Shareef Odeh , Amir, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Kababir, Israel, meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and presenting him a copy of the Holy Quran:
Shareef Odeh also presented the Pope a letter of Khalifatul Masih V, the international leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
Khalifatul Masih V (Hudhur) has described the details of his letter in his Friday Sermon of December 9, 2011:
Recently the Ameer sahib of Kababir happened to go to Italy with a delegation. He informed Hudhur about the inter-religious nature of the delegation and the opportunity he would have to meet the Pope and asked Hudhur if Hudhur wished to send a message to the Pope. Hudhur sent a message which was given to the Pope as well as other high-ranking priests at the Vatican. A copy of the Qur’an was presented to the Pope and this was covered by the newspapers. The Kababir Ameer, Sharif Odeh sahib writes that he met the Pope on 10 November 2011 along with an inter-religious group. Letter from Hudhur was presented to the Pope who was told that the letter contained a most significant message. The letter was received personally by the Pope who was also given a copy of the Holy Qur’an with Italian translation. The photographs taken at the occasion received coverage in the newspapers. Odeh sahib also mentioned the letter at a press conference and gave its summary and distributed copies of the letters among the journalists.
Giving a summary of the letter, Hudhur said it began with prayerful greetings followed by the Quranic verse: ‘Say, ‘O People of the Book! come to a word equal between us and you — that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partner with Him, and that some of us take not others for Lords beside Allah.’ (3:65) Hudhur said he wrote that Islam is in the spot light these days and its teaching is being targeted which is wrong, albeit this is because of the actions of some Muslims. Because of this even educated people do not miss attacking Islam and the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Islam’s teaching is just like the teaching of other religions, that is, to connect man with God. Therefore, Islam should not be attacked due to the wrong acts of a few. Islam teaches us to respect all Prophets of God, including the Biblical Prophets. We are the humble servants of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) and are extremely hurt when his honour is attacked. We respond to these attacks by presenting the beautiful teachings of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) to the world, by presenting the teaching of the Holy Qur’an, which is the teaching of love, affection and brotherhood. The fundamental teaching of Islam is to adopt righteousness and thus is the sound that resonates from our mosques five times a day when God’s greatness is acknowledged and it is declared that Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is His Messenger. Hudhur further wrote to the Pope that these days peace is diminished because under the guise of freedom of expression and conscience some play with the sentiments of others and religious offence is also caused. Many small wars are going on in the world today and there is a need to stop them otherwise these could lead to a world war which could bring untold destruction. Rather than lean towards material progress of the world, we should be inclined to save it from destruction, otherwise, there will be certain destruction. Religious leaders should make efforts to save the world from mutual conflicts and usurping each other’s rights. Hudhur wrote to the Pope that he had a voice in the world and had a large following, therefore he should try that all world religions get together and work for peace and recognise the One Creator. Hudhur said this is the summary of the letter sent to the Pope, may God make him understand the message, hope he has read it. May they establish human values and may they respect religions and above all, may they recognise the One God.
Hudhur said as it is obvious from the report of Odeh sahib, other Muslims leaders and influential people were also present at the time but only a servant of the Imam of the age was enabled to send a message of Islam to the Pope. And then they say that Ahmadis are not Muslims. Thus far we have only witnessed renewed glory of Islam by connecting to the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace). In fact people outside the Community who do not hold any rancour, acknowledge that the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) certainly achieved his objective.
A Cordial Invitation to the Pope Benedict XVI to Islam
November 24, 2011
By Zia H Shah MD
Last year we had published our December Allislam-eGazette with the above title. Let me link the materials here for the convenience of the Pope and all our Catholic brothers and sisters.
As the Christian masses are leaving theist paradigm in droves, your Holiness, your love of them and God, makes it incumbent on you and all the theists to first strive for theism and then for any particular brand, be it Judaism, Unitarian Christianity, Trinitarian Christianity or Islam, like they say in America, I am an American first and a republican or a democrat second. Tear down the walls that separate the Abrahamic faiths and open to everyone the possibility of Islam. If Christian masses cannot find comfort, peace and theism in one particular tradition let them try another tradition before they choose the abyss of atheism that you equated with Nazism.
