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Islam and Christianity

IQBAL EBRAHIM
UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

Many people may not be aware that most of the major religions have common beliefs and ‘share’ the same Prophets and the Revealed Scriptures have a common ‘thread’ in that the beliefs are the same. The only difference is that I may say 2 x 2 is 4, and someone else will say 2+2 is 4, likewise 5-1 is 4. We agree on the answer but we may do things differently.

If we were to look at the Divine Revealed Scriptures – for example if we were to take the four Religious Scriptures of the Torah (Moses) The Zaboor (Psalms of David), the Injeel (Good News to Jesus Christ) and the Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad (May Peace and Blessings be upon them all).If we were to sincerely read them it will show a common thread between Islamic religious beliefs, values and practices that also have roots within those Scriptures (in their original form) as Divine Revelations. Over time this weekly column has shown the remarkable similarity between Islam and Christianity, and also between the Qur’an and the Bible. 

Not surprisingly because the Qur’an says: ‘…..We Muslims believe in Allah, and the Revelations given to us, and to Abraham, Ishmael, Jacob and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to all Prophets from their Lord. We make no difference between one and another of them. And we submit to Allah’ (Qur’an 2:136).

This verse and others in the Qur’an show a link and a common thread between the three religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism – the Qur’an respectfully refers to Christians and Jews as ‘Ahle Qitaab’ – People of the Book. The Qur’an also mentions many Prophets of the Bible, as was covered in the article of last week.

Islam is a ‘sister’ faith to Christianity and Judaism because they have common geographical, ethnic and linguistic origins. But more especially they believe in and have ‘common’ Prophets. The Patriarch Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. The great Prophets Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them) pbut) were from Isaac’s ancestry and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was from Ishmael’s ancestry. Moses spoke Hebrew, Jesus Christ spoke Aramaic and Prophet Muhammad (pbut) spoke Arabic – these three languages have common roots of the Middle East.

As mentioned above Muslims believe in the Revealed Books, as a result, Muslims and Christians share many similar beliefs, values, moral injunctions, and principles of behavior. I will randomly highlight a small selection to show some similarities those beliefs, practices and Qur’anic verses that find congruence with those of the Bible – Islam and Christianity are ‘closer’ than you may think. Some Similarities of teachings found in The Qur’an and The Bible.

Muslims believe in Oneness of God (Allah) who has no partners as expressed in the Islamic creed ‘There is no object worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His Messenger’.  Similarly when one looks at a similar verse from the Bible ‘I alone am the Lord your God. No other god may share my glory; I will not let idols share my praise. (Isaiah 42:8).  

Muslims do not eat pork, blood, or the meat of animals found dead. ‘He hath forbidden you dead meat, and blood and the flesh of swine, and that on which any other name hath been invokes beside that of Allah. (Qur’an 2:173). Compare the following verses from the Bible: ‘Do not eat pigs. They must be considered unclean…… Do not eat any of these animals or even touch their dead bodies’ (Leviticus 11:7)    and ‘You shall not eat anything that dies of itself’ (Deut 14:21) and ‘…eat no food that has been offered to idols; eat no blood; eat no animals that have been strangled (Acts 15:29).     

Muslims are also forbidden the drinking of alcohol: ‘they ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say; in them is great sin and some profit; but the sin is greater than the profit’ (Qur’an 2: 219). Similarly the Bible says: ‘do not let wine tempt you, even though it is rich red, though it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. The next morning you will feel as if you had been bitten by a poisonous snake…. You will not be able to think or speak clearly. (Proverbs 23: 29-33).

Muslims are forbidden to take interest (usury) that is levied on loans etc. ‘O ye who believe! Devour not usury, doubled or multiplied; but fear Allah that ye may prosper’ (Quran 2: 130). Similarly in the Bible one finds; ‘If you lend money to any of my people who are poor, do not act like a money lender and require them to pay interest’. (Exodus 22:25) and ‘…he doesn’t lend money for profit, he refuses to do evil and gives an honest decision in any dispute’. (Ezekiel 18:8).

