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Motives for a Gospel-Based Faith
INTRODUCTION I. QUESTION MARKS CONCERNING THE ISLAMIC SHARIA 1. Is the Sharia Applicable Today? 2. Has the Sharia Been Applied Before? 3. A Predicament Arising from a Difficult Equation 4. The Environment and the Jurisprudence of the Minority 5. Frivolous Muslims 6. The Inevitability of Human Legislation A NEW READING OF QURANIC VERSES 1. Distortion in the Qur'an? 2. Historical Material in the Qur'an 3. Myth in the Qur'an 4. Sin and Salvation 5. The Cross 6. Ignorance and Illiteracy 7. War and Fighting 8. The Last Day III. A LITTLE OF WHAT THE BIBLE TAUGHT ME 1. Introduction 2. God, the Son of God 3. Salvation 4. The Children of God
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After I had finished writing these pages I rested my head between the palms of my hands, and asked myself, "For over seven years I have devoted myself entirely to one issue. I would mull over it by day and spend the whole night searching for answers. Now that I have solved its riddles and found the truth, I am no longer groping in the dark. And yet, has this conundrum, which has left its cruel traces on the features of both my face and life, indeed been brought to an end?" Now I realise it has not been brought to an end, but rather it has only just begun. One difficult period has indeed been brought to an end, but it is here that I enter the most difficult one of all. I live in a society full of values and ideals, none of which honours the freedom to think!! Even if it sanctions thinking, it presupposes its results in advance, and all that you are supposed to do is turn around and around in order to finally reach the uncontested conclusion that has already been prescribed! I lifted my head to leaf through the pages, and suddenly the story of a poor artist jumped to my memory. He spent all the years of his life working on a statue. After this great toil and effort, he finished his work and lay down to sleep. He woke up suddenly in the middle of the night because a fierce snowstorm was howling through the town. So concerned was he about his statue that he took his only coat and all the covers he had and wrapped them around it. After that he lay down beside it and went to sleep, forever. The next day, the neighbours discovered that he had passed away. When they realised that he had sacrificed his own life for his art, they mourned him deeply. I went back to asking myself, "Perhaps it is a matter of personal opinion as to whether artists or those who appreciate art should die for it, but to die for the truth is something that surely only a liar would deny!" As soon as this fact became established in my mind, a question occurred to me: but why die for the truth? What is it that caused such an idea to come over me? Surely to live for the truth is the best thing one who has learned the truth can do. Muslims who, crying apostasy, brandish the sword against whoever harbours thoughts of doubt and unbelief in his faith are indeed spurred on by many things, none of which, though, is fear for Islam, rather ignorance, rancour and hatred! I know many Muslims who turned away from Islam and became atheists, without their fellow Muslims so much as turning a hair!! However, whenever many more than these "turned away" and became Christians, they moved heaven and earth. Yet the Qur'an records how their ancestors received the news of the defeat of the Persians by the
Romans with joy, for no other reason than the fact that the Romans were people of the Book while the Persians were libertine atheists! The Islamic legal punishment (hadd) for apostasy is death. This may have been intended as a punishment for non-Muslims who adopted Islam, but turned away from it at a later time. But the issue becomes different when capital punishment for apostasy turns into a means of overpowering and subjugation when used against Muslims themselves whenever they turn away from Islam. They did not choose to be born Muslims! I believe it was this conflict that prompted a writer like Muhammad Emaara to emphasise in his book, The Invasion of Thought – Fantasy or Fact? that Islam allows its adherents to turn away from it! "As long as the sceptic has searched as far as he is able," says Doctor Emaara, "but has not found his longdesired objective in Islam, then he is under no compulsion to believe in it." The Muslim's right to turn away from his religion, he says, has been secured by two rules: "No compulsion is there in religion" (Sura al-Baqara 2:256), and "God charges no soul save to its capacity" (Sura al-Baqara 2:286). Moreover he is to be treated on earth in the same way as those who are fully Muslim. As for his judgement in the afterlife, it is a matter entrusted to God's own hands, and there are Muslim theologians who believe that, in keeping with the view that "God charges no soul save to its capacity," such people will indeed escape punishment. Nevertheless, there will always be someone who shouts at you and rejects out of hand whatever you say, admitting only death as the punishment for apostates. Well, let it be so then. We can only pray that God might open their hearts and minds to the truth, which I write about here, together with the reasons why I believe this to be indeed the truth. I present this book to you coupled with a fervent prayer that God may accept its shortcomings and compensate for the mistakes contained within, that it may be a stumbling block to no man and that the truth in it may be a blessing to many.
I.QUESTION MARKS CONCERNING THE ISLAMIC SHARIA
1. IS THE SHARIA APPLICABLE TODAY?
Suppose a young man went to an advocate of the immediate application of the Islamic Sharia and asked him to give him his daughter in marriage, using the legally proper term for marriage, nikaah, which is now considered vulgar. The man would probably fume with rage and throw the young man out of his house, thinking him to be extremely rude. However, the young man would be committing no error as far as the Sharia is concerned, having used the legally accurate term. Just as every language is a living organism that develops and grows with the passage of time, so is every generation in every age; it has its own socio-economic circumstances, by-laws, and traditions. The attempt to enforce the circumstances, traditions, and by-laws of bygone generations on one yet to come is an attempt
doomed to failure. Muhammad is quoted in al-Athar as having said, "Do not enforce your own ethics on your children; they have been created for a time other than yours." If it is so with children who are hardly three decades apart from their parents, how much more it must be true concerning those who live several centuries apart from their ancestors! I would not have needed to mention such a self-evident truth had it not been for our Muslim brothers who ignore it in their overwhelming surge of enthusiasm for the slogan "Immediate application of the Sharia". They are unaware of the evil consequences that ensue from such an indifferent and negligent attitude, which clashes with an established universal norm and an integral social law. It is extraordinary, however, that such indifference and ignorance has gone beyond the circle of the masses to that of the masters of jurisprudence and the Sharia, the overwhelming majority of whom, I almost certainly believe, have not carefully studied the sections dealing with legal punishments (huduud) and indemnification (diyaat) in the authoritative books. Had they done so they would have realised that the issue is not as simple as they thought and that it requires a gruelling effort to adapt the huduud to the social and economic circumstances under which people now live, especially now that the door of idjtihaad (individual legal judgement based on the interpretation and application of the four foundations of Islamic jurisprudence, i.e., Qur'an, Sunna, analogy, and consensus) has been closed. If they however go ahead without sufficient study, the result will be a great disaster, not only for the Sharia, but also for Islam as a whole. The following quotations should serve to prove what I have set out above: Al-Daarqatni quoted Muhammad in the Sunan as having said, "Neither the slaves nor the people of the Book are under any huduud." This hadith means that if a Muslim deliberately kills another Muslim, he will receive capital punishment (hadd). But if a Christian deliberately kills a Muslim, he will not receive legal punishment (hadd), but a less severe punishment (taziir), which is basically a heavy beating. Ibn Abbaas reported that Muhammad said, "If a runaway slave steals, he is not subject to the cutting off (of hands), neither is the dhimmi (free non-Muslim living in a Muslim country who pays the capital tax)" (al-Daarqatni in the Sunan). This means that if a Muslim steals he will have his hand cut off, but if a Christian or any non-Muslim does the same he will not have his hand cut off! Mitigating the punishment in the case of a Christian is not the problem; it is rather the inequality in judging the citizens of the same country for the same crime, and the negative effect this is going to have on the hearts of the Muslim populace! Ayesha, the mother of believers, reported, "I heard Muhammad say, ‗The stealer's hand is to be cut off only if what he stole is worth a quarter of a dinar (two dirhams) and beyond that.'" Omar reported that Muhammad cut off the hand of the thief who stole a burnouse, or cloak, worth three dirhams from the women's quarters (Ahmad, Abu Daud, and al-Nasaai). Jaabir reported that Muhammad said, "The one who commits a breach of confidence, the embezzler, and the robber are under no cutting
off (of hands)" (al-Bukhaari, Muslim, al-Nasaai, al-Tirmizi, and Abu Daud; declared by al-Tirmizi to be correct). So the one who embezzles the money entrusted to him or steals hundreds of thousands of pounds will not have his hand cut off, while the one who steals three pounds' worth will!! These Muhammadan hadiths treating the socio-economic system of the desired state pose various problems for Islamists that need to be researched and studied diligently before any can set the trumpet to his mouth announcing such slogans as, "Islam is the solution. It is the law of God Highly Exalted. Islam is both a doctrine and a law. Islam is a Qur'an and a sword, religion and state," and many other such hackneyed mottos. Trade, at the era of Muhammad, was the mainstay of economic life, therefore theft was the prevailing crime. That is the reason it received such a severe punishment, which was in accordance with the situation before Muhammad. Reliable books of Islamic history recorded that "Quraish cut off the hand of the thief who stole the treasure of the Ka‘ba." However conditions have now changed, systems of monetary transactions have become different, and new crimes that were not known at Muhammad's time have been contrived; such as the embezzlement of public funds, fraud and issuing uncovered checks worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. If we apply the hadd of cutting off the hand of the perpetrators of such crimes, we will be violating the substantiated hadiths that stipulate that the hand should not be cut off in such cases. Yet if we do not, people who embezzle will get away with it and will be in a much happier state than those who steal a few pounds! Abdel Rahmaan Ibn Auf reported that Muhammad said, "The stealer is not to be fined [or to pay back] if the hadd was administered to him [namely if his hand was cut off]" (al-Daarqatni in the Sunan). Imagine then, if you will, the situation where a man steals hundreds of thousands of pounds, has his hand cut off, has another artificial one attached and lives all his life long enjoying what he has stolen. Medical progress has even made it possible for someone who has his hand cut off to have it fixed back again in its place! Ibn Masood reported that Muhammad said, "The indemnity for accidental homicide consists of these five: twenty jazaa, twenty hiqqa, twenty banat laboon, twenty bani laboon and twenty banat makhaad‖ (al-Daarqatni in his Sunan). Now we ask: Will the clause of indemnification in the Islamic criminal law use these same words? How many of the judges who will administer the law, and the lawyers who will plead in court know the difference between hiqqa and banaat makhaad ? The great Islamic luminary al-Daarqatni, being a conscientious man and feeling concerned about the least change in the words of the Hadiths of "the Messenger," wrote over three pages to establish the true meaning of the two words hiqqa and bani laboon occurring in the previous quotation! (If the quotation is referring to camels only, then jazaa would mean a five-year-old she-camel, hiqqa a four-year-old she-camel, bint laboon a three-year-old she-camel, ibn laboon a threeyear-old camel and bint makhaad a two-year-old she-camel.) In case our Muslim brothers answer that there is no problem in replacing these words with others that everybody knows, we would like to point out that the hadiths
of Muhammad, according to Islamic belief, are to be applied verbatim, without the least deviation from their wording. On this occasion we would point out that Muhammad was teaching one of his companions a prayer to be recited before going to sleep, which says:
“O God, I have resigned myself unto Thee, and sought refuge with Thee because of a request and out of fear of Thee. There is no other refuge or deliverance from Thee except unto Thee. I believe in Thy Book which Thou broughtest down, and in Thy Prophet whom Thou sent.”
Then Muhammad asked his Companion to repeat the prayer by heart. The man recited it but replaced "Thy Prophet whom Thou sent" with "Thy Messenger whom Thou sent". Muhammad corrected him and said, "Thy Prophet whom Thou sent". It is not easy to change words according to the Islamic belief! To mention but a few of the serious problems that face those who demand an immediate application of the Sharia and the huduud in the twentieth century, we would like to point out the following: Muhammad is quoted as having said, "Punishment is (to be administered) only on account of a sword." In other words, a murderer cannot be punished unless the murder was carried out by a sword. Here Muhammad established a legal rule that makes homicide by the sword a prerequisite for punishment, while no other way of homicide necessitates punishment! Many ways of killing have been contrived in our modern day. If we inflict punishment on them all, we will be violating the previous Hadith. Yet if we don't, the result will be devastating, since there are more cruel and hideous ways of killing than that of the sword. We cannot afford to leave those other manslayers unpunished! Furthermore, killing by the sword has become a very rare thing indeed, and thus we will be listing in the penal law a clause that is both irrelevant to real life and, at that, inapplicable! The Musnad of al-Imam Ahmad records that a companion of Muhammad, Sa'd Ibn Abaada, said, "Prophet of God, if I find another man with my wife (namely committing adultery with her) will I wait till I bring four witnesses?" He said yes. In this hadith Sa'd Ibn Abaada brought to the surface the difficulty of proving the crime of adultery by bringing four witnesses who are then supposed to see the adulterers. This difficulty is still there today as it was before; it now even verges on the impossible. If the one concerned could prove that such a crime actually took place by the modern ways of attestation; such as photography or recording by video, which prove to the viewer that adultery took place, would that evidence be acceptable? If we tolerate this we will be violating the approved Sunna, but if we don't the adulterers will get off lightly in spite of strong evidence. Sticking to the legal Islamic evidence, namely four witnesses, is nearly impossible nowadays, where adultery is no longer committed in a tent, but in a locked room!
These questions I here raise have been in existence for decades but no expert in fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence) has ever tried to answer them. Neither has any advocate of the Sharia put to paper his conception of a renewed Islamic Sharia that is compatible with the demands of the human mind in the twentieth century. All that was produced by the Ulamaa of al-Azhar in the domain of fiqh is represented by the formal legal opinions given by the Grand Mufti of Egypt concerning the things that corrupt the Ramadan fasting, such as Armenian clay and the spittle of a friend!! Does he not know that there are other things used in eating and drinking now than the Armenian clay? And why on earth should someone spit into his friend's mouth?! The Iranian Islamic leader Khomeini once called the Ulamaa of al-Azhar "Ulamaa of menstruation and childbirth," and "theologians of water closets." He was not far wrong in what he said because the pro-Sharia Islamic propagandists, who are scattered far and wide throughout the world, are stuffed with the water-closet sort of fiqh, but are malnourished indeed as far as knowing the rudiments of what the Sharia has to offer. I believe it is an inescapable logical necessity to compare this and that before they can cry their hackneyed slogans!!
2. HAS THE SHARIA BEEN APPLIED BEFORE?
Islamists have said that the Islamic Sharia is the only rescue operation capable of saving humankind from their confusion, bewilderment, anxiety, turmoil, and evils. They have claimed that it has become an urgent need of humanity, made necessary by the invalidity of the Western and Eastern patterns of government, since these, they say, lack the element of permanence. They have also claimed that, "The Sharia of Islam is the only solution because it is above human inclinations and mortal defect. It is not subject to the criteria of right and wrong, since it is above trial. Above all, it is divine law! These words are quoted from the books of Sayed Qutb This Religion, The Future of this Religion, Guideposts on the Road, Islam and World Peace, Toward an Islamic Society, and Under the Wings of the Qur'an. Even if we were to grant, for the moment, the truth of what they say about the Sharia, and that it is in theory capable of resolving the political, economical, and social difficulties of life, we could not for one minute accept that it has been successfully applied at any point in history. If you were to study Egypt's history, for instance, you will find it completely contradictory to the above-mentioned statement. We cannot judge that the Islamic legislation in Egypt has been just with the Copts just because Omar Ibn al-Khattaab commanded the son of Amru Ibn alAas, Egypt's ruler at the time, to be whipped for dealing unfairly with a certain Copt, nor because Omar Ibn Abdil Azeez allotted a certain portion of the zakaat to be given to the dhimmis!! We cannot take individual experiences and present them as the actual events of all the Islamic history of Egypt, and thus manage to account it as honest and equal. This would be an offence to the practical spirit in which research and studies treating the subject of history ought to be carried out. Professor al-Aqqaad has stated, "Every allegation that is not backed up by research, which in turn should be backed up by evidence, is a mere rumour, if not a fable." If the research of Islamists into "the historical facts of Islamic legislation" were
measured in reference to that statement they would prove to have been "a mere fable" of an imaginary application of the Sharia. In order to prove the truth of what we have said, let's look at the history of Islamic Egypt, just to certify our claim that even though the Sharia might be accepted theoretically, its application is, for all purposes, unacceptable.
1. Politically and Economically
Egypt's Islamic history of government has been characterised by two things: a. Absence of social justice b. Dictatorial rule, which is unrelated to the Islamic principle of shura (deliberation) The Sharia stresses in its clauses the principle of wealth distribution "so that it [money] be not a thing taken by turns among the rich of you" (Sura al-Hashr 59:7). Yet it was difficult for the Islamic governmental system in Egypt to implement such a clause. Accordingly, the judicial judgements of the time implied that such clauses were to be merely committed to memory and not put into practice! Muhammad Ibn Iyaas al-Hanafi reports in Amazing Events in History that
When Ahmad Ibn Tulun died, he left behind 10,000 dinars of gold, 7,000 Mamelukes (white slaves), 24,000 black slaves, 7,000 horses, 6,000 heads of mules and donkeys, 10,000 camels, 100 chests of pearls, jewels and rubies, and an endless number of antiques, not to mention all the homesteads, holdings and orchards. As for his son Khamraweh, he was a unique example of dissipation, luxury and extravagance. When he married his daughter Qatr al-Nada to the caliph al-Mutadid, he furnished her with unprecedented and almost legendary household effects. It was even said that he did not withhold an antique or a rarity from her. The expenses of these effects mounted up to a million dinars. He was not content with all this, so he even gave her a 100,000 dinars to buy in Baghdad the things she couldn't find in Egypt. He built her a palace at the end of each station to rest at, which he furnished with all possible conveniences and luxury to make her feel as if she was in her father's palace. Certainly this outrageous foolishness took its toll on the treasury.”
Doctor Sayeda Ismaeel al-Kaashif says in her book Egypt Under The Ekhshidites, "Caphure left behind in his treasury after his death a million dinars' worth of jewels, clothing, weapons and personal belongings." As for the Fatimids, the tales of tampering with public funds that were told about them outdo legends themselves. Old and new books of history alike are teeming with descriptions of their magnificent palaces and processions, and their enormous riches out of which they cheated the people. In his research The History Of The Fatimid Empire Dr Hasan Ibrahim Hasan wrote, "Al-Muizz had a sister named Sayedatul Mulk, who died during his reign. On her
death, they found in her possession 300 chests of gold, 74.8 kilograms of corundum and pearls, besides a ruby spatula weighing 126.36 grams." The common masses, on the other hand, were at this time suffering from severe famines, plagues, droughts and lack of food. One need only point out the famine that took place under the Fatimid caliph al-Muntasir Billaah, who oppressed the nation for over 60 years. During his reign, many hair-raising calamities, catastrophes and atrocities broke out. It is enough to know that people had to eat the flesh of dogs and cats before they finally ate the corpses of their own dead people. Historians even refer to that period as "The Great Ordeal". Al-Hanafi has detailed the events of this famine: ―A group of people would sit on the shingles of houses carrying with them ropes with grapnels attached to their ends. If a man happened to pass under them they would, in no time, throw those ropes on him and draw him up with the grapnels. As soon as he would reach them, they would slay him instantly and eat him, bones and all! In the city of al-Fustaat (Old Cairo) was an alley called "The Alley of the Plate," which had about twenty houses in it. Each house was worth 1,000 dinars. All the houses of that alley were sold for a plate of bread, each house for a loaf. From that day on it was named "The Alley of the Plate". Of course the suffering of the Egyptians could have been less severe during that famine if the Muslim rulers, such as the ancestors of al-Muntasir Billah, had not unscrupulously abused the national funds, living in an unequalled and unrestrained dissipation. It is both tragic and comic at the same time that the other caliphs who succeeded him did not take a lesson from "The Great Ordeal" and the calamities it involved. The caliph al-Zaafir Billah, for one, having assumed power (by appointment, not by election) gave himself up to merrymaking, orgies and drinking. To add oil to the fire, he was in love with the son of his prime minister al-Abbaas, whom he used to visit frequently, spending the night with him most of the time. Later he gave him a present of a gold tray studded with 1,000 pearls. If the Sharia had a substantial authority and a real competence to rule, as the Islamists claim it does, al-Zaafir Billaah would have been burnt alive as punishment for his deviate behaviour! Al-Qayyem al-Juzeh reports in his book The Legal Politics that Abu Bakr burnt the homosexuals and let them taste the heat of fire both in this world and the one to come!! Yet Doctor Sayed Abdil Fattaah Aashur affirms: "Homosexuality was so rampant among the Mameluke sultans and emirs that whoever of them was enamoured of and satisfied with maids only was considered deviate. Such was Sultan Hasan who was reported to have "had no inclination towards boys as was the wont of the previous kings"! What has been said in regard to the absence of social justice can be said the more so in regard to the absence of democracy in the Islamic form of government in Egypt. Rule over Egypt, along with his palaces and other properties, was passed from one king to his successor as an inheritance. The Ulamaa, legal scholars, intelligentsia and the common people as a whole did not play any significant role in all this. Just as Arabic, the poet, has declared, "Proprietors they are, yet they are not asked for
Doctor Sayeda Ismaeel gives a faithful description of the social situation in the Egyptian society under the Ekhshedites. She states:
“The only refuge the common masses could resort to was superstitions and the belief that the deceased saints could perform miracles. Many charlatans stepped out, some of whom spreading rumours about themselves to the effect that they had seen the Prophet, Gabriel and Ali Ibn Abu Taalib. [The Fatimids were Shiites.] Another claimed to have seen Abdurrahmaan Ibn Muljim, the murderer of Ali, crying for help from the torment he was suffering. People were so enthralled by them that they fell for what they said. The masses fell headlong into drinking wine, merrymaking and other forms of entertainment, in both private and public gatherings. This was not restricted to young people only, but even older people and pious religious scholars did not abstain. It was no embarrassment to the Ulama to listen to singers, both male and female. Brothels and gambling houses abounded and homosexuality was rampant.”
