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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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Honesty – a fundamental human characteristic

12th October 2021

“When honesty is lost, then wait for the Hour (the Day of Judgment)”.  These are the words of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).  They paint a picture of the time leading up to the Day of Judgement, when righteous people will be sorrowful due to the lack of honesty around them. 

Influence of materialism

Honesty, like morality, is an in built and essential characteristic of every human but the influence of materialism and the greed and desire for status, position, fame, wealth, etc. have wreaked havoc in human society, to an extent never seen before. In the 21st century, we live in a world where honesty is less valued than ever before and in fact even shunned at times.  We expect people to be honest in their dealings with us yet we ourselves promote deceit and dishonesty through our action and speech on a daily basis.  Many of us even watch and applaud television shows and movies that promote and encourage lying, infidelity and deceitfulness.

Desire for worldly gain

In the corporate world, ‘deceitful’ statements and figures are announced and pronounced to lure investors, glamorous yet deceitful adverts to attract customers, etc. have all become the norm and honesty goes out of the window. Even in the media industry, honesty seems to be waning very rapidly. Let alone the due regard of one’s conscience but without a second thought or due consideration of the rights of the others, stories are churned out with so-called “sensational” add-ons, etc. simply for the sake of being the “first” to break the news or for the sake of having the “best” story or maybe even for the sake of just having increased an readership or viewership.

Thoughtless individual behaviour

Without thinking, we indirectly teach our children that dishonesty is acceptable.  When we expect our children to tell the caller on the telephone we are not home, this is a lesson in deceit.  When we answer the cellphone and say that we are busy in a meeting yet we very much relaxed and free, or we say we are out of town yet we are at home, etc. we are being blatantly dishonest. When we refuse to settle our debts and dues making all sorts of pretences, we are actually lying.  We admonish and reprimand our children for lying, yet the reality is we have been their teachers.  Whether we tell lies, or whether we allow our children to live in a world surrounded by deceit, the lesson is learned and the honesty begins to disappear from the hearts of people – in particular the next generation.

Integrity and reliability

We must understand that honesty incorporates the concepts of truthfulness and reliability and it resides in all human thought, words, actions and relationships.  It is more than just accuracy; it is more than just truthfulness, it denotes integrity or moral soundness.  Belief in God Almighty commands truthfulness and forbids lying.  In the Holy Quran, God Almighty commands that humans be honest: “O you who believe!  Be conscious of God Almighty, and be with those who are true (in word and deeds).” (Ch  9 : v 119). A renowned Holy Quran scholar explained the meaning of this verse.  He said, “Being truthful and adhering to truthfulness, means you will be among the people of the truth (by speaking and behaving in a truthful manner) and be saved from calamity and that is what will really make a way out for you from your problems (in the long run)”.

Honesty and truthfulness go hand in hand

A true Believer, one who is truly submitted to God, has many characteristics by which he/she can be identified.  The most obvious of these noble characteristics are honesty of character and truthfulness of speech.  Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) was a perfect example of honesty.  The records of history clear show that even before he was bestowed Prophet hood by The Almighty, he had earned the titles of “As Saadiq” (the truthful) and “Al Ameen” (the trustworthy one), within the community. They had full trust in his honesty and integrity to such a degree that they would accept anything he said. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh), once gathered all the people of Makkah at the base of Mount Safa and asked them, “O people of Makkah!  If I say to you that an army is advancing on you from behind the mountains, will you believe me?”  All said in one voice, “Yes, because we have never heard you telling a lie.”  All the people, without exception, swore to his truthfulness and honesty because he had lived an unblemished and extremely upright life among them up to that point in time – for forty years.

Honesty in a comprehensive manner

This honesty, an essential ingredient of the human character, includes being truthful towards God by worshipping Him sincerely; being truthful to oneself, by adhering to God’s laws; and being truthful with others by speaking the truth and being honest in all dealings, such as buying, selling, social interaction, marriage,etc.  There should be no deceiving, cheating, falsifying or withholding of information, thus a person should be the same on the inside as he/she is on the outside.

