Categories
Op-Ed

What I Did Not Say And The Missionary Myopia

Introduction

There are those who say that lying and deceiving is at the soul of all crime and that Christianity epitomizes these traits more than any other faith.1 As proof of their assertion they often quote Paul of Tarsus, arguably the true founder of Christianity, who is recorded to have said, “But if through my falsehood God’s truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? Any why not do evil that good may come? – as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.” (Romans 3:7-8)

While I want to exclude myself as one who would condemn an entire religious tradition based on such statements, I must admit that the temptation is too great when I see how the fanatics of evangelical Christianity, the bigots with their highly bloated ‘holier than thou’ notion of moral superiority, often try to set hallmarks of lying and deceptions. To these xenophobic bigots, there is nothing good in Islam, Qur’an and Muhammad (S) – the religion, the Scripture and the Prophet of Muslims; dialogue with Islam is out of question. The mere acceptance of Islam as a “go-between” Judaism and Christianity would be “disastrous”, especially now that “relations between Jews and Evangelical Christians in America are flowing smoothly.” To them, “if Muslims were to join the dialogue, then they must leave their holy book far behind them in public, especially in areas of legislation. Islamic law must never be considered in deliberations, for it is too harsh and barbaric.”

By the way, none of the above quoted statements are mine, but comes from a die-hard Christian missionary. Soon after my speech at Vanderbilt University on the subject of “Islam and Coexistence” got posted in the Internet, this activist reacted vehemently with his 13-page polemical writing and silly propaganda objecting to what he calls my ‘errors and omissions’ — what “I should have said at Vanderbilt” -– obviously asserting my speech as a “non-speech”. I must admit that I was unaware of the existence of this propagandist before some of my readers pleaded that I should respond. I told them that I try to avoid participating in debates on comparative religion for the mere fact that they often burn more bridges than I can ever afford to build. After realizing that the Christian polemist’s writing display a penchant for anti-Muslim bigotry, I relented.

Some background information on my speech. A few weeks before the event, when the organizers of the Interfaith Coalition of Nashville contacted me to represent Islam, I politely suggested that they should instead contact Dr. Robert D. Crane.2 Apparently, he turned them down, and I ended up speaking on the subject of “Islam and Co-existence”.

Like other speakers, I was allotted only 15 minutes to cover such an important and vast subject, especially in the aftermath of 9/11 when interests are high to learn about Islam. Oddly, none of the other speakers said anything from their own scriptures, talking only on generalities.

During the question and answer session, when I tried to respond to a question from the audience, some bigots from the rabidly anti-Muslim Jihad Watch group tried to disturb me. They were arrogant and rude. They won’t allow me to respond to the question and instead insisted that I answered their question first. When I provided the answer from the Qur’an, they won’t yield because it did not agree with their poisonous and confused “learning” about Islam, thanks to Spencer and his ilk. When I challenged them to prove me wrong from the Qur’an, they didn’t have anything to say other than rambling that they did not “believe” me. I told them that they were entitled to their erroneous opinion and that I must answer the question posed to me first. They stared angrily at me before leaving the conference room.

This incident once again demonstrates what kind of malicious and bigoted sermons and hate literature many Christians are now fed about Islam. Naturally, the merchants of Christian religion have found that selling the poisonous pills of bigotry and Armageddon is much more lucrative to their coffers than communion breads!

In what follows, I shall discuss some major themes raised by the Christian missionary. Other issues have long been answered by me and others.

A. Violence:

The evangelical Christian missionary was not gay about the selection of verses from the Qur’an that exemplified coexistence with people of other faiths.3 He would rather have me quote the verses from the Surah at-Tawbah, which were revealed about the anti-Muslim mushriqs of Arabia so as to prove how intolerant Islam is or its prophet Muhammad (S) was. As I have explained many times, all the scriptures have their share of violent passages. The Qur’an does not have a monopoly there. As a matter of fact its share of violent passages is insignificant compared to those in the Bible.4 If such passages in the Qur’an make the Prophet of Islam a violent man, then most of the great personalities in the Bible, from Jacob to Moses to David to Jesus were no less violent individuals.

When Christian zealots shield those Biblical violent verses from a comparable critique, and yet demand a different set of rules for Muslims, it is intellectual dishonesty. Such a norm is exemplary of the ancient Latin phrase: Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi –- which means “what is allowed to Jupiter is not allowed to the cattle”. Therefore, I am not too surprised to see how these Judeo-Christian fanatics always relegate the role of cattle to others. It is in this pompous vein that the propagandist complains:

    But Siddiqui makes some errors and omissions. He assumes, for example, that Jim Jones of the Guyana mass suicide and David Koresh of the Waco incineration were Christians, but they were not. They deviated far from the New Testament and its teaching of love demonstrated by Jesus Christ.

