Blind Faith in Religions
Question: We do know that Islam is the only true religion but that's exactly what the Christians and the Jews say about their religions. We say Trinity doesn't make sense, and it conflicts with man's natural inclination to worship One true God; but how can you answer a non-Muslim who questions how Muslims can say a Trinity is blindly believing the most illogical thing from the Bible when they believe God has a Chair so huge that it consumes up the skies, the earths and everything else? Aren't we then blindly believing in the illogical? It's a part of our 'iman to believe in it (the Qur'an 2:2-3). Therefore when Muslims believe in such a chair, they cannot possibly claim that they do not believe in something illogical, and the Christians only uphold some illogical beliefs as Trinity. Please comment.
Answer: I think that one should delve deeper to find out the rationale behind the claims that are made by different religious groups to establish as to which of them is more convincing. Indeed, it is not only the Jews and the Christians who claim that their religious understanding is correct. Even the pagans of Makkah had the same apparent claim. It is, therefore, imperative that the logic behind the claims should be objectively compared.
One problem with the claims of the other religious groups is in establishing the authenticity of the texts their messages are found in. It is difficult to take a text seriously whose originality is in serious doubt. Besides, we have to look for the real arguments behind each one of them. As for the concept of trinity, it is something not even properly established from the Bible. Jesus Christ cannot be claimed to have made this concept as the foundation of his message. Nowhere in the Bible can one find any clear indication that Jesus (sws) had ever preached the concept. It is Saint Paul, who remained an enemy of Jesus throughout his stay in this world, who propagated trinity. Many Christians dispute the concept even today.
When it comes to the concept of the "Chair", it is only one group of interpreters who believe that the "Chair" has been used in the literal sense. A more acceptable interpretation of the "Chair" is that it refers to the authority of God Almighty. In other words, the expression, "His Chair covers the entire space of the heavens and the earth" means that He has full authority as a sovereign over everything. Thus, the expression "Chair" is symbolic and not literal.
People whom Islam's Message has not reached
Question: What do you think happens to people who live in remote parts of the jungle in countries like Africa or Brazil, and there's no one to tell them about Islam, or any other religion. What does God or Allah think about them?
Answer: The claim of Islam is not that man is born morally and spiritually blind, and God's message comes to show him the light. Its claim is that man has already been given good nature and intuitive knowledge of God and afterlife when he is sent to this world. Prophets came to remind him of something that was already there –God-given knowledge –and also add to it to let man know much more.
The principle on which the accountability of the hereafter would take place is that humans will have to be answerable on the basis of what they could know and what they could possibly do. They will not be questioned for what they had no possibility of knowing and doing. On the basis of what has been mentioned above, the people living in the remote parts of the jungles of Africa and Brazil will not be asked about anything that they didn't know. They would most certainly be held accountable for their attitude towards God, His blessings, and the moral guidance they were born with.
Attending Gatherings of Christians
Question: I have befriended a Christian who recently invited me to one of his community sessions. These sessions are not very academic but ritualistic. They sing from the psalms for the most of it, which was most beautiful. As they sung, I wondered how beautiful Da'ud (sws) would have sung the Psalms! When they are singing hymns to Jesus (sws) and saying all sorts of things as Jesus is God, you can't ignore that they all stand in praise of Jesus "the Lord", and therefore, I too, ended up standing with them. So like everyone else, it seemed that I too was participating, which I didn't like. Only the end part of the proceedings is academic in nature. Please guide me as to whether I should attend these lectures or not?
Answer: You can attend their gatherings and listen to their sermons with seriousness and respect. But you should not participate in what is called religious rituals of theirs. There has to be a line drawn on the possibility of bringing them closer through coming closer to them.
What you have mentioned to me, or how I've understood it, is that you're attending gatherings wherein Jesus (sws) was being described as the son of God. You had to stand in respect at what they were singing. Knowing that what they were singing is shirk, at least a part of it, I think you shouldn't participate in the ritualistic activity that they are conducting. You ought to either find ways of gracefully dissociating yourself from what they are doing at that time or else not go there at all. As for their good people, you must find ways to talk to them on other occasions.
