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Muhammad (P) & Abrahamic Tree I: Introduction

Host: Today we will start a new topic: Muhammad may peace be upon him- the last messenger of Allah. However, before we start I have a couple questions. How do Muslims reconcile their reservations with the Bible and in particular with the following: how the Qur’an confirms the Bible and the Qur'an says that no one will change the word of God.

Jamal Badawi:

There are three basic issues related to this problem. First of all, even though it is common to say that the Qur'an confirms the Bible; strictly speaking this is not correct. The term Bible does not appear anywhere in the Qur'an. The term Old Testament and New Testament does not appear anywhere in the Qur'an. The Qur'an actually confirms the original revelation that was given to Prophet Moses and called the Tawrah (Torah) and the Enjeel (the Gospel) that was revealed to Prophet Jesus. Other scriptures that are mentioned in the Qur'an include the Zabure revealed to Prophet David and the Suhuf revealed to Prophet Abraham. The idea that the Qur'an confirms the Bible, the Old Testament or the New Testament is incorrect. Even then when we take a term like Torah, it isn’t the exact equivalent in understanding the scriptures between Muslims and Jews and Christians, for example. Among the Jews and Christians the Torah is believed to be the first five books, beginning with Genesis, in the Bible.

However, if you look carefully into these books, you’ll find many of them don’t really represent revelation given to Moses but are biographies of Moses. Also, towards the end of chapter 34 in the book of Deuteronomy, which is part of the Torah it talks of Moses’ death and being buried, which obviously is not of the work of Moses nor is it the revelation given to him on Mount Sinai as Muslims believe. As such even the definition of Torah in the Judea-Christian literature is not like the Quranic reference to the Torah, or law, specifically the revelation given to prophet Moses not biographies about him.

Secondly, the term Enjeel, in the Qur'an, the equivalent of the Gospel (in the singular form) should not be equated with the four Gospels. The Qur'an speaks of the word of God, not the word of Mark, Luke, Matthew, and John. That is not the word of God, that’s their own biographies. What the Qur'an speaks of is the revelation given to prophet Jesus peace be upon him, something that he was guided by divine revelation. Whether he asked people to write it or not we don’t know for sure, but it is the same type of divine revelation that was given to Moses, Mohammad, Abraham, or David for that matter may peace be upon them all.

I’d like to raise another issue as well. When the Qur'an speaks of confirming any previous scriptures, it is conditional and indicates in no uncertain terms that the Qur'an and the Qur'an alone as the last well preserved revelation is the final judge and the criterion to sift through any previous scripture to discern what is the word of God and what is the word of humans; which parts remained intact and which parts might have gone through some changes throughout history. The term muhaymen, which appears in the Qur'an, in surah number 5 and verses 48 through 51, deals specifically with this issue of the Qur'an being muhaymen.  This word, muhaymen in Arabic, as Mawlana Mawdudi explains in his Commentary on the Qur'an, means to uphold, to safe guard or preserve, to watch over and to stand witness. All of these definitions apply to the Qur'an in its relationship to previous scriptures. First of all, the Qur'an safeguards and preserves the teachings of previous prophets. It watches over the revelations that God sent before by explaining their true meanings to negate any confusion, misunderstanding or misinterpretation that has arisen throughout history. It stands witness because it bears witness, as Mawdudi says, to the word of God contained in those previous scriptures and helps sort it out from interpretations and commentaries that were later added to them.

The third issue is that some people would say that the Qur'an itself says that there is no one who will change the word of God. And so how could Muslims say that the Bible has changed from the original revelations given to these prophets? Now if you refer to the Qur'an and see what some of those writers refer to, you’ll find that there are only three verses in the Qur'an that speaks about changing the word of God.  Each one of them appears in a different meaning depending on the context of the surah. I also checked the tafseer, interpretation of the Qur'an.

