Connect with us
Advertisement

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)

Continue Reading

Columns

Our lives are full of impatience

13th July 2022

Impatience lives within all of us; in some even more so than in others. When impatient some people will get fidgety, mumble and curse under their breath or even losing their tempers and being rude to others, whilst on the other hand others will be cool, calm and collected. Impatience comes in different packages and can stem from many sources.

We go through our daily lives with usual things like queuing at the bank, post office, government offices and other places of poor customer service that irk and irritate most of us. Unacceptable but somewhat understandable because of the insensitivity or inefficiency of others the rest have to suffer.

Taking it up to another level, specifically onto a ‘religious’ one, we come across many who show impatience with their lives because of their high expectations leading them to believe that their prayers are not being answered. For them Allah has a message: “Be sure we shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives or the fruits (of your toil), but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, who say, when afflicted with calamity: ‘To God We belong, and to Him is our return’. They are those on whom (descend) blessings from their Lord” (2:155-157)

Sometimes we strongly pray for something and we get despaired when our prayers are ‘not answered’. But remember: ‘Allah is with those who patiently persevere’. (Quran 8:46). We have to realise and accept that the Lord is in complete control of everything – we cannot always get what we want because the Lord knows best what is good for us, accept the will of God. ‘But it may happen that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that you love a thing which is bad for you.  And God knows and you do not know!’ (Quran 2:216)

A believer should rather ask Allah to bless him, make it easy for him and to grant him what is good in this world and in the hereafter. Be positive and look at the other blessings that you have instead. “Pray for help from God, and (wait) in patience and constancy: for the earth is God’s, to give as a heritage to such of His servants as He pleases; and the end is (best) for the righteous.” (Quran 7:128)

On the other hand, think about it, when things go wrong we go into a tailspin, start blaming ourselves, others and at the worst we begin to question why the Lord has not favoured us, yet we forget the countless other daily bounties that the Lord has blessed us with. ‘When trouble touches a man, he cries unto Us, in all postures, lying down on his side, or sitting, or standing. But when We have solved his trouble, he passes on his way as if he never had cried to Us….’ (Quran 10:12)

When the stresses of life hit us and we are faced with challenges, it is only then that some of us turn to our Lord in prayer. Unfortunately, it is human nature to forget our duty and allegiance to our Creator when things run smoothly in our lives. This is true because when the going is good we put it down to our own efforts. Nothing wrong with that but we need to realise that all that happens is through the Will of God.

‘…… when We bestow a favour upon him as from Ourselves, he says, “This has been given to me because of a certain knowledge (I have)!” Nay, but this is but a trial, but most of them understand not! (Quran 39:49)

We have become so obsessed with this material world that we have separated and compartmentalized our lives away from our faith because everything now revolves around moving up the economic ladder of life regardless of the cost to our souls.

Unfortunately many of us are impatient of the favours of our Lord we want things to happen now. We forget that the Almighty has a plan for each and every one of us, the good times, the bad times; the happy times, the sad times; the difficult times and the time of ease; and so it goes. From my school days, in physics class, I recall the saying that ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’ – I suppose so it is with life.

The question is; if we are so impatient about the ‘good’ in our life what about the bad? The Almighty asks us: ‘Do they then ask for Our penalty to be hastened on?’….yet there comes to them at length the punishment which they were promised’ (Quran 26: 204 – 206). Therefore we should balance our desires and pray for guidance, assistance and at the same time pray for peace of mind.

Impatience manifests itself into many people turning to those self-proclaimed ‘prophets’ – enough said. They promise you great wealth, worldly gains, winning of tenders and all those dazzling promises they make. Sadly many people are convinced that the ‘gospel of prosperity’ that these so-called prophets preach is the answer.

Remember you cannot buy God’s favour with money, so what are you paying that prophet for – the only answer is, for his own ‘profit’? I remind them to read the Bible: “Thy money perishes with thee because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money”. (Acts 8; 20)

Think of those daily blessings that we take for granted, and which we should be grateful for to our Lord, rather start counting your blessings before counting your ‘shortages in life’;

Before you say an unkind word – Think of someone who can’t speak.
Before you complain about the taste of your food – Think of someone who has nothing to eat.
Before you complain about your partner – Think of someone who’s crying out to GOD for a companion.
Before you complain about life – Think of someone who died too young.
Before you complain about your children – Think of someone who desires children but they’re barren.
Before you complain about the small house you live in – Think of the people who don’t have homes.
Before complaining about the distance you to drive to work – Think of someone who walks the same distance but on foot.
And when you complain about your job – Think of the unemployed who wish they had any job.
Before you think of pointing the finger or condemning others – Remember that not one of us is without sin and we all answer to one MAKER. Also when you are pointing at others – one finger is ‘at’ them – but at least three of your fingers are pointing ‘back’ at you.
When depressing thoughts seem to get you down – Put a smile on your face and thank GOD you’re alive and still around.