Moral dissolution and social corruption were not restricted to the sultans and the emirs of the Ekhshidite empire. The caste system persisted with no change even under the Fatimid rulers. Social maladies persisted just the same. The Fatimids, just for good measure, imposed taxes on whorehouses. Historians agree that when the Fatimid empire began to decline, weak caliphs assumed power, and the reins of government were in the hands of ministers. Many massacres and coups were carried out, together with other atrocities. The last of these atrocities was setting fire to al-Fustaat (a city to the south of present day Cairo) under the last of the Fatimid caliphs, al-Aadid Billaah, at the inept instigation of his minister. The conflagration lasted for 51 days, and smoke could be seen from a distance of three days' travelling (cf., the famous historian Ibn Abdul Hakam). Social life under the Ayubite empire (excluding the reign of Saladin), was deplorable. People sank beneath taxes which Saladin had previously abolished. His son al-Azeez Billaah re-established them and made them all the more onerous. Liquor was in wide circulation. Wine casks were even carried in public without the least attempt at secrecy. The government protected whorehouses and places where hashish was smoked, in order to levy heavy taxes on them. No one was able to object to places of debauchery. Grinding hashish became a business that yielded money. Affairs were thrown into a state of unrest due to the lack of justice and the abundance of transgressions and debauchery (from Amazing Events in History). One of the most important manifestations of moral degeneration was the spread of bribery amongst both rulers and subjects. It was so rampant that al-Maqreezi said that corruption in his time was primarily due to the fact that bribery had such a great influence on the way both the sultans and the religious leaders were appointed. It was impossible to become appointed to the ministry, judgeship, vice-regency over the provinces, the office of treasurer and other prominent jobs without paying
exorbitant amounts of money! This is the Egyptian society that was governed by the Sharia for so many centuries. Was it a remedy for its many maladies? Has the Sharia come to the rescue of the poor from the oppression of their rulers? No. It has rather been a whip to lash their backs and a sword to cut their necks off whenever they thought of disobeying their governors. For disobedience to the governors was reckoned as disobedience to the Sharia itself! If we trace back the actual history of the application of the Sharia in search of the society of freedom, brotherhood and justice, the search will lead us further and further back in history till we come to the era of Muhammad. Islamic studies, however, have certified that even this era was not devoid of ambitions and motives that detract from the impartiality of this society.
3. A PREDICAMENT ARISING FROM A DIFFICULT EQUATION
The writings of the Islamic thinkers Abul Ala al-Mauduudi and Sayed Qutb have played a momentous role in the establishment of the concept of "sovereignty", which the "Islamic Awakening" adopted as its motto. From that time on Islamic groups began to recognise sovereignty in its desired state as God's alone! In more than sixteen books, aside from his commentary Under the Wings of the Qur'an, Sayed Qutb has endeavoured to propagate his theory of "sovereignty". This theory maintains that absolute worship (or servitude) of God is the first pillar of the Islamic belief, which is represented by the Shahada, "There is no god but God." The second component of the Shahada, which is represented by the statement that "Muhammad is the Messenger of God," means learning from the Messenger of God how to practise such worship. On this basis, Sayed Qutb distinguished between two sorts of societies, the first "Islamic" and the second "pagan" (pre-Islamic). The Islamic society is characterised by being established on the basis of absolute worship (or servitude) of God in all he commands, as represented and governed by the Shahada, "There is no god but God." This worship consists in: 1. - Doctrinal conception 2. - Devotional ceremonies 3. - Laws and precepts This gives rise to yet another dogma, that "Whoever does not believe in the oneness of God is not a servant (or worshipper) of God. And whoever offers devotional ceremonies to someone other than God is not a servant of God." Hence another dogma (which is the dangerous one), that whoever receives legal precepts from someone other than God is not a servant of God. As for the pagan society, it is "all societies other than the Islamic one." To be more specific, it is the society that does not absolutely worship (or serve) God alone, such
worship being represented by doctrinal conception, devotional ceremonies and legal precepts. Sayed Qutb concludes that, on the basis of this definition, the expression "pagan society" embraces all societies present now on earth! This includes the societies that claim to be Islamic. "These so-called Islamic societies," he argues, "are included among the others not on account of their belief in any other god but God, neither because they offer their devotional ceremonies to someone other than God, but because they do not adhere to the worship of God in their life-style. For even though they do not believe in the divinity of someone other than God, yet by subjecting themselves to the sovereignty of someone other than God, they attribute the most distinctive characteristics of divinity to someone other than Him" (From Guideposts on the Road by Sayed Qutb). Again Sayed Qutb explains this point in his book This Religion. He states:
“We are required to recognise the divine method so as to be truly described as Muslims. The first pillar of Islam, which is the Shahada, "There is no god but God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God," simply means ascribing divinity to God, may He be exalted, alone and not allowing any of His creatures to share with Him any of the characteristics of this divinity. The first of these characteristics is the right to absolute sovereignty, which entitles Him to be the only law-giver of the people. The Shahada cannot be valid and true except by acknowledging that God has the only right to set the absolutes according to which the lives of men are to be regulated. All who claim for themselves the right to set the absolutes which regulate the life of a certain group of people are in fact claiming to be the Deity, because they claim for themselves the greatest characteristics of the Deity – legislation!!”
The theory of "sovereignty" for which Sayed Qutb lived and died, gave rise to the following ideas: 1 - The now existent society is a pagan one. 2 - The Islamic society vanished from sight many centuries ago. 3 - Muslims are not free to choose whether to apply the Sharia or reject it, since it is a revealed divine law. 4 - It is inevitable that a "Muslim group" should rise that will take upon itself the onus of bringing the society back to its Islamic identity that has been lost.
Muslims throughout the Arab world realised how important it is to restore "the Islamic Empire," whose presence is "a legitimate imperative". Therefore, Islamists started unanimously to rally themselves and work together towards that goal. This initial unity among their ranks, however, did not last long. They were fragmented and split when the time came for the second step – to restore the desired Islamic society. Thus Islam was divided into parties and factions, which held different views on the issue. Some of them maintained that jihad, fighting and opposing the pagan powers with arms and weapons was the only way to restore the Sharia.
Others contended that the legal channels, which the government sanctioned, were effective means of establishing the Islamic society. Yet others believed that the only solution was to withdraw from the arena and work towards bringing Muslims back to the domain of mosques and educate them in the ways of devout Muslims. Thereupon, some of them migrated to deserts and mountains, turning their back on society altogether, claiming both rulers and subjects to be godless. Despite the apparently different methods used by Islamic units to apply the Sharia, there remains a main outline that was agreed on by all: The followers of the Islamic movement are to apply Islam first in themselves and in their personal lives before they can found their Islamic society. Any article or book on the Islamic movement refers in some way or another to the statement of Hasan al-Hudaibi, the founder of the Islamic Brotherhood Movement: "Establish the rule of Islam in your souls, and it will be established on earth. Your first battlefield is your souls. If you triumph over them, you will be all the more competent to triumph over others. However, if you fail in your fight (jihad), you will have proved yourselves incompetent to triumph over others." Sayed Qutb also said, "The Islamic society shall not be established unless a group of people support it with an uncompromising faith and cling to it, endeavouring to make it a reality in people's hearts. These are to strive for that end with all that they have." This single principle, however, which all the Islamic units agreed upon, in spite of their various and several approaches, is considered an outright contradiction to the kind of Islam they understand. For Islam, as they presented it, is a total and integral religion. By "total" they do not mean that it is merely a religion that combines doctrine and law, or body and soul, or includes this life and the one to come. Totality and integration in the Islamic methodology are a form of integration that makes it difficult to apply one particular of it and ignore the others. It is supposed to render divine absolutes acceptable to the people. We cannot, for example, apply Islamic doctrine and ignore Islamic law, or vice versa. In both cases totality and integration are lost, which in turn leads to the loss of Islam, both as a doctrine and a methodology. The Islamic Sharia originates from the doctrine, and is therefore an integral part of it (from The Future of this Religion by Sayed Qutb). Integration and totality extend even further to include integration between "the Sharia and the environment" in which it will be applied. This is an inevitable integration. Separation between the two will automatically lead to the extermination of both of them. If we apply the Sharia in an environment pervaded by a pagan atmosphere, the multitudes of the people will reject it. Likewise, if we apply a pagan law in an Islamic environment the multitudes will reject it. Integration between the environment and the Sharia is necessary and inevitable. According to this conception of the totality and integration of Islam, the luminaries of the Islamic movements believe that the application of Islam in the lives of their followers, living as they are in a non-Islamic environment, is a demand that contradicts the essence of Islam. It is even impossible to comply with it. For the Islamic society, according to Sayed Qutb, shall not be established unless a group of people rises up who will decide to give its absolute worship to God alone, and will not let itself be subject to the worship of anyone but God. Then it will start to organise practically its entire life-style according to this unadulterated worship, purging its conscience from believing in the divinity of someone other than God,
and its laws from instructions that did not come through God!! Sayed Qutb says, "The Islamic theoretical rule must be represented by a dynamic organic society from the outset. It must be separate from and independent of the pagan assemblage, which Islam aims at annihilating. Only after this group has rid itself and its conscience of worshipping someone other than God, as far as doctrine, devotion and legislation are concerned, can it be called "Muslim". From this group the Islamic society will rise" (from his book Guideposts on the Road). So in order to restore the Islamic empire, a group must arise that will educate itself according to Islamic methodology and manners, to live by them and evangelise them. That is to say, as Sayed Qutb expresses it, "Islam must be represented by a dynamic organic society." Sayed Qutb states his case further in his book This Religion. He argues that the establishment of this Islamic society is impossible in the shadow of the ignorance of our present society:
“People who think that the moral code of Islam makes it a heavy yoke to bear feel this only when they as Muslims live in a non-Islamic society. When this is the case, Islam with its morality will indeed become a heavy yoke, breaking the backs of those who live with their pure Islam in a pagan society, which almost annihilates these Muslims. Islam is a practical system, which prescribes that people who live according to its precepts must live in an Islamic society.”
He goes on to say that Muslims can only live in an environment created especially for this point of view and its values, and not in a pagan environment. Thus anyone wanting to be a Muslim has to realise that he can live his Islam in an Islamic society, and is only dreaming if he thinks that he can realise his Islam as a lost fugitive in a pagan society. Yet another writer, who is one of the greatest teachers of the biggest Islamic movements, fell prey to the same contradiction. In his book The Islamic Fiqh, Sheikh Muhammad al-Ghazaali emphasises over and over again that the Islamic society can come forth only from an Islamic foundation that has been educated in the manners and principles of Islam. He further says that there must be "true Muslims" before there can be a Muslim society. However he discards this in two other books of his as impossible. In the first, A Battle of a Qur'an, he says, "God's commands and interdictions are aimed at the environment in which a person lives inasmuch as they are aimed at the person himself. They are aimed at the environment to form it into a certain shape and cast it in a definite mould. They are also aimed at the person to annul or establish what he does. The rationale of this is evident: The strong eye cannot see in the darkness. There must be a medium that enables it to see, so that it can discern what it wants." Then in his research Views on the Qur'an, he says, "The effect of the environment on human behaviour is undeniable. It is probable that environment is more able than genetics to form mankind and direct their future. Any system that aims at a personal direction for the individual cannot, by any means, ignore the pressure that his environment exerts on him. Neither can it ignore the environment's inspiration, both the hidden and the manifest, which directs him at its will. Controlling the environment is, therefore, an
indispensable necessity for every earnest call. On that basis, Islam is a religion that is instituted for the soul, the society and the state all the same." There is no way, then, to reach that desired society! But have the youth of "the Islamic Awakening" realised the extent of contradiction in this difficult equation? The Islamic movement, on the one hand, charges them to hold themselves aloof from the depravity of reality, while, on the other hand, the environment imposes on them an inescapable reality! Therefore, the followers of the Islamic movement will have to choose between these three alternatives: 1. - To revolt against this reality and environment and make it conformable with the methodology they want to apply. 2. - To withdraw from society, removing themselves to a cave or a desert or taking refuge on a mountain, so that they can practise their Islam away from the pressure of the pagan reality. 3. - To give up and relinquish Islam altogether. These alternatives will not lead to a positive objective or give a satisfying result. Choosing any of them has its negative effects, detrimental both to society and to the individual, which may eventually lead to the destruction of both.
4. THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE JURISPRUDENCE OF THE MINORITY
When studying the history of the Islamic Empire, which Muhammad established in Medina after his migration there, one should distinguish between two phases the Islamic dawa (missionary work) had to go through in order to establish a society based on the teachings of Islam: the Meccan phase, which lasted for thirteen years, and the Medina phase, which started after the migration there and ended with the death of Muhammad. When he wanted to establish his Islamic Empire and apply his Sharia, which he declared to be inspired from heaven, Muhammad had two things in mind, seeing that he was then in Mecca where he and his followers were but a minority among a pagan majority: 1 - The environment around him was unfavourable and not fit to apply the tenets of his Sharia. 2 - He was not in control of Meccan society and did not have the authority necessary for changing the society by force and imposing his Sharia or applying it immediately. These two things were so clear to Muhammad that they had a far-reaching effect on his conduct of the transitional strategy of the Islamic dawa, as is made clear by the following: 1 - He did not impose on his new converts any tenets or laws to regulate their social,
political and economical life. 2 - He did not demand that his followers adhere to a new moral standard, as he did in Medina after the appropriate environment had been created. 3 - He did not order his followers to do anything more than to grasp and proclaim the doctrine of monotheism and to endure the persecution arising from this. Such grasping and proclamation did not result in any actual application of its injunctions. 4 - He ordered his followers to abide by the acceptable customs and traditions that were present in the Meccan society. No wonder Muhammad's followers (the Companions), who were the early Muslim believers, shared in all the transgressions of the Meccan society. They drank wine and gambled in the presence of their leader, Muhammad, without feeling that their behaviour contradicted the new doctrine they were commanded to believe in and study, so long as they were not in an environment that allowed them to rise above such transgressions and disdain them. Ibnul Juzi said in Zadul Maseer, "God, Highly Exalted, revealed four verses regarding wine: in Mecca He said, ‗And of the fruits of the palms and the vines, you take therefrom an intoxicant and a provision fair' (Sura al-Nahl 16:67). Muslims at the commencement of Islam drank wine and it was lawful for them. Then in Medina Sura al-Baqara 2:219 was revealed: ‗They will question thee concerning wine and arrow-shuffling [gambling]. Say, "In both is heinous sin, and uses for men, but the sin in them is more heinous than the usefulness." Therefore some departed from it on account of His saying "In both is heinous sin," while others continued drinking it on account of His saying "and uses for men."'" It so happened later that Abdel Rahmaan Ibn Auf prepared a meal and invited some of Muhammad's companions, whom he gave food to eat and wine to drink. Now when it was time for the sunset prayer, they put one of them in front to lead them in prayer. The man was intoxicated so when he quoted Sura al-Kafirun 109:2 he said, "Say: ‗O unbelievers, I serve ... what you serve,'" leaving out "not." Thereupon Sura al-Nisa´ 4:43 was revealed: "O believers, draw not near to prayer when you are drunken until you know what you are saying." Thus God prohibited drinking before prayer times. Therefore men would drink wine after the evening prayer and by the time they woke up the next morning their drunkenness would have left them. Then Utbaan Ibn Maalik prepared a meal and invited some Muslim men, among whom was Sad Ibn Abu Waqqaas. He roasted them the head of a camel. They ate and drank wine till they were overcome by wine and began to boast and recite poetry. One of them recited a poem boasting over his kinsmen and satirising the Ansaar. At this an Ansaarite picked a jawbone of a camel and bashed Sad on his head causing a fracture. So Sad rushed to Muhammad complaining about the Ansaar. Therefore God revealed Sura al-Ma´ida 5:90: "O believers, wine and arrow-shuffling, idols and divining-arrows are an abomination, some of Satan's work ...Will you then desist?" At that Omar Ibnul Khattaab said, "We desist, Lord. We desist." The early Muslims under Muhammad dealt in liquor and gained exorbitant profits from them, as much as they did from arrow-shuffling!! In his book al-Jaami, alImam al-Qortubi says, "If some ask, ‗How could there be any use in liquor, though it wastes money and brain?' the answer will be that the word used in the above-
mentioned verse means financial profits that people drew from dealing in liquor, which were exorbitant indeed. Similarly, they gained profits from arrow-shuffling as well. The fact that the profits were financial is evidenced by the wording of the verse, where God connected them with those accruing from arrow-shuffling." The early Muslims practised usury as well. They did not find it at variance with the new doctrine which they had adopted and were studying. In fact, the so-called pagan reality imposed this kind of conduct. Al-Sheikh al-Saabuni says in his book A Commentary on the Verses of Judgement: Prohibiting usury, as was the case with wine, went through four stages: (1) First God revealed Sura al-Rum 30:39: "And what you give in usury that it may increase upon the people's wealth, increases not with God; but what you give in alms, desiring God's Face, those – they receive recompense manifold." This verse is Meccan and nothing in it indicated prohibiting usury. All it referred to was that God abhors usury and that it has no recompense from God. The verse is, therefore, "a good exhortation." (2) Then He revealed Sura al-Nisa´ 4:160: "And for the evildoing of those of Jewry, we have forbidden them some good things that were permitted to them, and for their barring from God's way many, and for their taking usury, that they were prohibited." This verse was revealed in Medina. It was a lesson God was teaching to the Muslims from the history of the Jews, who were worthy of God's wrath and curse because they had been forbidden to practise usury but did it anyway. This sort of prohibition is an implicit, rather than an explicit, one. (3) Later God revealed Sura Al Imran 3:130: "O believers, devour not usury, doubled and redoubled." This verse was also revealed in Medina. We find in it evident prohibition of usury; but it was partial not total. This prohibition was levelled at a sort of usury called "the exorbitant usury." (4) Lastly, usury was prohibited categorically by Sura al-Baqara 2:278-279: "O believers, fear you God; and give up the usury that is outstanding, if you are believers. But if you do not, then take notice that God shall war with you, and His Messenger; yet if you repent you shall have your principal, unwronging, unwronged." Here we ask, why didn't Muhammad impose on his followers in Mecca, where the pagan environment was predominant, any laws or precepts? Why didn't he set a moral code for them as he did in Medina thirteen years after the beginning of the dawa? Why did Muhammad leave his followers Muslim in belief and thought but pagan in behaviour and conduct? Why was Medina, and not Mecca, the place where laws and precepts were revealed? Sayed Qutb answers, "Because the early Muslims had no power over themselves, neither over the society. How could they enact these laws without power or supremacy?" The moral code that Islam calls for cannot be applied, except in an atmosphere dominated and ruled by Islam. And since the Islamic environment was not available in Mecca, the application of moral laws and codes was postponed until the time
when that environment arose in Medina after the migration. By analogy to the transitional strategy prepared by Muhammad and observed by his followers, which aims at establishing an Islamic society on the remains of the pagan one, all transitional strategies propounded by the Islamic groups as a means of attaining the application of the laws and precepts of Islam prove to be wrong. It has thus become a necessity to submit another alternative, and this is due to their insistence on rescuing humanity by means of the Sharia law. So another opinion emerged, which holds that Muslims are to emulate Muhammad in his transitional strategy that succeeded in establishing the society of Islam in Medina. The advocates of this opinion believe that we now live in a "pagan" society and, consequently, "we are to afford what the Messenger of God afforded in it." If the early Muslims dealt with the pagan society through paganism, let us, too, deal with reality through realism. If the environment had such a formidable effect on directing the Islamic legislation when the Qur'an was being revealed, let the environment now be our chief criterion for legalising and prohibiting things, not the old time legislation of a previous age. Their argument is evident: There was a reason for the gradual advance of laws and precepts that took place at the time of early Muslims in Mecca, namely the unfavourable environment that surrounded them at first. The suspension of the Islamic code of manners was justified by factors that are still at work in our present environment. What about different Islamic units who object to this on the basis of their interpretation of Sura al-Ma´ida 5:3, "Today I have perfected your religion for you, and I have completed my blessing upon you, and I have approved Islam for your religion"? They interpret this as a statement that obligated Muslims to implement the laws, precepts and all the instructions of Islam, hence abrogating all the gradual introductory phases that had gone before it. This view has been put forward by Fahmy Huweedy under the title The Jurisprudence of the Minority in discussing the situation of Muslims in Europe and America, where they experience difficulties in trying to apply their Islam in European and American societies. Therefore, he says, they have made individual judgements on how to forge a relationship with the society they live in not based on any previous legal Islamic decisions. In order to do this they have had to reconsider many previous judgements established through Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) that resulted from living under Muslim rule. On the family level, for example, if we take into consideration the principle of a wife converting to Islam and divorcing her non-Muslim husband, as established in jurisprudence at present, the result will be the destruction of the future of all families in which either husband or wife convert to Islam, which in turn will impede the expansion of Islam itself. So then, shall we apply the principle at any cost, or shall consider the circumstances? Al-Imam al-Mauduudi adopted the latter alternative in dealing with the Muslim minority in India. Another example is the situation of Muslims who work in restaurants that offer pork or wine or anything else prohibited by Sharia law, and have no other chances of work. Should they continue working and serve these forbidden things to people, or should they leave their jobs and stay idle at home? A third example: If a Muslim centre or individual wants to build a headquarters or a house, should they take out a loan with interest from a bank or should they not? What are they going to do where
this is the only option they have? Let us not forget either the dilemmas faced by Muslims living in society where mixing of the sexes, expressionistic arts, music, dancing and singing are the norm. Finally Huweedy makes a special case for the matter of personal freedom. For, in order for the Muslim minority to have the right to practise their religion and to meet its doctrinal obligations, the strategy of the Islamic centre must always be on the side of the freedom of belief, ceremonies and religious practices, from which even Satanists and all sorts of debauched people will benefit. Without this they would be losing the field in which they have room to act and, therefore, they have adopted the logic that says, "Let us be for the freedom, even if this leads to the emerging of something that might sully our beliefs and ethics." Hence it is evident that those who uphold "the Jurisprudence of the Minority" are talking about the situation in countries that make it perfectly clear that they are not Islamic, such as European countries and America, while the others who concern themselves with application of Sharia are talking about the situation in societies that claim to be and have the outward appearance of being Islamic. The two approaches, we believe, are largely similar concerning the core of the issue at hand: both of them agree on the impossibility of applying Islamic Sharia outside any environment that has been prepared especially for it. Both of them have brought to nought, whether knowingly or not, the concept of the Sharia competence everywhere and at all times. There is yet another approach that maintains waiting and preparing society for the application of the Islamic Sharia. This means, of course, tackling the problems of development, unemployment, poverty, housing, education and most of the problems that we have been struggling with for decades without the least hope that they will be solved, since proponents of this approach maintain that Islam and the Sharia offer the only solutions to such problems. Even if we succeeded in solving these problems and surmounting all the economical, social and political difficulties from which our present society suffers, this would mean that we could solve our main problems by means of things other than the Sharia, and thus the reasons that call for applying it disappear. This would surely demolish the second myth whose fabricators hold that the Sharia is the only rescue operation that can solve the problems of life altogether!!
