Friday, 6 September 2013

Different Strokes For Different Folks : Da'wah To Christians

Many Christians mistakenly believe that leaving Christianity for Islaam means leaving the love they have for Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him). This is a huge thing to consider for many, such is the attachment.  Muslims often mistake this love as a challenge rather than an advantage point when giving Da’wah.  Allaah addresses us in the Qur’aan:
“O People of the Book! Come to common terms between us. That we worship none but Allaah, that we associate no partners with Him and we do not take any other as Lords instead of Him” (Qur’aan 3:64)

Jesus in Islaam
What this actually means is that the very first thing we should do when engaging in Da’wah with Christians is address the common love that we both share for Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him). It is a Divine command after all. And what better way is there than reciting or at least relaying the verses from Surah Maryam which detail both his miraculous virgin birth and the first miracle he performed from his cradle, defending the honour of his virgin mother Maryam (Mary) (may peace and blessings be upon her). This is exactly what the close cousin and companion of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him), Jaffar ibn Abi Taalib (may Allaah be pleased with him did) did when he addressed the Christian King, Negus of ancient Abyssinia. On hearing the verses from Surah Maryam, the King was moved to tears.

“And mention, [O Muhammad], in the Book [the story of] Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place toward the east.

And she took, in seclusion from them, a screen. Then We sent to her Our Angel, and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man.

She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah .”

He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy.”

She said, “How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?”

He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.’ “

So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place.

And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.”

But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream.

And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates.

So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.’ “

Then she brought him to her people, carrying him. They said, “O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented.

O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.”

So she pointed to him. They said, “How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?”

[Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah . He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.

And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive

And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant.

And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.”

It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When He decrees an affair, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.

[Jesus said], “And indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is a straight path.”

Then the factions differed [concerning Jesus] from among them, so woe to those who disbelieved – from the scene of a tremendous Day.” (Surah Maryam – Qur’aan – 19:16-37)

As Muslims, we do not believe that the Prophet Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) was crucified or killed. We believe he is living, raised up and in the company of his Lord, Allaah. This is explained to us in the Qur’aan, that a man took his resemblance who was tortured and killed on the cross. Death by crucifixion was the method of public execution for crimes mainly against the state.

“And (for) their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allaah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but they (another) was made to resemble him to them. And Indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. Rather, Allaah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allaah Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Qur’aan 4:157-158)

The identity of the substitute has been a source of great interest among Muslims. One proposal is that Allaah used one of Jesus’ enemies. Judas Iscariot, Jesus’ traitor, is most often cited, including by the medieval Gospel of Barnabas. The second proposal is that Jesus asked for someone to volunteer to be crucified instead. The following narration recorded in the Tafseer of ibn Katheer provides a plausible explanation for the verse related to the substitution of Jesus. The cousin and companion of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) Ibn Abbaas said;

“Just before Allaah raised Jesus to the Heavens, Jesus went to his disciples, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping with water (as if he had just had a bath) and he said, ‘There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after you had believed in me.’ He then asked, ‘Who among you will volunteer for his appearance to be transformed into mine, and be killed in my place. Whoever volunteers for that, he will be with me (in Paradise).’ One of the youngest ones among them volunteered, but Jesus asked him to sit down. Jesus asked again for a volunteer, and the same young man volunteered and Jesus asked him to sit down again. Then the young man volunteered a third time and Jesus said, ‘You will be that man,’ and the resemblance of Jesus was cast over that man while Jesus ascended to Heaven from a hole in the roof of the house. When the Jews came looking for Jesus, they found that young man and crucified him. Some of Jesus’ followers disbelieved in him twelve times after they had believed in him. They then divided into three groups. One group, the Jacobites, said, ‘Allaah remained with us as long as He willed and then ascended to Heaven.’ Another group, the Nestorians, said, ‘The son of Allaah was with us as long as he willed and Allaah took him to Heaven.’ Another group, the Muslims, said, ‘The servant and Messenger of Allah remained with us as long as Allaah willed, and Allaah then took him to Him.’ The two disbelieving groups cooperated against the Muslim group and they killed them. Ever since that happened, Islam was then veiled until Allaah sent Muhammad.” (Nasai’i)

This belief that someone else resembling Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) took his place for crucifixion can also be found in the Gospel of Basilides. Unfortunately, this view is disregarded by the Christians who only accept the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament.