It is a practice that Muslim males are circumcised soon after birth, and this practice is also mentioned in the Bible; ‘A week later, when the time came for the baby to be circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name which the Angel had given him before he had been conceived’ (Luke 2:21)

 The Muslim way of greeting is ‘Assalamu- alaikum’ which means ‘Peace be upon you’. ‘O ye who believe, enter not the houses other than your own until you have asked permission and saluted those inside’ Qur’an 24:27) and ‘’Salaam (peace) a word of salutation from the Lord Most merciful (Qur’an 36:58). Again the Bible shows this as a practice of Jesus (pbuh): “When you go into a house say ‘peace be with you’.  (Matthew 10:12-14).

Muslims undertake compulsory fasting for the entire month of Ramadan. ‘O ye who believe, Fasting has been prescribed to you as it has been prescribed for those before you. (Qur’an 2:183). The practice of fasting is also borne out in the following Biblical verses; ‘And when he (Jesus) had fasted forty days and forty nights..’  (Matthew 4:2), and also: ‘…and when you fast, do not put on a sad face as the hypocrites do.’ (Matthew 6:16)

The Last Supper too is mentioned in the Qur’an: ‘Said Jesus the son of Mary: O God our Lord, send us from Heaven a table set (with viands) that there may be for us a sign from You…..God said: I will send it down to you…..’ (Qur’an 5:114-115)  These are but a small selection of common practices and beliefs found both in Islam and Christianity that I have included into this weeks’ column.

(To be continued next week)

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The Model Personality of a Muslim

23rd September 2020

A Muslim is expected to be and should be a living example of the teachings of the Quran and the ‘Sunnah’ (the teachings and guidance of the Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).

He should follow these in all his worldly affairs, relations, and situations – starting with his relationship with his Lord, his own self, his family and the people around him. One of the distinguishing features of the (ideal) Muslim is his faith in Allah, and his conviction that whatever happens in the universe and whatever befalls him, only happens through the will and the decree of Allah.

For the ease of writing this article I have made use of for want of a better word, the generic term ‘he’, ‘his’, ‘him’ and the male gender, but it goes without saying that these standards apply equally to female and male Muslims.

A Muslim should accept, recognise and sense that he is in constant need of the help and support of Allah, no matter how much he may think he can do for himself. He has no choice in his life but to submit to the will of his Creator, worship Him, strive towards the Right Path and do good deeds. This will guide him to be righteous and upright in all his deeds, both in public and in his private life.

This must the basis of his attitude towards this worldly life in his body, mind and soul. A Muslim should pay constant attention to his body’s physical, intellectual and spiritual needs. He needs to take good care of his body, promoting its good health and strength. For example he should not eat in excess; but he should eat enough to maintain his health and energy. Allah, The Exalted, Says “…Eat and drink; but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” [Quran 7: 31]

The Muslim should keep away from alcohol, drugs and stimulants in fact the consumption of alcohol is prohibited for every Muslim.  He should also try to exercise regularly to maintain his physical fitness. The Muslim also keeps his body and clothes clean, he bathes frequently.

The Prophet placed a great emphasis on cleanliness and bathing. As a matter of fact that when a Muslim performs his daily five times prayers or even when he takes the Quran to read, the precondition is that he should be in a state of ‘purity’. Purity in this case means that he should have performed ‘wudhu’, which means that he performs the washing of his hands, face and feet. A Muslim is also concerned with his clothing and appearance but in accordance with the Islamic ideal of moderation, avoiding the extremes.

As for his intellectual care, the Muslim should take care of his mind by pursuing beneficial knowledge. It is his responsibility to seek knowledge whether it is religious or secular, so he may understand the nature and the essence of things. Allah Says: “…and say: My Lord! Increase me in knowledge.” [Quran 20: 114]

The Muslim should not forget that man is not only composed of a body and a mind, but that he also possesses a soul and a spirit. Therefore, the Muslim pays as much attention to his spiritual development as well as to his physical and intellectual development, in a balanced manner which ideally does not concentrate on one aspect to the detriment of others.