5. FRIVOLOUS MUSLIMS
“I deny and denounce consulting Islam today on any of the problems of this society. Those who consult Islam, in good faith of course, are frivolous people, and those who answer these consultations, and those who talk about the place in which a certain situation of present humanity stands from Islam and its system, are all the more frivolous.”
This is an unreserved appeal to remove the opinion of Islam from the arena of reality, and to dismiss the Islamic solutions from the ring of ideological conflict. It is curious, however, that the one who made this appeal was not from the communist
camp, nor the movements supposedly antagonistic to Islam, nor from the Dhimmis who hold grudges against Islam and the Muslims, but rather from the same group that demanded and still demands an immediate application of the Islamic Sharia! This was the appeal of Sayed Qutb, the luminary of Islamic thought (as some Islamists call him) and author of the greatest transitional commentary on the Qur'an, who was the ideological founder of the group known as "The Muslim Brotherhood," which is the mother of all contemporary Islamic movements. The writings in which he recorded, explained and backed up this appeal thus establishing it as a new theory of fiqh, are among the most widely circulated Islamic publications. Sayed Qutb realised that Islam can only be applied in a society designated for it and in an environment forged by it. That is why, when he decried the paganism of the society in which we now live in his book Guideposts on the Road, he also declared that it is not fit for the application of Islamic laws. He regarded putting forward Islamic theory in this society as mere folly, inconsistent with the realistic spirit of Islam. This society must first convert to Islam and understand what "there is no god but Allah" means. First they must adopt Islam, and only then will the people endeavour to solve the problems inherent in their society. The propagators of Islam have fallen into the trap of trying to put forward its laws in a non-Islamic environment, which has only succeeded in making Islam look foolish. "The propagators of Islam must, therefore," he says, "not respond to this frivolous mockery called "the development of the Islamic jurisprudence" in a society that does not declare its submission to God but rather must expose it for the mockery that it is, rising above it and rejecting it." Sayed Qutb launched an attack on the advocates of the Islamic dawa, describing them as "sincere and hasty." Such advocates "fancy that presenting the foundations of the Islamic system and legislation will ease for them the way to the dawa (proclamation or call to Islam) and instill in people a love for this religion; however this is a mere fantasy caused by haste and lack of consideration of the nature of this religion and its divine methodology" (from the introduction of his commentary on Sura al-An`am 6). Sayed Qutb elaborates upon his appeal in his book Islam and Cultural Problems where he says, "The attempt to set Islamic, jurisprudential, legislative judgements to meet the judgements of the non-Islamic society in which we live is not a serious one at all, and is completely lacking in the serious spirit of Islam. It is amusing to try, for instance, to find jurisprudential judgements for the socio-economic situations in America and Russia, while neither acknowledge the sovereignty of Islam in the first place." He goes on to say this: ―Abu Bakr, Omar, Ali, Ibn Abbaas, Maalik, Abu Haneefa, Ibn Hanbal, al-Shaafee, Abu Yusif, al-Quraafi, al-Shatbi, Ibn Taimia, Ibn Qayyem al-Juzeyyeh, al-Izz Ibn Abdissallam, and all other such Islamic figures had certain things in common when they made legal decisions: ―First: They all lived in an Islamic society that recognised Islam alone as the arbiter
of its affairs, even though there were some minor exceptions to this at certain times. ―Second: They practised Islamic doctrine and methodology in their private lives and within the Islamic society they were living in, experiencing problems and looking for solutions to them through Islamic logic. ―Hence they met the two principal conditions for the establishing of Islamic jurisprudence and for developing it in such a way that it would be able to meet the developing conditions. In addition to this, they also fulfilled the conditions necessary for a person to be able to formulate individual judgements in theological matters (idjtihaad). These conditions include knowing Arabic, knowing which Qur'anic verses are abrogated, being familiar with the Hadith and knowing which are reliable and which not. ―Now, however, with all of due respect to the modern scholars, taking into consideration their sincere feeling, noble desire and the effort they exert, they are surely trying to make seeds sprout in the air. If not, where is the Islamic society for which they are making Islamic jurisprudential judgements through which it can solve its problems?
“Any jurisprudential judgement put forward nowadays to meet a problem arising in nonIslamic societies will not be applicable in a Muslim society because this same problem will not exist, to start with, in an Islamic society (when it is founded). Even if the same type of problem presents itself, it will not be exactly the same, and the way in which it is tackled cannot be the same as when the society was not Islamic.”
This is the conclusion the Islamic luminary Sayed Qutb came to in his writings, which solved a lot of problems put forward in the writings of the Islamists on the topic of "transitional jurisprudence": 1. His appeal for removing Islam from the arena was in keeping with the comprehensive understanding of Islam shown by the Islamists. This heritage of laws and legislation recorded in ancient books passed down to us by Muslims from ages past has come from a Muslim society and has arisen through the efforts of this society to meet the real needs of Islamic life. Furthermore, Islamic Sharia did not give rise to this society, but it was rather Islamic society that gave rise to Islamic jurisprudence. Islam, as presented by Islamists, is both religion and state; Qur'an, sword, worship and leading. Above all, it is an integral religion; this integration is made clear by its legislative codes arising from its environment, so that it is impossible to apply these legislations outside the domain of any environment specifically tailored to it. So if such an environment is non-existent, then the appeal for the application of the Sharia loses its most important support. 2. The appeal for removing Islam from the arena will eliminate the contradiction falling upon the adherents of the Islamic movement when they demand the application of the method of Islam in themselves to be established on their land, without having the environment that would help them do that. For, by virtue of this appeal, they became free of the bonds of the Islamic methods inapplicable in our
present-day environment, which they call "pagan". 3. Sayed Qutb's appeal offered the logical solution for the inevitable questions that arose as to the strange principles of the Sharia, such as not recommending or nominating oneself for the occupation of offices, inferred from the statement of the Qur'an: "Hold not yourselves purified" (or "Recommend not yourself") (Sura alNajm 53:32), and from the statement of Muhammad: "By God, I shall not give the charge of this work to someone that asked for it." Muslim scholars kept looking for a solution for the application of the rules and jurisprudential judgements of the Islamic system, but they found themselves at a loss. How are they to elect the men of loosing and binding or the men to be consulted if these cannot nominate themselves? How can this be carried out in such societies as we live in, where people no longer know one another closely and are not measured by the criteria of competence, honesty and faithfulness? And how are they to elect the leader (Imam)? Will he be elected from the public or will this appointment be confined to the domain of the people of loosing and binding? And if the leader is to choose the latter, pursuant to the principle of not recommending or nominating themselves, how can they, in return, choose the leader? Won't this affect their judgement? Moreover, if they in turn elect the leader, won't he be responsible to them, although he is ultimately the one in charge? And won't this make him choose persons whose allegiance he can count on, and make him give priority to this in his consideration? Sayed Qutb refused to consider these and other questions pertaining to the methods of the Sharia, since considering them now and searching for answers for them in the books of ancient theologians would be considered an implicit acknowledgement that the present society is Islamic - which he said was not the case. And this would also be tantamount to a belief that one would come up with rules, a system and jurisprudential judgements to apply them to this pagan society with its present elemental make-up, values and morals. This would not only be impractical, but also contradictory to the spirit of Islam. Finally, I quote the words of Sayed Qutb from his book Under the Wings of the Qur'an:
“Working in the speculative field of Islamic jurisprudence is agreeable work, since it entails no risk. But it is not a work for Islam, neither does it pertain to the method and nature of this religion. It is expedient for those who seek convenience and peace to engage in literature, arts or commerce. But to engage oneself in jurisprudence in such a manner as a work for Islam is, I believe, a waste of time and effort.”
This statement of Sayed Qutb, which he made against contemporary Islamic theologians, was a grenade thrown in their faces that not only ended his life, but his movement, as well. For his Islamic movement no longer possessed the element of persistence, since his appeal to remove Islam and the Sharia from society was an implicit acknowledgement that it is legitimate for man-made laws to operate until the desired society should arise. But Sayed Qutb and his associates did not explain
to us how such a society can arise and the way that leads to it.
6. THE INEVITABILITY OF HUMAN LEGISLATION
When the Islamic revolution started in Iran and established complete Islamic rule in a country that enjoyed all the benefits of revival and progress, such as manpower, ample natural resources with vast quantities of oil at the top of the list, and a civilisation with a history going back thousands of years, people looked to the newly born Islamic revolution as an incisive test of all the contemporary Islamic movements. If it succeeded in establishing the "society of justice, freedom and progress," the other movements would, consequently, acquire a tremendous momentum that would be difficult to stop in any country throughout the Islamic world suffering from backwardness and sinking under the burdens of repressive regimes, and yearning for those voices calling for Islamic rule and application of the Sharia. The decisive test was there in that revolution, which took full control of an Islamic country of great consequence, an ancient history, and a future rich in encouraging potentials. Nonetheless, the signs of failure manifested repeatedly following this Islamic revolution, year after year, were not echoed at all among the advocates of Islamic rule in the rest of the Arabic and Islamic countries. These have not been moved by the aftermath of the Islamic revolution from the time the religious leaders tightened their grip on the country till now. They however continued repeating their claim that Islamic rule does not mean leaving the reins in the hands of the religious leaders. These advocates did not even condemn the operations this government carried out to liquidate the opposition parties one after another, those hurried fake trials, in which Khalqaani issued sentences of execution as fast as a school teacher reads the results of the examinations to his pupils. Nor did they comment on the imposing of rigorous curricula on the university and school education systems. They completely ignored the spirit of depression and gloominess that prevailed over the daily lives of the people and were delineated on the expressions of their faces. After a few years another experiment was carried out in Sudan, though under totally different circumstances. The Sharia was applied, this time at the behest of a totalitarian ruler, who wove in and out of the different systems and attitudes that ranged from the leftist to the right-wing Islamic ones. The advocates of the application of the Sharia expressed great jubilation at Numeiri's experiment in spite of the striking aspects of injustice, and demanded that their opponents give the man a chance. They completely ignored the famine, the sentences of execution, the continual bleeding of the country's wealth, and the way rulers stole the entire nation's finances. They put this on one pan of the scales and put the nominal application of the huduud (Islamic punishment) of stealing, drinking alcohol and adultery on the other. Thus the second pan went down while the pan of onerous acts of injustice went up. At the time of this writing, these have been the last in a long series of attempts to apply the Islamic Sharia, including the attempt of Saudi Arabia and later that of Pakistan, not to mention the largely insignificant attempts in Indonesia and Libya. In all these the result was the same: governmental regimes drifting away from freedom, equality and all the values that religions had sought to establish, and
which philosophers and reformers from the beginning of time had called for. Notwithstanding, the advocates of the application of the Sharia in our country paid no attention whatsoever to the utter fiascos of these previous attempts, raising their voices all the more, while the attempt to apply the Sharia in Sudan turned into a world-wide scandal. What does this utter and complete apathy to reality, recent history, and the tangible examples and models indicate? And does any society approve of leaving the reins of its affairs in the hands of groups who close their eyes to things going on around them and neither try to learn from the lessons in front of them nor retrace their steps and rethink their goals in the light of recent evidence? The stock answer by the adherents of these groups for all those who point out the failure of the application of the Sharia here or there is: "Islam is not so. The mistake of Numeiri or any other is the mistake of an individual; it is not the mistake of Islam in itself." There is indeed truth in this answer; however, it is used to justify an unjustifiable situation. It involves serious distortions because any attempt applied in another society will be in turn "just another application"! I wonder, have our Islamic groups that call for the application of the Sharia exerted any effort to ensure categorically an application free of all these defects? Some would perhaps say that these have veered away from the essence of Islam, to which we would reply: Have we already forgotten that both of them assured the world, and still do, that their attempts are the true expression of the essence of Islam, and that the religious leaders and information officials in their countries furnish the most detailed proofs to back up such a claim? What assures us that this will not be repeated in our own attempt? On what basis do we hope, out of all the others, to be able to avoid the deviations of application and achieve the core and true identity of Islam? Complete indifference to history and closing one's eyes to the lessons offered by actual fact is the characteristic that marks Islamic movements throughout Islamic history. They depict a portrait of Islamic history taken from religious texts only. If we depend on these texts when we talk about social justice, for example, we will have many Qur'anic verses and traditions of the prophet that call for this equality, but never go beyond that. Such texts are supposed to prove the main issue, namely that Islam calls for social justice and that it is realised in Islam better than in any other system. But, is quoting texts by itself a sufficient proof of this issue? The advocates of the application of the Sharia make a terrible mistake when they concentrate their efforts on Islam as it is in the Qur'an and the Sunna, ignoring Islam as it is embodied in history. They do that when they are content with "Islam the texts" and ignore "Islam the reality". This mistake becomes all the more great when we realise that the pivot around which their appeal rotates is the problems of government, politics and the application of the Sharia, which are all of a practical nature. In dealing with these problems, one is not to be content to refer to quotations, but should continually couple this with the utilisation of actual experience as a guide. For in this case we are not confronting a philosophical or a theoretical, logical problem, but one that concerns the heart of practical life of man. Hence it is unforgivable to ignore all the events and attempts to attain Islamic rule,
both in earlier history and in recent times. A colloquium was held in 1986 in Cairo on "Islam versus Secularism" in which Professor Fuad Zakaria gave a speech. Here I quote a part of what he said: ―Some of the advocates of the application of the Sharia repeat catch-phrases of an immense emotional [impact] on the masses. These catch-phrases pass without being intercepted and discussed by anyone. They pass from mouth to mouth keeping their jelly-like contents until they spread out among the public as if they were final, established facts, though they prove vague and confused in the light of mental analysis. It will be enough to mention two of these catch-phrases: "theocracy versus human rule," and ―the efficacy of the judgements of the Sharia for every time and place‖. As for the first catch-phrase, I admit I'm unable to understand the meaning of "theocracy," namely the falling back in every situation upon the divine law, or "sovereignty" or any similar expressions. Referring to the divine Scriptures in the matter of government does not prevent the intervention of the human element in selecting and interpreting the fitting texts in such a way that goes along with the interests of the ruler, as it occurred during most of the earlier and present history. We are entitled to talk about theocracy at the times of the prophets only. But throughout subsequent history, when there were no prophets or apostles, the task of governing became, and will always remain, human, even if the judgements we fall back upon are divine. The most sublime of constitutional principles do not keep a tyrannical ruler from oppressing his subjects and spreading terror and injustice amongst them. In a like manner, the most elevated, heavenly legislations do not, and never did, keep despotic rulers from interpreting them as they liked. The simple lesson we extract from this is that the application of the judgements of the Sharia is not in itself a guarantee for a government any better than these regimes that have haunted and oppressed us throughout the history. The thing that is important, essential and substantial is the guarantees that prevent a ruler from deviation. The conception of "guarantees" is a purely human one, which developed through history and was subject to the method of trial and error. Mankind was to cultivate and enhance its perfection after long and bitter experiences, many of which failed and only a few relatively succeeded. Yet people are still learning and benefiting from each experience. The meaning of the second catch-phrase, namely "the efficacy of the judgements of the Sharia for every time and place," has been confused in people's minds. I have a strong doubt that there is a single direct religious text carrying the meaning that those who voiced it understood! And I believe that mulling over this phrase with a bit of rational and deep thought will uncover two essential contradictions: The first refers to the fact that man is a changeable being, hence the judgements regulating his life have to be changeable. This necessitates that the regulations, to which he is to be subject, must be in turn changeable. Simple and direct minds do not accept that there is something within the human domain that is fit for every time and place, as long as man himself has essentially changed with the passage of time, from the stone-age until the rocket-age. Likewise substantial changes have occurred in the domain of place — a shift from the primitive tropical environment of a
peninsula to a very intricate, urban and industrial one. As for the second contradiction, it is the restriction of man and the sentence passed on him for the everlasting state of inertia or apathy entailed by their statement. God, they say, set at a certain time laws by which men are to live forever and ever. What he can do, at best, is to renew the interpretation of one passage or the exposition of another. The outlines that govern the subsequent course of humanity are, however, already set and fixed. The contradiction here is found in the fact that the holders of this reason assert, at the same time, that God appointed man as his successor on the earth, and honoured him above all beings. Is the concept of succession, then, consistent with fixing the course of the human race beforehand? Does it go along setting rules, which man cannot violate however he develops or changes? Is it possible that a father mindful of the welfare of his children's mental and psychological growth should resort to setting fixed rules and prescribed commands, from which they are not supposed to veer their whole life long? Would it not rather be consistent with his consideration of them to leave them a wide margin within which they can be free to act? In the human sphere there is nothing fixed or final. Many have admitted this fact, even implicitly, when they distinguished between the general judgements of the Sharia and their applications, and affirmed that the general judgement tolerates interpretations that require adaptation by individual effort (idjtihaad) according to the demands of the age. Even though this was a proper attitude, yet we need to be very careful of the ensuing results. It is a fact that the more complicated an age is, (which means newer, with more advanced practical, technological, social and economical conditions) the more important the role of idjtihaad becomes and the less the general principle grows, so that the greatest part of the effort exerted for the administration of our affairs becomes human. Then we will have to depend on our intellects and understanding in most of the affairs of our lives. And the more distant it is from the time of revelation, the more we are in need of human idjtihaad. There will be always a conflict, therefore, between the detailed nature of the Islamic texts and the extent of their inclusiveness. The more detailed it is, the more difficult it will be to apply it under the ever-changing circumstances of human life. If we resolve this conflict by adopting the most general principles of the Sharia, this will require filling in the details from sources other than the Sharia, i.e. the demands of the age, the requirements of society at a certain era, trial and error of man, and the experience he can get from other societies and nations. If you bear in mind the changeability of human conditions you will understand that the texts ought to have been less inclusive and more confined to generalities. Insisting on the detailed application of the texts means that you ignore the fact of changeability. The religious texts will, therefore, remain in need of mankind in order to be an accomplished fact and be applied in a tangible human field. Despite the nonexistence of a priesthood in Islam, and the denial of an organised clerical body that serves as a legal "mediator" between the word of God and the acts of man, still the interpretation of the religious text by man is inevitable, if this text is to become a reality. Thus it seems necessary to have some sort of human "mediation" between the text and reality. In the process of mediation, all kinds of mistakes and prejudices inherent in human nature manifest themselves. For although the text is holy and divine, yet he who applies and interprets it is a man subject to all aspects of human
weakness. The most dangerous part is that the man who undertakes this application and interpretation invests himself, more or less, with a portion of holiness with which the religious texts are characterised. Further he offers his commands or fatwas (legal opinions) as an expression of the opinion of religion itself, not as his own understanding of religion, and describes his opponents as enemies of religion, not as enemies of his own way of interpreting it. Government is a strictly human experiment that may succeed or fail. When we acknowledge this principle from the very beginning, the possibility to correct this attempt will always be there. But the government that rests on religious authority, which is always human government cloaking itself with a supermundane authority, does not correct its mistakes easily, and may invest itself with a sort of inerrancy that prevents it originally from admitting any mistake. The previous pages and the questions I set down in them about Islamic Sharia were not propounded by the Christian debater alone, but also by Muslim scholars. Sayed Qutb and al-Mauduudi head the list, along with a number of professors of Islamic history, jurisprudence, and the Sharia, not to mention the secular movement headed by Dr. Fuad Zakaria, with whose words I concluded my search.
