Questions From A Christian
Posted: 18 Safar 1424, 20 April 2003
The University of Birmingham Islamic Society received the following email from a Christian:
Hello, I am a Christian who is considering converting to Islam. I have a number of questions which I would like answered --- they are from a Christian perspective i.e. mainly dealing with Jesus and his position in the two faiths. I would very much appreciate your wisdom and help on these issues. Please find time to reply... Thank you.
Questions & Answers:
|Q.) 1. Allah - does He love everyone in the world, or only "good" people?|
A.) (Mufti Taqi Usmani) 'Allah's love' may have two different meanings: One that He likes the well being of every person. And second, that He likes him in all respects and will admit him into the Paradise. In the first meaning He loves everyone in the world because He likes the well being of all people, both here and in the Hereafter. Because of this love He gives sustenance to every one, regardless of his religion and his deeds, and it is because of this kind of love that He has sent a large number of messengers and revealed the divine books, so that every one may know the truth and after following His instructions becomes entitled to the reward in the Hereafter. But the second kind of love is applicable only to those people who believe in His Oneness and in all messengers sent and all books revealed by Him, and then act accordingly.
A.) (IPCI) Allah is the Creator of All, and as such is the Provider of All. He is also Merciful to all of His Creation. Even the atheist and polytheists benefit from the rain, the vegetation, the air etc. This, Allah out of His Lordship and Mercy provides to all, 'good and bad people', believers or disbelievers, without discrimination. However when we talk of love of Allah towards His Creation especially human beings, Allah is more loving to those who do good deeds :
"And spend of your substance in the cause of Allah and make not your own hands contribute to your destruction but do good; for Allah loves those who do good." [Al-Baqarah 2:195]
Inherently, everyone is 'good' and has the capacity to do good, it's the evil actions that are disliked by Allah, the same person can become liked by Allah by changing and doing good deeds. In the Qur'an Chapter 2 Verse 21, Allah addresses all of humankind:
"O humankind! Adore your Guardian-Lord who created you and those who came before you that ye may have the chance to learn righteousness (do good deeds)" [Al-Baqarah 2:21]
|Q.) 2. Did Muhammad understand the Trinity to include God, Jesus & Mary? If so, did that not influence his understanding of Christianity and his teachings?|
A.) (Mufti Taqi Usmani) Yes, the Holy prophet Muhammad knew well the concept of Trinity because it is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an in specific words, and it is because of this knowledge that he had refuted the doctrines of Christianity.
A.) (IPCI) "And behold! Allah will say "O Jesus the son of Mary! didst thou say unto men `worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah"? He will say: "Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing You would indeed have known it. You know what is in my heart though I know not what is in Yours. For You know in full all that is hidden" [Al-Maidah 5:116]
Though the Protestant world does not deify Mary (alayhas salam, or peace be upon her), some of the the early Churches did, and so does the Catholic World till today as it confers divinity on her. The above verse of the Qur'an negates this deification of Mary by some sectors of Christianity. Hence Prophet Muhammad, was responding to this wrong belief of some Christians who were present during his time and who still exist today. Trinity was neither preached nor practiced by Jesus, alayhis salam; he preached the oneness of God. It is impossible to take three things that create 3 different mental pictures and to make them one.
Mark|12:28 And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? [Mark 12: 28]
Mark|12:29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
Mark|12:30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
|Q.) 3. Apparently, for "mild" sins Allah may punish us or demand penance. For "serious" sins there is no forgiveness. How do you ascertain what is a mild / serious sin? What happens to you if you commit a "serious" sin before you come to faith - is it too late?|
A.) (Mufti Taqi Usmani) It is not correct, according to the Islamic beliefs, that serious sins cannot be forgiven. The correct position enunciated by the Holy Qur'an is that Allah forgives any sin, major or minor, mild or serious for the one who truly repents to Him. This rule is applicable even to Shirk (ascribing partners to Allah) and Kufr (disbelief) in the sense that if a person repents from these beliefs and embraces Islam, his past beliefs of Shirk and Kufr are forgiven. It is also mentioned in the Holy Qur'an that Allah may forgive any sin that is short of Shirk and Kufr even without repentance by the relevant person, but He does not forgive Kufr and Shirk without repentance. The text of the holy Qur'an is as follows:
"Surely Allah does not forgive the sin of ascribing partners to Him and He may forgive any sin short of that for whomsoever He wills." [An-Nisa 4:116]
If someone has committed serious sins before he comes to faith, all such serious sins are forgiven as soon as he embraces Islam. The Holy Prophet Muhammad has said: "Surely Islam demolishes all sins committed before it."