As Muslims, we believe that the Prophet Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) will play a major role in fighting the Anti-Christ, the Dajjal. We believe that Allaah will allow him to return back to Earth towards the end of time to fight this evil fake impostor.

There are numerous ahadith where the Prophet Mohammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) relates to us the major role of Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him):

“In the meantime, while the Dajjal will be busy doing this and this, Allaah will send down the Messiah son of Mary (Jesus). He (Jesus) will descend in the eastern part of Damascus, near the white minaret (tower), dressed in the two yellowish garments, with his hands resting on the arms of two angels. When he will bend down his head, water drops will appear trickling down, and when he will raise it, it will appear as though pearl–like drops are rolling down. Any disbeliever whom the air of his breath reaches, and it will reach up to the last limit of his sight, will fall dead. Then, the son of Mary will go in pursuit of the Dajjal, and will overtake him at the gate of Lud and will kill him.” (Muslim, Tirmidhi & Ibn Majah).

“Then Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) will descend, and Allaah will cause the Dajjal to be killed near the mountain pass of Afiq [in Palestine, few miles from Lake Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) ] .”  (Ahmad).

Thereafter, he will live as a follower of the Final Messenger of Allaah, Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him).

Taking this angle in explaining the role of Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) has a direct effect on the heart of a sincere Christian. Many are unaware and presenting it to them is probably one of the best gifts you can give. If you can do this whilst linking it in with the miraculous nature and inimitability of the Qur’aan, then explaining Tawheed from the Qur’aan becomes an easy matter.

For some, this may be enough, but for others, you may need to use the other tools at your disposal.       
The concept of God, the Trinity and Original sin makes little sense

A believer in the divinity of Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) may argue: Why can’t God be a man and God? A man can be a brother to a sibling,  and at the same time, a father to a child; the same person but two roles. He doesn’t stop being one just because he is also the other. Hence God can be Jesus & God at the same time.

Unfortunately what they fail to appreciate is that the man, in the case of their analogy, will always a man. He does not forgo the fundamental qualities which make him a man. Therefore if we compare some of the attributes that make up the entity we call a man, we can say: He eats, sleeps, is born, and dies. In contrast to attributes of God: He does not eat or sleep and has no beginning or end since He is Eternal. Therefore for one to become the other they must relinquish their own and absorb the fundamental attributes of the other and therefore no longer be the entity they were; which in and of itself is problematic.

Therefore we reply with the analogy and inform them that what they are proposing is akin to saying that a circle becomes a square but keeps the fundamental properties of a circle at the same time. This is clearly irrational and outright impossible. The fundamental aspects that define what each are are totally different.

Does this make sense? Original Sin

An armed robber enters the home of the Prime Minister whilst he is out of the country on national duty. He kills the security guard, beats, rapes and then kill the maid, and then leave with the belongings.

The Prime Minister hears of the news. He holds the whole nation accountable for this heinous crime. They bare this sin. He summons his only son to return home.

Though the Prime Minister holds the nation accountable, he chooses not to punish them. He chooses instead to torture & kill his only son. The whole nation (though they committed no crime) will be forgiven if they believe that the son died for their sin. The future progeny of the nation are also sinful. To avoid punishment you must accept that the Prime Minister tortured and killed his son for their sins. The Father is also the son by the way.

The concept of the Original Sin is unjust. How can a Loving and Merciful God ever do this?

Externally Inconsistent (Paul & Constantine)

The Bible can not be substantiated for it’s authenticity or preservation. The oldest Bible we can find is in the Greek language but Jesus (may peace & blessings be upon him) never spoke Greek. It appeared four hundred years after his death. So not only is it in a language other than what Jesus (may peace & blessings be upon him) spoke, it appeared centuries after his death.