In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful. Say, ‘He is Allah, the One; ‘Allah, the Independent and Besought of all. ‘He begets not, nor is He begotten; ‘And there is none like unto Him.’ (Al Quran 112:1-5)
First of all I want to thank His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, for his efforts to promote peace and pluralism in Middle East and especially in Jerusalem. In October of 2010, Catholic bishops in the Middle East urged the United Nations to end the Israeli occupation of Arab lands at the end of a meeting chaired by His Holiness.
Now let me introduce Islam to His Holiness:
Human memory leads to the illusion-of-truth effect, meaning that we are more likely to rate those statements true that we are familiar with, regardless of their veracity. As such familiarity impairs judgment and prevents people from noticing let alone accepting the obvious limitations in their views. The Pope Benedict XVI and the Christian readers appear to be the victims of such familiarity. That is why they are unable to readily appreciate the excellence of Islam, over Christianity with respect to unadulterated concept of One God. In the preface to Edward Gibbon’s History of Christianity, we read: “If Paganism was conquered by Christianity, it is equally true that Christianity was corrupted by Paganism. The pure Deism of the first Christians . . . was changed, by the Church of Rome, into the incomprehensible dogma of the trinity. Many of the pagan tenets, invented by the Egyptians and idealized by Plato, were retained as being worthy of belief.”[iii] If what Gibbon says be true we have all the reasons to try to shed our illusions and biases and carefully examine Christianity and Islam side by side. So, let me suggest to His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI , at the very outset, to read on and in the words of Sir Francis Bacon, “Read not to contradict … but to weigh and consider.”
Jesus did not become god until the last canonical gospel, the Gospel of John. Almost 60-70 years had passed since Jesus was put on the cross. The first two generations of the committed believers had died. More and more pagans were joining Christianity. The stage was set to elevate Jesus to divine status. However, the earlier gospels, Mathew, Mark and Luke, known as the synoptic gospels, as they are similar to each other, were written earlier and did not exaggerate Jesus’ status. The very contrast between the synoptic and the non-synoptic Gospel of John should be an epiphany to any open minded Christian and especially to you sir, the leader of more than a billion strong, Catholic Christians. Several reasons can be outlined for reading the four Gospels separately and independently rather than conflating them. Here, let me present one simple reason before we move on with the rest of the discussion. When the Gospel of Mark was written, the author meant it to be an independent testimony, as for 15-30 years there was no Matthew, Luke or John. It was an independent book and not an addendum or appendix to anything else!
“Already during Jesus’ lifetime, people tried to interpret his mysterious figure by applying to him categories that were familiar to them and that were therefore considered apt for deciphering his mystery: He is seen as John the Baptist, as Elijah or Jeremiah returning, or as the Prophet (c£ Mt 16:14; Mk 8:28; Lk 9:19). In his confession, Peter uses-as we have seen-other, loftier titles: Messiah, son of the living God. The effort to express the mystery of Jesus in titles that explained his mission, indeed, his essence, continued after Easter. Increasingly, three fundamental titles began to emerge: ‘Christ’ (Messiah), ‘Kyrios’ (Lord), and ‘son of God.’”[iv]
We can certainly agree with Pope Benedict XVI that considering Jesus as John the Baptist, as Elijah or Jeremiah returning, or as the Prophet would be certainly reasonable and plausible, in light of the Jewish tradition and later Islamic tradition. However, for someone who is not indoctrinated in the mysteries of dogma of Christianity, this strikes as very odd, almost mind boggling that a prophet of God, possibly God himself, according to Trinitarian ideology, spent his lifetime on the planet earth, exhausted his ministry and yet did not leave a clear message of his essence and that people started quibbling about his station as soon as he disappears from Jerusalem. Other than a few allusions and possibly illusions, attributed to Jesus, claiming divinity, he continues to call himself ‘son of man.’ The Pope agrees that Jesus preferred self-designation is ‘son of man.’[v] Now this is very interesting that Jesus all his life strove hard to emphasize his humanity and yet the followers especially St. Paul were able to hijack the monotheism of Jesus into a Trinitarian Christology. This reminds me of these two verses of the Holy Quran, which predict a testimony of Jesus in future:
“And when Allah will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary, didst thou say to men, ‘Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah?’”, he will answer, “Holy art Thou. I could never say that to which I had no right. If I had said it, Thou wouldst have surely known it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. It is only Thou Who art the Knower of hidden things. “I said nothing to them except that which Thou didst command me — ‘Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst cause me to die, Thou hast been the Watcher over them; and Thou art Witness over all things.” (Al Quran 5:117-118)