Prophetic teachings

Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) informed us of the great benefits of living in an honest and truthful way and warned us of the dangers inherent in dishonesty and falsehood.  He said: “Truthfulness leads to righteousness, and righteousness leads to Paradise.  In addition, a person keeps on telling the truth until they are recorded by God Almighty as a very truthful person.  And falsehood leads to wickedness (and evil-doing), and wickedness leads to the (Hell) Fire. In addition, and a person keeps on telling lies until they are recorded by God Almighty as a very great liar”.

For those who wish to be among the truthful, Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) has left us with these words of guidance, “Let he who believes in God and the Last Day either speak good or (otherwise) remain silent”.

A successful, vibrant society is based upon honesty and justice, and is intolerant of dishonesty in all its various forms.  The Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) exhorted the faithful to be scrupulously honest in all their social dealings, business transactions, etc. at all times.

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Children Our Responsibility

4th October 2021

When we look around in the world of today most of us will be astounded / astonished and speechless at the behaviour of some of the younger generation. Their errant and devious behaviour of many of them is alarming and to put it mildly upsetting to say the least. Their behaviour and actions show that they have shed their traditional, cultural, moral and importantly their religious values and upbringing for the ‘new world’ style of living. This issue cuts across all religious, social, cultural, economic and ethnic barriers.

Looking into the matter deeper one has to ask if these children have had the proper upbringing and parental guidance from their parents and family members. Parents hold that enormous responsibility in raising their children to be responsible by steering their upbringing to become responsible citizens and adults of tomorrow. The Holy Qur’an says: ‘O you who believe! Save yourself and your families from the Fire of Hell’. (Quran 66: 6)

In Islam raising children to be responsible Muslims is a responsibility placed squarely on the shoulders of the parents. The task is to mould that child into an Islamic personality, with good morals, strong Islamic principles, knowledge and behaviour so that they can face the demands of life in a responsible manner.

Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said: ‘Children have the right to be raised as responsible Muslim adults, and parents must ensure that right appropriately. Parents must be conscious and take an active role in guiding their children and families on the path of truth.’

As parents we hold that enormous responsibility and also the leverage in terms of what we teach our children and accordingly how our children grow up to be adults.  “http://www.iqrasense.com/islam” \o “Islam” Islam, therefore, holds parents responsible for steering their children’s upbringing according to the guidelines of the  “http://www.iqrasense.com/quran” \o “Quran” Quran and the Prophet’s traditions and teachings.

Besides teaching them the human values, morals and the manner of behaviour, children should be taught Islamic morals, characters, and etiquette from an early age so that it becomes part of their habits. Children should be taught the principles of humility, tolerance, patience, and other such behavioural traits. These personality traits can help any individual tremendously in their later lives. For example, teach them about patience and tolerance and dealing and coping with tough situations, and they will be thankful to you for the rest of their lives.

Needless to say that this should begin with the proper environment at home that inculcates the best moral and behavioural standards. Hence we have the responsibility to ensure that there exists a healthy home environment for their upbringing. Training them to grow up to become responsible citizens requires that parents actively maintain an atmosphere at home that is conducive to positive learning and upbringing. Therefore, requires that parents too, model their lives according to the Islamic way of life. Children can get conflicting messages and can get confused when they do not see parents and elders following the very same instructions and behavioural patterns that they give to them, or when out of excessive love for them, parents become so indulgent that they turn a blind eye to their sins and fail in checking them. We cannot rely on absent parenting or parenting by remote control.

It is well known that children who are raised in households where there is constant bickering, fighting, abuse and swearing, not only learn to develop the same habits but can even suffer personality disorders later in life. Regrettably this is so because many homes are filled with strife and are not conducive to proper upbringing of children. In many homes we see the destruction of the family unit and are no longer the havens of peace, tranquillity and comfort that we once knew. Because they are filled with domestic violence, vulgar language, family strife, lack of respect and many of today’s ills. How then do we expect to raise well-adjusted children in this poisoned atmosphere? It is true that children may not do what you tell them to do, but they will certainly find it easier to do what you do.