II. A NEW READING OF QUR'ANIC VERSES
1. DISTORTION IN THE QUR'AN?
The process of collecting the Qur'an into one book was no trivial matter. The Qur'an, when it was revealed, was subject to seven different interpretations (as related by al-Bukhari). Muslims used to recite it in such a way as to convey the meaning, which was not necessarily word for word as written, and there were in fact several versions in circulation before Othman collected them and put together the version named after him. All this made the collection of the Qur'an a turningpoint in the credibility of the Qur'anic text. The Companions at first were opposed to the idea of collecting the entire Qur'an together in one book, which the Messenger had not done while he was still alive, regarding such an act as heresy. But as soon as the idea was realised, many copies passed into circulation and each Companion had his own Mushaf (copy of the Qur'an), which he would not exchange for anything! Ikrima reported that Ali Ibn Abi Taalib stayed at his home after the election of Abu Bakr, and Abu Bakr was told that he resented his election! So he sent for Ali saying, "Do you resent my election?" Ali answered, "No, by God!" Abu Bakr then asked him, "Why did you stay away from me?" He answered, "I saw the Book of God being added to, so I said to myself, 'I shall not wear my mantle, except (to go) to pray, till I have collected it.'" Abu Bakr said, "Such is a most wonderful
thought." There was also the copy collected by Ubayy Ibn Kab, widespread in Syria. It differs from the copy of Othman in that it has two more Suras – al-Hafd and alKhal. Al-Baihaqi reported that Omar Ibn al-Khattaab prayed by reciting them, that Ali taught them to the people, and that people used to recite them before King alMalik Ibn Marwaan (until the Umayyad era)!! Ubayy's version also differs from other copies in that it combines Sura al-Fil 105 and Sura al-Humaza 104, as well as Sura al-Duha 93 and Sura al-Sharh 94, while in Othman's version they are four separate suras. There is another version named after Ibn Masuud, who was one of the leading reciters of the Qur'an recommended by Muhammad himself. Al-Suyuti reported, on the strength of Jaabir, that the prophet said, "Receive the Qur'an from four: Abdullah Ibn Masuud, Muaaz Ibn Jabal, Saalim, and Kab." The difference between Ibn Masuud's copy and the others is that it does not contain Suras al-Fatiha 1, alFalaq 113 and al-Nas 114. It was also reported that he said, "The two charm suras (namely Suras al-Falaq 113 and al-Nas 114) are not of the Book of God." Yet another version, that of Zaid, was collected and written down at the order of caliph Abu Bakr, following Omar Ibn al-Khattaab's advice to him. Zaid collected it from the Companions' recollections and from writings on bones, tree-leaves, tree bark and palm leaves!!
Othman, Between Unifying and Distorting
The process of collecting the Qur'an had obvious effects on the history of the written Qur'an. Many different and variant texts of the Qur'an were in evidence. Muslims were divided among themselves and each group held to a certain text. The disagreement came to a head when they started killing one another and accusing each other of being infidels. They levied various accusations, on top of which was the accusation of distortion. Seeing what was befalling the Muslims, Caliph Othman Ibn Affaan resolved to unify the different interpretations of the Qur'an into one. Anas Ibn Maalik reported that the people disagreed about Qur'an verses at the time of Othman, with even disciples and teachers killing one another. Othman heard about this, and said, "Do you lie about it and recite the Qur'an using incorrect Arabic even when in front of me? What then about those who are far away from me? They surely tell more lies and use even worse Arabic! Companions of Muhammad, unite yourselves and write an Imam (prayer leader, i.e. the Qur'an) for the people." After forming a committee to supervise the writing of the Qur'an, Othman commanded oil to be boiled and had the other versions that differed from his cast into it. This should arouse suspicion among the researchers as to the credibility of the version that we now have. For Ali Ibn Abi Taalib bears witness that the Qur'an was added to! They say that Ali wrote in his copy of the Qur'an the abrogating and the abrogated verses, while Othman omitted the abrogated ones from his. Yet the
copy we now have still has several abrogating and abrogated verses! One of the historical facts, which will continue to cast suspicion on the history of the written version of the Qur'an, is the difference of Ibn Mas'uud's copy from those of the other Companions. He rejects Sura al-Fatiha 1, Sura al-Falaq 113 and Sura al-Nas 114, and even declared that anyone considering them as belonging to the Book of God was an infidel!! Note that Ibn Masuud was one of the four people Muhammad recommended as trustworthy reciters of the Qur'an. It was reported that he claimed to know everything in the Qur'an, big or small. When Zaid was assigned to collect the Qur'an, and Ibn Masuud was left out, he was indeed sullen and angry at the assignment of someone less than twenty years of age to such a mission for which he felt more qualified than anyone else. He strongly disapproved of the assignment of Zaid to collect the Qur'an and said, "By God, I converted to Islam while he was yet in the loins of an infidel!" As for Ubayy's copy, it contains verses and suras that are not in Othman's copy. Why this difference and disagreement, even though the people were still closely related to their leader's life?! We again wonder, why did those responsible for the collection of the Qur'an ignore such Companions as Ali Ibn Abi Taalib, Ubayy Ibn Abi Kab, Ibn Mas'uud and Ibn Abbaas? We also have the right to ask why Othman formed a committee to collect and arrange the Qur'an, yet removed the abrogated verses from it. Why didn't he or those with him accept the Zaid's version, although Abu Bakr, Omar, Ali, and the senior Companions accepted it under Abu Bakr and Omar? What Othman did to the Qur'an will always be under suspicion and accusation, since he burnt all the other copies that were existent at the time. Why were the copies prior to Othman's copy, which included Zaid's copy, destroyed, if they were consistent with the unified text of Othman? And if it was at variance with it and thus was burnt, how can we trust Othman's version while he did not trust those of Abu Bakr, Omar and Ali?
The Shiites and Distorting the Qur'an
All that we have said thus far represents the sayings and opinions of reliable Suni scholars, which challenge the integrity of the Qur'an and accuse it, explicitly and implicitly, of being added to, taken from, changed and substituted for. The Shiite scholars, likewise, hold that the Qur'an has been added to and taken from. Their scholars of Tradition and exposition, such as Ali Ibn Ibrahim, his disciple alKalleeni, al-Ayyaashi and al-Tubrusi, are all of the opinion that the Qur'an currently circulating among of the Muslims is not the whole Qur'an! Imam Muhammad Ibn Jafar, for example, emphasised in his book al-Imamah that God never said in the Qur'an, "The second of two, when the two were in the Cave, when he said to his companion, ‗Sorrow not; surely God is with us'" (Sura alTawba 9:40). There are many books written by the most notable leaders of the Shiite sect that confirm the fact that the Qur'anic texts were distorted. The most famous among them is The Abridgement on the Corruption of the Book of the Lord of Lords by
Imam al-Nuri. The writer said in the preface, "This is a kind book and a creditable treatise, which proves the corruption of the Qur'an and brings to light the shameful deeds of the injurious and the unjust." The book has three prefaces and the body of the text is in two parts. In his first introduction, the writer emphasises the need to reject all that took place during the collection of the Qur'an, its collector, and the reason for collecting it. He touches upon the incompleteness and the differences in the Qur'an in relation to the way it was collected, supporting his argument with the reports of many Imams, among whom are al-Saduuq, al-Tubrusi, al-Sighaar, al-Kalleeni, Ibn Shahr Ashuub, al-Ayyaashi, al-Majlisi and al-Numaani. Here is a synopsis of these reports. Ali collected the Qur'an neither adding a letter to it nor removing a letter, but he was rejected and spurned. The three caliphs assigned the compilation and the composition of the Qur'an to whomever was in agreement with them against the holy men of God. So they omitted everything that commended the Imams, as well as the text of great import concerning the office of prince, or leader, of believers. Thus none, except the prince of believers Ali Ibn Abi Taalib, can claim he collected the whole Qur'an. Imam al-Nuri adds, "There were different collectors; the prince of the believers was the first among them, whose collection was at variance with all the other collectors. There is a second version collected by the three caliphs, and then the copies of Ibn Kab, and Ibn Masuud, which make four copies in total." He then sums up his argument with the following: "When these general and specific accounts are considered closely, we learn from what is both stated and implied that the Qur'an now circulating among Muslims in the east and the west, bound by two covers and according to its collection and arrangement, was not so during the life of the Messenger." The second preface to Imam al-Nuri's book was written for the purpose of pointing out the types of differences and changes that may have happened to the Qur'an. The examples of addition and reduction are numerous; the addition has been pointed out previously, and the reduction includes Suras al-Hafd and al-Khal. As for the substitution, it includes that of words, letters and vowels. Imam al-Nuri backs up his argument with quotations from sayings of the Shiite scholars proving that the Qur'an has been corrupted and changed. He quotes the sayings of more than twelve fundamentalist scholars who admit the corruption of the Qur'an, such as al-Majlisi in his book, The Mirror of Minds, Muhammad Ibn Hasan al-Sairafi in his book, Corruption and Substitution, and Ahmad Ibn Muhammad in his book, The Corruption. In the first part of his book, al-Nuri furnishes evidence indicating the occurrence of such changing and reduction in the Qur'an, supporting his evidence with various reports and accounts: 1. There are accounts that indicate the omission of many verses, such as the verse of al-Rajm (stoning), as well as many suras. Sura al-Ahzab 33 was as long as Sura al-Baqara 2, and Sura al-Bayyina 98 once listed 70 persons from Quraish by their
names and their fathers' names. It was also as long as Sura al-Baqara 2! 2. Ali Ibn Abi Taalib had a copy of the Qur'an, which he himself collected. This version differed from that of Othman. It had verses not found in Othman's copy, and vice versa. Among the verses it had, which are not in Othman's copy:
"Am I not your Lord, and Muhammad is My Messenger, and Ali the prince of the believers?" "... and his parents were believers, while he was an unbeliever." "... and We have sent before thee, neither a Messenger, nor a Prophet, nor a speechcarrier." "... and their mothers' husbands, and he is a father unto them ..." "Surely man is in a loss, and in it he shall remain till the end of the age ..."
3. There is a version of the Qur'an named after Abdullah Ibn Masuud that does not agree with the present version. It is also at variance with Ali's version. Al-Nuri listed some of the verses that were found only in Ibn Masuud's copy:
"For surely God chose Adam, Noah, the house of Abraham, and the house of Muhammad above all beings." "Did We not expand thy breast from thee and lifted from thee thy burden? Did We not exalt thy fame by Ali thy son-in-law?"
Here are some of the sixty places the Shiites believe have been corrupted according to the studies of Professor Muhammad Mallallaah. The phrases they consider to be authentic, though not existent in the copies we have now, are between brackets. Abu Baseer reported, on the strength of Ubayy Abdillaah:
"Whosoever obeys God and His Messenger (in the rule of the Imams) has won a mighty triumph" (Sura al-Ahzab 33:71). The Shiites believe that Muhammad's Companions omitted "in the rule of the Imams."
Abu Baseer reported, on the strength of Ubayy Ibn Abdillaah:
"So We shall let the unbelievers (who forsook the rule of the prince of the believers) taste a terrible chastisement, and recompense them with the worst of what they were working" (Sura Fussilat 41:27).
Al-Husain Ibn Mubaah reported that a man recited in the presence of Ubayy Ibn Abdillaah, "Say, ‗Work; and God will surely see your work, and His Messenger, and the believers'" (Sura al-Tawba 9:105). For which Ubayy answered, "It is not
so. it is rather ‗... and the trusted ones,' which we are." Abu Hamza reported, on the strength of Abi Jafar: Gabriel, peace be upon him, revealed this verse after this manner, "Surely the unbelievers, who have done evil (by depriving the house of Muhammad from their right), God will not forgive them, neither guide them on any road but the road to Gehenna, therein dwelling for ever and ever" (Sura al-Nisa´ 4:168). Abu Hamza also reported: "Yet most men refuse (the rule of Ali) all but unbelief" (Sura al-Isra´ 17:89). They also reported that Sura al-Baqara 2:106, "And for whatever verse We abrogate or cast into oblivion, We bring a better or the like of it," did not originally have "or the like of it." Let the reader draw his own conclusions from this.
2. HISTORICAL MATERIAL IN THE QUR'AN
The miraculous nature (ijaz) of the Qur'an manifests itself in many ways, the most remarkable of which is its historical accuracy. Muslim scholars sum up their proofs for this thus: "When it spoke of history, the Qur'an gave a clear divine saying" (Dr. Ahmad Shalaby, in his book Lectures on the Islamic Civilisation). Dr. al-Biltaji also states in his book Islamic Studies, "When the Qur'an spoke, it told of the ancients, and prophesied the events of the end times. This is not within the ability of a Bedouin, who was, moreover, illiterate. If it was not divinely inspired, where did it come from then?" Sayed Qutb said in the introduction of his book, Under the Wings of the Qur'an, "The Qur'an and its texts must have the last word, not archaeology and archaeologists. The Qur'an has been revealed by Him who knows the secret in the heavens and earth, who "knows the secret and that yet more hidden" (from Sura Ta Ha 20:7). He used to repeat often, "Are you more knowledgeable than God?" This was the position taken by some Muslim scholars on the miraculous historical accuracy of the Qur'an, which is however neither a unanimous view among such scholars, nor the opinion held by the general public. There are some who hold that history in the Qur'an is not to be counted among the "clear texts" (muhkam) but among the "ambiguous texts" (mutashaabih) that allow for interpretation, exposition and individual opinion. They argue that the Qur'an, when giving a historical account, is ambiguous and does not narrate historical events clearly one way or another but rather uses ambiguities and statements that could have more than one meaning! Although we side with neither one group nor the other, we still hold that the existence of myth in the Qur'an is enough proof that the author of the Qur'an was not the Lord of all beings. Be that as it may, we nonetheless put forward here some more citations to back up what we claim. 1. The Qur'an ignores the main fundamentals of history when it does not give the time or date of events. It does not even specify the persons involved. Consider the accounts of Moses' life in the Qur'an. Despite being repeated so often, the Qur'an
gives no precise details about his life (which no self respecting historian would consider) such as his character, descent, the time he was sent as a prophet, the purpose of his mission, and where, how and why he appointed Aaron as his deputy. Neither does it relate the argument which took place between them and their people, which would be indispensable to any account worthy of being considered as history. 2. It narrates some events and ignores others. The Qur'an does not concern itself with narrating in full the events concerning a certain person or a certain nation where, had it done so, valuable conclusions might have been drawn and lessons learnt. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Qur'an groups together several stories that lead the reader to one end as it does in Sura Hud 11. In addition, it pays no attention to the chronological or natural sequence of events as it narrates them. 3. It ascribes some events to certain persons in one place, then ascribes these same events, in another place, to other people. Let us take for example Sura al-A`raf 7:109: "Said the Council of the people of Pharaoh, ‗Surely this is a cunning sorcerer.'" In another part of the Qur'an, it ascribes these same words in the same situation to Pharaoh ("Said he to the Council about him, ‗Surely this man is a cunning sorcerer'" Sura al-Shu`ara‘ 26:34). Likewise we find in the story of Abraham that the good news about the boy was given to his wife: "Our messengers came to Abraham with the good tiding s; they said, ‗Peace!' ‗Peace,' said he; and presently he brought a roasted calf.... And his wife was standing by; she laughed, therefore We gave her the glad tidings of Isaac, and after Isaac, of Jacob" (Sura Hud 11:69–71). Yet we find in Sura al-Hijr 15:51– 53 that the good news was given to Abraham himself: "And tell them of the guests of Abraham, when they entered unto him, saying, ‗Peace!' He said, ‗Behold, we are afraid of you.' They said, ‗Be not afraid; behold, we give the good tidings of a cunning boy.'" In Sura al-Dhariyat 51:24–28 the Qur'an also says, "Hast thou received the story of the honoured guests of Abraham? When they entered unto him, saying ‗Peace!' He said, ‗Peace! You are a people unknown to me.' ... Then he conceived a fear of them. They said, ‗Be not afraid!' And they gave him good tidings of a cunning boy." 4. Whenever the same story is repeated, the Qur'an has a given person say different things. For example, when it narrates Moses' encounter with God in the burning bush, Moses hears different greetings each time. It says in Sura al-Naml 27:8, "So, when he came to it, he was called: ‗Blessed is he who is in the fire, and he who is about it.'" In Sura al-Qasas 28:30 however it says, "When he came to it, a voice cried from the right bank of the watercourse, in the sacred hollow, coming from the tree: ‗Moses, I am God, the Lord of all being.'" Yet in Sura Ta Ha 20:11,12 it says, "When he came to it, a voice cried, ‗Moses, I am thy Lord; put off thy shoes; thou art in the holy valley, Towa.'" 5. It adds certain things to its stories that in fact had no place in the sequence of events, such as the claim that the Jews said, ―‗We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God.'— yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him" (Sura al-Ma´ida 5:157). It is both common knowledge and common sense that the Jews did not say Jesus was Christ, the Messenger of God. Had they adopted this
belief, they wouldn't have killed Him or crucified Him! Moreover, it strikes us as odd to claim that the Jews acknowledged the killing of Christ, which they have never done. The historical material was introduced into the Qur'an to serve the purposes of the Islamic dawa. Therefore it is not subject to the scientific methods of research; it is rather religion-oriented material. It was an embodiment of the lives of Muhammad, his followers and his people, not of the true events of history. The history of the prophets as set out in the Qur'an is not necessarily an accurate representation of the course of their lives, as much as it was an accurate representation of the Islamic dawa! There are numerous stories told in the Qur'an for this same reason, such as the stories in Sura Hud 11. Some have even attributed the difference between Lot's story in Sura Hud 11 and Sura al-Hijr 15 to the difference of events in Muhammad's own life. The purpose of Sura Hud 11 is to strengthen the hearts of Muhammad and his followers, which is why the Qur'an is careful to relate the harm done to Lot. Therefore it clearly depicts his state of mind, describing his emotions and thoughts. All the stories in this Sura are similarly related, so there is a common thread running throughout the Sura and linking the beginning and the end with the verses between. At the beginning of the Sura it says, describing Muhammad's state of mind, "Perchance thou art leaving a part of what is revealed to thee, and thy breast is straitened by it" (Sura Hud 11:12). At its end it says, "And all that We relate to thee of the tidings of the Messengers is that whereby We strengthen thy heart" (Sura Hud 11:120). The purpose of Lot's story in Sura al-Hijr 15, however, was to demonstrate the harm that befalls those who disbelieve. Thus the Qur'an lets the angels reveal their identity to Lot and tell him of the disasters and the punishment about to befall the people, which paralleled Muhammad's own situation. The Qur'an makes this clear at the end of Sura al-Hijr 15 when it says, "Now by thy Lord, We shall surely question them all together concerning that they were doing. So shout that thou art commanded and turn thou away from the idolaters. We suffice thee against the mockers" (Sura al-Hijr 15:92–95). So we see that the purpose of the story was to emphasise the punishment meted out to those who did not obey the prophets, who were sent to them as a warning to those who might not obey Muhammad. As a further example, if we want to choose a Qur'anic story that accurately reflects the attitude of Muhammad and his followers toward their people at a certain period of time, we shall not find a stronger, more violent or more truthful a story than the story of Noah as it appears in Sura Nuh 71, which is named after him. It demonstrates Muhammad's problems and those of his followers in their dawa. The movement of the narrative parallels the difficult situation Muhammad was in, and his turning to God to bring him up out of this situation and to rescue those who believed from among the throng of the deceitful and the unbelievers. The Sura says, "We sent Noah to his people, saying, ‗Warn thy people, ere there come on them a painful chastisement.' He said, ‗O my people, I am unto you a clear warner, saying, "Serve God and fear Him, and obey you me, and He will forgive you your sins, and defer you to a stated term; God's term, when it comes,
cannot be deferred, did you but know."' He said, ‗My Lord, I have called my people by night and by day, but my calling has only increased them in flight. And whenever I called them, that Thou mightest forgive them, they put their fingers in their ears, and wrapped them in their garments, and persisted, and waxed very proud. Then indeed I called them openly; then indeed I spoke publicly unto them, and I spoke unto them secretly, and I said, "Ask you forgiveness of your Lord; surely He is ever All-forgiving, and He will loose heaven upon you in torrents, and will succour you with wealth and sons, and will appoint for you gardens, and will appoint for you rivers. What ails you, that you look not for majesty in God, seeing He created you by stages? Have you not regarded how God created seven heavens one upon another, and set the moon therein for a light and the sun for a lamp? And God caused you to grow out of the earth, and He shall return you into it, and bring you forth. And God has laid the earth for you as a carpet, that thereof you may thread ways, ravines."' Noah said, ‗My Lord, they have rebelled against me, and followed him whose wealth and children increase him only in loss, and have devised a mighty device and have said, "Do not leave your gods, and do not leave Wadd, not Suwa, Yaghuth, Yauq, neither Nasr." And they have lead many astray. Increase Thou not the evildoers save in error!' And because of their transgressions they have drowned, and admitted into Fire, for they not, apart from God, any to help them. And Noah said, ‗My Lord, leave not upon the earth of the unbelievers even one. Surely if Thou leavest them, they will lead thy servants astray, and will beget none but unbelieving libertines. My Lord, forgive me and my parents, and whosoever enters my house as a believer, and the believers, men and women alike; and do Thou not increase the evildoers save in ruin!'" (Sura Nuh 71:1–28). Thus Sura Nuh 71 accurately reflects the situation of Muhammad and his followers, and their struggle with their people, so much so that if Muhammad were to write the account of his dawa, he wouldn't need to add a word to this Sura!! The parallel between Noah's situation and Muhammad's is complete. This is seen in two constituents of the dawa — worship of and obedience to God, as well as in the method of the dawa, which consisted of "public" and "secret" proclamation, and in the way people received the message of his dawa, namely running away from it, later growing proud and putting their fingers in their ears. It is evident also in the things he promised — money and rivers — to entice them to believe. Afterwards he starts to draw their attention to God's greatness, which is manifest in his creation of the mountains, and the seven heavens, which he set one upon another, and his appointment of the moon for a light and the sun for a lamp. After that he communes with his Lord, where he tells him that the people have followed the rich and those whose wealth and children only resulted in loss for them. Then we see it in the way he depicts the cunning of the rich and the leaders when they demand their people to remain idol-worshippers as they have always been. Strangely, however, the names of the idols mentioned in Sura Nuh 71, "Do not leave your gods, and do not leave Wadd, nor Suwa, Yaghuth, Yauq, neither Nasr," the worship of which this sura claimed Noah was fighting, are not the names of the idols of Noah's people but those of the Arabs. This confirms that there is some sort of mixing and duality in the Qur'anic account of Noah's story, so that the Sura attributes to Noah what happened to Muhammad, in such a way that would lead us to believe that the Sura has been misnamed "The Sura of Noah" and think it more
accurate to call it "The Sura of Muhammad"!!
