Apostles and the Psalms

There are also other books in the New Testament that claim to have been written by apostles of Jesus (Matthew, John, and Peter), but almost all NT scholars believe that these books are pseudonymous as well. The practice of pseudonymity, or pious fraud/deception, was quite common in the Greco-Roman world at the time. With respect to the Psalms, the scholars of Islam say that indeed there are elements of truth in them, but even Old Testament biblical scholars of higher criticism do not maintain that the actual king David (peace and blessing be upon him) wrote the Pslams and have almost universally labeled the book “anonymous.”

Did our Master Muhammad (Peace and Blessing of Be Upon Him) have access to a Bible?

It is certainly conceivable that he did have access to a Bible, but we should remember that the Bible wasn’t actually translated into Arabic until the eighth century CE. That means, as some Orientalists have actually maintained, that he listened to stories about Abraham, Moses, Jesus, etc., that were translated to him by learned Jews and Christians, and was then able to rehash those stories back into Arabic, in a style and beauty that remains unmatched to this day! The question then becomes, who were his human teachers that gave him these insights?

The hypocrisy of the Western Orientalist becomes apparent here due to the fact that when it comes to Jesus (who certainly had access to the OT in his own language) he employs a hermeneutic of acceptance; that is to say, that Jesus (peace and blessing be upon him) was prima facie honest and truthful; but when it comes to Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) he employs a hermeneutic of suspicion; that is to say, the Prophet must have had an ulterior motive.

There were no Christian nor Jewish tribes living in Mecca at that time, only certain individuals. Waraqah b. Nawfal died in the Prophet’s second ministerial year; it is inconceivable that an unlettered Arab would have such specialized religious information at that time and place unless he was divinely inspired or raised as a student and rigorously trained in some seminary of some sort (such as a monastery or Yeshiva). With this said, the Prophet was dubbed Al-Saadiq al-Ameen by his people even before his prophecy.

Similarities between Matthew, Mark, and Luke

These gospels are similar because Matthew and Luke simply used Mark’s “skeleton” in the writing of their respective gospels. This is why these three gospels are called “synoptic,” meaning “one-eyed.” Mark wrote around 70 CE, Matthew around 85 CE, and Luke around 85-90 CE. This theory, known as the Two Source Theory, is the most widely held opinion by biblical scholars. However, at times Matthew and Luke will revise a Markan story or pericope due to linguistic or theological reasons.

The work of the great German scholars of the 18th and 19th centuries such as Bultmann and Strauss gave rise to the study of higher biblical criticism and includes redaction, source, and textual criticisms. See Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman for some incredible insights and information. John’s Gospel is vastly different than the synoptic tradition and scholars have different theories as to why that is.

Ali Ataie


Ali Ataie has been involved in interfaith activities for over fifteen years. He has been both a guest lecturer and guest instructor at several colleges and universities such as Cal Poly State , UC Davis , UC Berkeley, UCLA, Cal State East Bay, and others . He studied various Islamic sciences under local Bay Area scholars and has dialogued and debated with several Christian scholars on a variety of topics ranging from the historicity of the resurrection of Christ (upon whom be peace) and the Prophethood of Muhammad (upon whom be peace and blessings).

He is a graduate of the Badr Arabic Language Institute in Hadramawt, Yemen and studied at the prestigious Dar al-Mustafa under some of the most eminent scholars in the world. He holds a Masters’ Degree in Biblical Studies from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, with emphasis upon the New Testament (the first Muslim seminarian in the 147 year history of the school to do so). He is certified in Arabic, Hebrew, and biblical Greek, and is fluent in Farsi. Currently he is working on a PhD in Islamic Biblical Hermeneutics at the GTU and is an adjunct professor of Islamic Studies and World Religions at the GTU and Zaytuna College in Berkeley, Ca.

Does the Qur’an Affirm the Validity of Practicing Judaism and Christianity?

Answered by Ustadh Salman Younas

Question: I have been told since childhood that the only religion that is accepted is Islam and I did some research online and I saw the verse “And whoever seeks religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers. (3:85).”

So I would like to understand the below verse properly and not be confused. Could you please help me understand this matter the right way.

Verily, those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians (Sabi’in), whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. [Baqarah]

Answer: assalamu `alaykum

I pray you are well.

The basis when it comes to understanding such verses is to do so in a reconcilable manner and not a contradictory one.

There are numerous verses and prophetic narrations that clearly establish that the only religion acceptable with Allah is Islam. One such verse is the one mentioned in the question, namely, “Whoever seeks a religion other than Islam will never have it accepted from him, and shall be of those who have truly failed in the next life.” (3:85) Another verse states, “Indeed the true religion with Allah is Islam.” (3:19)

This meaning is reaffirmed by the statement of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace), “By Him in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, any person of this Community, any Jew, or any Christian who hears of me and dies without believing in what I have been sent with will be an inhabitant of hell.” [Muslim]

Based on the above and similar proof-texts, the consensus of Islamic scholarship is that the concept of the universal validity of religions is a heterodox belief that has little proof in the primary texts of this tradition.

The Verse of Surah Baqarah

The verse cited in the question regarding Jews, Christians, and Sabians who believe in Allah, the last day, and perform righteous deeds being rewarded in the next life does not contradict the above consensus. Nor was this verse ever seen by the scholars of the Islamic religion as entertaining the possibility that these other religions shared the validity and acceptance assigned by Allah to the Islamic faith.

Rather, this verse refers to:

a. Those Jews, Christians, and Sabians who followed their religion in their pure, unadulterated forms before the advent of the Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace).

b. Those Jews, Christians, and Sabians who enter into Islam and correct belief as the verse can be +understood as having a conditional clause in the phrase “those who believe (man amana)…” for which the subsequent statement of “shall have their reward” is conditioned upon. In other words, “if and when they believe… they shall have their reward.”

Both these meanings are also supported by the context of the verse, which comes after a lengthy narrating of the misdeeds of certain of the Children of Israel (banu israil). After enumerating some of these misdeeds, Allah reassures the reader through the verse in question that those among the previous faiths who had faith will not go unrewarded, and such people should have hope that they will be saved if they accept the true religion.

[`Alusi, Ruh al-Ma`ani; Ibn Ashur, tahrir al-Tanwir]

Other Religions & Salvation

While we deem Islam to be the only true religion, it needs to be kept in mind that divine amnesty may apply to even those who were not on the Islamic faith. This is not because such faiths are valid, but because of Allah’s mercy encompasses those who were ignorant of the Islamic message.

This is conveyed in the statement of the Qur’an, “We do not punish until We send a Messenger.” (17:15) For more details on this, you should refer to Shaykh Nuh Kellers article on the issues, which can be found here:

On the validity of all religions in the thought of ibn Al-‘Arabi and Emir ‘Abd al-Qadir: a letter to `Abd al-Matin

Lastly, as Muslims, it is our duty to look at non-Muslims with mercy, kindness, and desiring for them the best of both this world and the next in terms of salvation and the attainment of God’s pleasure. The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “None of you truly believe until he loves for his brother what he loves himself.” [Bukhari, Muslim] This was interpreted by Imam Nawawi and others as referring to the brotherhood all humans share on account of being the progeny of Adam.

People of other faiths are part and parcel of the societies we live in. They are neighbors, work colleagues, and relatives. We do not look down on them and nor do we make the belief that Islam is the true path an excuse to shun them. Rather, we aspire to implement the prophetic statement that religion is nothing but sincere counsel and seeking to spread the good.

Salman