As parents we have to be aware of the dangers that our children face and we should try to counteract these negative influences by being more sensitive to our parenting responsibilities. Many parents may not realize it but our youth are tempted by the greatest evils of this day and age: alcohol and drugs. Make no mistake many of our youth have fallen prey to alcohol and alarmingly are experimenting with drugs. Some may be unaware but the fact is that hard drugs are now being peddled to our kids everywhere in Botswana. These drug peddlers or better described as merchants of death can nullify all the parenting efforts in an instant.

Whilst most parents do their best to raise well-adjusted children, there are many others who are somewhat oblivious and unaware of the fact that our youth today are facing a serious challenge because of societal and peer pressure of having to ‘conform’ to the youth culture of today. Regrettably most of our youth try to copy and emulate foreign cultures that are based on the foreign cultures imported from other parts of the world. These ‘alien’ cultures and have led to a breakdown in societal values that were the cornerstone of our upbringing.

In Islam parents should put in their best efforts to ensure that their children become practicing Muslims, so that they keep Islam alive in their lives and their families’ lives after their death. “No father has given a greater gift to his children than good moral training”, said the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Parental efforts are fundamental and are very instrumental in inculcating the love of Islam and the desire to worship in the right manner. Parents should also recognize that raising good children can be a source of their salvation in the hereafter. This is because if parents raise good Allah-fearing children, those children can constantly pray to Allah for their parents after their death. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said: “When a Muslim dies all his works also stop, except three: acts of charity which are continued, knowledge by which all profit, and a righteous son/daughter who prays for him.”

In Islam children are referred to as an ‘Amanah’, a trust, placed in our hands to nurture, love, protect, and mould into God Conscious and righteous persons in their transition to their adulthood and its attendant responsibilities. This implies that we as parents have to use our parenting skills to instil into them values, behaviour, good character, morals and principles that will mould them into a sound Islamic personality so that they are equipped to handle the demands of life in a responsible and mature fashion. This however is easier said than done.

Unfortunately there are some parents who mistakenly believe that they have fulfilled their parental obligations and duty just by sending their children to school for education. They expect that this is where they will be educated and taught life skills. Unfortunately many parents see the school as the place where children will also be taught proper behaviour and manners, conveniently forgetting that the basis for manners and behaviour start at home. The children spend more time at home than in school and the behaviour or lack of it in the home is what the kids are bound to emulate.

The bottom line is: Our children are our future. We must see to it that we raise healthy, intelligent and morally responsible children. Our commitment should be to raise them in a safe and healthy environment. We must protect their life as well as their spirit and mind, their morals and manners, only then can we guide and place them on the righteous path.

Remember one thing: when we are dead and gone, people may not remember our children by name. But when they misbehave or act in a good manner, they will say ngwana wa ga …. so and so, in other words so and so’s child. What legacy do we want to leave behind?

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CHANGE OF LIFESTYLE (2)

2nd March 2021

HONESTY AND TRUTHFULNESS

Continuing with the topic of ‘Change’: this refers to changes within our hearts, minds and soul; this will lead to changes in our daily conduct and in our lifestyle; this week the column focuses on honesty and truthfulness.

Honesty and truthfulness are the basis of all religious beliefs and also those universal principles which all societies, communities and people agree with but seldom do we practice it sincerely. Without honesty individuals and the society at large live in suspicion of one another resulting in mistrust and suspicion.

When friends, family, work colleagues and couples are not honest with each other, then we cannot create and develop a society that is in balance to that which Allah desires from us, then the life of those and others in the wider society will be somewhat in jeopardy.

This is why Islam and every other religious faith prohibit lying. Allah, Almighty says in the Qur’an, “Truly Allah guides not one who transgresses and lies.” (Quran 40:28), the Prophet Mohamed (pbuh) warned people about lying and its consequence in his statement, ‘Stick to truthfulness, for it leads one to righteousness, and it leads to Paradise.