How wonderful! Zarqawi and OBL are Muslims, but Jim Jones and David Koresh are not Christians! They might as well be Muslims (for the sake of deceiving missionaries)! So must be Hitler!

How about King Richard, the so-called “Lion-Heart”? Wasn’t he a Christian when he killed 3000 Muslim prisoners of war in Accre?5 How about all those mass-murderers in history who professed Christianity? To those fanatics: genocide, murder, mayhem, rape and plunder were no predicament but God’s vengeance brought about by faithful upholders of Christianity who were inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit!

I shall have no problem discussing the Qur’anic verses that are violent in nature when my counterparts are willing to wash their dirty laundry in the open. In the meantime, let them reflect on the instruction enunciated in the gospel according to Matthew (7:1): Judge not that ye not be judged.

The Jesuit asks: when did Jesus and his first generation of Christians take up arms to kill people or to impose a dhimmi tax on those who refused to submit? My question is: did Jesus run the affairs of his people? If not, how can he be compared with someone who did? The actions of Muhammad (S) should, in all fairness, be compared with prophets of the Bible who held similar responsibilities –- the likes of Moses.6 When we do that we’ll find Muhammad’s (S) and his ashab’s (Companions) treatment of the conquered people was far superior. In contrast to the Biblical prophets who killed all people, including infant males and unarmed women who had known (sex with) men (see, e.g., Numbers 31:17-18), except virgins, Muhammad (S) instructed his army not to kill any old man, unarmed civilian, child and woman.7 They were also instructed not to demolish homes, nor to destroy cattle and trees. So, if death is better than life, then the so-called dhimmi tax would be construed as being worse than murder.8910

The Biblical prophets also burned down the cities of the conquered people (see, e.g., Numbers 31:10).

In spite of many leadership shortcomings (e.g., being rejected by his own people), the portrayal of Jesus in the so-called New Testament is not the “love-all” and “forgive-all” kind of personality that the Church would have us believe. He appears rude (John 2:4, Matt. 12:48, Mark 3:33-4), mean-spirited (Matt. 15:26, 17:17, 23:33-5), offensive (John 8:44, Matt. 23:13-29), abusive (Matt. 12:39, 23:23-9, Luke 11:44), disrespectful (Matt. 11:21-3, 16:4, 23:13-9), divisive (Matt. 10:35, Luke 14:26), racist (Matt. 15:26) and prone to violence (Matt. 10:34; Mark 11:15; Luke 12:49-53, 19:27, 22:36). He is even tempted by the devil (Mark 1:13, Luke 4:2). He commands stealing (Matt. 21:1-3, Luke 19:29-34), and may even be a homosexual (Mark 14:49-52, John 13:23). [Na ‘oozu billah!]

The apocryphal Gospel of Thomas puts the following words in Jesus’s mouth: “I shall destroy this house and no one will be able to (re)build it.” The depiction of Jesus during his second coming is anything but flattering or peaceful.11

The early history of Christianity in the pre-Constantine era (324-337 CE) is not immune from violence either. It is a history of heresy, riots, torture, torment, extortion, competition/rivalry, excommunications, banishments and assassination.12 It is therefore not difficult to understand the statement of James in the NT: “From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not; ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. … Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye know that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? .., Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:1-8)13

The situation did not improve much even after Christianity was adopted as the state religion. The Roman emperor Justinian (332-63 CE) described the “love” of Christians for each other in this way: “I experienced that even beasts of prey are not that hostile minded to human beings than Christian sinners to each other.”14 With state backing, Christianity soon revealed its “my way or highway” type mentality annihilating all competing faiths from vast territories it came to control. There was to be no rivalry, no qualification to the rigid unity of the Church.

During his reign Catholic emperor Flavius Theodosius (346-395 CE) took severe measures against Arianism and the surviving remnants of paganism. In 388 a prefect was sent around Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor for the purpose of destroying temples and breaking up pagan associations; it was then that the Serapeum at Alexandria was destroyed. He prohibited pagan religion and introduced heavy financial penalties.15 The imperial decree stated: “We command that those persons who follow this rule shall embrace the name of Catholic Christians. The rest, however, whom We adjudge demented and insane, shall sustain the infamy of heretical dogmas, their meeting places shall not receive the name of churches, and they shall be smitten first by divine vengeance and secondly by the retributions of Our own initiative, which We shall assume in accordance with the divine judgment.” And later, with regards to pagan houses of worships, he decreed: “We command that all their fanes, temples, and shrines, if even now any remain entire, shall be destroyed by the command of the magistrates, and shall be purified by the erection of the sign of the venerable Christian religion.”