|Q.) 4. Both Jews & Christians have historically claimed that Jesus died on the cross. Why then does the Qur'an deny the crucifixion?|
A.) (Mufti Taqi Usmani) It is true that Jews and Christians claim that Jesus Christ died on the cross, but there is no historical evidence to prove this. The Holy Qur'an has specifically mentioned that the Jews were not able to crucify the Prophet 'Isa, alayhis salam, (Jesus Christ) rather they confused him with one of his companions, and Allah raised him up before his crucifixion could have taken place.
|Q.) 5. If Jesus was only a prophet like Muhammad, why was it necessary for him to be born miraculously without a Father and to be raised to Heaven without dying? Surely, this makes Jesus far more superior to the prophets, such as Muhammad, who did die on the 8th June 632 CE, and is still buried in a tomb in Medina to this day? If Jesus has not died (and never will), then the Muslim claim of Muhammad as the successor of Jesus is surely null & void?|
A.) (Mufti Taqi Usmani) Different miracles have been demonstrated by Allah through different prophets and no miracle can be held as superior to any other miracle. It was only on the basis of Allah's discretion and requirements of the relevant time that a particular miracle was chosen to be shown through a particular prophet. Miraculous birth of Jesus Christ and his being raised to the heaven are the miracles shown by Allah, but no miracle can prove the divinity of the prophet through whom it was shown. The Prophet Adam, alayhis salam, was also born without father, rather his birth was more miraculous because he was born even without a mother, but no body can argue that he was god. According to the Christian belief, St. Paul has mentioned about Melchizedekh that he was born without a father and mother. He says about him:
"He is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest for ever." (Hebrews: 7:3)
He has expressly mentioned that Melchizedekh was like the Son of God in that he was born without father, rather he has no beginning or end of his life. Still, he has not been held by the Christians as god. This proves our assertion that the miraculous birth of the prophet 'Isa, alayhis salam, (Jesus Christ) cannot be held as evidence of his being god.
Similarly his being raised to the heavens cannot prove his divinity, neither from Islamic point of view, nor according to the Christian principles. The Islamic belief is that he was raised up by Allah Almighty. Had he been a god, he never needed someone to raise him up. As for Christian principles, it is claimed by the Bible that the prophet Elia or Elijah was raised to heaven long before Jesus Christ. The Bible says:
"And as they still went on and talked, beheld, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and cried……and he saw him no more." (2 Kings, 2:11)
Not only this, the Israelites believed that Elijah will descend down from the heaven at a particular time. That is why when the prophet Yahya, alayhis salam, (John the Baptist) appeared, they asked him, "Are you Elijah"? (See Gospel of John, 1:21).
So, despite the belief that Elijah was raised to heaven, the Christians do not believe that he was god.
Similarly, according to the Bible, prophet Enoch was also raised up to the heaven. The bible has said:
"Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him." (Genesis: 05:24)
But no body has ever claimed that Enoch was god. This is another evidence that some one's being raised up to the heavens does not prove that he is god. Therefore, if the Muslims believe that 'Isa, alayhis salam, (the Jesus Christ) was raised to heaven, how can it be argued that this is an evidence of his being a god.
