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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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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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The view of marriage in Islam

25th November 2020

Special honour for humankind

The creatures in this universe, created by The Almighty, are innumerable and of all these, man has been classed as the noblest and highest in virtue. It is interesting to note that all the other creations have been created for the service and use of mankind-and this has been revealed at many a place in the Holy Quran.

Thus The Almighty shows the special honour granted to humankind. Because we have been blessed with this special divine bestowment, mankind is called upon to conduct their lives in accordance with the command of Allah and not in pursuit of personal passion and lower desires.

Allah Almighty says in the Holy Quran: “We have indeed honoured mankind and carried them on both land and sea and we have sustained them from the good bounties and we have given them virtue over all creations.” (Quran 15:  70)

Other creatures, like animals, etc. may eat and drink anything and everything be it permissible or impermissible, be it clean or unclean, be it theirs or others-and this is not regarded as a sin.  Similarly they may fulfil their lower basic desires as and when they please – with no need of any marriage arrangement and within no set boundary of laws or regulations.

But human beings, the noblest of all creations, are required to engage in what is permissible only – even to fulfil one’s ‘lower’ desires in a permissible and modest manner that is in accordance with the Divine Command. The marriage ceremony (Nikah) has to be performed and no person is permitted to fulfil his or her lower basic desires outside the bond of matrimony.

Marriage ceremony

In Islam the marriage ceremony (Nikah) is simple and straight forward – when a man or women has selected a partner (spouse),arrangements are made to hold a gathering of people from the community – preferably  at the local masjid.  The proposal, from one party and acceptance from the other are clearly announced in the presence of the witnesses (minimum two required).  Prior to this the Imaam (priest) will start by quoting verses from the Quran that praise and Glory of the Almighty and invoking blessings and salutations upon the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  He will also recite several verses from the Holy Quran and quote a few sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Element of “God consciousness”

Amongst the verses that are recited a very striking one is: “Oh mankind, observe consciousness of duty to your Lord (The Almighty) who created you’re from a single soul and created therefrom the spouse (partner) and caused manifold increase of men and women from them both.  Fear the One in whose name you call out (The Almighty) and be mindful of the relationships, indeed Allah is ever watchful over you.” (Quran 4:  1)

Sacred union

Actually the nikah is a union of two people, rather two families, wherein there is a mutual agreement or covenant between and parties to respect one another, to fulfil the rights and duties to each other, to share happiness and sorrows with each other, to take the relatives and family members, to regard the profit or loss of the other as ones on profit or loss. etc…

Mutual rights and duties

The groom is called upon to fulfil all his duties towards the bride – his wife – and to make every effort in taking care of her general upkeep and well-being. The bride on her part also has a role in carrying out her services, and rights due to her husband. Both should serve and assist one another in health or illness, difficulty or happiness, and they should try by all means to be a pillar of support to give love, comfort and consolation to one another.

In this manner, before entering the bond of matrimony both parties are warned to be ever conscious of Almighty Allah – in fact the element of “God consciousness”’ is mentioned several times in the verses quoted.

Added dimensions in Islam

Allah Almighty declares in The Holy Quran states: “And from amongst His signs is that He created for you mates from amongst yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” (Quran 30: 21)

Islam recognises the institution of marriage as a social and psychological necessity for every member of the community on the basis of the following reasons:

Firstly, marriage regulates and controls erotic behaviour and procreation.  Within marriage, sexual activity in Islam is regarded as normal and is encouraged between the married couple.  It is not a shameful act and should not be denied to members of either sex bound together in wedlock.  Restrictions to this approach may lead to personality disturbances and could even endanger the mental health of individuals which would have an adverse effect on the structures of society.

Secondly, marriage nurtures close companionship of husband and wife, resulting in kindness, love, and consideration for each other – as is understood from the above verse of The Holy Quran.   Moreover, it states the following in reference to the close relationship that exists between husband and wives: “They are your garments and you are their garments.” (Quran 2 : 187)

It is also recorded from the sayings of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him): “A man will be rewarded for what he spends on his wife, even for putting a morsel of food in her mouth (feeding her).”

Thirdly, the ‘institution’ of sincere marriage provides a stable atmosphere for the upbringing of children.  Love between husband and wife soon develops into a love of the offspring and eventually that love should then transcend to encompass all of Allah’s creation.

Both parents play differing, but invaluable, roles in the rearing of children.  It is the right of every child to have a father and a mother. A single parent family is not regarded as complete because it lacks the valuable role of another parent in rearing the child.

Regardless of our religion, race, tribe or any of the regular differences that people tend to make nowadays, a marriage should be a strong bond built on love, trust, faithfulness, respect for the foundation of a happy home and a future family.

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Joy or grief in the hereafter

17th November 2020

Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?

Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.

Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.

Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:

  • Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
  • He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
  • As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.

This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.

“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)

 

In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.

‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)

In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.

If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.

However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.

Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..

‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)

In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)

Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.

According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us.  Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.

‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)

Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.

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