Many people are following their religions sincerely. That doesn't mean that we should join them in what they are doing. When we know that it is wrong to ascribe partners to God, if any such act is being done, I wouldn't like to be a part of it. If the person doing it is sincere, he/she will hopefully come out of it, not necessarily because of me joining him/her in the act.
I have a fear that joining them while they are doing things so clearly wrong would start affecting my feelings as well. I have to be careful about my religious feelings, first of all. No compromises on that.
To summarize, I feel there's no harm attending their sessions, provided you have decided to talk to them about the Islamic view, at some point, in mind. Be a little careful, but I wouldn't discourage you. It gives you a reason to know how others think. Don't participate in anything that amounts to a religious ritual. It should only be for learning purposes and enabling others to come close to you.
Christian Concept of Sins forgiven because of Jesus (sws)
Question: I have a Christian friend. He has asked me this question. I need your help so that I could reply to him. It would be grateful if you reply as soon as you can. Here's the question:
I know that many of the beliefs that I hold as truth, you will find as strange. Specifically, Jesus' role and how he enables us to have a personal relationship with God. Our sins are a barrier between us and God (I don't know if you agree with that or not). But God is without sin and cannot abide in sin. In order to have a relationship with God, sin must be dealt with and removed. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God... the price of that sin is eternal separation from God. Although we ask forgiveness for sin and have the best intentions not to repeat our mistakes, we still sin... it constantly occurs. So, how do we ultimately deal with sin? For Christians, the answer is Jesus. As a follower of Christ, my first belief is that Jesus is the Son of God (fully God and fully man), that he suffered a physical and spiritual death to bring us back into a relationship with God, and that by believing by faith in him, I am redeemed and will be with God in eternity. There are many passages in the New Testament that I could quote to you that repeatedly say that it is by God's grace that we are saved: through grace he sent Jesus to pay for my sins, and by believing by faith in Jesus, I am saved. It is not by our deeds or works that we are saved. However, by believing in Jesus and following his example, I believe that a person will want to do good works as a result of faith in Jesus. Good works are not a substitute for faith. Only through Jesus can I have a relationship with God and worship him personally. I could still worship God without Jesus, but then it wouldn't be personal... I would have no way of KNOWING God. I find it difficult to understand how a person can have a relationship with God and truly know the Lord if sin still exists in him, without someone to deal with that sin first. Obviously we can't deal with sin on our own, so God must have a way to deal with it himself. What do you think? Maybe you can explain how you have a relationship with God.
I have tried to tell him that Prophet Muhammad's (sws) advent had been predicted by prophets, which may be found in the Old as well as the New Testament. I had asked him to read your articles. He was critical that while you have used the verses from the New Testament to explain your view on Prophet Muhammad (sws), you are also saying that the New and Old Testament have been distorted. What he means is that you should either accept all of it, in order to use verses to answer any question, or you should reject it completely. So I believe it won't be of much help if you say that the Prophet Muhammad's advent had been foretold. Please give me some other hints to tackle the question of this Christian friend of mine.
Answer: I would request your Christian friend to consider the following points:
I can understand that he has been brought up believing in a certain view, and therefore he is attached to it emotionally. He should not forget that likewise people belonging to many other religious groups were brought up believing in other creeds which are very different from his. In many cases these beliefs are conflicting. For instance, the Islamic view on Jesus Christ is in some cases the very opposite of the one held by the Christians. It is therefore very important that when we are in the pursuit of knowing the truth, we should try to ignore, as much as is possible, our religious attachments and make an attempt to see which of the contesting views makes more sense. This approach is as difficult as it is important. Otherwise, exchange of arguments between people belonging to different religious groups would be a futile exercise of defending resolutely the respective religious views of the debating parties.