So far as the question of succession is concerned, no Muslim has ever claimed that the Holy Prophet Muhammad was a successor of Jesus Christ. He was the last in the chain of prophets that starts from the Holy Prophet Adam, alayhis salam, and ends on the Holy Prophet Muhammad . All of them preached the same fundamental beliefs of Allah's Oneness and the messengership of the prophets and the life after death. If someone from among them was raised to heaven, it cannot stop the following prophets from preaching these beliefs.
A.) (IPCI) Concerning Jesus, alayhis salam, being raised 'without dying' to heaven and due to this, he is greater than Mohammed we have two comments. Firstly, in question 5 above you state that Jesus, alayhis salam, died on the cross, now you say that he was raised without dying! Did Jesus, alayhis salam, die on the cross or not ? If you say he died on the cross, you cannot say he was raised to heaven without dying. Secondly, being raised up to heaven is again no proof of divinity or greatness. In the Qur'an in Surah Al-Isra verse 1 and in An-Najm verses 7-18, Allah mentions that Mohammed was taken up Alive into the very Presence Of God. So the ascension to heaven is not unique to Jesus, alayhis salam, as claimed by you, and this in no way confers divinity to him or greatness over Mohammed .
|Q.) 6. Because Muhammad was a mortal man, he was prone to sin and needed to repent of his sins to Allah. The Qur'an teaches that even the prophets of God, such as Abraham, Moses, David, etc. were guilty of sin. However, both the Qur'an and the Bible testify to the sinlessness of Jesus and teach that Jesus was faultless and holy and an example for all mankind. Surely this makes Jesus far superior to the other prophets, including Muhammad?|
A.) (Mufti Taqi Usmani) According to the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet all prophets are immune from committing sins. No prophet has ever committed a sinful act in the correct sense of the term. However, at times these prophets have done some acts that, though not included in the definition of sin in its exact sense, were not held by Allah as befitting the high station of prophet-hood. Such acts may be termed as slips and not sins. Being on a very high level of religious integrity, they took such slips also as their sins because of which they turned to Allah to repent. According to the Islamic belief based on the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah, this principle applies to all the prophets right from Adam, alayhis salam, upto the Holy Prophet Muhammad . The Holy prophet 'Isa, alayhis salam, (Jesus Christ) is no exception to this rule. Even according to the Bible, he refused to be called as 'good' or 'righteous'. The Gospel of Mark states:
"And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you cal me 'good'"? No one is 'good' but God alone." (Mark, 10:17,18)
The event is also reported by Luke in his Gospel 18:18. Not only this, St. Paul has used for Jesus Christ the words that no Muslim can imagine about him. St. Paul says:
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us - for it is written. "Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree." (Gelatians, 3:13)
Hence, the comparison mentioned in your question is not valid, neither according to the Islamic beliefs nor on the basis of some Biblical texts.
A.) (IPCI) It has been shown to you above in many examples and quotations from the Bible, that Jesus, alayhis salam, is not divine, thus he is as mortal as Mohamed or any other Prophet before him. Nowhere in the entire Bible did Jesus use the words "I am God" or "Worship me". So Jesus, alayhis salam, is also mortal and not divine. However, one major difference between The Qur'an and the Bible is that the Qur'an regards Prophets of God as special human beings who were appointed by God to preach His Divine Mission and to be examples to their communities, and thus God protected them from committing sin. The Qur'an Chapter 6 endorses the sinlessness of all Prophets.
That was the reasoning about Us which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people: We raise whom We will degree after degree: for thy Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge. We gave him Isaac and Jacob: all (three) We guided: and before him We guided Noah and among his progeny David Solomon Job Joseph Moses and Aaron: thus do We reward those who do good. And Zakariya and John and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the righteous: And Ismail and Elisha and Jonas and Lot: and to all We gave favor above the nations. (To them) and to their fathers and progeny and brethren: We chose them. And We guided them to a straight way. This is the guidance of Allah: He gives that guidance to whom He pleases of His worshippers. If they were to join other gods with Him all that they did would be vain for them. These were the men to whom We gave the Book and authority and Prophethood: if these (their descendants) reject them behold! We shall entrust their charge to a new People who reject them not. Those were the (prophets) who received Allah's guidance: copy the guidance they received; Say: "No reward for this do I ask of you: this is no less than a Message for the nations." [Al-An'am 6: 83-90]
Unlike the Bible, which falsely attributes heinous and shameful sins to Prophets. In fact it accuses Lot, alayhis salam, for example in Genesis 19-30/36 as having incest with his two daughters while drunk! No Muslim will ever accept this as a fact! All Muslims revere all Prophets as sinless. To single out Jesus, alayhis salam, alone as being the only Prophet who is sinless, is baseless and has no moral, Biblical or Qur'anic justification. Quote me the Qur'anic verses that accuse Abraham, David , Moses or Mohammed as having committed sin.