With this testimony of Jesus, may peace be on him, when Muslims start reading the Bible they are again pleased to note how accurate and precise is the revelation of the Islamic scripture. Jesus will say, “’I said nothing to them except that which Thou didst command me — Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them,'” and I thank the Pope for bringing out the fact that in the first gospel, which is the Gospel of Mark that was the first to be written after Jesus’ crucifixion, around 70 AD, the term ‘son of man,’ occurs no less than 14 times on the lips of Jesus. This once again highlights that the synoptic gospel of Mark is far more accurate in presenting the status of Jesus than the gospel of John written three decades later! The Pope writes:
“Son of man – this mysterious term is the title that Jesus most frequently uses to speak of himself In the Gospel of Mark alone the term occurs fourteen times on Jesus’ lips. In fact, in the whole of the New Testament, the term ‘son of man’ is found only on Jesus’ lips, with the single exception of the vision of the open heavens that is granted to the dying Stephen: ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the son of Man standing at the right hand of God’ (Acts 7:56). At the moment of his death, Stephen sees what Jesus had foretold during his trial before the Sanhedrin: ‘You will see the son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven’ (Mk 14:62). Stephen is therefore actually ‘citing’ a saying of Jesus, the truth of which he is privileged to behold at the very moment of his martyrdom.
This is an important finding. The Christology of the New Testament writers, including the Evangelists, builds not on the title ‘son of man;’ but on the titles that were already beginning to circulate during Jesus’ lifetime: ‘Messiah’ (Christ), ‘Kyrios’ (Lord), ‘son of God:’ The designation ‘son of man’ is typical for Jesus’ own sayings; in the preaching of the Apostles, its content is transferred to the other titles, but this particular title is not used. This is actually a clear finding. And yet a huge debate has developed around it in modern exegesis; anyone who tries to get to the bottom of it finds himself in a graveyard of mutually contradictory hypotheses. A discussion of this debate lies outside the scope of this book.”[vi]
The Pope does not intend to go into this debate, but as they say the cat is out of the bag, all his life Jesus uses the term son of man, time and time again and the Pope himself has conceded that the Christology of the New Testament writers, including the Evangelists, build not on the title ‘son of man;’ but on the titles that were mostly developed after his crucifixion. Jesus was son of man, during his lifetime and he was put on the cross with the caption ‘King of the Jews;’ his divinity was a later invention and that is why we find it in Gospel of John rather than Gospel of Mark and the other synoptic gospels.
I humbly invite you that instead of continuing to focus on the complex theology of Trinity in the twenty first century, return to the Monotheism of Judaism and the simple, yet elegant creed of Islam, ‘there is no God but Allah.’ Allow me to extend the invitation in the words of the Holy Quran:
The Pope has suggested on the back cover of the hardcover edition of the book Jesus of Nazareth, “this book is … my personal search ‘for the face of the Lord.'” So, I thought that it would be befitting to extend him this invitation mostly in the paradigm of his own book, using some of the metaphors that he has used. In the last chapter he delves into what the Church has sympathetically called a mystery and Søren Aabye Kierkegaard calls a paradox par excellence, yes, I am alluding to the dogma of Trinity. The Pope writes:
“Is he ‘son’ in a derivative sense, referring to some special closeness to God, or does the term ‘son’ imply that within God himself there is Father and son, that the son is truly “equal to God;’ true God from true God? The First Council of Nicea (325) summed up the result of this fierce debate over Jesus’ sonship in the word homoousios) ‘of the same substance’ – the only philosophical term that was incorporated into the Creed. This philosophical term serves, however, to safeguard the reliability of the biblical term. It tells us that when Jesus’ witnesses call him ‘the son;’ this statement is not meant in a mythological or political sense-those being the two most obvious interpretations given the context of the time. Rather, it is meant to be understood quite literally: Yes, in God himself there is an eternal dialogue between Father and son, who are both truly one and the same God in the Holy Spirit.”[vii]
These expressions may have some emotional appeal to someone who has been indoctrinated into Christianity over a lifetime but to the uninitiated these amount to nothing. First of all, the Nicene Creed claims that Jesus is of the same substance as the Father. Now, the Father is a perfect God and the son is a composite of a perfect man and a perfect God. Is a part the same as the whole? Are all humans of the same substance as God? If we use our deductive logic rather than befogging lenses of the so called faith, the issue is clear and black and white and is a paradox par excellence. Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, who crossing the boundaries of philosophy, theology, psychology, and literature, had come to be regarded as a highly significant and influential figure in contemporary thought, suggested this strategy to the fellow Christians:
“It is not the business of any Christian writer or preacher to dilute Christianity to suit the general educated public. The doctrine of the incarnation was to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, and so will it always be, for the doctrine not only transcends reason; it the paradox par excellence; and it can be affirmed only by faith, with passionate inwardness and interest. The substitution of reason for faith means the death of Christianity.”