First of all, in surah 6 verse 115, kalimat or words as it is often translated to say, is used in the sense of decree that no one is going to change the decrees of God in creation. In the same surah but in verse 34, kalimat is used here in the sense of the promise of God, when read in context, to give victory to His messengers. In surah 18 in passage 27, the word kalmiat appears in the sense of preserving God’s words or creation. Notice here that the promise made that His words will be preserved does not cover the promise to preserve the words of human beings. Some biblical scholars, for example, raise the issue that we don’t know whether John wrote this or not or Paul wrote this or not etc. Another example: is the book of Hebrew actually written by Paul or someone else? That does not go within the promise of God, because they are the words of humans and not the word reveled by God to His messengers and prophets like Moses, Jesus, or Mohammad peace be upon them.

Secondly, in any religion that says that no one can change the word of God, we have to look at it on two levels. In any religion, anyone can change the word of God on paper. One can get a copy of the Bible and write it out differently. One can get a copy of the Qur'an and change it. So the physical change in terms of writing, any human can do that in any religion for that matter. But the level that the Qur'an refers to, even when it speaks about the revelation, that no one is going to change the word of God. It means the essence of His revelation will ultimately be preserved and would be protected from change. Even though people may have changed or attributed words to God that He didn’t say, or people have forgotten or lost part of the scriptures ultimately it will be preserved. And Muslims believe that this is precisely one of the great benefits of the Qur'an as the last revelation, which has been totally protected, that restores and clarifies the word of God that was given to different prophets because we believe in the unity of the mission of all of these prophets. In this sense, there is the promise that the word of God was ultimately preserved.

Interestingly enough the Qur'an gives good criteria to find out which book can be judged as being the word of God in its totality. This appears in surah 4 verse 82:

“Then do they not reflect upon the Qur'an? If it had been from [any] other than Allah, they would have found within it much contradiction.”

 

Host: Do you have any concluding remarks on the previous series before we move on?

Jamal Badawi:

The main things I wanted to emphasize is mainly towards our Christian brethren if they are unaware of this, that basic difference between Islam and Christianity is not the belief in honoring or loving Jesus because a Muslim who fails to honor and love Jesus as a great messenger of God cannot be a Muslim for it is an article of the Muslim faith to do so and it is in the Qur'an. The main difference, really, is related to the idea of deifying Jesus and other related doctrine that humans added later on as the idea of God incarnate and the idea of the trinity and the idea of substituting human sacrifice. It is quite clear that first of all there is no scriptural basis whatsoever to the belief of God incarnate. In fact it is contradictory to the long-standing religious tradition of the Old Testament.

For nearly two thousand years, there has been no successful attempt to explain the ideas of Jesus being a full God and a full man or the idea of the trinity in any intelligible terms. It cannot even be expressed properly. And one cannot explain that it is a mystery, because it is not a mystery it is an idea that was intellectualized by human beings. We have to explain for two thousand years and for the expected future it is impossible to reconcile the impossible.

By reviewing the earlier part of the previous series, the history of Unitarian Christians was found that in the very early church Christians believed in nothing but the humanity of Jesus may peace be upon him. It was a matter of history that gave rise to the Trinitarian church under the auspices of the Roman Empire. There is evidence of the persecution of Christians who did not agree with the idea of the trinity or God incarnate.

Another point, we have also shown in ample ways throughout this series that this is not just a Muslim understanding or critique. Many Christian biblical scholars themselves, many of whom are clergy and sympathetic to the Christian faith, have come up with the same conclusion that the Qur'an stated 1400 years ago that the trinity and God incarnate has been an absorption of ideas of other nations and religions prior to the coming of Jesus may peace be upon him.  This is precisely what the Qur'an said before those scholars’ researched this.

It is my hope that this series will be a humble contribution; at least in clarifying the position of Muslims visa vie the common link between them and their Christian brethren: Jesus may peace be upon him. Maybe it may contribute to bridging the gap between Muslims and Christians in the future by coming back to the essence of all divine revelation: the worship of the one true God who was worshipped by Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad may peace be upon them all.

