I have from time to time been asked why, as a Christian, I have such a high regard for the religion of Islam, and other times I have been asked what I thought of the religion of Islam. I’ve also been asked by Muslims why I was not Muslim after making the statement that I believed Muhammad was a prophet of God. The explanation of how I feel on the matter was long and very drawn out and could not be explained in a few minutes given I was in a chat room at the time and I type very slowly. So here I will attempt to explain my view on the matter.
What does it mean to be of Islam? To translate it for clarity of our non-Islam viewers, what does it mean to believe in and be one devoted to or submissive to God? To understand this we must first define what a true believer is and for this we turn to Qur’an 2:177 - It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers; to spend of your substance, out of love for Him, for your kin, for orphans, for the needy, for the wayfarer, for those who ask, and for the ransom of slaves; to be steadfast in prayer, and practice regular charity; to fulfill the contracts which ye have made; and to be firm and patient, in pain (or suffering) and adversity, and throughout all periods of panic. Such are the people of truth, the Allah (God)-fearing.
Who is a true believer? We turn again to the Qur’an in 2:62 - Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans - whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right - surely their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. If Islam is any who are believers in God and the prophets; then even if I follow the basic beliefs of Christendom with greater understanding and I believe in God and the prophets and the Last Day, I am of Islam and in a sense a Muslim.
How can I be Christian and still embrace the Muslim teaching? To understand this you must understand what was happening within the early Christian church. You must put yourself in the place of the Prophet Muhammad in the age in which he lived. The Prophet assumed everyone knew who Jesus was but he also knew of some of the strange pagan beliefs and misconceptions about Jesus that had sprung up. He understood that because of misconceptions of the teaching of Paul almost all laws given by God to Moses were tossed away by the early Christians with the exception of the Ten Commandments. Priestcrafts and pagan idolatry in the form of saints was beginning to take hold in the early Christian church. It was and still believed that the saints and priests could intercede on behalf of the individual in some Christian sects. Early scriptures were cobbled together to become the Holy Bible we have today. Not everything written became part of the Bible. The Bible, as a general guide for living, it was ok but it lacked specifics.
The Prophet Muhammad knew he would be the last prophet and would seal the dispensation and the things of Heaven and the world would be plunged into a spiritual dark age. What he had to do was leave us a clear path that would address all these problems and be a guide to his people until God would again send a prophet to give warning to the world of the Last Day as the end draws near. The Prophet Muhammad had to do all this while struggling to survive and establish the true religion once again.
It is believed by the Muslim world that the Prophet Muhammad was an ignorant person unable to read or write. Given his upbringing and living part of his life as a merchant I find this hard to believe. I have no doubt that he may have felt that there were others who were much better at reading and writing than he was but it is highly improbable that he could not read or write at all. I see the Prophet Muhammad as being a bit like the Prophet Moses. When God called Moses into his service Moses told God, “I am not eloquent, but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” I see Muhammad doing pretty much the same thing. He told God, “I can’t read or write.” However, God does not take “No” for an answer very well. Don’t believe me; just ask the Prophet Jonah who tried to run away when God called him. God knows what is best and prepares the way before those he calls into His service.
To understand my position you must also understand who Jesus was. Jesus was a servant of God but he was not really a prophet in the strict sense of the word. Christ was not his last name it was his title or position of authority. He is the only intercessor for all men and he is the mediator between man and God so that God can interact with sinful and corrupt mortal beings and remain pure and undefiled by sin of any kind. I make the argument for there being an intercessor from the following in the Qur’an: 21:28 - He knows what is before them, and what is behind them, and they offer no intercession except for those who are acceptable, and they stand in awe and reverence of His (Glory). 19:87 - None shall have the power of intercession, but such a one as has received permission (or promise) from (Allah) Most Gracious. 53:26 - How many-so-ever be the angels in the heavens, their intercession will avail nothing except after Allah has given leave for whom He pleases and that he is acceptable to Him. 78:37-38 - (From) the Lord of the heavens and the earth, and all between, (Allah) Most Gracious: None shall have power to argue with Him. The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand forth in ranks, none shall speak except any who is permitted by (Allah) Most Gracious, and He will say what is right. It does not get any clearer than that; there is some kind of intercession. It is clear that the rules are if there is someone who can intercede he has to have received permission to make intercession but only for those who are acceptable before God and he will only say that which is right. However, the early Christian view of multiple intercessors (saints and priests) having the power to intercede on our behalf was indeed a false teaching as the Prophet pointed out. This led to the worship of the saints above the level of hero worship (of sports stars) today in that they would and still pray to those saints today. Various other scriptures make it clear that if there is anyone who can intercede on our behalf and has permission to do so it is only Jesus. The down side is he will only say that which is right; a bit like have an attorney that is both the defense and the prosecutor at the same time.