The strategy of ignoring reason has been a success in the last two centuries, for the clergy. But, what Kierkegaard could not foresee is the information age with its millions of websites. It will be hard to hide behind the veil of ‘faith’ alone and run away from reason and rationality. It is self evident that faith cannot be divorced from reason. If man needed faith alone, any cult would be as good as any religion and all human affairs will completely collapse.
The concept of Trinity was developed in a society in which polytheism was the norm and no one tried to fully comprehend the implications of polytheism. In that environment Trinity with its one side revealing Monotheism, was a vast improvement over the polytheism rampant in the Roman Empire in the first few centuries after Jesus’ crucifixion. The model of prophets, as in Judaism and Islam, is easy to understand, as all humans have experienced dreams, and some have experienced true dreams, so they can imagine more accurate revelations. The ideas of Trinity and incarnation and Jesus being a perfect man and a perfect god made sense in the medieval times but not anymore! I have a detailed Google Knol that examines different aspects of Trinity.[viii] The fact of the matter is that the term Trinity not only does not appear in the New Testament, but was not coined until two centuries later by the Christian theologian, Tertullian.[ix]
We can agree on God the Creator
The foregoing should not make the reader think that there is not much common between Christianity and Islam, especially between the teachings of Muhammad and Jesus, may peace be on both. The name of Jesus, may peace be on him appears more frequently in the Holy Quran than the name of Muhammad, himself. A chapter of the Quran is named after mother Mary and she is presented as a role model, for all Muslims, men and women.
To look for common thread between the Christian and the Muslim theology we can start at Deism or liberal Protestantism. One could study the religion of President Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine. There is a lot in their views that a Muslim and a Christian can agree on. I have a detailed Google Knol that examines the thoughts and beliefs of President Thomas Jefferson.[x] Here let me mention some quotes from the other two. About March 1, 1790, Benjamin Franklin wrote the following in a letter to Ezra Stiles, president of Yale, who had asked him his views on religion:
As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupt changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his divinity; tho’ it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and I think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble.[xi]
My dear Pope, the Muslims and the Catholics can agree on the deism as Thomas Payne, Benjamin Franklin and President Thomas Jefferson put it, in recognizing that God is the Creator of our Universe, in so doing we will at least define a theist in his or her bare minimum as opposed to an agnostic or an atheist. Thomas Paine concluded a speech shortly after the French Revolution with: “God is the power of first cause, nature is the law, and matter is the subject acted upon.”
In his book The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine wrote that “everything we behold carries in itself the internal evidence that it did not make itself. This includes trees, plants, humans and other animals. This conclusion carries us on … to the belief of a first cause eternally existing … this first cause, man calls God.”
I find the thoughts and beliefs of Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin and President Thomas Jefferson, perfectly in synchrony with this famous verse of the Holy Quran:
“He is Allah, the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner. His are the most beautiful names. All that is in the heavens and the earth glorifies Him, and He is the Mighty, the Wise.” (Al Quran 59:25)
I know in your book Introduction To Christianity, you try to make a distinction between God of Faith (Personal God) and God of the philosophers, I will comment on that from the Muslim perspective in the review of another of your books, The God of Jesus Christ: meditations on the Triune God.
Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to Ezra Stiles and Professor Phillip Cary quoted, in his lecture series the History of Christian Theology:
“Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped. That the most acceptable service we render to Him is in doing good to His other Children. That the soul of Man is immortal, and will be treated with Justice in another Life respecting its conduct in this.”[xii]
My dear Pope, you would note absence of Pauline creed of ‘justification by faith alone,’ in the religion of Benjamin Franklin. This idea of the great polymath is none other than what is also preached in the letter of James in the New Testament and is precisely an Islamic and Quranic idea.[xiii] You write about the purpose and achievements of Jesus:
“Now, it is true that this leads to the great question that will be with us throughout this entire book: What did Jesus actually bring, if not world peace, universal prosperity, and a better world? What has he brought?
The answer is very simple: God. He has brought God. He has brought the God who formerly unveiled his countenance gradually, first to Abraham, then to Moses and the Prophets, and then in the Wisdom Literature–the God who revealed his face only in Israel, even though he was also honored among the pagans in various shadowy guises. It is this God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the true God, whom he has brought to the nations of the earth.
He has brought God, and now we know his face, now we can call upon him. Now we know the path that we human beings have to take in this world. Jesus has brought God and with God the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love. It is only because of our hardness of heart that we think this is too little. Yes indeed, God’s power works quietly in this world, but it is the true and lasting power. Again and again, God’s cause seems to be in its death throes. Yet over and over again it proves to be the thing that truly endures and saves.”[xiv]
As Muslims we completely agree with the basic thesis as outlined in the above paragraphs. We believe in all the prophets that you mention, including Jesus. He did bring ‘the truth about our origin and destiny: faith, hope, and love.’ You also mention, ‘God who revealed his face only in Israel, even though he was also honored among the pagans in various shadowy guises,’ as Muslims we believe that God revealed himself to all nations of the world, but over time they corrupted the message and pagan ideas crept in different guises, as you suggest. These historical events and the prophet hood of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and others, define the context, in which we should try to understand the essence and message of Jesus. If we recognize this context then Christology becomes at odds with not only Judaism but also all other religions that originally started with God’s unveiling His Countenance to the prophets, including but not limited to Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism and Hinduism! This highlights the pressing need to learn from the theology of President Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Paine and start using that as a common platform to examine Christianity and Islam.
You have on several occasions in your writings highlighted that human life is centered around one God and we the Muslims agree with that thesis. The early opponents of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, thought that he is utterly obsessed with One God, Allah. The same devotion and dedication is reflected in the psyche of religious Christians with a slight modification. When we examine essence of Christianity, we find that our Christian brethren have an obsession with one person named Jesus Christ. This is not my idea but of Prof Phillip Cary. He brings this out in his teaching company course of the History of Christian Theology. But, is not God the Father more deserving of our devotion and constant obsession, if you will? The Christian obsession needs to be transferred to God Himself the Creator of this universe including the human race. The obsession is misplaced when directed at a person, however, charismatic or accomplished. If our obsession is primarily with God and secondarily with Moses, Jesus or Muhammad, may peace be on them all, many of our spiritual, religious and political problems and differences will disappear in thin air. If the Christian obsession can be fine tuned from Jesus to God the Father then we the Muslims can share the obsession as the Holy Quran says about the Prophet Muhammad:
“Say, ‘My Prayer and my sacrifice and my life and my death are all for Allah, the Lord of the worlds.” (Al Quran 6:163)
The Muslims love the Prophet Muhammad dearly but they are allowed to obsess about and worship Allah alone, the Creator of the universe.