 

Host: Moving on to the new series on Muhammad peace be upon him the last messenger of Allah. How does this series fit in with previous topics in this program?

Jamal Badawi:

Let’s start first by defining essential terms like Islam, what does it mean, the distinction between Islam as a way of life and as the behaviors and actions of people who claim to be Muslim which is not one and the same. Also, explaining the meaning of Islam as a deen, which means the complete way of life.

Essentially the first four series beyond the introduction dealt with the essential articles of faith. One series dealt with the tawheed or the pure monotheistic faith of Islam- the oneness and unity of God. The second series, dealt with the prophethood and the Muslim understanding of the laws and nature of prophets and of the revelation. The third one was on Muhammad being in the Bible and an offshoot of prophethood- speaking about the prophecies about the advent of prophet Muhammad in the Old and New Testament.  The last of the four was on the beliefs pertaining to life here and related issues.

From this section, we moved on to the pillars of faith and more particularly the emphasis on the minimum acts of worship that translates the faith into action including such things as the regular five daily prayers, fasting in the month of Ramadan, giving zakat or charity and pilgrimage. Then we moved on to discuss the moral system of Islam, which was another very lengthy series. It covered topics such as the philosophy of the morals and ethics in Islam and how it differs from secular morality and other religious moralities for that matter. What distinguishes the foundation of the Islamic moral system. From that we moved on to specific issues pertaining to the forbidden and allowed in Islam in matters of safeguarding religion, mind, faith, ownership, and property. It also covered almost ten programs of a series that dealt with the moral virtues as derived from the Qur'an or the Sunnah of prophet Muhammad may peace be upon him. Following this was another relatively long series covered the social system of Islam speaking in general about the foundation of the social structure of Islam, the notion of human brotherhood, the issue of brotherhood between believers, the choice of friends. However, most of the series was devoted to family and family life in Islam including issues that need clarification where there’s a lot of myth and stereotyping about in the western world like the status of women in Islam and then it went on to the laws of marriage in Islam, rights of both parties, the rights of children, the rights of parents, marital rights, rights of relatives, dissolution of marriage, and so on.

After that, we moved to another system: the economic system of Islam. How Islam provides a foundation for a just economic life without totalitarianism and without greedy individualism. This series included quite a bit on historical aspects such as contribution of Muslims to science and civilization as one aspect of productivity when they were true to their faith. Following that we moved into the political system of Islam and the system of government according to Islam and how the rules should be chosen and how the affairs of a Muslim state should be run by mutual consultation and not dictatorship as we find in many parts of the world today.

After speaking about the beliefs, worship, moral, political, economic, and social systems we moved on to discuss the sources of Islam and we focused our attention in a long series of 64 programs on the first and most important source, the Qur'an. The series about the Qur'an was divided up in half with one half dealt essentially with one question regarding the authority of the Qur'an; how do we know it is the word of God and not authored by the prophet from previous scriptures or taught to him by some other human scholars or teachers in the past. We discussed that in great detail. In the second half we examined the question of the authenticity of the Qur'an and its sciences. How was the Qur'an recorded, how did it reach us, how do we know there have been no changes, losses or discretion of the original revelation as given to Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. In addition, we discussed other issues pertaining to the sciences of the Qur'an.

The last series we’ve covered is called Jesus the beloved messenger of Allah. This was a 64 segment series that dealt essentially with the comparative aspects of Jesus as the common link between Muslims and Christians. I said that this was a very relevant issue in the context of North American, the western world and other countries where Muslims and Christians live side by side and that they should understand each other’s position and understanding on this issue.

So far we’ve been speaking about Islam in some comparative aspects but we have never really touched, in detail and in a separate series on the life of the prophet and messenger of Islam, Muhammad may peace be upon him. I think that this will be relevant and I hope of some interest too.