As the Quran repeatedly asks: ‘…..then which of the favours of your Lord will you deny’ (Surah 55)

Don’t be impatient, trust in your Lord, that trust will never be misplaced. ‘If Allah is your helper none can overcome you, and if He withdraws His help from you, who is there who can help you? In Allah let believers put their trust’ (Qur’an 3:160)
Let us think of our daily Blessings.

Continue Reading

Columns

Challenges in our lives

21st June 2022

Allah Almighty reminds us: ‘On no soul does Allah place a burden greater than it can bear’ (Qur’an 2:286). Also: “Be patient. Surely, Allah is with those who are the patient.” [Qur’an 8: 46].

Without fail, whether we like it or not there are times in our lives when many things seem to go wrong and as mere humans we go into a panic syndrome and are left wondering; why me? Why now? What have I done to deserve this? We are all tested with adversity, hard times and pain, but these tribulations are the Almighty’s way of transforming us and help us develop spiritually.

As mere humans we all have different reactions when something good or bad happens to us, and usually our reactions depend on the strength of our religious belief and of our righteous deeds and actions.

One person may receive blessings and goodness with gratitude and accepts the bad challenges and patches in his life with perseverance and endurance. This positive attitude brings him peace of mind and happiness, causing his grief, anxiety and misery to ease. Thus, this positivity brings a balance and contentment in his life.

On the other hand another person receives blessings and goodness with arrogance and transgression; his manners degenerate and become evil; he receives this goodness and utilizes it in an unthinking and uncaring manner; it does not give him any peace of mind as his mind is always distressed, nervous and restless.

Thus when faced with loss and difficulty, due to his arrogant nature, he begins to ask why me? What have I done to deserve this and he may even damn and curse others and thinks that they are plotting his downfall.

But every now and then we should stop to ponder over the blessings both apparent and hidden from The Almighty upon us, it is only then that we will realise that our Lord has granted us abundant blessings and protected us from a number of evils; this will certainly ease our grief and anxiety and bring about a measure of happiness and contentment.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Look to those who are lower than you (those who possess less than you) and do not look to those higher than you; this will make you appreciate the bounties of Allah upon you.”

Whether we are believers or disbelievers, virtuous or sinful, most of us are to a certain degree able to adapt and condition ourselves to face adversity and remain calm during these moments of challenge, uncertainty and upheaval.

When people receive affliction with fear, discontent, sorrow and despair; their life becomes miserable, they panic and become short tempered. Such people are unable to exercise patience remain restless, stressed and cannot find contentment that could make life easier for them.

On the other hand, due to a believer’s strong faith and reliance on Allah, it makes him persevere and he emerges stronger than others in difficult situations as this reduces his fear and anxiety and that ultimately makes matters easier for him. If he is afflicted with sickness, poverty or any other affliction, he is tranquil and content and has no desire for anything which has not been decreed for him.

‘If Allah touches you with affliction, none can remove it but He; if He touches you with happiness, He has power over all things’ (Qur’an 6: 17).Therefore the believer prays to his Lord: ‘Our Lord, condemn us not if we forget or fall into error…lay not on us a burden greater than which we have the strength to bear’ (Qur’an 2:286)

However, the one who is weak in faith will be just the opposite; he becomes anxious, nervous, confused and full of fear. The anxiety and paranoia will team up against him because this person does not have the faith that could enable him to persevere during tough times, he is less likely to handle the pressures and will be left in a somewhat troubled and depressed state of mind.

It is natural that as humans we are always fearful of losing the things that we have acquired; we desire and cherish them and we are anxious to acquire more, because many of us will never reach a point where we are satisfied with the material things in life.

When certain frightening, disturbing or unsettling events occur, like emergencies or accidents we find that a person with sound faith is calm, steadfast, and able to cope with the situation and handle the hardship he is going through; such a person has conditioned himself to face afflictions and this makes his heart stronger and more steadfast, which gives him a level of tranquillity.