Thus, when one sticks to truthfulness and practices it, Allah considers him as a truthful man. And avoid telling lies, for it leads to excessiveness, and this leads to Hell-Fire. Thus, when one persists in telling lies, Allah considers him as a liar’.

Unfortunately in the world of today there is so much misunderstanding that has led to chaos because of the untruths and false or misinformation that is being spread in our societies. This is spread via our international or local political leaders and even us as individuals at a local level.

Among the other major characteristics that make up the nature and conduct in the life of each and every one of us are truthfulness and honesty. They are the foundation stone that dictate our actions, interactions, behaviour and our daily conduct with and within society.

For honesty to be complete, it must exist in three things. It must exist in the heart as one’s faith, it must exist in the intentions behind one’s deeds, and it must be present in the words that one speaks. We become what we are by our thoughts, actions, deeds and the manner in which we conduct our lives.

Honesty goes even deeper because it should start in our Honesty with our Creator: it goes without saying that if we are not genuine and sincere in our relationship with Allah, it is unlikely that we will achieve any measure of sincerity in our worldly relationships. Sincerity in our relationship with the Almighty in our belief – where we recognise and accept that He is The Supreme Sovereign and the One and Only deserving to be worshipped also being mindful of the fact that Allah is ever watchful of what we say or do.

If we truly want to be honest in our relationship with Allah, we must become so sincere to Him that there remains in our hearts no other motive for what we do except to seek His pleasure. Sincerity in our relationship with Allah inculcates in us not only inner peace but further leads us towards wholeheartedness in worship, honesty in our motives and intentions. ‘O ye who believe, fear Allah and be among those who are true (in words and deeds) Quran 9:119.

Honesty in word and in our deeds: Let’s face it, all of us one time or the other lies about something, but not always with malicious intent – we tell what we think are harmless little lies. For example we were supposed to or promised to do something and we didn’t, we then cover up by making excuses like ‘we had a power failure’ or ‘the computer crashed’. We do so, knowing full well that the lies are just a cover for us when the reason was simply that we did not at the time feel like nor getting around to doing it.

Too often some of us use these small and trivial lies regularly and conveniently, but they can over time people may begin to take our words with a pinch of salt and consequently begin to lose their trust in us because of our petty lies. A person’s deeds are honest only when we practice what we believe in. Dishonesty in actions and in deed is more loathsome than dishonesty in word, for it is a phoney display of sincerity.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: ‘There are three characteristics of a hypocrite: when he speaks he is false, whenever he makes a promise he breaks his promise; and whenever he is entrusted (with something) he betrays that trust (proves to be dishonest).’

In the Holy Quran, Allah informs us that our honesty will bring us good even in this world: “And when a matter is resolved upon, it would be best for them if they were true to Allah.” (Quran 47:21) And of course, honesty will be of doubtless benefit to us in the Hereafter. Allah says: “This is the day that the honest people will benefit from their honesty.” (Quran 5: 119)

Honesty with fellow humans

Honesty with other people is important and we must be honest in our dealings and interaction with others. We should not behave deceptively and present a ‘false face’ to people. Instead, we must be genuine and straightforward with people as much as possible.

We must also be honest in what we say. This requires from us to be careful to establish the truth of the news or even conversation that we hear before we go ahead and pass it on to others. The Prophet (pbuh) said: “It is enough to make a person a liar that he tells others everything that he hears.”

We must be honest in giving advice to people and that there should be no hidden motive. We should be sincere in our advice and truly do our best to help people avoid misfortune and attain what is good for them.

We need to be even more honest with our spouses. We must be able to confide in them and speak freely to them about our concerns, our secrets, and our ambitions. A husband or wife is a life partner, a friend, a confidant. It goes without saying that the more openly a husband and wife are able to communicate with each other in an atmosphere of trust and confidence, the stronger their relationship will be.

A Final Thought:
Think about it a mirror always shows you your actual image, it doesn’t hide your imperfections or ahem, ugliness. The mirror isn’t there to make us happy or sad by hiding or showing us otherwise. It simply reflects how we really look – now that is honesty and truthfulness.

 

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