The Bible was actually written many years after the death of Jesus (may peace & blessings be upon him). It was never confirmed by him. Although it has remnants of the Gospels of Jesus and some of his recorded sayings, the Bible is actually a collection of books, and the word itself is derived from Latin word meaning collection of books. Much of the religion that remains of Christianity is that of Paul. Paul is the author of Colossians and further significant portions of the Bible. Paul, a clear enemy of Jesus (may peace & blessings be upon him)during his lifetime, suddenly had a vision on the road to Damascus of Jesus and had accepted the faith that he had previously tried to extinguish.

How can someone rely on an individual who was clearly an enemy of Jesus  (may peace & blessings be upon him) during his lifetime for crucial creedal matters of the religion, creedal matters that are solely based on his testament? The Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) also had many ardent enemies who later embraced Islaam and were at the forefront of the religion, most notably the second Khaliph ‘Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allaah be pleased with him), but the difference however is that the previous opponents of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) had been approved by the Prophet (may peace and blessings be upon him) as true believers during his own lifetime. Paul on the other hand had no such validation by Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him). To take him as one of the most if not the most pivotal figure of Christianity is quite frankly nonsensical.

Within the Bible you also have the famous collections of the Gospels. The famous other Gospels are that of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but who is John? And for that matter who are Mark, Matthew and Luke? The common response is “Disciples” of Jesus (may peace & blessings be upon him); however there is not a consensus on this from the Christian scholars themselves. The exact identities of these four individuals is unclear as is the time frame in which they lived. The majority opinion is that these individuals lived 40-160 years after the death of Jesus (may peace & blessings be upon him). With so much confusion on the identities of these individuals how can anyone take them as legitimate historical or religious sources?

In comparison, in Islaam, our secondary source which are the reported saying, actions and approvals of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him) known as the Hadith are much stronger than the Bible, which is the primary source in Christianity. In the science of Hadith, we know of all the individuals in the chain of a hadith. We know their full names, their lineage, their character, where they lived, when they lived, who the interacted with etc. In comparison, the Bible which is supposedly the “Word of God” according to many, has unknown and ambiguous sources.

Early Christianity was also heavily influenced by Paganism, hence why we have the concepts of the Trinity & Christmas. There are no original sources to date these back to the life of Jesus (may peace & blessings be upon him). They were included some time after, after the counsels at Nicea. By the year 1300, there were hundreds of different Gospels in circulation. The Trinity was formulated by Anthanasius, an Egyptian deacon from Alexiandria at the Council of Nicea, organized by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 CE (or approx) to settle doctrinal disputes. The emperor was from a pagan background and favoured the Trinitarian view of Christianity, thus the four Gospels which supported his desires were chosen by a majority vote. The Sabbath was shifted from Saturday to Sunday.

The real history of Christmas has nothing to do with Christianity. Many of the traditions such as decorating Christmas trees and giving gifts are rooted in the traditions of non-Christian religions. Observing Christmas on December 25th because it was the date in history when Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) was born are far of the mark. Nobody knows exactly what that date was, but references in the Bible show it most likely did not take place in winter. Rather it is because this was the date that the Romans historically celebrated the winter solstice. This celebration was about dies natalis solis invicti: the day of the birth of the unconquerable sun, which took place on December 22nd. The winter solstice held the promise of the return of springtime and earthly renewal. In Roman history, this was the time of Saturnalia, honoring the God of Agriculture, for the week before the solstice, and Juvenalia, a feast in honor of the children of Rome, around the same time. On the 25th of the month they celebrated the birth of the sun-god Mithra. Masters and servants traded places temporarily, and everybody had a good time. It was during Saturnalia that the tradition of exchanging gifts was established. They gave one another Stenae or fruits which were intended to bring good luck. The Romans placed an enormous amount of pressure on the early Christians to rejoice along with them, and around the time of the fourth century, they began to celebrate Christmas around the same time.