This shows the difference between a person who has strong belief and acts accordingly, and another who is not at this level of faith. Due to the strong belief of the true believer he is content with whatever Allah Almighty has decreed,

This life is full of ups and downs and uncertainties, but the only certain thing is that from the moment we are born we will be tested with life’s challenges throughout our entire lives, up to and to the final certainty, death. ‘Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives, or the fruits of your toil, but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere’ (Qur’an2:155).

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “How wonderful is the matter of the believer! All of his matters are good and this is the case for nobody except a believer. If he is blessed with prosperity he thanks (Allah Almighty) and that is good for him; and if he is afflicted with adversity he is patient and perseveres and that is also good for him.”

During those challenging times you have three choices: either you can let them define you, let them destroy you; or you can let them strengthen you.

Continue Reading

Columns

Islam teaches righteousness and forbids evil

9th November 2021

Allah Almighty declares in The Holy Quran “Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong: they are the ones to attain success.”(Quran 3 :  104) 

It is worthy to note that this verse not only lays the basis for sound social interaction /dealings but clearly shows that Islam instructs nothing but righteousness.  Likewise at the same time, it prohibits wrong and evil deeds.  Unfortunately most people do not know the virtuous Islamic teachings.  In order to guide mankind with the right religion and complete way of life, Allah our Creator and Sustainer has commanded us to enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong. 

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also enjoins us to observe righteousness and forbid evil deeds.  The following are some of his teachings which show how much concern he had for the enjoining of what is right and forbidding what is wrong. There is a narration from one of the companions who narrated that he heard Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) saying, “He amongst you who sees something abominable / offensive should modify it with the help of his hand; and if he has no strength enough to do it, then he should do it with his tongue.  And if he has no strength enough to do it, (even) then he should (abhor it) from his heart and that is the least of faith”. 

Need to invite others towards Righteousness

Islam encourages its Believers to be righteous and, at the same time, to invite others to righteousness.  Allah’s Messenger not only enjoins us to adhere to righteousness but also encourages us to call people to it: 

One of Holy Prophet’s companion said that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him)  said, He who calls people to righteousness, there would be reward (assured) for him like the rewards of those who adhered to it, without their rewards being diminished in any respect. And he who calls (people) to  clear that He loves the righteous (Quran 9 : v 4) and those who do good (Quran 5 : 93).  It is therefore, an act of righteousness on the part of the Believers to invite others to all that is good. 

Concept of righteousness in Islam

Islam, as a Way of Life, teaches us the true meaning of righteousness based on divine injunctions. Allah  says in His Book:  “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces toward East or West; but it is righteousness to believe in Allah  and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance – out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which you have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and at times of distress.  Such are the people of truth, they are the God-fearing”.  (Quran 2 :  177) 

The above verse tells us that the righteous are those who are truly God-fearing.  They show their true and sincere faith in Allah, not only by praying to Him but also by giving charity, fulfilling contracts, and being firm and patient in whatever trials Allah Almighty may bring to them. Allah s Messenger (peace be upon him) defines righteousness as follows: 

Another companion narrated that Allah Messenger (peace be upon him)  said, “Righteousness is that with which the soul is tranquil and the heart is tranquil, but sin is that which arouses doubt / suspicion in the soul and is perplexing in the chest, even if people give you a decision in its favor”. 

From the above definitions of righteousness in Islam, the righteous individuals are expected to be assets and not liabilities to the society, to which they belong, and to humanity as a whole.  

Great promise for the Righteous

Righteousness is one of most important the keys to Paradise, as is highlighted in the following verses of the Holy Qur’an: 

“Give glad tidings to those who believe and work righteousness that their portion is the Gardens beneath which rivers flow…” (Quran 2 : 25) 

“Praise be to Allah Who has revealed to His Servant the Book and has allowed therein no crookedness.  (He has made n 18 : 1-3) 

“You will see the wrongdoers in a state of fear on account of what they have earned and (the burden of) that must (necessarily) fall on them.  But those who believe and work righteous deeds will be in the Gardens of Bliss.  They shall have all that they wi

The best among mankind in the sight of our Creator is he who is most righteous. Allah Almighty tells us: “O mankind!  We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that you may despise each other).  Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most  

Continue Reading