As Muslims, we believe that although man sins, when he realizes he has sinned, he gets embarrassed and is inclined to repent. When he does so, God cleanses his sin, without the intervention of anyone else. That's the struggle man is involved in: To fight evil as best as he can. If at times he fails to avoid it because of his weakness, he is expected to repent as soon as he realizes that he has wronged his soul. I don't find any justifiable reason why an external solution to the problem is needed when the solution lies within us. What has Jesus' sacrifice done to sin? How has it eliminated sin? Do Christians who believe him to be the son of God not sin? If your friend says they don't, then I have many examples to quote to prove him wrong. If he says that they do, then my question is what then has Jesus' sacrifice done to eliminate sin?
Probably the answer your friend might have in mind is the one that was given to me by some Born-Again Christian friends in Britain. They told me that they had a spiritual experience at some point in their lives when they were visited by the Holy Spirit which cleansed their souls completely of all elements of sin. What they claimed was that as a consequence of that experience, they didn't feel inclined to sin any more thereafter. If that is your friend's claim also, then I again have a few objections to it. A vast majority of Christians who believe in Jesus' sacrifice never had that experience. There are some Muslim sufis as indeed there are people amongst Hindus (and may be Buddhists as well) who make very similar claims of complete lack of inclination towards sinning although they don't share the view of Christians on Jesus Christ.
I personally believe that many of these claims of apparent immunity from sin are correct. I don't doubt the honesty of those who make such claims. However, I believe that Satan has involved them in a greater sin by ridding them of the inclination of some apparent forms of sin on the one hand and involving them in the greatest sin of all in the bargain: ascribing partners to God. Why would Satan incline people towards committing lesser sins when he has been able to achieve the success of inclining them towards the greatest one?
The fact of the matter is that sin is a very important component of God's master plan. He wants to pick people from the trial of this world who would deserve to enter the beautiful world of Paradise. This selection cannot be done unless man is given freedom to choose the path of his liking. Had man been forced to follow the path of righteousness, there wouldn't have been any trial and therefore any real achievement of getting selected for Paradise. Sin is a natural consequence of the freedom God has given to man. Despite the fact that it is bad, it has to be tolerated for the overall plan of the Almighty or else the trial of this life would not be possible. God Almighty is therefore in no need to deal with the question sin in this world in a hurry through any artificial, unexplainable means. As for the possibility of coming in contact with the perfect God, we can always repent and attain purity to be able to get in touch with Him spiritually. The best thing about that contact is that it is achieved by the individual's own deeds. He doesn't get any outside, undeserved help from anyone.
Another difficulty in understanding your friend's view is that Jesus was sent to deal with the question of sin when a large part of the humanity had already gone through the experience of life before Jesus. How could they be cleansed through the solution your friend is suggesting?
Yet another problem with understanding your friend's concept is that despite the efforts of Christian missionaries, there are a large number of people who haven't been introduced to the concept at all while there are others who haven't been conveyed the message properly. When the God-sent solution doesn't help all peoples of the world even after two thousand years have passed since the arrival of Jesus Christ, what purpose is it serving then?
Yet another problem with this understanding is that, if believed, it would mean that God is imperfect. It would mean that the original plan of God, may He forgive me for stating that, went wrong. He was unable to let people avoid sin before Jesus. Then He realized, forgive me God for saying it, His mistake and went for the "Jesus Amendment" in His plan. To us Muslims, God is perfect and Flawless and therefore He doesn't need any modifications in His plans.
My understanding is that only a part of the Bible is corrupted, not the whole of it. Given that belief, my claim is perfectly legitimate. It is not necessary that we consider the Bible completely correct or completely otherwise. The truth about the Bible is somewhere between the two extremes. The case of Qur'an is different because it is a fully preserved Book of God. When I have that understanding about the Bible, I have a right to ask people to read certain parts of the book, which I believe to be correct, for supporting my view. I hope your friend appreciates that I don't need to follow his instructions in forming opinion about the Bible. If he wants me to give him my reasons for why I accept only a part of the Bible to be true, I can do so.
Even if your Christian friend disagrees with me, he himself believes in the entire Bible to be the authentic word of God. How does he then explain that the Gospel of John tells us that there is another prophet that was to come at the time when Jesus arrived?