3. MYTH IN THE QUR'AN
The Qur'an is the Book of God; "falsehood comes not to it from before nor from behind it." It is the true word of God, the epitome of knowledge. Thus runs the myth of the Qur'an, which disproves itself through the occurrence of myth within it! Whoever peruses the verses of the Qur'an find that they record things that have nothing to do with historical fact. The historical material in the Qur'an has gone beyond the bounds of reality to those of fairy-tales. This was the reason that prompted the unbelieving Arabs who opposed the Islamic dawa in Mecca to say that the Qur'an was nothing but the fairy-tales of the ancients (Sura al-An`am 6:25). One may indeed wonder: are there myths in the Qur'an? To answer this question, one should first set forth the Qur'anic verses that speak of myths and fairy-tales: "And when Our signs are being recited to them, they said, ‗We have already heard; if we wished we could say the like of this; this is naught but the fairy-tales of the ancients.' And when they said, ‗O God, if this be the truth from Thee, then rain down upon us stones out of heaven, or bring us a painful chastisement'" (Sura alAnfal 8:31,32). "Nay, but they said the like of what the ancients said. They said, ‗What, when we are dead and become dust and bones, shall we be indeed raised up? We and our fathers have been promised this before; this is naught but the fairy-tales of the ancients'" (Sura al-Mu´minun 23:81–83). "They say, ‗Fairy-tales of the ancients that he has had written down, so that they are recited to him at the dawn and in the evening.' Say, ‗He sent it down, who knows the secret in the heaven and earth; He is All-forgiving, All-compassionate'" (Sura al-Furqan 25:5,6). "The unbelievers say, ‗What, when we are dust and our fathers, shall we indeed be brought forth? We have been promised this, and our fathers before; this is naught but the fairy-tales of the ancients'" (Sura al-Naml 27:67,68). "But he who says to his father and his mother, ‗Fie upon you! Do you promise me that I shall be brought forth, when already generations have passed away before me? while they call upon God for succour — ‗Woe upon thee! Believe; surely God's promise is true'; then he says, ‗This is naught but the fairy-tales of the ancients—'" (Sura al-Ahqaf 46:17). ―And obey thou not every mean swearer, backbiter, going about with slander, hinderer of good, guilty aggressor, coarse-grained, moreover ignoble, because he has wealth and sons. When Our signs are recited to him, he says, ‗Fairy-tales of the ancients!' (Sura al-Qalam 68:10–15).‖
―Woe that day unto those who cry lies, who cry lies to the Day of Doom; and none cries lies to it but every guilty aggressor. When Our signs are recited to him, he says, ‗Fairy-tales of the ancients!‘‖ (Sura al-Mutaffifin 83:10–13). These were the verses in which the Qur'an discussed this matter, from which we conclude the following: 1. These verses are all found in the Meccan Qur'an, despite the fact that some of these verses have been inserted into Medinan suras, such as Sura al-Anfal 8. Scholars are unanimously agreed on the fact that these aforementioned verses are indeed Meccan, despite the suras in which they are now found. What one can gather from this is that the unbelievers, who spoke of the fairy-tales of the ancients in the Qur'an, were of the people of Mecca. None adopted this opinion in Medina after the migration. 2. Those who held this view were, for the most part, among those who denied the Resurrection and the Judgement. They did not believe in the afterlife. This can be inferred from the verses of Sura al-Mu´minun 23, al-Naml 27, al-Ahqaf 46 and alMutaffifin 83. 3. The idolaters had a firm conviction in what they believed. The strength of their belief can be felt in Sura al-Anfal 8:32: "O God, if this be the truth from Thee, then rain down upon us stones out of heaven, or bring us a painful chastisement." 4. The Qur'an does not deny the fact that it contains myths or fairy-tales; it is however careful to deny that these myths are evidence that the Qur'an was compiled by Muhammad and not revealed by God. Thus we find, on viewing the previous verses, that: The Qur'an only records this act of the unbelievers in the verses of Sura al-Anfal 8, al-Mu´minun 23, al-Naml 27 and al-Ahqaf 46, but does not comment on what they actually said!! It threatens the people, in the verses of Sura al-An`am 6 and al-Mutaffifin 83, who denied the Day of Resurrection and who prevented others from following Muhammad, but no such threat is given because they said that the Qur'an included fairy-tales. The Qur'an concerned itself with contesting their claim that it contained "fairytales" on one occasion only. "They say, ‗Fairy-tales of the ancients that he has had written down, so that they are recited to him at the dawn and in the evening'" (Sura al-Furqan 25:5,6). This reply does not deny the existence of myths in the Qur'an. It only denies that these myths were from Muhammad, which he dictated or had dictated to him. It emphasises that, even though they were "fairy-tales," yet they are from God! This is the reason we admire the question al-Razi asks when he says, "How can the command of the Qur'an, ‗Say, "He sent it down, who knows the secret in the heavens and earth,"' (Sura Ta Ha 20:7) be a reply to the unbelievers' accusation of the Qur'an that it was the fairy-tales of the ancients?" For what comes to one's
mind, which is what al-Razi and others also expected, is that the Qur'an should negate this accusation, not confirm it! We are of the opinion that the Qur'an's answer was the natural, unavoidable one in this respect, since the subject of the conversation between Muhammad and the idolaters was not whether there were myths in the Qur'an. It was rather whether this fact could be taken as evidence against the authenticity of the Qur'an, on the basis that Muhammad compiled these myths himself, not God. But now a question presents itself: Why did people stop saying that there were myths in the Qur'an when Muhammad moved from Mecca to Medina? In my opinion, the reason is obvious. The environment Muhammad moved to had been biblically cultured, thanks to the People of the Book, so truth and facts were widespread, replacing myths and fables. And since the Qur'an is the result of and reflects its environment, myths disappeared from the text of the Qur'an as soon as there were none in the environment. Being more enlightened, Medina was no good milieu for the growth of such old wives' tales! Even stranger than the stance the Qur'an takes on this matter and its response to the unbelievers is the defence of Muslim scholars against the existence of myths in a book supposedly revealed by God. They hold that the Qur'an utilised myths that were known to the Arabic people at the time of its revelation, as means of creating an impact on the minds of the people of that culture and of establishing the faith in their hearts! Is it consistent with this interpretation to claim that the Qur'an is the word of God that was sent down straight from the Safeguarded Tablet? God is far greater than to resort in his Book, which he revealed for the guidance of all beings, to falsehood and lies, in order to appeal to the Arabs who lived at the time of the Qur'an. Didn't he know that other people of other nations, times and places would come to believe in it, who would be able to discover the truth about these myths, as those who held this theory claimed? These questions lead us to one of paramount importance. How can the Creator resort to going along with the imagination and fancies of the pagan pre-Islamic Arabs, when he is well able to compose his Book from facts that are in agreement with reality and history, which at the same time will well serve the purpose of admonishing and teaching those who read it?
4. SIN AND SALVATION
Muslim scholars review the Qur'anic verses that speak of the original sin of Adam and the salvation of mankind, and come to this conclusion: Adam and Eve lived in the garden. God ordered them to eat anything they desired from it, except for a tree he pointed out to them. When they obeyed the devil, they brought upon themselves God's punishment (which is undefined in the Qur'an). But they asked for forgiveness from their Lord and confessed their guilt, and he forgave them. This sin or transgression took place before Adam became a prophet, they claim. The point then is that Adam sinned against his Lord; after that he repented, and his
repentance was accepted. So things came back to normal again, and the divine plan prescribed for Adam and Eve took its due course. They duly had children, and mankind came into existence. Thus there was no inheritance of sin, and consequently there is no need for divine salvation!! Muslims reject the idea of an original sin that was passed down from generation to generation. They say, "No soul laden bears the load of another" (Sura al-An`am 6:164). "And every man — We have fastened to him his bird of omen upon his neck" (Sura al-Isra´17:13). "Every soul shall be pledged for what it has earned" (Sura al-Muddaththir 74:38). But saying this, Muslim scholars deny the true exegesis of the verse. "And We said, ‗Adam, dwell thou, and thy wife, in the garden and eat thereof easefully where you desire; but draw not nigh this tree; lest you be evildoers.' Then Satan caused them to slip therefrom and brought them out of that they were in; and We said, ‗Get you all down, each of you an enemy of each; and in the earth a sojourn shall be yours, and enjoyment for a time'" (Sura alBaqara 2:35,36). In the original Arabic, God addressed Adam and Eve in the plural, and not in the dual form which is used when addressing two people. When he said, "Get you all down" he usedihbitu and not the dual ihbita, and also used lakum instead of lakuma when he said, "yours". Muslim scholars say, however, that addressing them in the plural implies the idea of representation, such a manner of speech being intended to give honour to the ones addressed. They also say that even though Adam was a representative of mankind in sin, which is backed up by the Qur'an's statement, "Get you all down, each of you an enemy of each; and in the earth a sojourn shall be yours, and enjoyment for a time," the next verse says, "Thereafter Adam received certain words from his Lord, and he turned towards him; truly he turns, and is All-compassionate" (Sura al-Baqara 2:37). So inasmuch as Adam was a representative of his descendants in transgression, according to the first verse, why can't he be likewise a representative of them in his repentance and asking for forgiveness, according to the second verse, they argue?! Muslim scholars unceasingly appeal to divine justice, which prescribes that no man should be taken to task for the guilt of another. They fall back heavily on the verses speaking about personal responsibility regarding reward and punishment, which we referred to previously, in order to conclude that Adam and Eve sinned and repented, and that God forgave them. Consequently, the issue was supposed to be settled, so that there was no inheritance of sin! If we examine the Qur'anic texts closely we will discover that they prove an opinion other than this. Indeed the Qur'an establishes a view-point that has long been rejected and denied by the exegetes! Here we list the Qur'anic verses that speak of Adam's sin: "And We said, ‗Adam, dwell thou, and thy wife, in the garden and eat thereof easefully where you desire; but draw not nigh this tree; lest you be evildoers.' Then Satan caused them to slip therefrom and brought them out of that they were in; and We said, ‗Get you all down, each of you an enemy of each; and in the earth a sojourn shall be yours, and enjoyment for a time.' Thereafter Adam received certain words from his Lord, and He turned towards him; truly He turns, and is All-compassionate. We said, ‗Get you down out of it, all together; yet there shall
come to you guidance from Me, and whosoever follows my guidance, no fear shall be on them neither shall they sorrow'" (Sura al-Baqara 2:35–38). ―‗O Adam, inherit, thou and thy wife, the Garden, and eat of where you will, but come not nigh this tree, lest you be of the evildoers.' Then Satan whispered to them, to reveal to them that which was hidden from them of their shameful parts. He said, ‗Your Lord has forbidden you from this tree lest you become angels, or lest you become immortals.' And he swore to them, ‗Truly, I am for you a sincere adviser.' So he led them on by delusion; and when they tasted the tree, their shameful parts revealed to them, so they took to stitching upon themselves leaves of the Garden, And their Lord called to them, ‗Did not I prohibit you from this tree, and say to you, "Verily Satan is to you manifest foe?"' They said, ‗Lord, we have wronged ourselves, and Thou dost not forgive us, and have mercy upon us, we shall surely be among the lost.' Said He, ‗Get you down, each of you an enemy to each. In the earth a sojourn shall be yours, and enjoyment for a time.' Said He, ‗Therein you shall live, and therein you shall die, and from there you shall be brought forth.' Children of Adam! We have sent down a garment to cover your shameful parts, and feathers; and the garment of godfearing-that is better; that is one of God's signs" (Sura al-A`raf 7:19–26). "And when thy Lord took from the children of Adam, from their loins, their seed, and made them testify touching themselves, ‗Am I not your Lord?' they said, ‗Yes, we testify'— lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection, ‗As for us, we were heedless of this'" (Sura al-A`raf 7:172). "And We made a covenant with Adam before, but he forgot, and We found in him no constancy.... Then We said, ‗Adam, surely this is an enemy to thee and thy wife. So let him not expel you both from the Garden, so that thou art unprosperous. It is assuredly given to thee neither to hunger therein, nor to go naked, neither to thirst therein, nor to suffer the sun.' Then Satan whispered to him saying, ‗Adam, shall I point thee to the Tree of Eternity, and a kingdom that decays not?' So the two of them ate of it, and their shameful parts revealed to them, and they took to stitching upon themselves leaves of the Garden. And Adam disobeyed his Lord, and so he erred. Thereafter his Lord chose him, and turned again unto him, and He guided him. Said He, ‗Get you down, both of you together, out of it, each of you an enemy to each; but if there comes to you from Me guidance, then whosoever shall follow My guidance shall not go astray; neither shall he be unprosperous'" (Sura Ta Ha 20:115,117–123). From these verses dealing with Adam's first sin we conclude the following: 1. Adam and Eve's residence in the Garden was absolute, not restricted to a certain time. The verse simply says, "Adam, dwell thou, and thy wife, in the garden." If Satan had not caused them to slip, they would have remained in it together with their offspring for ever. But if their residence in the Garden was temporary, as it was with their residence on earth, then this should have been pointed out as it has been in the second, where it says, "And in the earth a sojourn shall be yours, and enjoyment for a time." 2. Their residence in the Garden was under the condition of complete obedience to
God for He commanded them not to eat of the Tree. The Qur'an says, "But draw not nigh this tree; lest you be evildoers." So when the devil tempted them to eat of the Tree, which he told them it was the Tree of Eternity, the divine decree was issued for them to go down to the earth. 3. The two of them were representing all their offspring when they ate of the Tree, which was a sin of disobedience to God's command. The Qur'an says, "Get you all down, each of you an enemy of each." And if the statement "in the earth a sojourn shall be yours" was addressed to Adam and Eve only, it should have been put in the dual ihbita and lakuma, not in the plural, as the case is. Sura Ta Ha 20:123 says, "Get you down, both of you together, out of it, each of you an enemy to each." We are only considering logically acceptable interpretations and those backed up by Hadith. It is hardly plausible that God should give honour to Adam while condemning him to get down to the earth as a result of his transgression. Even if Adam was worthy of honour, it wouldn't be due him in this particular situation! As for the claim that the Qur'an's statement: "We said, ‗Get you all down, each of you an enemy of each'" was addressed to all those who were present; namely Adam, his wife, the devil and the serpent, it is rather a peculiar interpretation to say the least. For the next verse says, "Yet there shall come to you guidance from Me, and whosoever follows my guidance, no fear shall be on them neither shall they sorrow." What kind of guidance could the devil and the serpent be expected to follow?! 4. Obviously, Adam and his wife broke God's interdiction by approaching the forbidden tree. So they were punished firstly by enmity one to another, and secondly by death. For "each of you an enemy of each" indicates enmity, and "in the earth a sojourn shall be yours, and enjoyment for a time" implies mortality on earth, to be ended by certain death. Now if we look to Adam's offspring we'll find them suffering the same punishment of enmity and death. We are thus faced with one of two conclusions: Either Adam and Eve were representatives of their progeny, in which case receiving a part of the punishment on behalf of their progeny would be fair and just, or Adam and Eve were not representatives of their progeny, in which case the infliction of the punishment for sin on those who had no part in it would be a great evil and manifest injustice. It is meaningless, in view of the issuing of the divine decree: "We said, ‗Get you all down,'" to stick to the concept of immediate forgiveness: "Thereafter Adam received certain words from his Lord, and He turned towards him." How could God forgive them and still inflict punishment on them at the same time? How could He have accepted their repentance, yet did not put them back in the Garden? It is a flimsy argument that says that divine justice does not accept taking a person to task in place of another. How can one argue that divine justice does not allow for the making of one person accountable for the sin of another? Can we refuse to admit the fact that we are born having inherited from our father his sin and guilt, while accepting that a person may be born having inherited a certain genetic disease from his father without seeing this as injustice on God's part?!
5. The concept of inheriting the original sin is not a strange one to the Islamic thought; we find several theologians who have given it a firm foundation and confirmation by furnishing various evidence to back it up. Ibnul Athir says in alUsuul, "Muhammad said, ‗If sin was committed in a land, those who witnessed it and renounced it are like those who were absent at the time. And those who were absent at the time of committing it, if they approved of it, are like those who witnessed it.'" "Then," he goes on to say, "you may say, ‗The external sense of "And fear a trial which shall surely not smite in particular the evildoers among you" (Sura al-Anfal 8:25) includes the evildoers and those who did no evil, so how can it be that God, who is merciful and generous, inflicts the trial upon those who did no evil?'" For which Ibnul Athir answered, "God, may He be exalted, is King over His dominion, and the Creator of His beings; they are His servants and under His dominion. He is entitled to deal freely with them, and is not to be taken to task for what He does, whereas they are. So it is fitting for Him because he is King, and also because He might know that this would involve some sort of benefit for them!" Ibn Hazm says that the verse "A man shall have to his account only as he has laboured" (Sura al-Najm 53:39) has been abrogated by the verse "And those who believed, and their seed followed them in belief, We shall join their seed with them, and We shall not defraud them of aught of their work" (Sura al-Tur 52:21). This latter verse puts the child on a par with his father on the Resurrection Day and implies that God accepts the intercession of the fathers for their children, and vice versa. Furthermore, the Qur'an says, "Surely they who took to themselves the Calf — anger shall overtake them from their Lord, and abasement in this present life" (Sura al-A`raf 7:152). Here Muhammad was accusing the Jews of his time of worshipping the calf, although it was not they but their ancestors who did so. Yet the Qur'an says, "They who took to themselves the Calf." Ibn Abbaas said, "These are the ones who were at the time of the Prophet, and their ancestors were the ones who worshipped the Calf!" Some expositors have even interpreted "anger shall overtake them from their Lord, and abasement in this present life" as a reference to the massacre and expulsion that befell the Jews of Bani Nudhair, Bani Quraiza and Khaibar. It is not correct to say that this is a historical account, that it speaks of the Jews of the past, otherwise what would "shall overtake them" mean? This is obviously an account of the future not of the past! The concept of the inheritance of the original sin is obvious from the Hadith reported by Abu Huraira about Muhammad: "When God created Adam He rubbed his back, so that every soul He was to create of his offspring unto the Resurrection Day fell out. He then put between the eyes of every man a glitter of light, and reviewed them in front of Adam. The latter said, ‗O Lord, who are these?' "He said, ‗These are your offspring.' "Adam saw a certain man amongst them with a glitter between his eyes that
appealed much to him, so he asked ‗Lord, who is he?' "God said, ‗He is David.' "Adam asked, ‗How long did Thou make his life to be?' "God answered, ‗Sixty years.' "Adam said, ‗Lord, add 40 more of my lifetime to them.' So when Adam's life came to an end, but for 40 years, and the Angel of Death came upon him, he said, ‗Aren't there 40 years of my life remaining?' "The Angel said, ‗Have you not given them to your son David?' "Therefore Adam retracted, so that his offspring retracted; and Adam forgot and ate of the Tree, so that his offspring forgot. By Adam's sin his offspring sinned" (reported by al-Tirmizi and Ibn Maaja).
5. THE CROSS
What the Qur'an has to say about Christ's crucifixion and resurrection arouses a lot of controversy. For even though the Qur'an gave the Muslims the truth about the things Christians and Jews were disagreeing about, as Muslims say, yet it did not give a decisive statement on many historical issues, such as Christ's crucifixion which aroused an extensive discussion at the time. The Qur'anic texts have a certain direction, its expositors another direction, and the common people have yet another. The gap between these three opinions is vast indeed! Here are the Qur'anic texts that deal with this question: "Peace be upon me, the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised up" (Sura Maryam 19:33). "And We gave Jesus son of Mary the clear signs, and confirmed him with the Holy Spirit; and whensoever there came to you a Messenger with that your souls had not desired for, did you become arrogant, and some cry lies to and some slay?" (Sura al-Baqara 2:87). "When God said, ‗Jesus, I will take thee to Me (Arabic: mutawaffeeka, "I will cause you to die") and will raise thee to Me, and will purify thee of those who believe not, I will set thy followers above the unbelievers till the Resurrection Day'" (Sura Al Imran 3:55). "And when God said, ‗O Jesus, son of Mary, didst you say unto men, "Take me and my mother as gods, apart from God"?' He said, ‗To Thee be glory! It is not mine to say what I have no right to... I was witness over them, while I remained among them; but when Thou didst take me (tawaffaitani, "caused me to die") to Thyself, Thou wast Thyself the watcher over them; Thou Thyself art the witness of everything'" (Sura al-Ma´ida 5:116,117). These Qur'anic texts show that Christ died even though they do not show how his
death took place. Only one verse broke the rule, namely Sura al-Nisa´ 4:157: "Yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him... and they slew him not of a certainty." So how did the expositors doctor this contradiction? Some expositors said that the phrase "take thee" in the previous verses does not mean actual death, but rather what is called in Arabic wafaatul nawm or the death of sleep. They back this up by the Qur'anic verse, "It is He who recalls you (yatawaffakum) by night, and He knows what you work by day" (Sura al-An`am 6:60). It slipped their memories that the Qur'an uses the verb tawaffa to mean actual death more than 25 times, as in Sura al-Ma´ida 5:117: "And I was witness over them, while I remained among them; but when Thou didst take me (tawaffaitani)...." Tawaffaitani here means actual death, in contrast to life on earth. They also said that Sura al-Nisa´ 4:157 has abrogated all the verses that speak of the death of Christ. This is obviously a spurious interpretation, since abrogation is permissible in the cases of judgements and treatments, not in those of reports and historical narratives!