A Muslim should also maintain and have kind, respectful and generous attitude towards all people, starting with his family. A Muslim must treat his parents with kindness and respect, compassion, politeness and deep gratitude. He should recognize and accept their status and his duties towards them. Allah Says “And serve Allah. Ascribe nothing as partner unto Him. (Show) kindness unto parents…” [Quran 4: 36]

Towards his wife, a Muslim should exemplify good, kind and loving treatment, intelligent handling, deep understanding of the nature and psychology of women, and proper fulfilment of his responsibilities and duties in keeping and ensuring a happy family life and a home.

With his children, the Muslim is a parent who should understand and undertake his responsibility towards their good upbringing, showing them love and compassion, influence their Islamic development and giving them proper education, so that they become active and constructive elements in society, and a source of goodness for their parents, community, and society as a whole.

With his relatives, the Muslim maintains the ties of kinship and knows his duties towards them. He understands the high status given to relatives in Islam, which makes him keep in touch with them, no matter what the circumstances.

With his friends and neighbours, the Muslim illustrates good treatment and consideration of others’ feelings and sensitivities. He turns a blind eye to their faults while taking care not to commit any such errors himself. The Muslim relationship with his wider circle of friends is based on love for the sake of Allah. He is expected to be loyal and does not betray them; he should be sincere and does not ‘cheat’ them; he should be gentle, tolerant and forgiving; generous and he supplicates for them.

In his social relationships with all people, the Muslim should be well-mannered, modest and not arrogant. He should not envy others, fulfil his promises and be cheerful. He should be patient and avoid slandering and uttering obscenities. He should not unjustly accuse others nor should he interfere in that which does not concern him.

He should refrain from gossiping, spreading slander and stirring up trouble – avoiding false speech and suspicion. When he is entrusted with a secret, he keeps it. He respects his elders. He mixes with the best of people. He strives to reconcile between the Muslims.

He visits the sick and attends funerals. He returns favours and is grateful for them. He calls others to Islam with wisdom, example and beautiful preaching. He should guide people to do good and always make things easy and not difficult.

A Muslim is expected and should be fair in his judgments, not a hypocrite, a ‘yes man’ or a show-off. He should not boast about his achievements and deeds. He should be straightforward and never deceitful or twisted, no matter the circumstances. He should be generous and not remind others of his gifts or favours. Wherever possible he relieves the burden of the debtor. He should be proud and not think of begging.

These are the basic standards by which the (ideal) Muslim, in fact every other faith and religion expects believers to structure their life upon. Now how do we measure up and fit into all this? Can we honestly say that we really try to live by these ideals and principles; if not can we really call ourselves a true Muslim or a believer of our Lord in any other religion or faith?

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Test of our Moral Character

1st September 2020

‘You shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and your personal selves; and shall certainly hear much that will grieve you……..but if you persevere patiently and guard against evil – then that will be the determining factor in all affairs’ (Quran 3: 186)

Morality, integrity and upright conduct and behaviour are held in high esteem by all people in their customs, traditions and behaviour in all religions. But regrettably in this day and age many of us seem to be ‘pushing’ them away and placing them to the ‘rear’.

Despite the fact that these are a fundamental part of the Message of all the Prophets of The Almighty (peace be upon them all), so much so that the last of the Prophets – Muhammad (pbuh) – said: “I was sent (specifically) to perfect good moral character.”

Morality and moral character and behaviour is something that we all ‘agree’ with but regrettably in today’s world many of us seem to be putting this aside. You find that even those who campaign against moral character and act immorally and unscrupulously would admittedly speak highly of moral character and admit to its virtue.

No need to make a show

A person might adopt good manners under certain circumstances, simply because they are fundamental or he might do so little by little. Even this is something good. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh): “Knowledge is attained only through learning and gentleness is attained only through being gentle. Whoever is intent on attaining goodness will be given it and whoever keeps away from evil will be spared it.”

However, it is not at all praiseworthy for a person to make a ‘public’ show of good character in order to take advantage of others or win them over for some personal benefit or ulterior motive. The true test of a person’s moral fibre is constancy. This is why the old Arabic saying goes: “You see the true character of people when you travel with them.”

