Thursday, December 14

The Way to God

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I understand completely your need for proof. God created our hearts and our minds, and it is irrational and unjust to think that He would want us to be satisfied emotionally but not intellectually with His truth. Too often we see the former, but not the latter. When we search for the truth, we should engage our minds first so that we can evaluate the evidence using our God-given intellects, and engage our emotions once we have found that truth, so that we can be fully committed to it with all of our being. Throughout all stages however, we should begin by asking God – the One True God on whom all things depend – to guide us to be be closer to Him. Ultimately, guidance is from Him alone.

We should not accept blind faith. If something is the truth, why would it require blind faith ? Why should a doctrine be unclear, contradictory, or confusing ? These are attributes of doctrines created by men, not of those pure beliefs that God has instilled in our hearts naturally, and those He wishes us to develop.

For example, all human beings are born with a predisposition to recognize and worship the One True God. This is part of the reason many of us find it impossible to deny God. Even if we are not sure of where His message might be, we know He exists. The true religion is, and always has been, a confirmation of this inborn instinct – to worship none other than God, in other words, pure monotheism, and to follow His guidance for the betterment of our life and afterlife. This has been the central message of all of the prophets, including Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad the final messenger, peace be upon them all. Some of the laws they were commanded with differed according to the requirements of the particular nation to whom they were sent, but the core teachings were always the same. This common religion is, quite literally, “Islam” – a word which means, “submission to the will of God”. One who submits to the will of God is a “Muslim”.

The revelation from God should be clear. God does not want to confuse us, He wants us to follow Him. If it is really is from God, it should be perfect, free of internal and external (historical, scientific) contradictions, and it should be preserved without error. The Gospels present a big problem. They are not the direct speech of God, or even of his Messenger, Jesus, peace be upon him. They are biographies written after Jesus ascended to God by men whose identities we cannot be certain of, written with specific theological agendas in mind. Where are the true words of Jesus ? Why is there so little that is reportedly said by him, not even in his original language, and much said by other men, supposedly inspired ? (Although a quick read of the opening of Luke, or III John would indicate deliberate, intentioned writing, not a revelatory or inspired experience). And why is Paul, a man who never met Jesus but claimed to see him in a vision, important enough to be able to articulate key doctrines that Jesus never taught, and to cancel laws that Jesus himself followed ?

The evidence unearthed so far for the historical Jesus is much closer to the Islamic position than the Christian one. A picture of a righteous man emerges, who followed the tradition and laws of Moses, but concentrated on reviving the true spirit of God’s message amongst the Children of Israel, who for the most part had become obsessed with formal and legalistic issues whilst losing the mercy, love and gentleness that the guidance of God should develop. We know that the doctrines of the trinity, incarnation, the sacrificed savior, divine sonship and others all have parallels in the pagan cultures (Roman, Greek, Persian) prevalent at the time these doctrines were being formulated. The idea of God fathering offspring, or of God-men walking amongst us owes much more to the influence of these pagan ideas than to pure monotheism – the belief in and worship of the One, Unseen, Transcendent God of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, peace be upon them all. Despite the corruption of the Bible, there remain explicit statements in support of real monotheism (whilst there is no explicit support for trinity – except perhaps 1 John5 -7, thrown out in the RSV and most modern bibles as an interpolation, but which remains in the KJV..), and in support of the humanity of Jesus and his subservience to God (whereas verses alleged to indicate his divinity are obscure and rely upon a lot of interpretation).

Our belief in Jesus is not that he is just a righteous man, but that he is one of the greatest messengers of God, like Moses before him, and Muhammad after him, peace be upon them all. We believe in his virgin birth, and his miracles like raising the dead, healing the sick, and so on. We believe that God saved him from his enemies and did not allow him to be crucified, and that he will return to earth near the end of time to complete his mission.

Muslims believe they are the true followers of Jesus. Jesus worshipped only God – a strict monotheist, as Muslims are today. He “fell on his face and prayed” – the characteristic of Muslim prayer. He fasted, just as we do. He didn’t eat pork, and neither do we. He greeted his disciples with “peace be to you” – and this is the universal Islamic greeting – in Arabic “Assalamu’alaikum”. “Isa” – which is the Arabic form of “Jesus” is even a common name for Muslim boys. Moreover, we love him deeply, and believe in him completely. When he returns to earth, it is the Muslims, not the Christians who he will recognize as the true followers of all of the prophets, including himself.

There are a number of reasons to take the Qur’an as a reliable account of who Jesus is, what he said, and what he did. First of all, the Qur’an does not claim to be the words of men (or a man), whether inspired or not. It claims to be the literal, word for word speech of God Himself, and offers evidence for it’s claims. Secondly, it is perfectly preserved, through massive parallel chains of memorization passed on from generation to generation (a practice alive and well today – with tens or hundreds of thousands of Muslims around the world who have memorized the entire book), and in writing, since the time it was revealed.

Those who doubt the Qur’an claim it was written by Muhammad, but

1- It is well known that he was illiterate, like the vast majority of people of Arabia at that time. What we do know about him is that he was known for his honesty and good conduct, to the extent that he was nicknamed ‘Al-Amin’ – the trustworthy, and called upon to arbitrate in the bitter disputes between the Arabs. We know that he kept away from idolatry, adultery and all the other evils of his time, and chose to worship only the God of Abraham, his forefather. Besides, how does an illiterate man compose what is acknowledged as the most beautiful work ever produced in the Arabic language ?

2- Actually it goes further – the Qur’an challenges anyone to produce a chapter like it. The Arabs were excellent poets and knew how to use their language well, but none were able to match the depth, power and beauty of the Qur’an. This is not a subjective evaluation. Arabic is divided into 16 forms (called “bihar”) – one for speech, one for poetry, and so on. The Qur’an fit into none of these forms.

3- In other words, it was a completely new pattern, it defied linguistic classification, and at the same time moved men to tears, and sometimes to embrace Islam, merely upon hearing it’s sublime words. This is just one aspect of the miracle of the Qur’an.

4- It also contains explicit, precise prophecies which have come to pass, and

5- Information about scientific and natural phenomena, such as the development of the human embryo, which have only recently come to be known in the light of modern instrumentation and techniques.


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