Difference of Complementation
We believe that there is no contradiction at all between the Qur'anic texts which deal with this subject. It is rather a difference of complementation, i.e. different pieces of information (each true) which pieced together give the whole story, and not of contradiction. The four previous verses spoke of the death of Christ, but Sura al-Nisa´ 4:157 showed in detail how death took place. In the Qur'an there are clear verses (muhkam) and ambiguous verses (mutashaabih). Verses are "clear" when the Qur'anic text is so definite and decisive that it gives no room for interpretation (taweel). "Ambiguous" verses, however, occur when "the Qur'anic text allows interpretation (taweel) and exposition in more than one way." An example of the clear verses might be "Like Him there is naught" (Sura al-Shura 42:11) and an example of the vague, "God's hand is over their hands" (Sura al-Fath 48:10). The relationship between the clear and the vague, as Muslim scholars determined it, is that the vague should be referred to the clear and interpreted in view of them. Here we put forward a question: is what the Qur'an has to say about Christ's crucifixion and death of the clear or the vague texts? The Qur'an says in regard to itself, "And We have sent down to thee the Book with the truth, confirming the Book that was before it, and assuring it" (Sura al-Ma´ida 5:48). Expositors have interpreted the word translated here "assuring" (muhayminan) as meaning "putting to right the previous doctrines that were corrupted, and explaining the vague parts of them." Thus the Qur'an is supposed to correct and explain. Has the Qur'an really carried out this formidable task? The facts speak for themselves, and reality answers negatively. For despite the emergence of the Qur'an at a time when heated arguments and controversy raged about Christ, the Qur'an did not reveal clearly the truth about Christ. It did not, for instance, tell us
who that "duplicate" was, who was crucified instead of Christ If Christ was not buried and did not rise from the dead, why does the Qur'an not say where he went and how he lived after that? Why did the Qur'an fail to solve the riddle of the "empty tomb"? If the Qur'an indeed accuses the Bible of having been altered (as the expositors claim), why does it not back up its accusation with evidences such as who distorted it, which are the distorted texts and what were the original texts, and when was it distorted? What the Qur'an has to say about Christian doctrines is for the most part vague and ambiguous. The Qur'an says that the divinity of Christ was said to be a widespread belief. Why then didn't the texts that treated this issue deny this claim outright? What the Qur'an says, however, is vague and indefinite: "The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him" (Sura al-Nisa´ 4:171). The way the Qur'an talks about the Biblical doctrines leads us to definitely conclude that these verses lie within the boundary of the vague ones, which allow interpretation (taweel). The Qur'anic verses that speak of Christ's death positively state that he died. However, let us look at Sura al-Nisa´ 4:157,158: "As for their saying (namely, the Jews), ‗We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God'— yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them. Those who are at variance concerning him surely are in doubt regarding him; they have no knowledge of him, except the following of surmise; and they slew him not of certainty – no indeed; God raised him up to Him; God is All-mighty, All-wise." This verse belongs to the vague ones, which should be interpreted in light of the clear verses that speak expressly of Christ's death. So how can we interpret it according to the verses that speak of His death? The negation in the verse, "they did not slay him, neither crucified him," is not a negation of the incident itself, but of the consequences ensuing from it. The verse speaks of the Jews who thought that by nailing Christ to the cross and thereby killing him, they had blotted out his name for ever and eradicated his message. For even though they plotted to kill Christ, thinking they would exterminate him once and for all, God brought their expectations to nought by lifting him up from among the dead, and he was thus resurrected, victorious over death. "They slew him not of certainty - no indeed; God raised him up to Him." The Qur'an negates the consequences ensuing from the incident, not the incident itself. They fancied they killed him, but they could only guess as to the truth about him. This means that the Jews were at variance concerning the fact that he was killed because by his resurrection they knew they did not kill him of a certainty — his name was not brought to an end by his crucifixion. Why? Because "God raised him up to Him; God is All-mighty, All-wise."
6. IGNORANCE AND ILLITERACY
In their attempt to prove the divine inspiration of the Qur'an, the Islamists depend on Muhammad's illiteracy and ignorance of everything to do with reading and writing. But was Muhammad illiterate in the sense that he could not read or write? And what are the reasons that have led Muslims to believe in their leader's illiteracy? Historical accounts do not give a definite answer either way on this issue. The historians who wrote the biography of Muhammad emphasised his illiteracy, and the fact that he never went to a tutor or received any human teaching, yet there are still some records that confirm his knowledge of reading and writing as reported by these same historians. This obvious contradiction in history as handed down through the ages has caused people nowadays to conclude that Muhammad was not illiterate all his life long, but that he received this knowledge of reading and writing from God through Gabriel. Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar says, "The Prophet was illiterate, and that is why the Qur'an is so miraculous by nature. When Islam had spread and he was sure that no one would be suspicious (of his being the compiler of the Qur'an), he learnt how to read and write"! Ibn Sheba says, "The Messenger of God, peace be upon him, died only after he had learned to read and write." al-Tubrusi adds, "As for the time after he was chosen to be a prophet, there was no reason for anyone to harbour suspicion against him; therefore it is possible that he learnt to read and write." There are therefore records which indicate for certain that Muhammad was literate, and not illiterate, which led Muslim scholars to believe he learnt after he had been appointed a prophet. But these do not stand on solid ground, since that which they claim is corroborated neither by Qur'anic evidence nor by personal testimony. All they offer are personal efforts to justify the incidents reported by historians that deny the allegation that Muhammad was illiterate! It was reported in a book written by Dr Muhammad ibn Abdalla Othman on the style of writing adopted by Othman, "The Prophet, peace be upon him, laid the foundation for the writing of the inspiration in the Qur'an. He said, among other things, to Muaawia, ‗Prepare the ink-pot, sharpen the pen, lay the ba stretched, tooth the seen well. Do not blotch the meem's eye, shape the letters of Allah beautifully, stretch those of "the All-compassionate" (Ar-rahman), and write those of "the All-merciful" (Ar-raheem) as clearly as possible. Put your pen on your left ear; this will better remind you!" The books written on the life of Muhammad relate that it was Muhammad who wrote the reconciliation of Hudaibia himself. It was said in his biography written by Ibn Hisham, "... and we have with us the Messenger of God, peace be upon him, who can write, together with Suhail." It was likewise said in al-Bukhari, "And the Messenger of God took the book to write, and wrote, ‗This is that which Muhammad agreed upon....'" It was said in al-
Tabari as well, when he was in much pain during his final days, that he said, "Fetch me the inkwell and a book that I may write to you a writing therewith you will never go astray after me." Abu Bakr reported that the Messenger of God "just before he died asked for an inkwell and a pen, and wrote down the name of his successor." Moreover, alHamathaani said in al-Ikleel that "the Arabs used to call all those who read or write ‗Sabians,' and Quraish called the prophet, peace be upon him, ‗a Sabian' when he used to call people in Mecca to Islam, and recite the Qur'an. These reports may seem to be contradictory to a widespread historical account, which, according to historians, was the first encounter between Muhammad and Gabriel. It is when Gabriel ordered him, "Read (or recite)." Muhammad answered, "I am not one to read (or recite)." It may be true that this report is contradictory to the previous ones, but al-Tabari narrates the incident in a way that is in keeping with what we held previously. He reported that Ibnul Zubair said, "The Messenger of God, peace be upon him, said, ‗And a prophet in silk came to me while I was asleep, who had a book. He said, "Recite." I said, "What do I recite?" Then he enveloped me in such a manner that I thought he was Death, and sent saying, "Recite." Then I said, "What shall I recite?" He answered, "Recite, in the Name of thy Lord who created...."'" This leads us to ask: Were Gabriel and his Lord, according to the first report, ignorant of Muhammad's illiteracy to ask him to read or recite, and wait for Muhammad to answer and deny being able to?! It was more reasonable on the part of Gabriel, who was supposed to be God's messenger to Muhammad, to make it easy for him. He should have confirmed his call to prophethood by telling him that he was illiterate (if this was indeed the case) and that he knew his inability to read and write, and that he therefore would teach him how to do so. This would be logical and easily acceptable by any rational mind. As for any other explanations given, they make light of reason and distort the truth passed down to us. These quotations are adequate to refute the claim of Muhammad's illiteracy. Why then do Muslims still cling to this erroneous notion? By proving that Muhammad was illiterate Muslims hoped to prove the miraculous nature of the Qur'an and that it was divinely inspired, with this miracle coming to a city that had fallen into ignorance and stupidity, and to a time pervaded with paganism and godlessness. Through this miracle God is supposed also to have turned the world system upside down, giving an illiterate man the gift of eloquence, and replacing ignorance with knowledge and idolatry with belief!! It is only right therefore to ask: Does it really aggrandise a religion for it to be built on the primitiveness of men? Is the benightedness of those who follow its teachings really something to be proud of? Would God not have been able to prove the eloquence of the Qur'an to civilised people equally well, making it be delivered by a learned man and not an illiterate one, without detracting from the power and
essence of the miracle? In fact, Islamists would not have thought this way but for some of the verses of the Qur'an whose outward meaning might denote Muhammad's illiteracy, yet their inward meaning negates it! Here we look at some of these verses.
The People of Moses and the Illiterate Prophet
The Qur'an says in Sura al-A`raf 7:156-158, as a part of the discourse of Moses and his people, ―‗And prescribe for us in this world good, and in the world to come; we have repented unto Thee.' Said He, ‗My chastisement — I smite with it whom I will; and my mercy embraces all things, and I shall prescribe it for those who are godfearing and pay the alms, and those who indeed believe in Our signs, those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet of the common folk (the Arabic can also mean "the illiterate Prophet"), whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel, bidding them to honour, and forbidding them dishonour, making lawful for them the good things and making unlawful for them the corrupt things, and relieving them of their loads, and the fetters that were upon them. Those who believe in him and succour him and help him, and follow the light that has been sent down with him- they are the prosperous. Say: "O mankind, I am the Messenger of God to you all, of Him to whom belongs the kingdom of heaven and of the earth. There is no God but He. He gives life, and makes to die. Believe then in God, and in His Messenger, the Prophet of the common folk, who believes in God and His words, and follow him; haply so you will be guided." In no other place does the Qur'an mention "the Prophet of the common people," which was mistakenly understood as meaning "the illiterate Prophet". Yet the Qur'an prides itself on its form of narrative that is characterised by repetition of various phrases and ideas in order to impress the story permanently in the minds of the hearers, as Muslims say. "The Prophet of the common folk" in Sura al-A`raf 7 is written in contrast to Moses and his people. Moses and his people at their appointed time were seized by trepidation and began to pray, saying, "And prescribe for us in this world good, and in the world to come; we have repented unto Thee." According to the Arab linguists of the time, the Jews derived their name from the word huda (meaning "guidance"), which was also the epithet of the Torah. It was a brilliant play on words in verse 156 to say "we repented unto Thee" since the verb used here (haad, yahuud) bears a striking resemblance with the Arabic word for the Jews (yahuud). Moses, and his people, then praying to God to count their Judaism as righteousness on their part, for which God answered at first, "I shall prescribe it for those who are godfearing and pay the alms, and those who indeed believe in Our signs, those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet of the common folk whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel!" So Moses and his people had to wait for about a thousand years in order for them to be granted this through belief in Muhammad! Is it really reasonable for God to answer the prayer of Moses and his people saying that guidance is not to be found in the Mosaic Law but in the following of Muhammad "the Prophet of the common folk," which means the prophet of the Gentiles to the Jews, who had not yet come?!
How could God answer Moses' prayer saying that Muhammad is written about in the Torah and the Gospel?! Where was the Gospel at the time of Moses, so that God might speak of it to Moses and his people?
The Meaning of "Illiterate" in the Qur'an
The word ummi occurring in the text in question did not mean, according to the Qur'an itself, having no knowledge of reading or writing, but it means those who did not have a book revealed by God. The Jews, who came from Abraham's son Isaac, were the People of the Book, while the Arabs, who are considered as coming from Abraham's son Ishmael, were common folk (ummiyoon) or Gentiles (umam). The Qur'an showed this distinction clearly and openly in many a place, when it called both the people of the Book and the common folk to follow Islam. "And say to those who have been given the Book and to the common folk (ummiyeen): ‗Have you surrendered?'" (Sura Al Imran 3:20). This verse points to how the common folk desired to know the Book, as in Sura al-Baqara 2:78, "And some there are of them that are common folk not knowing the Book, but only fancies." The Qur'an also boasts that God sent a messenger not of the people of the Book: "It is He who raised up from among the common people a Messenger from among them" (Sura al-Jum`a 62:2). As to the people of the Book themselves, they called those who did not belong to them Gentiles. "They say, ‗There is no way over us as to the common people' (Sura Al Imran 3:75). In the light of this Qur'anic verse we are to understand that the Qur'an describes Muhammad as ummi. The common folk of the Qur'an are the Arabs who descended from Ishmael, and the people of the Book are the Jews who descended from Isaac. Consequently, the word ummi does not mean illiterate, but someone who belonged to the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael, who did not have a revealed Book. Al-Shahristaani writes: The people of the Book upheld the religion of the Tribes (of Israel) and conducted themselves as the Children of Israel. The common people upheld the tribal religion and conducted themselves as the children of Ishmael.
7. WAR AND FIGHTING
Looking into the incentives and reasons for fighting in the Islamic belief, one finds a diversity of inclinations and attitudes. We cannot, by any means, say about all of them that they were "for the sake of God." The incentives for holy war were never exclusively for the sake of God, as some fancy, and as some Muslim writers have tried to depict — neither at the time of the companions of Muhammad after Muhammad's death, nor under Muhammad himself. The Qur'an says in Sura Al Imran 3:165, "Why, when an affliction visited you, and you have visited twice over the like of it, did you say, ‗How is this?' Say: ‗This is from your ownselves!'" It says also in the same sura, as a comment on the incidents of the raid of Uhud, "Some of you there are that desire this world, and some of you there are desire the
next world" (Sura Al Imran 3:152). These verses were given because of the Muslims who took part in the raid of Uhud in which they were defeated, to discuss the causes of this defeat. They fought and were defeated because they desired "this world". That defeat was "from your own selves". The Qur'an describes the greed that would overtake the early Muslims whenever they went out for war. It says, "and do not say to him who offers you a greeting, ‗Thou art not a believer,' seeking the chance goods of the present life. With God are spoils abundant" (Sura al-Nisa´ 4:94). Islam imposes three alternatives on the non-Muslims, of which they are free to choose one: 1. Espousing Islam, which would give them equal rights and duties as those of the Muslims. 2. Paying tribute: "Until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled." 3. War and fighting. However, Muslims were not happy with letting other peoples espouse Islam without war, since this consisted in depriving them of the booty that was legalised by the Qur'an. When at one time they declared war on a Jewish tribe, the latter announced that they would espouse Islam out of sheer fear of destruction and extermination at the hands of the Muslims. But the Muslims didn't accept this tribe as a Muslim one and continued to fight it. When this event came out into the open and many people spread the news of what the Muslims had done, the Qur'an wanted to save the face of its followers, so it censured them mildly, saying, "And do not say to him who offers you a greeting, ‗Thou art not a believer.'" Booty, which was the fruit gained by war and fighting, was one of the most important incentive to their going out from Mecca and Medina, and drawing their swords in the face of everybody they met. The Qur'an helps us put our finger on the most important incentive that spurs a Muslim to go out for war, that is, spreading the word of God. For the Qur'an is to be spread by the sword: This is a legitimate, authorised way of spreading the words and the verses of the Qur'an. God has even "bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of God; they kill, and are killed" (Sura al-Tawba 9:111). When we come to the issue of the incentives for war and fighting in Islam, we find two opinions. These two are: 1. Fighting only for the defence of one's land, country, honour and religion. This opinion is held by a number of Muslim scholars, who are a minority on account of the contradiction of what they believe with those Qur'anic texts held to be irrefutable. 2. Fighting to uphold the word of God, that it might be uppermost and the word of the unbelievers lowest (Sura al-Tawba 9:40). This opinion has been held by all
groups within the Islamic movement, since the leader of transitional thought, Sayed Qutb, wrote to explain the issue of "sovereignty," which is a very relevant issue to the subject of holy war in Islam. Sayed Qutb held that those spiritually and intellectually defeated people, in order to refute the accusation that Islam was spread by the sword, confused the use of force in legitimate holy war (jihad) with the denunciation of compulsion of belief in the Qur'an, which are two different, unrelated concepts. As a result, they try to confine holy war in Islam to what they call today "war of defense" (see Guideposts on the Road by Sayed Qutb). Holy war in Islam has nothing to do with the wars of men or their incentives. The incentives for holy war spring from the fact that this religion is a public announcement of the liberation of mankind from servitude to men. It brings man back to the servitude to God alone. Hence it was inevitable that Islam would spread across the globe eliminating the reality that was not consistent with this not only by reason and logic, but also attacking political powers which enslaved people to someone other then God (i.e., by not ruling them according God's law and authority). Islam does not force people to espouse its doctrine. It is not however just a doctrine. Islam is a public announcement of the liberation of mankind from servitude to men. It aims, initially, at removing both regimes and governments based on the sovereignty of people over people, and the servitude of man to man. Then it sets individuals free to choose the religion they want. The Islamic expansion is in no need for more moral justification than that which the Qur'an contains. Simply stated, the Qur'an says, "Fight those who believe not in God and the Last Day and do not forbid what God and His Messenger have forbidden — such men as practise not the religion of truth, being of those who have been given the Book — until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled" (Sura al-Tawba 9:29) (Sayed Qutb, Guideposts on the Road). The advancing of this divine doctrine is faced with very real obstacles, such as the power of the government, the social system, and the conditions of the environment. All of these Islam takes upon itself to destroy by force, so that it can address individuals freely, appealing to their consciences and thought, after freeing them from the fetters of materialism and leaving them free to choose (Sayed Qutb, ibid.). To sum up, the most important warrant for declaring war appealed to by the Islamic movement is the belief that they are guardians of all beings, and that as such they are required to remove all the injustices inflicted on mankind. The severest type of injustice, as they envisage it, is the subjection of man to man-made laws and systems. For to appropriate God's right, they argue, and give it to created man is to do injustice to the subjects, since to submit oneself to human laws is to deify man and worship him apart from God. Fighting is therefore a must, in order for this injustice to be removed, and to establish a just rule, as represented by the Law of God revealed in the Qur'an. Fighting is, consequently, the rule, and making peace the exception, because the world will never be free from human laws.
8. THE LAST DAY
Belief in the Last Day is one of the six basic tenets a Muslim has to espouse, the others being God, his angels, his Books, his Messengers and fate. According to a reliable Hadith reported by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalaani in his book Jaami al-Uluum Wal Hikam, a conversation occurred between Muhammad and Gabriel, who disguised himself as an Arab asking about the precepts of Islam and faith. The following is a part of this conversation: "He said, 'Tell me about faith.' Muhammad answered, ‗It is to believe in God, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, the Last Day and fate, whether bad or good.'" The Qur'an puts it this way: "The godfearing who believe in the Unseen, and perform the prayer, and expend of that We have provided them; who believe in what has been sent down to thee, and what has been sent down before thee, and have faith in the Hereafter" (Sura al-Baqara 2:3,4). Belief in the Last Day particularly has been the subject of many unsubstantiated and unaccepted Hadiths, or so-called "falsified Hadiths" (al-ahaadeeth almawdhooa). The Last Day in Islam has been surrounded with a thick hedge of superstitions, fables and illusions that have distorted it and made of it a doctrine quite at odds with its equivalent in other religions. Paradise, as they believe, is in the seventh heaven, while hell is in the seventh earth. Hades is said to be under the sea, and that it will keep on demanding more and more (people) until God puts His foot into it, so that it draws together and says, "Enough, enough. By Your glory and honour!" As for the sun and the moon, they will be cast into Hell because they have been worshipped in the place of God! Hell will complain to God that it is eating itself, and God will answer its complaint by giving it two breaths, one in winter and the other in summer! A neck will come forth from the Fire with two eyes and a tongue that speaks, and will say, "I have been entrusted with those who assigned others with God!" But such peculiar things will disappear once we know that the Hadiths that relate such fables were in general falsified or poorly substantiated. However, they will reappear as soon as we find a number of substantiated Hadiths, which Muslims believe to be correct, reporting things not in the slightest bit less peculiar or abnormal than those things mentioned above. They might even strike us as odder still. The Hadiths contain, for example, many references to the Anti-Christ, or dajjal, who is being kept in chains until the end times, when Christ will come and kill him. One such saying, agreed upon by the main collectors of Hadith, says: Abdullah Ibn Omar reported that the messenger of Allah said: "I saw myself (in a dream) near the Ka'ba. I saw a man with a colour like that of the most beautiful human colour you have ever seen. He has a forelock like the best of the forelocks you have ever seen. He has combed it and it was dropping down water. He was leaning against the shoulders of two persons and going round the House. I asked, ‗Who is he?' They replied, ‗He is Christ, son of Mary.' After that I was by the side of a man, curly haired, blind of right eye as if his eye was a floating grape, having
similarity with Ibn Qatan whom I have seen among the people, having placed his hands upon the shoulders of two men going around the House. I asked, ‗Who is he?' They said, ‗He is Dajjal, the Anti-Christ.'" Another such Hadith is as follows: "Ibn Maaja narrated a report given by Faatima Bint Qais, in which she said, ‗The Messenger of God climbed the pulpit, although he was not in the habit of climbing it other than on Fridays. This fell hard on the people. He beckoned with his hand to those who were standing and those beginning to sit down, and said, "By God, I stand here right now only for your good; I desire nothing and fear nothing. But Tameem al-Daari came to me and brought me news so joyful and exhilarating that it kept me from my afternoon rest. So I decided to share with you the joy of your prophet. It is that a cousin of Tameem's told me that the wind forced them to an island they knew not; they sat in the boats of the ship and set out in them. And all of a sudden a figure with long dark lashes and a lot of hair approached them. They said to it, ‗What are you?' It said, ‗I am al-Jassaasa ...' They said, ‗Tell us.' It said, ‗I surely am going to tell you nothing neither ask a thing. But there is a monastery you will reach, which you may enter and find a man eager for you to tell him, and he you.' They reached it, and when they went in they found an old man tightly bound with chains, in sorrow and complaining bitterly. He asked, ‗Where are you from?' They answered, ‗From Syria.' He asked, ‗What has become of the Arabs?' They said, ‗We are Arabs, so what do you want to know?' He said, ‗What has the one who went out among you done?' They answered, ‗He has done well; he came upon a people and God helped him against them. Today they are in one accord, having one God, one religion, and one prophet.' He asked again, ‗What has become of Ain Zughar?' They answered, ‗It's in a good condition; people now water their plants and draw water for their folk from it.' ‗What has become of the palm-trees between Oman and Bisan?' he asked. They said, ‗They yield their fruit every year.' ‗What has become of Lake Tiberias?' he asked. They answered, ‗It overflows its sides due to the amount of water it carries.' So he heaved thrice and said, ‗I was given the responsibility of him who worships another god with God.'" The Prophet said, "This is the end of what I wanted to say. This is Teeba. By him who holds my soul in His hands, there isn't a narrow pathway or a wide one, there isn't a plain or a hill in it that does not have an angel with his sword drawn over it unto the Resurrection Day"'" (from alQortubi:al-Tazkira Fi Ahwaal al-Mauta Wa Umuur al-Aakhira, page 789). Al-Qortubi, commenting on this Hadith, says, "This Hadith is correct; it has been narrated by Muslim, al-Tirmizi, Abu Daud, and others, may the favour of God rest upon them all." Even though this Hadith is correct in essence and well substantiated, yet it still contains some bizarre things which we would only expect to find in old-wives' tales! This Hadith admits that the beast al-Jassaasa spoke with the Companions in a language they understood, and then tells how these Companions met the false Christ, who was bound in chains in a cave till the Hour comes!