Host: How does the mission of prophet Muhammad may peace be upon him fit in with the mission of previous prophets in human history?

Jamal Badawi:

I’m glad that you said “in human history” and not just “the middle east” because this is precisely what the Qur'an speaks about. One verse in the Qur'an indicates that there is no nation or a people without a prophet having gone among them. This includes the east and the west and all places in the world.

The Qur'an insists that all prophets in all parts of the world have taught nothing but one essential message with variations in the details but the core of the message of the worship of one God and to follow His moral laws and His guidance in one’s  life has been a common denominator in all of those missions of the prophets. For Muslims, the coming of prophet Muhammad may peace be upon him is the climax of the blessing that God has promised prophet Abraham and since the Abrahamic family tree is very important, though not exclusive, in the history of prophethood and the proclamation of pure monotheism. Then we can also say that the coming of prophet Muhammad may peace be upon him is the climax of all revelations and all the history of prophethood in history as the culmination and the embodiment of all the prophetic traditions in human history. This is evident I believe not only in the Qur'an itself alone but is evident in the Bible even in its present form today. This not just in the grammatical statement void of any evidence but it is a topic that I mentioned was subject over a complete series of 8 segments under the title Muhammad in the Bible.

Host: You mentioned prophet Abraham. How does he relate to prophet Muhammad may peace be upon them both?

Jamal Badawi:

There is a parallel between what the Qur'an says and what is in the Bible. For the purpose of clarification, I’m going to refer to what the Bible says. From the book of Genesis, we know that Abraham was quite old and had reached the age of 85 while still childless. He didn’t have any hope of bearing any children since Sarah, his wife, was also old, possibly in her 70s. Despite this we find that in the book of Genesis, chapter 12 verses 2 and 3 that God promises to bless the nations of the earth through the seeds of Abraham. The promise is repeated in Genesis 15:5 that God will make of his seed as many as the stars in the heavens. Now, how was that divine promise fulfilled to a man whose wife was barren and old and did not have any children?

The Bible tells us that God directed Sarah to give Abraham her hand maid by the name of Hagar as a second wife, and I emphasize the term wife because the Bible uses this term to refer to Hagar. Polygamy was a common practice among many Israelite prophets. In the hop that maybe Hagar may bear a son for Abraham. Because of conflict that has risen between Sarah and Hagar, Hagar fled to the desert and cried in distress. The Bible says that the angel of God came to her and told her that God will multiply her seed exceedingly and that she shall bear a son and that this son would be called Ishmael or in Hebrew Yeshmael which means God hears. We also find reference to that in chapter 15 of the book of Genesis. Hagar follows the instruction of the angel and returned to Abraham and Sarah and told them what happened and the prophecy was fulfilled. The first son was born to Abraham and his name was in accordance to the instruction that the angel had given was Ishmael.

Now, we all know from the Bible, which is similar to Muslim tradition that Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, were taken to the wilderness of Paran, which is Mecca where they settled. According both the Bible and the Muslim traditions and facts that that is where they settled in the wilderness of Paran as found in Genesis 21. From the descendants of Ishmael came the prophet Muhammad as we all know. That was how the promise of God was fulfilled. Through the second son, Isaac (the isrealite prophets) and the first son Ishmael. Interestingly enough the Bible says that when Hagar and Ishmael were taken to the wilderness and Ishmael was thirsty, it says that the angel showed Hagar a miraculous well that came suddenly from which she drank and started to settle in that area. This is what Muslims believe to be the well of Zamzam, which is still gushing with water until this very day in Mecca inside of the Kaba the holy place. It is interesting to conclude that the Bible itself, in the psalms of David, psalm 84 verses 4-6 speaks also of those passing through the valley of Ba’ca finding a well. This translation is still there in the King James Version of the Bible and it’s interesting to notice that mecca and Be’ca are the same place and these are two names of the very same place.

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