How did the Prophet Muhammad view Jesus? First, he saw him as a sign to all men. 23:50 - And We made the son of Marium and his mother a sign... 21:91 - ...We breathed into her of Our spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples. Second, not only was he a sign to all men but he was also a Mercy from God. 19:21 - He said: "So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, 'that is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us': It is a matter (so) decreed." This Mercy from God was decreed or ordained by God. Here the Prophet does not explain this because at the time it was something everyone should have understood if you had bothered to read the biblical scriptures. It should be noted that a lot of the Qur’an is written that way. It assumes that the reader already has a certain level of knowledge about certain things. Jesus was not just a Mercy from God; he was God’s Mercy. This is what the atonement was all about. Jesus was the Christ, the chosen one. This is what all the Mosaic Law dealing with animal sacrifice was all about. It was a similitude of the ultimate sacrifice by the Christ to atone for the original sin of man. This was a thing decreed by God before the world was even made. This is what the Prophet Muhammad assumed everyone knew.
Following in the footsteps of the prophets Jesus confirmed all that came before him and then added something new from God. 5:46 - And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. The Gospel was new doctrine from God; a Gospel of love and peace (Bible - Mt:5:44: But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;). This Gospel went beyond both the Mosaic Law and the Law of the Qur’an but it did not invalidate either which was the minimum standard God would except of men who could not abide by the Gospel’s higher standard. The Gospel given to Jesus raised the bar well beyond anything taught in the Qur’an. Matt. 5:27 - Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: 28: But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. What is in the heart of a man is who he really is, and it is the heart of men (and women) that will be judged on the Last Day. The Gospel given to Jesus went beyond the realm of right actions.
In the Qur’an we find where the Prophet calls Jesus the Word of God (4:171 - ...Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him...) and to understand this we look at the Book of John in the Bible where we find this: John 1:1 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2: The same was in the beginning with God. 3: All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.14: And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us... At first glance it would seem to say Jesus was God, but what does it mean for a servant to be the Word of his master? How close do you think that made Jesus to God? Jesus could do nothing but the will of God and it is this closeness of Jesus to God John was trying to convey. Jesus was not God, the Father of All, but I would not want challenge the divine right of the Word of God to do his Master’s bidding and act in his Master’s stead.
Not all prophets were created equal, and even to the Prophet Muhammad, Jesus stood out as a special prophet. 2:253 - Those messengers We endowed with gifts, some above others: To one of them Allah spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honor); to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit... Jesus the Christ is one of the most often mentioned prophets within the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad spent a great deal of effort to correct the most common misconceptions about him driving home the point he was trying to make time and time again.
Was Jesus the Son of God? We are all his children but only two of them are special cases, Adam and Jesus. Both were created directly by God; Adam from a lump of clay. Jesus was born or begotten by Mary and hence Jesus became known as the only begotten child of God. However, I have seen the lie in this day and age and to think that God would defile or even have need to defile himself by laying with a mortal woman is a blasphemy beyond imagining. In this God has no sons or daughters. He needs only to say “Be,” for a thing to come into being. 19:88 - And they say: "The Most Beneficent (Allâh) has begotten a son (or offspring or children) [as the Jews say: 'Uzair (Ezra) is the son of Allâh, and the Christians say that He has begotten a son ['Iesa (Christ) ], and the pagan Arabs say that He has begotten daughters (angels, etc.)]." Everywhere the Prophet Muhammad looked people of that age attributed sons and daughters to God, a thing most blasphemous, and the pagan gods of Rome were the worst of the lot in the depraved way they spawned children. Still, God sees us (and all living things), his creations, as his children. In this context it is not surprising that God introduces Jesus as a son in whom he was well pleased. But, in truth God has no children in a sexually produced sense and the Prophet Muhammad would drive this point home again and again.
The most misunderstood scripture in the Qur’an deals with the death of Jesus. 4:157 - That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- For a surety Jesus did die as do all men, but true believers do not really die. 2:154 - And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah: "They are dead." Nay, they are living, though ye perceive (it) not. Then we look at what Jesus himself said. 19:33 - "So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"! Jesus expected to be raise up to life again. They took Jesus and beat him to a bloody pulp, nailed him to a cross, ran him through with a spear, then buried him and sealed his tomb, and as Jesus was a sign to all men of things to come (resurrection, Day of Judgment, etc.) Jesus did not stayed dead for long before God, in due time, raise him up to life again. 4:158 - ...Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;-. You could have run Jesus over with a steam roller and buried him in the center of the Earth and he still would not have stayed dead. No true believer really dies and Jesus became a literal example of this fact becoming the first fruits of those yet to be resurrected to stand before God on the Last Day to be judged according to their faith and deeds, and good deeds alone, like faith alone, will avail you nothing except a better place in the fires of Hell.