|Q.) 7. Why do Muslims acknowledge Jesus' miraculous birth and sinless life, (something that they cannot attribute to any other prophet, including Muhammed) and yet they still deny the divinity of Christ?|
A.) (Mufti Taqi Usmani) Answer to this question has already been given in our answer to Question No.5. To sum up, neither the miraculous birth can prove the divinity of a person such as in the case of the Holy Prophet Adam, alayhis salam,, nor being faultless can prove the divinity of a person because, as explained earlier, all the prophets were immune from sins but no body can take them as God.
A.) (IPCI) Both these points have been adequately answered in your questions 5 and 6 above. Who determines what criterion is to be used to measure the greatness of personalities be they religious or secular? You are harping on a few criterions like birth, sinless and ascension of Jesus, alayhis salam, to prove his superiority over other Prophets. Firstly, it has been proven to you adequately above that these criterions are not unique to Jesus, alayhis salam. Secondly, if one has to follow your reasoning of using ones own criterion, can it be fair then to state that Mohammed is greater than Jesus, alayhis salam, in that Mohammed's enemies could not kill him, but Jesus, alayhis salam, "lost the battle" against his enemies and was killed? Can we say that Mohammed is greater than Jesus, alayhis salam, in that he split the moon as one of his miracles, and that Jesus, alayhis salam, did not do that ? Can we say that Moses, alayhis salam, is greater than Jesus, alayhis salam, in that he split the red sea open while Jesus, alayhis salam, did not do that ? According to your own criterion Melcisedec will be greater than Jesus, alayhis salam?
Allah says in Qur'an Chapter 2 Verse 253 :
"Those apostles We endowed with gifts some above others: to one of them Allah spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honor); to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. If Allah had so willed succeeding generations would not have fought among each other after clear (Signs) had come to them but they (chose) to wrangle some believing and others rejecting. If Allah had so willed they would not have fought each other; but Allah fulfilleth His plan." [Al-Baqarah 2:253]
|Q.) 8. If Muslims believe that Islam is rooted in the Jewish and Christian religions, then why do they deny belief in a propitiatory sacrifice, when such prophets as Noah, Abraham, Jacob and Moses practiced sacrifice? Id-ulAdha...is it not an annual reminder to all Muslims of how Allah provided a ram as an innocent substitute in order to be sacrificed as a ransom, for Abraham's son?|
A.) (Mufti Taqi Usmani) Islam does not deny the propitiatory sacrifice as a form of worship. However, this is restricted to three days on the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha during which period sacrifice has been held as the most favorable form of worship. It is true that it is a reminder of the sacrifice offered by the Prophet Ibrahim, alayhis salam. Therefore, whoever wishes to offer such a sacrifice, he can do it during these three days. Since every form of worship must conform to the rules prescribed for it by Allah it must be performed only on the times specified by Him. The sacrifice recognized by Islam is restricted to these three days on the basis of Allah's command.
A.) (IPCI) Firstly, Muslims do not believe that Islam is rooted in Judeo-Christian traditions. Muslims believe that all Prophets came and preached Islam, that all Prophets were Muslims that came and preached the same message namely, that God is one, He has no partner, that we must obey the Prophets of God and that there is life after death, a day of Judgement when everyone will appear before their Lord and Creator and be answerable for their actions.