The context of Judaism
Achievements of every person and every event in history need to be interpreted in the context of the events. Of course, Jesus, may peace be on him needs to be understood in the context of Judaism. He was born in a Jewish family, grew up as a Jew and preached to the Jews all his life and tried to explain the Jewish law during the Sermon of the Mount. Prof. Bart Ehrman explains the importance of context, in a lecture series on the New Testament for the teaching company with a very simple yet effective metaphor:
“The context of a word or group of words is always crucial for interpretation. What would it mean, for example, if I said, ‘I love this course’? Well, it would depend on where I am, what I am doing, and what the word course means (course of a meal, golf course, college course) or how I inflect the word love.”[xv]
If the sentence is said sarcastically with appropriate inflection on the word love, it would mean the exact opposite that I hate this course. It is not only the context of monotheism as understood by the Jews but also of the Unitarian Christians. The fact of the matter is that Unitarian Christianity continued to be the majority as compared to the Trinitarian Christianity for the first four centuries. It is stated in 1890 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, “The Trinitarians and the Unitarians continued to confront each other, the latter at the beginning of the third century still forming the large majority.” In The Encyclopedia Americana we read:
“Unitarianism as a theological movement began much earlier in history; indeed it antedated Trinitarianism by many decades. Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian [believing that God is one person]. The Road which led from Jerusalem to the Council of Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching.”[xvi]
The above claims become glaringly obvious to any unbiased reader, if he or she examines the history of Ecumenical Councils and heresy in the first 6 centuries of Christian evolution, some references and sources have been linked here.[xvii][xviii][xix]
The conflict between the teachings of Jesus and Christology
Whenever Jesus had an opportunity to teach to the masses before his crucifixion, he never taught them about any form of Christology, rather he enlightened them about the interpretation of Jewish Law. See the Sermon of the Mount:
“And the Jews say, ‘The Christians stand on nothing;’ and the Christians say, ‘The Jews stand on nothing;’ while they both read the same Book. Even thus said those who had no knowledge, like what they say. But Allah shall judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that wherein they disagree.” (Al Quran 2:114)
The inference of this verse to my mind is that in every area, wherein Judaism differs from Christianity, we can find useful discussion for theology. Pursuing these areas will yield better understanding of monotheistic Abrahamic traditions. Now I want to move to a confession in the words of Pope Benedict XVI that Jesus taught Kingdom of God and not Christology. The explanation that he offers, later, to resolve the conflict, is perhaps for the converted only, but the conflict is blatant and evident for every one to see. Jesus preaches ‘Kingdom of God,’ in 122 places in the New Testament and not Christology. The Pope writes:
Cross examining the testimony of Synoptic Gospels about Jesus, Mark 8
His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI writes, trying to explain the essence of Jesus, may peace be on him, and I have taken the liberty of putting my words within brackets here:
Let us see how worth while the testimony of Peter is, when Jesus labels him as Satan? For that let me first quote a large portion from Mark chapter 8:
“Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, ‘Who do people say I am?’They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.’‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ’Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.He then began to teach them that the son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. ‘Get behind me, Satan!’ he said. ‘You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.'” (Mark 8: 27-38, New International Version)
Cross examining the witness: Matthew 16
When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[d] will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.”Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matthew 16:13-28 New International Version)
Incidentally, the apocalyptic prophecy, of second coming of Jesus in his kingdom, mentioned in the last of the quoted verses did not come true.
Cross examining the witness: Luke 9
Let me first quote a large portion from Luke chapter 9, before examining it:
Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?”They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:18-27, New International Version)
Contrasting the history of Christian and Muslim theology
“It is roughly correct to say that in Islam the place of theology is taken by law and jurisprudence. Those who deal with the intellectual aspects of the religion are jurists and not theologians, and at the centre of higher education is jurisprudence and not theology. In other words, Islam is more concerned with orthopraxy than orthodoxy. This comes about because the early development of Islam and Christianity took place in very different circumstances. The first Christians lived in the Roman empire, where there was an effective system of law of excellent quality, and for three hundred years the Christians had no political responsibilities. The first Muslims, on the other hand, lived in Mecca, Medina and other parts of Arabia, where nomadic customary law was breaking down because there were now communities based mainly on either commerce or agriculture. From the time of the Hijra the leading Muslims were responsible for the affairs of a political community, and consequently we find in the Qur’an rules for dealing with the practical problems which arose. As the centuries passed these grew into a complete system of law, both public and private, as well as prescriptions for the practice of religion.”[xxiv]