First test of moral character

A person’s true character shows forth when he is at home in how he deals with his wife through the long years, during hardship and ease, when things are going well and when things go wrong. This is where he has to hold himself together and where his patience is tested. His ability to keep clear of pride and arrogance, to remain gentle and tolerant, and to exhibit good conduct are all tested during his married life and his family life.

The same can be said regarding friendships when a person is constant and sincere regardless of the ever changing circumstances. How often does a person see his friend as the one whom he can rely on in need, only to find that “friend” adds to his hardships when that time of need arrives? Long term acquaintance and association reveal how shallow and superficial a person’s moral character really is.

The test of power

There is another important test of moral character that shows how true or false a person’s morals are, and that is the test of power. A person who is weak might exhibit good moral conduct and present a passive, gentle personality and character. He does not do so because it is part of his nature, but simply because he does not have the power to behave in any other way.

An Arab poet once said: ‘Oppression is human nature, so if you find someone abstaining from it, there is some reason why’. These words also echo what was said by Aristotle who said: “Oppression is part of human nature. Only one of two reasons withholds people from it: religiousness or fear of reprisal.”

When a person is in a position of strength, then his true moral character shows forth. If a person who attains power, wealth, or prestige continues to uphold his moral values, maintains his affection for others, remains humble, and shows mercy and kindness to those who ‘ill’ treat him, this is a sign of the true decency of his character and the true goodness of his person. Alas, how often do we find people who are not corrupted by power, fame, and sudden wealth?

How to behave in disagreement?

A third test of moral character is disagreement. Most people exhibit good conduct with those who agree with them and share their way of thinking, on account of their common interests. However, when differences arise, whether ideological or material, people tend to expose their true selves.

A person of dignity and good character will remain composed and sensible. He will express and express his disagreements in a clear and precise manner. Moreover, he will be respectful when doing so and avoid accusatory, insulting, and offensive language.

His moral character will prevent him from conducting himself in a mean and lowly fashion, so he will be able to retain his composure while talking to others, in spite of his disagreement with them. He will not react emotionally in a way that detracts from his character and merely demonstrates his inability to prevail on the strength of his opinion.

However some of us in the same situation, will start cursing and hurling accusations at our opponents, acting as if only we are right and everyone else is wrong. Our misplaced anger will destroy the ‘face’ of our good character. We may go so far to invent and create lies and make false claims. We might even resort to deceptive arguments to make our opponents stumble and deliberately take the words of others out of context.

People like to say that disagreements do not spoil their interpersonal relationships and it is good that they say so, but what really counts is how they conduct themselves in actual practice, not just in theory. “And do not let the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just. That is nearer to piety.” (Quran 5: 8)

We must learn how to translate our moral values and principles from ‘theory’ into a practical way of life, into something that endures in our hearts, minds and actions throughout our lives and our relationships, no matter how long they last.

They must be values that stay with us even if we become powerful ‘big shots’ or attain to high administrative office, or a prominent media spot, or social prestige, or success in business. We must learn to tolerate even when we disagree with one another, so we do not have to be always faced with the choice of either destroying our relationships or remaining silent whenever we disagree or see someone making a mistake.

Morality is the foundation of our life.

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Think about your life to come

25th August 2020

With the current lock down in place and the uncertainty and fear in our hearts and minds about Covid – 19 and all the related problems we are more focussed on the present life and our daily existence and think very little of the life after death to yet come.

I have taken the liberty, or shall I say the opportunity and have decided instead to use the following light hearted words that carry a very profound meaning and I am sure that during these trying times they will find appeal with many readers.

Over time I have read these messages that some of them were shared with me by friends and I have taken to reading them whenever I need some inspiration or even just a smile, or just a small reminder that life needn’t be that serious if we can see the truth beyond the humour, and the humour beyond the truth.

I hope that you too will find as much inspiration and enjoy them as I still do whenever I read them. No fire and brimstone or table- thumping lectures here just a common sense approach to life through a light hearted clever play on words.

