Characteristics of Divine Religion (continued)
- True religion acknowledges and honors all God’s prophets and corroborates their teachings. Islam does not claim a monopoly on faith nor does it deny the messages and prophethood of other prophets.
Say, [O believers], “We have believed in God and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Tribes and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [in submission] to Him.” (Quran 2:136)
Islam is not a new faith, rather it is the faith of all prophets of God, from Adam to Muhammad, peace be upon them. Muhammad, peace be upon him, is not the only prophet, but the last link in a chain of prophets.
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “Verily, my example and the example of the prophets before me can be likened to a man who built a house and paid great attention to its beautification and decoration. However, he leaves a place empty for one brick at its corner. People would walk around this house and would become astonished as to why this single place has been left empty. Then, the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘I am that brick and I am the Seal of the Prophets.” (Ṣaḥîḥ Al-Bukhari, 3535)
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If a Muslim does not believe in, for example, Moses or Jesus, peace be upon them, then his faith is flawed as he is denying large parts of the Quran. The only woman mentioned in the Quran by name is Mary, mother of Jesus. In Islam, Mary, peace be upon her, is the most virtuous and devout woman on Earth and the Quran attests to her virginity in the face of accusations against her chastity. Moreover, the Quran refers to Jesus as “son of Mary,” anchoring Jesus in her uniqueness.
- The universally true religion is open to all, not to a select group only.
Say, [O Muhammad], “O Mankind, indeed I am the Messenger of God to you all.” (Quran 7:158)
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve: An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white except by piety and good action.” (from the Last Sermon of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him)
- True religion is simple, without any complexity, convoluted philosophy or contradictions. Religion is for all and should be understandable by all, including the man in the street, including the child. It is not just for scholars or clerics.
Then do they not reflect upon the Quran? If it had been from [any] other than God, they would have found within it much contradiction. (Quran 4:82)
The concept of God sending himself to sacrifice himself to Himself in order to save humankind from Himself is a convoluted philosophy added to Christianity after the earthly departure of Jesus, peace be upon him. Similarly, the bewildering concept of Trinity (composed of three co-equal and co-eternal ‘persons’ in one ) was absent in the first three centuries of Christian history. Divine Incarnation (where God changes from divine to human and back) contradicts the nature of God as unchanging:
“God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change.” (Bible, Psalms 55:19)
The confusion created by such man-made distortions has led many people to question Christianity, and eventually to question even the existence of God.
- True religion defines God as Unique, Self-sufficient and separate from His creation. Any being with limited physical qualities or dependencies cannot be God. If we believe that God is one with His physical creation (not separate from it), as some claim, then it logically follows that we must have somehow created ourselves. As mentioned previously, this is impossible. We were non-existent before we were created, while our Creator necessarily had to have existed previous to the act of creating us. For us to be one with our Creator, we must have been in two states at the same time: both non-existence and existence—which makes no sense.
- True religion is free of charge: no memberships, no money to support religious institutions, etc. It only wants good for people.
Or do you, [O Muhammad], ask of them a payment! (Quran 52:40)
- The name of true religion is not connected to any person or place, but reflects the human’s relationship with God. The name “Islam” is not derived from the name of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) —we are not called Muhamadeans— but rather refers to our compliant relationship with God: ‘submission’— unlike the prophet-associated or geography/history-linked names created by men for other religions.
- True religion respects freedom of choice—no original sin and no sacrifices of the innocent. A true religion preaches absolute justice: no judgment for things over which one has no control. God is absolutely Just and judges each person according to their personal choices.
If it is true that mankind is born with Adam’s sin imprinted onto our souls and that somebody else dies for our sins, then what exactly are we doing here in this earthly life? What is the value and consequence of any choice we make? What is our incentive to do good and avoid evil?
How is it fair that a kind caring person ends up in the same place as the mass murderers of Rwanda just because someone else was sacrificed for the forgiveness of their sins?
If you have two children and one of them does something wrong, then asks for forgiveness, would you forgive him/her? If you are like most parents, you would.