The general USA population consists of 26.3% Evangelical Protestant Christians, 18.1% Mainline Protestant Christians, 23.9% Catholic Christians and 6.9% population belonging to historically Black Churches. These numbers imply that approximately 75% of the population is Christian. The rest of the 25% includes the largest share of unaffiliated, which makes 16.1% of the total population,[xxvii]and second group of 9.9%, comprising of all the other religions, including Islam and Judaism. With every ticking of the clock the proportion of the unaffiliated keeps increasing. The proportion of the unaffiliated, which means agnostics or atheists, is larger in Canada and Europe. Coming to the close of my invitation, I want to go to the beginning of your book to the introduction section that you start with the following paragraph:
“The Book of Deuteronomy contains a promise that is completely different from the messianic hope expressed in other books of the Old Testament, yet it is of decisive importance for understanding the figure of Jesus. The object of this promise is not a king of Israel and king of the world-a new David, in other words-but a new Moses. Moses himself, however, is interpreted as a prophet. The category ‘prophet’ is seen here as something totally specific and unique, in contrast to the surrounding religious world, something that Israel alone has in this particular form. This new and different element is a consequence of the uniqueness of the faith in God that was granted to Israel. In every age, man’s questioning has focused not only on his ultimate origin; almost more than the obscurity of his beginnings, what preoccupies him is the hiddenness of the future that awaits him. Man wants to tear aside the curtain; he wants to know what is going to happen, so that he can avoid perdition and set out toward salvation.”[xxviii]
“Why do I believe in God? As a physicist, I look at nature from a particular perspective. I see an orderly, beautiful universe in which nearly all physical phenomena can be understood from a few simple mathematical equations. I see a universe that, had it been constructed slightly differently, would never have given birth to stars and planets, let alone bacteria and people. And there is no good scientific reason for why the universe should not have been different. Many good scientists have concluded from these observations that an intelligent God must have chosen to create the universe with such beautiful, simple, and life-giving properties. Many other equally good scientists are nevertheless atheists. Both conclusions are positions of faith. Recently, the philosopher and long-time atheist Anthony Flew changed his mind and decided that, based on such evidence, he should believe in God. I find these arguments suggestive and supportive of belief in God, but not conclusive. I believe in God because I can feel God’s presence in my life, because I can see the evidence of God’s goodness in the world, because I believe in Love and because I believe that God is Love.”[xxix]
“We can furnish conclusive proof to every seeker after truth that from the time of our lord and master the Holy Prophet Muhammad [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] up to this day, in every century there have appeared men of God through whom God Almighty has guided other people by the display of heavenly signs. Of these were Sayyed ‘Abd-ul-Qadir Jilani, Abu-al-Hasan Kharqani, Abu Yazid Bistami, Junaid Baghdadi, Mohy-ud-Din Ibne-‘Arabi, Dhunnun Misri, Mu‘in-ud-Din Chishti Ajmeri, Qutb-ud-Din Bakhtiar Kaki, Farid-ud-Din Pakpatni, Nizam-ud-Din Dehlvi, Shah Wali-ullah Dehlvi, and Sheikh Ahmad Sarhandi (Allah is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Him). Their number exceeded thousands. So many extraordinary happenings concerning them are set out in the books of the learned ones that even a very bigoted opponent has to admit that these people manifested extraordinary signs and miracles. I tell you truly that through my research, so far as it is possible for one to discover about the past, I have come to the conclusion that the number of heavenly signs in support of Islam and as a testimony of the truth of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him] which have been manifested through the saints of this Ummah, is not to be equalled in the history of other religions. Islam is the only religion which has progressed through heavenly signs, and its numberless lights and blessings have ever demonstrated the existence of God Almighty as if He is visible close at hand. Be sure that on the score of its heavenly signs Islam has not been put to shame in any age. In this age of yours, you could, if you wished, be the witnesses of signs in support of Islam. Say truly: have you not witnessed signs in support of Islam in your own age? Is there any other religion in the world that can produce such testimony?These indeed are the reasons which have broken the back of Christian missionaries. He whom they set up as god has nothing in his support except a few meaningless tales and false narratives. The signs of the truth of the Holy Prophet [peace and blessings of Allah be on him], whom they reject, are visible in this age like pouring rain. For seekers the gates of heavenly signs are as open today as they were in any previous age, and for those who are hungry after truth the banquet of bounties is as much available today as it was before. A living faith is as much available today as it was before. A living faith has always the hand of the Living God at its back and such a faith is Islam.”
[iii] Edward Gibbon, Peter Eckler. History of Christianity. New york, Peter Eckler publishing Company – 1916 – Page xvi.
- [Kitab-ul-Bariyyah, Ruhani Khaza’in, Vol. 13, pp. 91-92] Also included in the Essence of Islam, volume I: http://www.alislam.org/books/Essence-1.pdf