The Sources of Islamic Concepts of the Last Day
The human mind with its inclination to myths and imagination played a prominent role in forming the Islamic conception of the doctrine of the Last Day. But there
are also other sources of this doctrine, one of which is the Bible. The Qur'an describes the terrors of the Day of Resurrection, saying: "On that Day there will be lightning and thunder and great horrors. The trumpet will be blown, the Blast will sound, and a cry will be heard in every place, on the account of which the earth shall tremble, and people's veins shudder, and all eye will be forced to look down. Upon that Day "Every suckling woman shall neglect the child she has suckled, and every pregnant woman shall deposit her burden" (Sura al-Hajj 22:2) and "a man shall flee from his brother, his mother, his father, his consort, his sons, every man that day shall have business to suffice him" (Sura `Abasa 80:3437). It shall "make the children grey-headed" (Sura al-Muzammil 73:17). It is a day when "no father shall give satisfaction for his child, and no child shall satisfaction for his father whatever" (Sura Luqman 31:33) and "a master shall avail nothing a client" (Sura al-Dukhan 44:41) and "no soul for another shall give satisfaction, and no counterpoise shall be accepted from it, nor any intercession shall be profitable to it, neither shall they be helped" (Sura al-Baqara 2:123). The New Testament tells about this day. Jesus said, "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. "Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‗Come you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‗Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, thirsty and give you a drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and cloth You? Or when did we see You sick or in prison, and come to You?' "And the King will answer and say to them, ‗Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My little brethren, you did it to Me.' "Then He will also say to those on His left hand, ‗Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' "Then they also will answer him, saying, ‗Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' "Then He will answer them, saying, ‗Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' "And these will go into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matthew 25:31-46).
It is significant, too, that where the Qur'an teaches that Hell was created especially to receive jinn and human beings, the Bible teaches that Hell was not created for people but for the fallen angels who rebelled with Satan before mankind was created. According to the Qur'an's portrayal of the Day of Resurrection, people will gather before God "in scatterings to see their works." And He will separate between the righteous, whom it calls "the men of the right (hand), and the wicked, whom it calls "the men of the left (hand)." Works will be revealed and hidden things exposed, according to the record of works, for every man has his own book in which his works are recorded.
The New Testament Tells about this Day
The New Testament says about this, "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire" (Revelation 20:11-15). Dr W. St. Clair Tisdall adds in his book, Sources of Islam, yet another source of the Islamic conception of the Last Day. He established that the reports contained in both the Qur'an and the Hadith concerning Paradise, the houris, the youths, the jinn and the angel of death have been directly taken from the ancient books of the Zoroastrians. For example, the ―‗houris, cloistered in cool pavilions' of Sura alRahman 55:72 and the ‗wide-eyed houris as the likeness of hidden pearls' of Sura al-Waqi`a 56:22,23 have, beyond doubt, been taken from what the ancient Zoroastrians said about spirits of certain voluptuously beautiful young women called Mirkaan by them, and Biryaan among the late Persians. The Zoroastrians claimed that the spirits of these maidens lived in the air, being connected in some way with planets and light. The beauty of these maidens was so dazzling that it bewitched the hearts of men." Dr Tisdall points out that Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgement, all people will be commanded to pass over al-serat, which is something stretched across hell leading to Paradise. When the believers walk along it they will reach heaven, but the unbelievers will stumble on it and fall down to hell. Dr Tisdall comments that "whoever wants to know the origin of this saying should first check the etymology of the word al-serat, because it is not Arabic. Etymologically it is in fact Latin (strada), but semantically Persian. The Qur'an gives us a picture of the people of the Book on the Last Day." When looking at Qur'anic verses, one should really distinguish between the two periods in which the Qur'an was given. These two periods are the Meccan period and the Medinan period. They show such an obvious difference in the strategies of
the dawa that leads us to conclude that the Islamic dawa took a giant step after the migration to Medina, and that the whole concept of Islam changed seriously, as well. We can thus say that the Islam of Mecca is not the same as the Islam of Medina, and those who were considered unbelievers in Mecca are not the same as those of Medina. Even the ones who were considered friends in Mecca are not the same as those of Medina. For the ones who were taken as friends in Mecca were treated as enemies in Medina, and the ones who were already treated as enemies in Mecca were treated as being even more so in Medina. The same applies to the concept of the Last Day in the Qur'an. The lost who are doomed to hell according to the Meccan Qur'an are not the same as those of the Medinan Qur'an! The unbelieving idolaters were the ones doomed to hell in Mecca, and the object of all the Qur'anic curses for over thirteen years. However, the people of the Book were submissive, which is equal in Arabic to the word Muslim, with whom Muhammad himself was commanded to be so. They are described by the Qur'an as the ones "God has guided; so follow their guidance" (Sura al-An`am 6:90). As for the people of the Book in Medina, they are the ones who distorted the Book, by twisting their tongues when reciting it. They are the ones who hid Muhammad's name and description from their Bible. They are the worshippers of the Trinity, who deified Christ and his mother, taking them as gods apart from God. They therefore merited the fire, in which they will remain for ever! The careful reader of the Qur'an will notice straight away that there was not a single verse given during the greatest part of the Meccan era to warn the people of the Book against painful chastisement in hell. The verses proclaiming chastisement were levelled, for the most part, at the idolaters of Quraish and the surrounding area, who barred the way to God and rejected the call to equality between castes. But it is very different when we read the part of the Qur'an given in Medina. It does not differentiate between Christians who submitted to God and worshipped none other with him, thereby acknowledging he is one, and others who went astray and worshipped Christ and his mother as gods, or those who took their rabbis and monks as lords over them in the place of God!! Let us consider further the contradiction in attitudes towards the people of the Book in the Qur'an: Khadeeja, who was Muhammad's only wife during the time in Mecca, asked Muhammad about the destiny of the children of the idolaters, including those of the people of the Book. He said, "No soul laden bears the load of another (Sura alAn`am 6:164). They are on the bridge." Or according to another report "They are in Paradise." Abaan reported, on the strength of Anas: The Messenger of God, peace be upon him, was asked about the children of the idolaters. He said, "They did not have good deeds therefore they could be rewarded and be kings in Paradise. Also they had no bad deeds therefore they could be punished and be of the people of the Fire. They are therefore servants of the people
of Paradise." This candid attitude towards the children of the idolaters and the people of the Book seems to disappear at this point, giving way to another attitude that the Qur'an held towards the same together with their children. Ayesha once asked Muhammad during the Medinan era about the offspring of the non-Muslims. He answered, "They are with their parents." She said further, "With no works (considered)?" "God knows what their works were," he answered, "by the One who holds my soul in His hand, if you will, I can let you hear their wails in the Fire." In Mecca the children of the people of the Book were in Paradise serving its inhabitants. But later Islam took an independent position, or rather an antagonistic one, towards its original source from which it had an ample supply of doctrines and legislations for over thirteen years. As a result, these innocent children were cast into hell, for no other reason than being the children of non-Muslims!
Jesus and the Last Day
Christ, as the Qur'an portrayed him, was not only unique in his conception, birth, childhood, miracles, death and resurrection, being thus highly exalted above the rest of the prophets and messengers, but the Qur'an also assigned him other things which it did not assign any other prophet. The Qur'an even called him "the knowledge of the Hour" (Sura al-Zukhruf 43:61). This means that his descent to the earth at the end times will usher in the Resurrection. We also read in the authorised Islamic collections of Hadith (such as Bukhaari and Muslim) whole chapters that report tens of hadiths, with unbroken chains of narration about the coming of Jesus Christ, son of Mary. These hadiths appoint him a status unequalled by that of any other prophet. It was reported that Muhammad said, "Jesus, peace be upon him, will be in my nation a just judge and a fair leader." And also "Jesus, son of Mary, will surely rank among men from my nation as you are, or better than you." Another hadith says that "Jesus, son of Mary, will descend, get married, and have a son. He will remain for 45 years and will be buried with me in my grave. Jesus and I will arise from one grave flanked by Abu Bakr and Omar." It is said that "he will marry a woman from among the Arabs after he kills the false Christ. She will bear him a daughter and die. Then he himself will die after living for two years." Abu Huraira reported a Hadith of Muhammad's, in which he said, "Jesus will tarry in the earth after his descent 40 years, thereafter he will die. Muslims will pray the funeral prayer for him and bury him." There is also another accepted Hadith that says, "The Prophets are brothers; they came from different mothers but their religion is one. I am the nearest one to Jesus son of Mary, for there was no Prophet between him and me. Know him when you see him. He is a man of medium stature. His complexion is white with a red tincture. His head seems like it is dripping, yet he was not drenched."
Kab al-Ahbaar said, "Jesus, peace be upon him, will tarry in the earth 40 years, during which good will abound by his hands. The living shall pass by the dead and say to him, ‗Rise and see what blessing God brought down.' Jesus, peace be upon him, will marry a woman from the house of so-and-so and will have two children from her. He will call one of them Muhammad, and the other Moses. People will enjoy favourable conditions under him, and will have a time of plenty for forty years. After that God will take up his soul, and he will taste death and be buried beside the Prophet, peace be upon him" (from Yaqazat Uli Litibaar, by the fundamentalist scholar Siddeeq Hasan). But what is the reason that Muslims see underlying the advent of Christ alone out of all the other prophets at the end times? In his book al-Tazkira, al-Qortubi answers this question. He says on page 764: "Christ found in the Gospel how much more excellent the nation of Muhammad (peace be upon him) would be, and therefore prayed to God, highly and magnificently exalted, to make him a part of this nation. God answered his prayer and lifted him up to heaven, from which he will come down at the end of time, renewing the things of the Islamic religion that fell in oblivion. This will coincide the going forth of the false Christ, whom he will slay. "And perhaps he will be brought down because his life will be coming to an end, not to fight the false Christ. No creature made of dust should die in heaven. His status will be according to what God said: ‗Out of the earth We created you, and We shall restore you into it, and bring you from it a second time' (Sura Ta Ha 20:55). God, who is highly exalted, will come down to bury him in the earth for a time during which the one who will come near him will see him, and the one who is far away from him will hear of him. Then He will take his soul, and the believers will tend to him and pray the funeral prayer for him. After that he will be buried where the Prophets have been buried.
"And perhaps this will be due to the fact that the Jews meant to kill him and crucify him. God has shown what they did with him in His Book. They have always claimed they killed him, they said that he was a magician and other things, from which God however exonerated him. They will persist in this error of theirs till the Hour draws nigh. Then the false Christ will appear, who is the mightiest of all magicians, and the Jews will make a covenant with him. From that day on they will be his soldiers, fancying that through him they will be able to avenge themselves on the Muslims. If things come to this, God will bring him down, whom they believe they have killed, and show him to them and to other hypocrites, alive. He will help him against the false Christ and the Jews that will be with him. That day they shall not find a way of escape. If one of them hides himself behind a tree, a rock, or a wall it will call out, ‘O, Spirit of God, here is a Jew.' A Muslim will come to him, and he will either espouse Islam or be killed."
All these are alternatives offered by al-Qortubi. They might on the other hand turn out to be nothing but a new stock of suppositions and individual interpretations with nothing to support them except some ambiguous passages from the Qur'an and the hadith dealing with the life of the Lord Jesus and his conception, birth,
crucifixion, resurrection and coming in the end times.
III. A LITTLE OF WHAT THE BIBLE TAUGHT ME
INTRODUCTION: WHATEVER IS BORN OF GOD OVERCOMES THE WORLD
Father, do not get angry if I blame you a little. Father, you are to blame, yes you are. Father, you have taught me to love the dust, How shall I live my life, In spite of difficulties? How does my youth pull me up towards the skies? All my life long I brought myself to account, Till I became fed up with counting! And my poor conscience died of torment. Father, my heart still blames you. Why, why haven't you taught me how to live with wolves?!! When a man is born nowadays he finds that "the life of wolves" is the norm with no way of escaping it, where all have parted company with everything that is clean and decent. People have regressed into the time of slavery, putting their children on display in the slave-market, not out of ambition for a luxuriant life in a palace, but just to be able to survive! If we take a man from such a time and world as ours, I do not suppose he will be much concerned whether the book he has between his hands is worthy of respect or disrespect. Such a man wouldn't really care whether his religion is a good thing that profits him or an unjust thing that does him wrong! All he wants from life is a job that consumes his strength and an income that fills his thoughts; and his sole concern is to multiply it, subtract it and divide it! The cares of the masses are enough to keep them thinking that searching in religious matters is a luxury available to only the well-to-do, or those who have lost hope of a life of luxury. These cares are the narrow gate which my Lord Jesus meant when he said, "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matthew 7:13,14). The greatest crime committed against humanity is forcing man to engage himself daily in a struggle for the necessities of life. He ends up being absorbed by that
struggle, his life being consumed, going round and round like a windmill, or like an ox at a Persian wheel! This dilemma had me baffled, until the Bible gave me the answer: "Whatever is born of God overcomes the world!" (1 John 5:1-5). I took a step towards God, but He took a leap towards me; I searched for Him, and He chose me. I gave Him a part of my life, and He granted me everlasting salvation. The Bible taught me that "Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice" (John 18:37). I can say that serenity was the fruit of four years of continual searching and studying. Now I have the assurance that springs from that truth, for which I searched long and hard, and found on the pages of the Book. For this reason I have believed in it. Perhaps some will think this shift in attitude and belief is too great or too difficult, while others may pinpoint the problems it entails. For how could Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, become for me Jesus, the incarnate God?! And how could the Messenger of God and his Word be the Son of the living God for me?! How can the Prophet of the Children of Israel become the Redeemer of the first and the last?! Coming to know the Christ of the Qur'an, however, makes these questions not only superfluous but also quite meaningless. Faith in Christ as the Qur'an represents him, is the logical introduction to faith in Christ as the Gospels portray him. In the first part of this book I presented the motives for a Gospel-based faith, and showed how the Qur'an led me to believe in the doctrines of the Bible. On the following pages I will stop at some passages from the Bible, which we will study. I will also endeavour to present to you what I learned from them. This study is not going to be an academic one, for my purpose is not to carry out theological research, stopping at every passage, scrutinising it, and deriving all sorts of hidden and deep meanings out of it. My purpose is rather to make an inward study that speaks and talks, one that goes beyond what lies outside and touches upon the existing suffering. The ultimate purpose for studying the passages for themselves is to turn them into a scientific museum or a gallery of arts, which, however great and magnificent it may be, will be just a visiting place for those who seek knowledge, or those who are after some fun. But when you live these passages, they become part of your very being. And one's own being and a mere place to visit are worlds apart! We live these teachings so that here and now we might fulfil the potential for true life within us. This vibrant being we seek to be comprises an artistic side, an intellectual side and a sentimental side. This way of life is not mere philosophy, but is full of struggle and dialogue. It is the struggle of a living idea, not of a cold, impersonal intellect and unresponsive words. It is according to these scales that we will be held to account.
1. GOD, THE SON OF GOD
I said to the one talking to me, "The attractive elements in Christianity are numerous and multifarious. They are good enough to convince any who seeks the truth. The doctrine of the Resurrection is enough for such a one. Love is one of Christianity's sublime principles, and eternal salvation is one of the fruits reaped by those who adopt it as their way of life." I shall not gloss over the obstacles that stood in the way that led to my belief in it, and I do not even say they were a small thing. But I tell you the truth, the difficulty of these obstacles does not arise from the impossibility of proving the veracity of the resurrection but rather from the teachings with which we have been indoctrinated since birth. These teachings created in us a kind of sentiment that automatically rejects the divinity of our Saviour Jesus Christ! The doctrine of resurrection is therefore difficult and complicated if it is discussed with those who have been thus indoctrinated. But it is quite straightforward, manageable, convincing, clear, cogent and fully believable once you read it in its Book. The simplest rule of argument and dialogue is to hear what your opponent says, not to stop your ears and listen only to your voice. The voice of the Bible was powerful when it discussed the question of the resurrection, for the One who inspired it expounded it in such a way to satisfy the intellect and pierce the very soul. Mark says in the beginning of his Gospel, "Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‗The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.'" This announcement captured the essential meaning of Christ's message, namely the imminence of the kingdom of God. Together with God's kingdom and dominion over the world, the Jews of old expected peace to prevail among individuals, the nations and the peoples. They anticipated that justice would dominate people's relationships, and that protection and support would be the lot of the poor. From the beginning of time man longed for peace, justice, a better life and salvation. Yet they could not attain these things, and believed in the existence of adverse powers that kept them from doing so. The Bible calls these powers "demons" or "devils". From the Biblical point of view, God alone is master over life and history of man. He alone is capable of crushing all adverse evil powers that oppress man, and He alone is able to grant him salvation, liberty and true life. This is the meaning of the kingdom of God, with which Christ started His evangelistic message. The Gospel according to Matthew relates the following about Jesus: ―Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, ‗Could this be the Son of David?' But when the Pharisees heard it they said, ‗This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.' But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them, ‗Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I
cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you'" (Matthew 12:22-29). Christ reveals himself as being sent from God to represent him and act as deputy on his behalf for the realisation of his kingdom. The people he chooses will become the people of God, and whosoever accepts to follow Christ and to join the people of God will obtain reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, salvation and liberty that God has in store for all those who submit to His kingship. All the works of Jesus, whether healing the sick, forgiving sinners or casting out demons, are called "signs" by the Gospel. By this it means tokens that indicate that the kingdom has come into effect. These signs denote that God is near to men, all men, through his love, especially to the poor, the forlorn and the sinful. This is the meaning of Jesus' answer to the disciples of John the Baptist, whom he had sent to ask Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" Jesus answered and said to them, "Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me" (Matthew 11:3-6). The kingdom of God was manifested in the works of Christ. This can be clearly seen, especially in the attitude he took towards the precepts of the Law and towards sinners. The precepts and the commandments stated in the Law of Moses are the precepts and the commandments of God. No one can fulfil them but God alone. But we see Jesus fulfilling the law of the Sabbath, declaring he was "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28), and see him fulfilling the laws of fasting and all the ceremonies regarding the washing of the hands, cups, and pitchers (Mark 7:1-13). We see him especially forgiving sins, knowing that no one forgives sins but God alone! Jesus does works on earth that come from God, showing that his work is God's own work, and that his will is the same as God's will. He says to the sick man, "Son, your sins are forgiven you" (Mark 2:4), and says to the sinful woman, "Your sins are forgiven" (Luke 7:48). Through this revelation the hearer realises that God is forgiving sins in the person of Jesus. Jesus appears in his teachings, as well as in his works, as God's representative. He says, "He who sees Me sees Him who sent Me" (John 12:9) and "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Jesus is greater than the prophets and scribes of the Jews, for the prophets revealed the word of God, while Christ is the word incarnate. The doctors of the Law and the scribes confined their teaching to the interpretation of the Law of Moses, while Jesus brings the people to the fulfilment of the Law. As he himself said, "Do not think I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil" (Matthew 5:17). Whenever the prophets spoke, they started their utterances with the expression "Thus says the Lord" (Isaiah 1:24). But we find no trace of this expression in the utterances of Jesus; He spoke with His own authority. "You have heard that it was said to those of old... But I say to you..." (Matthew 5:21). "It was said to those of old" was a familiar expression that referred to God. And who can add anything to the words of God, or dare perfect his words, except for God himself? Yet we hear
Jesus add, "But I say to you." This proves that Jesus realised his words were not the words of mere man, but the words of God himself. It tells us that he brought the words of God, which had been given under the Old Testament, to perfection. And now are we not entitled to ask, "If Christ preached that the kingdom of God had come in His person and words, who do you think He is?" The title of a prophet is not sufficient to express his message, therefore the Gospel says about him, "Indeed one greater than Jonah is here" (Matthew 12:41) and "one greater than Solomon is here" (Matthew 12:42). The early apostles saw in him "the Messiah," "the Son of Man," "the Lord," "the Son of God" and "the Word of God." The Gospel according to Mark relates that when Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do you think I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Christ" (Mark 8:27-30). The Gospel according to John relates also that Andrew the apostle, after he had come to know Jesus, met his brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated as "the Christ") (John 1:41). Then Philip ran across Nathanael, and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1:43-46). Who is then this Christ of whom Moses and the prophets wrote, and whom the Jews awaited? "Christ" was an Old Testament title given to a prophet, a priest or a king. The Jews anointed such persons with pure oil as an indication that they had been dedicated to the service of God and his people. Moses, for example, anointed Aaron and his sons to be priests (Leviticus 8:30), and Samuel anointed David king over Israel (1 Samuel 16:13). The unction of oil is also a symbol of imparting the Holy Spirit. There is a clear reference to this in the Bible. "Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him (David) in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward" (1 Samuel 16:13). God promised David, through Nathan the prophet, that He would raise up from his seed a king, and that He would "establish the throne of his kingdom for ever" (2 Samuel 7:13). Through the ages the Jews lived in anticipation of the fulfilment of this prophecy of the coming of a king from the seed of David, who would be "anointed" like the rest of the kings of Israel. Yet the kingdom of this king would not come to an end. Their hope became more urgent after the destruction of their kingdom and the exile to Babylon. Henceforth, the prophets started to describe the features of this Christ who would come at the end times, full of the Holy Spirit, being both a prophet and a king, and establishing the kingdom of Israel forever. The apostles saw that all the Old Testament prophecies regarding Christ had been completely fulfilled in the person of Jesus. Christ came full of the Holy Spirit, but not as a political king, as the Jews expected. His kingdom was not of this world (John 18:33-38). Therefore he disappeared when the Jews wanted to make him king over them (John 6:15). This is the profound meaning of the experiences that the writers of the Gospels say Christ went through at the beginning of his public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12,13; Luke 4:1-13). These experiences did not occur to Jesus only once, but they represented a struggle or conflict that he had to undergo throughout his public life, opposing the Jews' idea of the awaited Christ. The Jews expected a Christ who would stun the people with supernatural wonders, such as turning stones into bread,
casting himself down from the pinnacle of the temple without being hurt, and thus enslave himself to the demonic powers in order to possess the kingdoms of the earth and the glory thereof. Jesus, on the other hand, came as a suffering Christ, full of the Holy Spirit, bringing life to the hungry through the word of God; a suffering Christ who offered himself on the cross as a redemptive sacrifice, so that the kingdom of God might be realised in people's hearts. That is why when Christ forewarned the disciples of his suffering and death, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke Jesus, saying, "Far be it from You Lord; this shall not happen to You" (Matthew 20:16). But he said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men" (Mark 8:32-33). Men's thoughts about the awaited Christ are satanic thoughts in God's eyes, because they see the way to glory in temporal authority and material kingship. But the way to glory, according to the divine logic, is the way of love, sacrifice, and giving unto death. As he said to the two disciples he met on the road to a village called Emmaus, who had lost all hope after the death of Christ, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered all these things and to enter into His glory?" (Luke 24:25-26). As for the title "The Son of Man," it is the oldest one given to Christ in the New Testament. It goes back to the seventh chapter of the prophecy of Daniel: "I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom." The careful reader of the Bible will inevitably notice that the title of "the Son of Man" is always contained in the framework of discourse on the end times and the Judgement: "Also I say to you, whoever confesses me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God" (Luke 12:8,9). The authority of the Son of Man is, however, not restricted to the Day of Judgement at the end of the age; the kingdom of God has begun with the coming of Christ – "the Son of Man has power on earth" (Mark 2:10). It is this same Son of Man who "has come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). He also declared Himself to be "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:28). Despite all that, the authority of the Son of Man on earth is not an authority for the sake of superiority, but for the service of others. Our Lord said, "Foxes have hole and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Luke 9:58). Christ's other oft-used title was "the Lord". The New Testament uses this title in many places in reference to Jesus. It is a translation of the Greek word kyrios, which means "lord". But the Greek New Testament uses the Greek word for "master" in some places, and the word kyrios in others. In order to understand the usage of this word we have to go back to the Old Testament, where the word was originally used. The Jews of old refrained from saying the personal name of God Yahweh, out of reverence. So whenever they read the Torah, they would say "Adonai" instead, which means in Hebrew "the Lord". Hence the word the Lord came to be equivalent to God's personal name Yahweh. So when the Jewry of Alexandria translated the books of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek – that translation of the Bible
is known as the Septuagint – they translated the word Yahweh as the word Kyrios, which means "the Lord". Hence we conclude that the apostles, when they confessed Jesus as Lord, gave him a title that was exclusively divine. Therefore the words Lord and God are interchangeable in the Bible, and are used side by side. This title – with its apparent divine significance – was given by the apostles to Jesus after the mystery of His person was unfolded before them. They then realised that the cross was the end of the everything for him, because the One who was crucified rose again from the dead, appeared to them, and entrusted them with the charge of calling all nations to believe by the power of that authority which has been given to him.