Do you think the All-Merciful, Most Forgiving God is less forgiving than you are?
…My servants, you are all sinning night and day, but I forgive all sins, so if you ask of Me forgiveness I will forgive you. … (Mishkat Al-Masabih 2326, transmitted by Muslim)
Even if we assume that God (Who calls Himself the ‘Most Forgiving’) is a vengeful God, as some people portray Him, then why would He (Who also calls Himself the ’Most Just’) sacrifice one prophet for other people’s sin? You wouldn’t sacrifice one of your children for the mistake of his sibling. If God had to sacrifice anyone, it should have been Adam since he was the one who first sinned and set mankind off on the path of sinners.
…that no bearer of burdens shall be made to bear another’s burden. (Quran 53:38)
- True religion respects the mind, encourages the application of logic and reason to arrive at God: no blind faith.
It elevates knowledge and scientific inquiry. The first revealed word of the Quran was “Read!” (Iqraa’). The Quran swears by the pen and stresses the importance of knowledge.
… By the pen and all they write. (Quran 68:1)
Read: In the name of thy Lord Who created. (Quran 96:1)
God will exalt in degree those of you who believe, and those who have been granted knowledge. (Quran 58:11)
Travel through the earth and observe how He began creation. (Quran 29:20)
How can those who know be equal to those who know not? It is only men of understanding who will remember. (Quran 39:9)
Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: “The seeking of knowledge is obligatory for every Muslim.” (Sunan Ibn Majah 224)
He also said: “Whoever follows a path seeking knowledge, God will make his path to paradise easy.” (Mishkat Al-Masabih 255)
- True religion is not contradicted by established (proven) science but rather confirms proven science. See “Signs in the Universe” (Part 10) and “Signs in Creation”(Part 13).
- True religion applies to any place and time and addresses both materialistic and spiritual aspects of man.
In many aspects, Islam was ahead of its time; it came with the first charter for women’s rights and gave women financial independence. It called for freedom for slaves and made the act of emancipating slaves a penance for many sins. It introduced warfare rules which preceded the Geneva Convention by centuries. It blazed the trail for water conservation, environmental protection, animal rights, and many other modern causes.
- True religion comes through a trusted source.
This is a very important aspect. If we think about it, science itself is built on cumulative knowledge and trust in the chain that passes on that knowledge. We don’t redo every experiment ourselves to verify the results. Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him, was nicknamed “the honest one” by his tribe for his integrity and honesty before and after he received the divine message. He has been named “the most influential person in history” by some historians. His ethics and comportment are studied and lauded by many great thinkers and historians. (http://www.cyberistan.org/islamic/quote1.html#browne)
Every account of this prophet’s life has been checked and verified by parallel accounts for convergence and accuracy. Every link in the chain of prophetic tradition narrators—every narrator—has been investigated in terms of reliability, character, piety, honesty, memory, etc. If any narrator in the chain of transmission violated any of these strict conditions, then his account was removed from the prophetic history.
In terms of quality, Muhammad’s life and teachings are the most authenticated historical accounts on the planet. Even in terms of quantity, the number of parallel references for the prophetic history is much more than we have for history’s main characters, even for such prominent figures as Napoleon.
We grow up in our individual environments and usually cildren adopt the prevalent religion or belief in that environment. But if we think about it, did we follow every path our parents and elders told us to take? No. We were willing to question many things from our society and investigate for ourselves. But when it comes to the most crucial questions of our lives—the purpose of our existence and what happens after death— we are willing to follow blindly our society’s beliefs. Does that make sense?
There is an old story about a woman who always cut off the heads of fish before cooking them. When her daughter asked her why, she replied that she was following the recipe from her mother. They went to the grandmother and received the same answer. When they went to the great-grandmother, they found out the reason: The great-grandmother did not have a large frying pan!
We owe it to ourselves to explore the most important questions of our life: the purpose of our lives and what comes after death.
The behavior of some evildoers is ruining this life for us. If we let them turn us away from God, they will also ruin our afterlife. We are created to know true religion intuitively and to follow it.