Life has its daily challenges but remember, like a rose, life was meant to have its thorns. Just as the crushing of a rose flower brings out its sweet perfume, so the difficulties of life release the sweetness within us. If we let them, they can bring out qualities such as love for others, tenderness, compassion, humility and closeness to loved ones. But more importantly it should bring us closer to our Lord and Creator.

You can be sure of 10 Things Allah Almighty Won’t Ask..

Allah Almighty won’t ask what kind of car you drove, He’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation…

Allah Almighty won’t ask the square footage of your house, He’ll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.

Allah Almighty won’t ask about the clothes you had in your closet, nor what labels they had, He’ll ask how many less fortunate people you helped clothe.

Allah Almighty won’t ask what your highest salary was; He’ll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.

Allah Almighty won’t ask what your job title was; He’ll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.

Allah Almighty won’t ask how much money you made; He’ll ask you how you spent it.

Allah Almighty won’t ask how many friends you had; He’ll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

Allah Almighty won’t ask in what neighbourhood you lived, He’ll ask how you treated your neighbours.

Allah Almighty won’t ask about the colour of your skin, He’ll ask about the content of your heart and character.

Allah Almighty won’t ask why it took you so long to seek Salvation; He’ll lovingly take you to your mansion in heaven, and not to the gates of Hell.

So what are you waiting for……..?

 Some things we need to ponder upon….

  • Give Allah what’s right — not what’s left.
  • Man’s way leads to a hopeless end — Allah’s way leads to an endless hope
  • A lot of kneeling will keep you in good standing
  • He who kneels before Allah can stand before anyone.
  • In the sentence of life, the devil may be a comma –but never let him be the period.
  • Don’t put a question mark where Allah puts a period.
  • Are you wrinkled with burden? Come to the mosque for a face-lift.
  • When praying, don’t give Allah instructions — just report for duty.
  • Haven’t been to Mosque recently, hurry up, before six strong men arrive to carry your body to the mosque…….. for your funeral prayers.
  • We don’t change Allah’s Message — His Message should change us.
  • The mosque is prayer-conditioned.
  • When Allah ordains, He sustains.
  • WARNING: Exposure to Allah may prevent burning.
  • Plan ahead — It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.
  • Most people want to serve Allah, but only in an advisory position.
  • Suffering from truth decay? Brush up on your reading the Al-Quran.
  • Exercise daily — walk with Allah.
  • Never give the devil a ride — he will always take over and want to drive – to places he wants to take you to.
  • Nothing else ruins the truth like stretching it.
  • Compassion is difficult to give away because it keeps coming back.
  • He who angers you controls you.
  • Worry is the darkroom in which negatives can develop.
  • Give Satan an inch and; he’ll be a ruler.
  • Be ye fishers of men — you catch them and He’ll clean them.
  • Allah doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
  • Read the Al-Quran — It will scare ‘hell’ out of you.

 

Smile, think and even seriously ponder over the subtle messages of these little gems of wisdom – they may just help us all to look at life from a more positive angle and who knows maybe embrace a life changing attitude.

Money can build a house but it takes love to make it a home. Faith gives us courage to face the present with confidence and the future with expectancy. Listen with your heart as well as with your ears.

When you pray, you open a channel to the reservoir of Gods almighty power

Worry ends where faith begins

If we never experienced failure we would never appreciate success

Faith is the soul of success. The people who accomplish the most do so not because they never run into problems, but because they believe there is a solution for everyone.

God’s message and guidance is like a radio station broadcasting all the time. You just have to tune in and receive His signals.

To feel rich, count the things that you have that money can’t buy.

No problem is too big or too small to take to God in prayer. Many consider prayer a last resort, but God meant it to be our first and surest line of defence.

You don’t have to walk life’s path alone; the great God of the universe will take your hand and walk by your side. As busy as He is, He is never too busy for us.

 

Faith and trust go hand in hand. If you have faith in Allah, you’ll trust Him to answer your prayers in the way He knows is best.

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