The mystery of Christ's person, as it seen through the New Testament, is epitomised in his relationship with God the Father. Christ is a man who is related to God through the heart of his message and the depth of his being. There is no difference between the person of Christ, the Word of God, and his message and being. His message is his being, and his being is his message. No one else could say the same, not even the prophets. Every man has his own being, and later he receives from God a message that is independent of his being. But with Jesus the message and the being are identical. His message is to reveal the will of God, manifest his love, and establish his kingdom. God then has given a final revelation of himself to the world in the person of his Son Jesus, who is the visible image of his invisible hypostasis (substance) and eternal Word. He is the fullest and truest expression of God's nature. This is what we learn of our exalted Saviour from the Bible.
Talking about anxiety, Dale Carnegie wrote in his book How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, "You do not get stomach ulcers from what you eat. You get ulcers from what is eating you." There is no doubt about the truth of the statement, "If anxiety afflicts you, you lose the pleasures of life, even if they come seeking you." But what can a man do if anxiety and worrying in his life are imposed on him by his religious belief? Surely those who have been told that "haply" or "perchance" God will forgive and atone for their sins are cast into anxiety, worry and bewilderment by their own belief. With every passing evening and morning, they do not know with which party they will be – with those who will be forgiven and delivered, or those who are lost because their repentance will be rejected?! Miserable is the man who lies down to sleep unsure of the eternal future of his life. Miserable is he who leaves the presence of God without receiving salvation. And blessed is he whose soul is assured, and whose spirit rests in a peace that is built on
God's assurance of his deliverance! The brightest side of Christianity is the assurance of those who believe in it for their salvation, which is through the blood of our Saviour who has covered our sins and has forgiven us our trespasses. Under the wings of this salvation doctrine, we find that God demonstrated his affection towards man when he created Adam from the dust of the earth. He further demonstrated this affection when He talked with them through His prophets. And finally, when the fullness of time had come, he showed his affection for them in the person of His Son Jesus, who came to save man in His person, life, death and resurrection. Some preachers, when speaking of redemption and salvation, confine them to Christ's death. Yet this is a very narrow view, for with the appearance of Christ, the Son of God in the flesh, the creation of the new man became possible, a new man free of imperfection, crookedness, transgression and sin. Through the incarnation of the Word, human nature obtained salvation, and became united with the person of the Son of the holy God, thereby becoming "renewed" and "deified" (2 Peter 1:4). There was found in Jesus Christ perfect and genuine human nature. The salvation of man is, above all, a salvation of being. This salvation of being is brought to fulfilment through unity with the personal being of Christ, so that it becomes "a new creation" (1 Corinthians 5:17) being united with God in substance. For in the same way as we were separated from God through Adam, we are united with him through Jesus Christ. The salvation of humanity was not achieved by the incarnation of the Word only, but through the works of the Lord Jesus as well. Luke relates that Jesus entered a synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read: "The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And when He unrolled the scroll, He came to the place where it was written: ‗The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, be cause he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.' Then He rolled the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‗Today is this Scripture fulfilled in your hearing.' All of them bore witness to Him and marvelled at the words of grace which proceeded out of His mouth" (Luke 4:16-21). The Jews celebrated the year of Jubilee every 50 years, during which they had to leave the land fallow, set the captive free, and give the slaves their freedom. That year was a year of grace to the Lord. And by the coming of Christ this year of grace, which recurred after every seven sabbatical years, became an unending year on account of Christ, who is the grace of God poured out upon all flesh, especially the poor, the heavy-laden and the sinners. When man is under the control of his self, lusts and proclivities, he is living under worry, bondage and fear. This causes him to fall into sin and become a slave to it. He is, consequently, in need of someone to save him from his sin, and rescue him from the dangers of society, which despises him, looks down on him and enslaves him. He is in need of someone to rescue him from the fetters of society and the dangers of nature; such as diseases, disasters and
ultimately death. Christ came to save man, to rescue him and free him from the grip of all these dangers. He came to forgive sins and reveal to sinners that God's love is greater than their sins. He came to show, with his words and deeds, that sinners, strangers and the poor are nearer to God's heart than the Pharisees, the oppressing rulers and the rich. Thus he emphasised that God's love extends to all people without distinction. He also came to heal the sick, raise up the invalids and bring the dead back to life, revealing that the love of God is more powerful than the dangers of disease and death. Love alone saves man on all levels: his soul, his relationship with others, and his relation with life and existence. Christ has shown to us in his life and his works the depth of that love, which is not the same as the love of a man to another, but the love of God himself poured out on all human kind, giving life to their souls and saving them from their bondage (Romans 5:5). If Christ's works have accomplished salvation for man, all the more his death is the culmination of his salvation work. The Jewish nation was awaiting a Messiah king, who would save them from their bondage, set them free from the control of the Romans, and restore the kingdom of David. This king would establish a worldly kingdom like all other kingdoms, which would be built on power and political supremacy. That is why they refused to acknowledge Jesus as the awaited Messiah. Jesus has fulfilled the desire of the bygone generations and the prophecies of the prophets by coming to save man and release the nation. But he would not do that by resorting to ways befouled by transgressions, for transgressions cannot be taken away by another transgression. A grudge cannot be taken away by a grudge, sin cannot be taken away by sin, and killing cannot be annulled by killing. Love alone can remove grudges, and forgiveness alone can blot out transgression. To die for the killer is the only way to annul killing. Envy was able to hang Christ on the cross, but it stood helpless before the forgiveness that Jesus granted those who nailed Him to the cross: "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). Christ charged His disciples that love for their enemies should be their distinctive characteristic, because it is the distinctive characteristic of the heavenly Father, "Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, and do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Luke 5:44-45). This love is not based on the erection of barriers and the destruction of others on account of being enemies or immoral or godless or atheist idolaters, but on the removal of all the barriers that separate man from his fellow-man, and man from God. Christ achieved it in his life when he forgave the sinners, and achieved it to the full in his death when he forgave his killers! I have read some explanations on the death of our Redeemer and Saviour that represent it as a work that Christ did to appease the wrath of God, or as a ransom that Christ paid for man to free him from the bondage of Satan. But I believe that
the wrath of God upon sinners and their bondage to Satan are moral images that aim at manifesting the true dimension and the deep contradiction between sin and God. The animal sacrifices that the Children of Israel offered to God expressed man's realisation of the distance that sin creates between him and God, and his conviction that death only can atone for sin, since sin is an uttermost offence against God. God himself took the initiative. It is he who took the first step in his mercy to justify the sinner and give life to the dead. The New Testament does not say that man reconciled himself to God, but "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (1 Corinthians 5:19). The New Testament expresses this idea with various examples and illustrations: God, the Good Shepherd, goes out himself seeking the lost sheep till He finds it (Luke 15:1-10), God "so loved the world that gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Jesus' offering of himself initiated a new covenant. The old one was initiated by Moses between God and his people through the blood of animals: "And Moses took the blood and sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‗Behold, the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you according to all these words'" (Exodus 24:8). Jesus, however initiated a covenant with those who believe in him by his blood. The old covenant was based on the Law of God, which he gave to Moses, but the new covenant is based on the grace of Christ, "For the Law was given through Moses, by grace and truth came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:17). Christ's grace and love made him pour his blood upon his beloved ones. The old covenant, which was made with Moses, included the people of God which was the Jewish nation the physical seed of Abraham. As for the new covenant, it is God's covenant through Christ with God's people from every tribe and nation. "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12). To sum up, the Bible takes us into the time of the new covenant, giving us this sure guarantee salvation, without which man lives in anxiety that ends in destruction.
3. CHILDREN OF GOD
Psalm 82 says, "I said, ‗You are gods.'" Here we should stop a while to consider the statement given by Abul Alaa al-Maarri: "Don't limit my words. I, like others, speak in metaphors." It is by way of metaphor that people apply the designation of a part to the whole. On this basis we understand that the divine aspect of man is the most sublime part in him and is in fact his hidden essence. On account of it men are addressed as "gods" so as to remind them of the lordly status they are supposed to be elevated to, and that this, not their evanescent mortality, is their eternal reality. For he has made them in the image of His sempiternity. In my opinion, if the writer of this psalm were to use today's language, he would more readily use the word "lordly" or "divine" than to use the word "gods". This is
correct at least according to the use of metaphor in speech. Let us say then that men are required to rise to the sublimity of their origin and discover their reality— that they are divine and "the children of the Most High God" by the eternal spirit, not by the transient, corruptible, perishing body. The one who is truly divine is to resemble God, inasmuch as the true son takes after his father. The children of God should, therefore, be perfect as God is perfect. This is the Bible's doctrine and commandment, which distinguishes it and sets it apart. For the beloved John cries out in his first epistle, prompted by his usual enthusiasm and zeal which earned him the title "the son of thunder," "Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God" (1 John 3:9,10). It is no wonder, for Christ himself said in the Sermon on the Mount, "You shall be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48)! Since God is love, as the Bible teaches us, love should be the nature of God's true children, for all without exception. Yes, all who want to be of God should so love. This is the teaching of the Bible. Doesn't the second commandment of the Law say, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself" (Matthew 22:39)? But Christ said, moreover, in the Sermon on the Mount, "You have heard that it was said, ‗You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?'" (Matthew 5:34:47). "For if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.... But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Highest. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6:32-36). God is the Lord of all and provider for all without exception. All people are your brothers in God, both enemy and friend. "Whoever does not practise righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother" (1 John 3:9,10). The passages of the first epistle of John flow after this integrated, well-ordered manner as a river of gold, speaking of the conclusive love, by which people truly become God's children. For he is love. If we take a look at the Ten Commandments of the Law we will find the commandments regarding God, honouring parents, and love for the neighbours the only positive ones, while all the rest of the commandments are a list of don'ts: "You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal" (Exodus
20:13-15). With the message of Christian love the basis altered. The Law of Moses became inadequate; a much greater thing than the obedience to the Law was now required. It is your whole soul that is required of you, the Bible teaches, not certain works, ceremonies, or avoiding unclean things only. For without love all other virtues are meaningless! Thus the apostle Paul was careful in chapter thirteen of his first epistle to the Corinthians to draw the attention of the Christian believers to love, so that those who got that spiritual and mental glimpse should be aware of it. He says, "Earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way. Though I speak with the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal." Moreover, Paul goes on to say that prophecy itself and perfect faith are nothing without love! "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing." If you were to ask the apostle Paul about the love of which he speaks and discusses at length, he would not be able to define this simple, self-evident thing. He defines it by love itself! It is enough to pronounce the word "light" to someone endowed with eyesight and he will know what you are taking about, for he has a direct experience of light. But if you say "light" to somebody and he asks you what it is, you immediately know, without any further enquiry, that he is blind. Then you will resort to explanation, and perhaps he will understand a little of what you are talking about. This is what the apostle Paul did in his awesome explanation: "Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does parade itself; it is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek it own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13). This is a description of the attributes not of the substance, by describing the fruits, the results, and not the very essence. Talking to believers who have been enlightened by the Spirit of God, the apostle Paul does not hesitate to say to them, "And now abide faith, hope, love (and everything else is perishing)." He adds in complete decisiveness, "But the greatest of these is love. Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts." This attitude is worth pausing over. Those who have not been "granted" the grace of love, namely those who do not have love for their new nature in Christ, are just like those who don't have "musical ears". They may see that they should learn music, so they spend all their days and nights practising. But try as they might, the result of their playing will never be art; for art is a divine gift, an inborn tendency and a true feeling. The best thing those without this love can do is holy war. But they are in error if they consider this as able to lead them anywhere without the original guide. And the farthest thing they can reach is to create a false value and artificial righteousness, which have the appearance and form of true righteousness, but not its essence and spirit! We know that the letter kills, but the spirit gives life, as the Bible teaches (2
Corinthians 3:6). So they at best turn in the orbit of the law, namely the outward works of righteousness, and endeavour to carry out the law - any law that determines for them good works to obey and bad ones to shun in the form of do's and don'ts. We therefore find that the apostle Paul does not hesitate to find fault with the Law, which is nothing but a code of commands and interdictions. He says it is "the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones" (2 Corinthians 3:7)! With this outward appearance, mentality and acts that are out of fear not love, people may understand the teaching about righteousness in a superficial, literal manner. The Lord Jesus said to the rich young man, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor." But the young man considered the advice hard, which made Christ say, "How hard it for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mark 10:21-25). So what do they do with their literal understanding of such a commandment as this? The best they can do is to distribute their money among the poor, thinking that this act is righteousness in itself. But apostle Paul cries out warning these, to their disappointment, "And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:3)! Does this mean that the act itself is nothing? Yes! The fruit is without value unless it is genuine fruit. It should be the result of a natural growing process from a seed in the heart that germinates and produces a stem, leaves, blossoms and finally fruits. The incentive is the foundation, and there is no building without foundation. Good fruit is produced by a living tree that can steadily yield such fruit. The act produced by the soul draws its worth from the fact that it is an expression of an inner meaning and a noble nature, not just an isolated act expressing nothing but itself. Only by this are things put in their rightful place. For it is man himself that should be evaluated as worthy, not an impersonal action cut off from its motives. What a great difference there is between an impersonal action that is not done out of genuine motives and overflowing emotions, and an action that the soul calls for and finds its fulfilment and rest in it! Every value we attach to an act without heavenly incentive is a mere "phonic phenomenon," useless and to no avail. And if it is intentional, it is hypocrisy and dissimulation. This is what the Bible presents and teaches. There is another kind of false righteousness or dead virtue that does not spring from the willingness of a loving soul, which is that sort of virtue one could call "the payment virtue". It is practised out of a desire for reward and fear of punishment. But the doer is merely a slave when he does a good deed seeking something other than to please God. He is spurred on by greed and driven back by apprehension, living in fear of punishment or of missing grace. Therefore the Bible says, when it talks about the Law, that it is "the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones." But as for grace, it says, "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who has fear is not perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). This should not be amazing, because fear is characteristic of slaves, while love is characteristic of children.
The Bible's teaching about love and charity is neither easy nor convenient to those who want it; but it is rather the fruit of hard work, sweating and spiritual toil. Love begins, as I said before, as a seed in the ground, then it grows little by little until the good fruit appears. When I read through the Bible, believing in what it said, I found this profound teaching too heavy to bear and too difficult to put into practice. How can I love those who are my enemies, pray for those who hate me, and release forgiveness for those who persecute me? These are things quite beyond me. To tell the truth, I was in a difficult predicament indeed. It was a strange paradox. After I received Christ as Saviour of my life, I talked with some of my previous teachers who had taken it upon themselves to instruct me in my previous religion. I spoke to them with unlimited hatred bearing a grudge against them, because I felt inside me that they had been leading me astray and had been about to throw me into the ring of fire and to shut me away from the light of heaven. I tried to demolish their foundation and destroy their buildings, imagining to myself that I, in doing so, was guiding them to the truth I had heard. But I was, in fact, avenging myself on them and punishing them. And on a night of true spiritual change of direction in my life, I returned home after a discussion with one of my previous teachers, which lasted long hours. I took the Bible and started to read. And the Lord spoke to me through the apostle Paul one time, and the beloved John another time, through the pages of the Bible. I found nothing but reproach, censure and condemnation for my attitude. Every word in the Bible said to me, "No! This is not Christianity. You are wrong. You need to "walk in the newness of life" (Romans 6:4). Then I wondered, "Haven't I already been regenerated? I have believed in the divinity of Christ and his Sonship to God and his resurrection. I also expect earnestly his second coming. I practise the Christian virtues as far as I know. Isn't Christianity or any other religion made up of these two: faith and works?" Then Christ answered me, "Yes, you were regenerated when you opened your heart to me and became a new creation. But you need to be renewed every day so that you can be in the image of my love to you. You also need to express my love to all, as I have loved you." After that he taught me through the apostle Paul in the chapter of love: "And though I have faith, so that I could remove the mountains, but have not love, it profits me nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2,3). When I finished reading, I felt the need for that kind of life which my Lord prescribed for me in his Book. But I felt heavy and detached. I went to him in prayer. I asked him for help and deliverance. I asked him to help me and assist me in reaching the life of perfection which he described in his Book. On that night I gave my whole life to my Lord, so that he could do whatever he wanted with it. I gave him the authority over my life, and found that Christ lived in me and through me that Christian life that I found so difficult that only gods or the sons of gods could live it. Hence I realised that the whole thing is not dependant on what I do, but on what my Master does, because he gives the power and we are the instruments through which His power flows. At this point, Paul's experience came true for me: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). I learned that the renewal of life does not mean the introduction of good works and nice intentions amongst a number of bad habits and low morals. This mixing cannot
result in a creditable future and good behaviour. It does not indicate perfection or acceptance, for hardened hearts may drip some good, and stingy fingers may be moved to give. But this is not called conversion. Conversion is rather a life renewed after it has been worn out, and is a definitive change that transforms the characteristics of the soul, just as dead and barren ground is transformed when rain showers it from heaven.
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