"They say: 'Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (to salvation).' Say thou: 'Nay! (I would rather) the religion of Abraham the true and he joined not gods with Allah.' Say ye: 'We believe in Allah and the revelation given to us and to Abraham Isma`il Isaac 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 bow to Allah (in Islam).'" [Al-Baqarah 2:135-136]
Secondly, it seems that you have answered the question yourself. Muslims do not deny animal sacrifice and as you rightfully point out, we do practice this during Eid ul Adha and also at other times. However, Muslims believe that Ismail, alayhis salam, was being sacrificed and not Isaac, alayhis salam, as Christians incorrectly believe. This is based on the Biblical evidence in the Book of Genesis wherein Abraham, alayhis salam, was called upon to sacrifice his firstborn son. Ismail was the firstborn of Abraham, not Isaac (alayhimus salam).
|Q.) 9. Did Muhammad have the assurance that he was going to go to heaven?|
A.) (Mufti Taqi Usmani) Yes, the Holy prophet Muhammad has been assured by Allah Sabhanahu Taala that he would go to heaven. This is proved by many verses of the Holy Qur'an as well as through other revelations received by him and mentioned in different Ahadith.
A.) (IPCI) Yes he was. Both in the Qur'an and in Prophetic Traditions.
"To thee have We granted the Fount (Of Abundance). Therefore to thy Lord turn in Prayer and Sacrifice. For he who hateth thee he will be cut off (from Future Hope)." [Al-Kauthar 108:1-3]
Al-Kauthar literally means "good in abundance". It is the abundant bounty which Allah bestowed on Prophet Muhammad . This includes a river (or fountain) in heaven of this name which Allah has promised the Prophet . (108:1) Not only was Prophet Mohammed promised heaven, he was also promised to be the only Prophet to be given the right of intercession on the day of Judgement.
Hadith Qudsi No. 36:
"The believers will gather together on the Day of Resurrection and will say: Should we not ask [someone] to intercede for us with our Lord? So they will come to Adam and will say: You are the Father of mankind; Allah created you with His hand He made His angels bow down to you and He taught you the names of everything, so intercede for us with you Lord so that He may give us relief form this place where we are. And he will say: I am not in a position [to do that] - and he will mention his wrongdoing and will feel ashamed and will say: Go to Noah, for he is the first messenger that Allah sent to the inhabitants of the earth. So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that] - and he will mention his having requested something of his Lord about which he had no [proper] knowledge (Qur'an Chapter 11 Verses 45-46), and he will feel ashamed and will say: Go to the Friend of the Merciful (Abraham). So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that]. Go to Moses, a servant to whom Allah talked and to whom He gave the Torah. So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that] - and he will mention the talking of a life other that for a life (Qur'an Chapter 28 Verses 15-16), and he will fell ashamed in the sight of his Lord and will say: Go to Jesus, Allah's servant and messenger, Allah's word and spirit. So they will come to him and he will say: I am not in a position [to do that]. Go to Muhammad (may the blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), a servant to whom Allah has forgiven all his wrongdoing, past and future. So they will come to me and I shall set forth to ask permission to come to my Lord, and permission will be given, and when I shall see my Lord I shall prostrate myself. He will leave me thus for such time as it pleases Him, and then it will be said [to me]: Raise your head. Ask and it will be granted. Speak and it will be heard. Intercede and your intercession will be accepted. So I shall raise my head and praise Him with a form of praise that He will teach me. Then I shall intercede and HE will set me a limit [as to the number of people], so I shall admit them into Paradise. Then I shall return to Him, and when I shall see my Lord [I shall bow down] as before. Then I shall intercede and He will set me a limit [as to the number of people]. So I shall admit them into Paradise. Then I shall return for a third time, then a fourth, and I shall say: There remains in Hell-fire only those whom the Qur'an has confined and who must be there for eternity. There shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing a barley-corn; then there shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing a grain of wheat; then there shall come out of Hell-fire he who has said: There is no god but Allah and who has in his heart goodness weighing an atom."