As for the preservation of the Bible; as mentioned earlier, the earliest traceable Bible we can find is a Greek Bible which surfaced four hundred years after the death of Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him). There are no originals. There have been numerous different translations and copies of the Bible and until this day, we find many different versions saying completely different things. How can we rely on a book that has no record of preservation as the way to live one’s life?

If the truth be told, the preservation of the Bible was never meant to be. There was never a promise of it’s preservation. Allaah, our Lord sent nation upon nation Prophets for their given time. But these scriptures all contained details prophesizing the coming of the Final Messenger & the Guidance that shall be given to him which would be to last until the end of time for the whole world and this is something exclusive only for the revelation revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace and blessings be upon him)

Internal Incosistencies

There are numerous internal inconsistencies within the Bible. You’d think that the core doctrinal tenants would be explained outright, but you’ll actually find a lack of evidence in the categoric manner that you would expect. Take for example the worship of Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him). There is not a single verse in the Bible where Jesus (may peace & blessings be upon him) says “worship me”. There is not a single verse in Bible where Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) says, “I am God”. If you were to also look for the word “Trinity”, you wouldn’t find it.

What you will find in the Bible are numerous verses that contradict the notion that Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) is a Deity. Instead, you will find much to support his role as a slave and a Messenger of Allaah and that God is One.

 “…and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me.” (John 14:24)

 “And this is life eternal, that thru might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent” (John 17:3)

 “But of that day or that hour knows no man, neither the angels, nor the son, but only the father” (Mark 13:32)

 “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” (Deuteronomy 6:4)

 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” (Mark 12:29)

“My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28)

 “My father is greater than all” (John 10:29)

 “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgement is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30)

 “And behold, one came and said unto him, ‘Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” And he said unto him, ‘why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:16-17)

 “Ye men of Israel hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22)

 “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’ The crowds answered, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.’” (Matthew 21:10-11)

 “But of that day or that hour knows no man, neither the angels, nor the son, but only the father” (Mark 13:32)

“Jesus as Son and Lord?

Many Christians will try and justify their belief that Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) is God the Son and God outright by the numerous verses found throughout the Bible that address him as both the son and lord.

Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) is sometimes referred to as ‘Lord’ in the Bible and at other times as ‘Son of God’. God is called the ‘Father’, so putting these names together it could be claimed that Jesus is the son of God. But if we look at each of these titles in context we will find that they are symbolic and not to be taken literally.

‘Son of God’ is a term used in ancient Hebrew for a righteous person. God calls Israel his ‘son’: This is what the Lord says: Israel is my oldest son.[Exodus 4:22]. Also, David is called the ‘Son of God’: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.’ [Psalm 2:7]. In fact anyone who is righteous is referred to as God’s ‘son’: All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. [Romans 8:14].

In the same way, when the word ‘Father’ is used to refer to God it shouldn’t be taken literally. Instead it’s a way of saying God is the creator, sustainer, cherisher etc. There are many verses for us to understand this symbolic meaning of the word ‘Father’, for example: one God and Father of all. [Ephesians 4:6].

Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) is sometimes called ‘Lord’ by the disciples. ‘Lord’ is a term used for God and also for people who are held in high esteem. There are many examples of the word ‘Lord’ being used for people in the Bible: So they (Joseph’s brothers) went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. “We beg your pardon, our lord,” they said. [Genesis 43:19-20]. Also, in other parts of the Bible, Jesus is even called a ‘servant’ of God by the disciples: the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. [Acts 3:13]. This clearly shows that when ‘Lord’ is used to refer to Jesus, it is a title of respect not of divinity.”
In summary, there are four ways by which you can engage with a Christian:

   1. Clarifying the position of Jesus (may peace and blessings be upon him) and using the Qur’aan as the criterion for the truth.
   2. Logical reasoning. The key concepts in Christianity simply do not make sense
   3. The lack of authenticity and preservation of the Bible. The sources can not be ascertained or are problematic.
   4. There are far too many internal verses that are inconsistent with the core tenants of Christianity .

If you have found this article beneficial, remember to make du’a for me, Ghulam Esposito Haydar and share it with others who may benefit.

By Ghulam Esposito Haydar
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