What is the Qur’an? In its simplest form it is an updated version of the Mosaic Law minus all those things (animal sacrifice, etc.) pertaining to the coming of the Christ. Christ having come brought an end to those things concerning him and so rightfully they were not included as part of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is a guide for our daily lives as are all the scriptures. However, it was written 1500 years ago and must be understood in that context as the Muslims were struggling to exist and secure their place in the world. It was a brutal time in which to live, more so for women because they were treated as property often with less value than a man’s horse. As brutal as the Qur’an may seem, it advance women’s right a hundred fold, and tempered the old Mosaic Law; for under it there many more ways to get stoned to death for even the slightest infraction of the Law. As Paul went a little overboard trying to make a point which through misunderstanding caused that the entire Mosaic Law to be set aside by the early Christian church; so too did the Prophet Muhammad go a little overboard in reestablishing an updated version of the Law and creating a guide for his followers, and through misunderstandings this has also caused problems.
The Qur’an was never meant to be a stand-alone scripture. The Prophet Muhammad was telling us to read the scriptures long before pen was put to paper to write the Qur’an. What were those scriptures? Everything not included in the Qur’an that was written by a prophet of God or writings worthy to be called scripture as historical narration of God’s dealings with man. We are encumbered to read all scriptures regardless of their state of accuracy. The Spirit of God will rightly guide us as we seek the truth if it be God’s will. Without the other scriptures to balance out the Qur’an it is inevitable that some must stumble and fall into disputes with one another over points of doctrine. If this was not true then there would be no sects among the Muslims, but today not all are rightly guided. So rigidly followed over time, the spirit in which the Qur’an was written has been lost, and what was once plain before the eyes of men is now hidden from their view.
How accurate is the Qur’an? Translation from Arabic to English is not exact and so something of the meaning is lost in transition. With multiple versions of English translation it is hard to know which one is best. In Arabic it is more accurate than the Holy Bible but only as accurate as the understanding and mistakes of men have allowed it to be. Hopefully, the men who put the Qur’an together were rightly guided. Is it all there? I would quote the Prophet Muhammad, “If the oceans were ink and seven more behind them there still would not be enough ink to write all the words and works of God.” To think that the Qur’an, a very small book, is all there is is a mistake I am not willing to make.
While many Muslims would be quick to point out that there are many versions of the Bible compared to the Qur’an, and this would be true, the actual ancient manuscripts on which those versions are based are not nearly so numerous they would have us believe. However, the Muslim claim that the Bible is not entirely complete would be quite accurate. There is so much more in the way of scripture that did not find its way into holy writ than could be contained in any one book. As true believers we are to read (all) the scriptures of which the Qur’an is just another book of God’s words to humanity.
Muhammad was the last prophet of his dispensation, but I do not believe he would be the last prophet that would ever to walk upon the Earth. 16:84 - One Day We shall raise from all Peoples a Witness: then will no excuse be accepted from Unbelievers, nor will they receive any favors. It is interesting to note that most English translation translate 16:84 as the one above. But, one of the latest English translations it is translated thus: And (remember) the Day when we shall raise up from each nation a witness (their Messenger), then, those who have disbelieved will not be given leave (to put forward excuses), nor will they be allowed (to return to the world) to repent and ask for Allah’s Forgiveness (of their sins, etc.). While this may immediately seem to be talking about the past because of the word (remember) throws you; it is actually written in future tense. And the Day when we shall raise up from each nation a witness, then... No matter how I look at it we are to look forward to one or more prophets. But, until that day comes when the promised prophet(s) comes forth Muhammad was the last prophet and the seal of testimonies of all those prophets who came before him. Muhammad took his authority with him and those who tried to claim it for themselves after his death could not have it and those who did try and lay claim to his authority were nothing but liars seeking power over the people. All the Prophet Muhammad left was a basic guide (the Qur’an) and teachers to help keep us on the path but over time these teachers elevated or tried to elevate themselves to positions of power and ceased to be helpers along the path to God. Because of this the Muslim people divided themselves into sects and ceased altogether to follow the true path to God. While I can embrace Islam with all my heart I can never be a part of a people so wrongly guided that they are willing to kill each other over disputes over doctrines of no real consequence.
If Muhammad returned today I can be pretty sure a number of shrines would be burnt to the ground and the ground on which they stood would be salted because of the idols of flesh (saints) that some Muslims have created for themselves. The Prophet condemned this practice among the Christians. What makes anyone think he would accept it of the Muslims today? It is one thing to tell stories and honor great men of faith, but it is another to build shrines to them. This is hero worship taken much too far and that Muslims are willing to kill each other over whose saint is the best is abhorrent to me and I will not be a part of that in any form. There is only one God and Muhammad was his prophet. There are no others!
I have no problem with the concept of being a Muslim in the pure understanding of the meaning of the word. Nor do I have a problem with the doctrines and the laws of the Muslim faith. But, I have learned that once a Muslim the next question you are asked is: are you a Shi’a or Sunni? This is where I have to part company because to answer this question is to reject being of Islam on many different levels. Modern day Muslims who practice their faith as written are the best of people without a doubt, but there are those who have taken the words of God given to the Prophet Muhammad and twisted them beyond recognition. For proof one need look no further than what is going on in Iraq (and the Middle East) between the two warring sects to see this. Then look at Afghanistan and I have to ask, how can a government, like the Taliban, even exist in Islam? Add to this the people hiding behind the Muslim faith trying to start a holy war against unbelievers everywhere in the name of God. These people warp the minds of believers, mostly the young, who have become disillusioned with their economic circumstance, world events, and the stagnation of their religion. Rather than war upon those things on the inside of the heart that can make real change they war upon the things outside the heart of which they are envious. If ever there was a holy war needed it is needed to cleanse the house of the Prophet Muhammad.
Divided into sects that have been warring with each other for more than a 1000 years the Muslim faith has stagnated as a religion. Dogmatically Muslims cling rigidly to the past saying the words but not really understanding them. If a prophet of God, with clear authority, were to come to the Muslims today they would reject and quite possibly kill him, but they are not alone as the Christians or anyone else would do the same. No one really wants to be encumbered with more of the things of God than they already have. Muslims say they accept all of God’s messengers (not just Muhammad), but how many have actually read all the words the other prophets wrote? If this is what converting to a Muslim will make me a part of, I cannot go down this path.
It becomes a question of honor and the perception of others. Despite its meaning in Arabic, Muslim has become a name for just another religion in the world. Like the Christians of the past, the Muslims of today are viewed as a people willing to wage war on each other and the rest of the world to force people onto their own path to God. My honor could not let me stand idly by and watch the terror, death, and mayhem committed in the name of my religion, my God, and my prophet and not speak out with a voice that would shake the world. Here are the words from another religion and one of their prophets of another time faced with a similar problem: Book of Mormon - Alma 46:12 - And it came to pass that he rent his coat; and he took a piece thereof, and wrote upon it—In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children—and he fastened it upon the end of a pole. 13 - And he fastened on his head-plate, and his breastplate, and his shields, and girded on his armor about his loins; and he took the pole, which had on the end thereof his rent coat, (and he called it the title of liberty) and he bowed himself to the earth, and he prayed mightily unto his God for the blessings of liberty to rest upon his brethren,... 19 - ...he went forth among the people, waving the rent part of his garment in the air, that all might see the writing which he had written upon the rent part, and crying with a loud voice, saying: 20 - Behold, whosoever will maintain this title upon the land, let them come forth in the strength of the Lord, and enter into a covenant that they will maintain their rights, and their religion, that the Lord God may bless them. 36 - And it came to pass also, that he caused the title of liberty to be hoisted upon every tower which was in all the land... How can I become a part of a people (religion) unwilling to hoist their own title of liberty and purge themselves of those who claim to be true believers and yet would pollute the words of God (given to the Prophet Muhammad) and lead their children unto their own destruction on Earth and in the hereafter in the name of all they hold most dear?
I know what a true martyr is and it is not someone willing sell their life cheaply by strapping on explosives and killing innocent people along with themselves. A martyr is a person who is willing to stand firm in the faith in the face of danger and willing to fight the enemy, openly, with all his might, to the very end of life’s last breath. Whether you die on the battlefield or in bed ravaged by old age, it is the same.
The enemy can take many forms, but the greatest enemy is the one within ourselves. The cycle of violence that is beginning to engulf the world must be broken for the sake of the children. If this cycle is not broken it will haunt our children’s, children’s, children and so on forever. I cannot be a part of something that will leave this kind of heritage to future generations. I can not believe that the Prophet Muhammad would have wanted this for his people either.
I am a Christian by default because I believe in Jesus the Christ, a son of the living God. He is a sign, a taste of things to come, a Mercy from God unto all men and women, but Jesus is not and was not God. There is only one God and Muhammad was just one of many messengers sent by God to the different peoples of the Earth. I do not put one prophet above another. I believe the Qur’an to be the word of God as I do of all the other scriptures as far as they are translated correctly.
Because of the reasons I have poorly attempted to explain to you, the reader, I must embrace the way of Islam with all my heart. But, I must reject the idea of being a Muslim (the religion) until such time as they are rightly guided and seek to be one people with one heart devoted only to the glory of God once again. This is what it means to be one with God. Amen.