These codes resulted in further legislation, culminating in the death penalty for non-Christians in 435 CE. All citizens had to belong to the authorized “Catholic” Christianity, except Jews who were permitted to practice in places isolated from the rest of the population. Between 429 and 439 CE some 150 different laws were enacted defining and defending the “Catholic faith.” Church lands were made exempt from taxation and bishops immune to chastisement.

Theological support for repression of religious plurality was formally indoctrinated by St. Augustine (354-430 CE), Bishop of Hippo.16 As part of his hostility to the Donatist heresies, he formulated his doctrine of Cognite intrare (Italian: costringali ad entrare, meaning: “compel them to enter”), which was used throughout the Middle Ages to justify the suppression of differences and tyranny against the dissenters. Augustine stated: “The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of an enemy. To love with sternness is better than to deceive with gentleness… In Luke 14:23 it is written: ‘Compel people to come in!’ By threats of the wrath of God, the Father draws souls to the Son.”17

The interested reader may like to read the book: The Dark Side of Christian History by Helen Ellerbe for an account. Excerpt from chapter 8 reads: “The Reformation did not convert the people of Europe to orthodox Christianity through preaching and catechisms alone. It was the 300 year period of witch-hunting from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century, what R.H. Robbins called “the shocking nightmare, the foulest crime and deepest shame of western civilization,”…that ensured the European abandonment of the belief in magic. The Church created the elaborate concept of devil worship and then, used the persecution of it to wipe out dissent, subordinate the individual to authoritarian control, and openly denigrate women.”

So my suggestion to these myopic missionaries who seem to suffer from chronic mental ailment of “cognitive dissonance” is: before you nitpick the Qur’an by cherry-picking violent passages you ought to study your own scripture first and make an objective evaluation. Truly, if you are looking for violence, you don’t have to go beyond your own Bible. It is arguably the most violent book in the annals of human history.

B. Slavery:

Writing on slavery, the Jesuit alleges, “Moreover, the Quran endorses slavery—not merely permits it because it was too deeply entrenched in society. Muhammad himself traded in slaves.” He continues, “The slave trade was lucrative for Muhammad and his original Islam. It traded in slaves throughout its history…”

There is not an iota of truth in his assertions. Instead if the Jesuit had studied his own Bible well, he should have seen how it endorsed and encouraged slavery: “You may possess slaves, but make sure they are foreigners. You may also make slaves of the natives who dwell among you and from their children who are born and reared in your land. You may own them as chattels and leave them to your sons as their hereditary property, making them slaves forever. But you should not lord it over your own countryman, your own kinsmen.” [Lev. 25:44-46] (See also: Deut. 21:10) Even in the NT, not a single statement can be found in Jesus’s mouth that comes close to uprooting slavery. (See also: 1 Timothy 6:1, 1 Peter 2:18, Col. 3:22 for endorsement of slavery.)

The ancient world was deeply entrenched into slavery, and the Arab society in Muhammad’s (S) time was no exception. The pagan aristocracy in Makkah, Jewish landowners and merchants in Madinah and many wealthy Christian Arabs were slave owners.18 Most of the early believers in Muhammad’s (S) message of pure monotheism, on the other hand, were slaves, who were brutally tortured for their faith by their non-Muslim slavers. It became, thus, incumbent upon the Prophet (S) and his Companions (notably Abu Bakr and Uthman – may Allah be pleased with them) to free those slaves. Muhammad (S) bought freedom of 63 former slaves, A’isha (RA) 67, Abbas (RA) 70, Abdullah ibn Umar (RA) 1000 and Abdur Rahman ibn Awf 30,000.19 It was no wonder that some of the best-known Muslims and soldiers in the defense of Islam were these former slaves and their children.20

The Qur’an unequivocally makes it clear that no man, irrespective of his status (including a prophet), can enslave any other human being: “It is not (possible) for any human being unto whom Allah had given him the Scripture and wisdom and ‘Nabuwah’ (Prophethood) that he should afterwards have said unto mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah …” [3:79]

Thus, Islam’s credit lies in being the only major religion to curtailing slavery and encouraging emancipation of slaves.21 Following the dictates of the Qur’an, personal and public wealth from zakat fund and the Baitul-Mal was used for manumitting slaves.22 Here are some relevant Traditions (ahadith) encouraging emancipation of slaves, Muslims and non-Muslims alike:

  • “A person who frees a Muslim slave, Allah will deliver every one of his limbs from the fire of Hell in return for each of the limbs of the slave, even his private organs for the sake of the freed slave’s organs.” – Muhammad (S) [Bukhari and Muslim: Abu Hurayrah (RA)]
  • “The atonement for beating or slapping a slave (Muslim or non-Muslim) on the face, for no fault of his, is that he should be set free.” – Muhammad (S) [Muslim: Ibn Umar (RA)]
  • “Give food to the hungry, pay a visit to the sick and release (set free) the one in captivity (by paying his ransom).” – Muhammad (S) [Bukhari: Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari (RA)]
  • “Allah the Most High said, I will be the opponent of three persons on the Day of Resurrection. They are the one who makes a covenant in My name and then prove treacherous. Or the one who sells a free person (Muslim or non-Muslim) as a slave and appropriates his price for himself. And the one who hires a laborer and having taken full work from him, fails to pay him his wages.” – Muhammad (S) [Hadith Qudsi, Bukhari: Abu Hurayrah (RA)]
  • “There are three people whose prayers are not accepted. And one of these three is a man who enslaves a free person (Rajulun iitabada muharraran).” – Muhammad (S) [Abu Dawud]
  • “No son can repay his father unless he finds him as a slave and purchases him and sets him free.” – Muhammad (S) [Muslim: Abu Hurayrah (RA)]

As hinted earlier, many of the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (S) were freed slaves who went on to become great leaders of the Islamic community. Bilal the Abyssinian became the first caller to Islam [note: the position of mu’addhin is next to the imam]. Ammar ibn Yathir was from Yemen, Salman al-Farsi was from Persia, Suhayb al-Rumi was from Byzantium. Many of the rulers in Muslim territories were freed slaves and their descendants.

On the other hand, throughout our known history, many of the notorious slave traders (including those involved in the Atlantic slave trade) were Christians and Jews.23 To them, the fate of dark-skinned (African) race was sealed with Genesis 9:25: “And he [Noah] said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.” (See also Joshua 16:10.) The Church did not believe that Africans possessed human souls.24 Not surprisingly, when the British Crown asked the Christian clergy for supporting documents to justify the slave trade, they readily found them within the Bible.

Dr. George Best, a non-Muslim historian, says, “Christianity did not object to slavery. Politically or economically, it did not encourage the believers to oppose the traditions of their generations as regards slavery. Christianity did not even discuss the problem and said nothing against the rights of slave owners. It did not urge slaves to demand their freedom and did not basically ask to free the slaves.”

Nor should we forget that the movement to abolish slavery in Europe and America is rather a new phenomenon and dates back only to the 19th century,25 nearly 1200 years after Islam forbade taking any free man as a slave (see Imam Bukhari’s chapter: Baab Ithm man ba’a hurr wa akala thamanahu). Even with the passage of the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 in the British Parliament, the practice of owning slaves continued for another century in the West. The Grand Larousse of the 19th century reads: “Man does not wonder at the presence of slavery and its being common among the Christians till now. The religious representatives approve it and believe that it is legal. In brief Christianity approves it completely till our time and it is very hard to prove that Christianity tried to abolish slavery.”

Unfortunately, modern-day slavery still exists today in one form or another, e.g., sex labors in many parts of the world, captives or prisoners of war held in many parts of the world, forced labor in Burma and China, and slave camps run by the SPLA and Lord’s Army.

Diversion has always been a favorite ploy utilized by shrewd strategists to divert attention. Imperialists and their agents have successfully used it to colonize and mislead others.26 This tactic still has tremendous appeal among the modern-day empire dreamers. So, as it was during the pre-colonial days of Africa, we were bombarded not too long ago with allegations that the northern Sudanese were enslaving the southern animists and Christians. Thanks to the CBS program which unearthed the hoax of slave emancipation by the Christian Solidarity, now we know that there is no truth to these allegations. The program established that the Christian SPLA and Lord’s Army routinely practice this crime by enslaving free people (against their own kind in Sudan and Uganda) and trading thereafter for money and arms. It is a lucrative business for these savages and their western/Christian patrons to slicing Sudan and establishing their zone of influence. For years, these criminals used every means at their disposal, including heinous propaganda campaigns and arms shipment, to encourage secession movement in the southern Sudan. [See the link in http://www.sudanembassy.org/ for a CBS interview with Dan Rather on the hoax of The Sudan Slave Trade.27

C. Treatment of Jews:

To prove Islam’s alleged mistreatment of Jews, the Jesuit provides a link to Spencer’s hate literature. As have been repeatedly demonstrated by many scholars he simply cannot be relied upon to provide the truth on anything pertaining to Islam and Muslims.28 He is a merchant of hatred – an Islamophobic maniac. Period! Scores of Jewish scholars and historians can be cited, including Ben-Sasson29 and Abba Eban30 to prove him unreliable, hostile and lying.

Let me quote from the scholarly work, A History of the Jewish People, edited by Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson (Harvard University Press, 1976), an Israeli historian:

“The height of magnificence and luxury was reached by the wealthy Jews in the lands of Islam, particularly in Moslem Spain. We know that the court bankers of Baghdad in the tenth century kept open house for numerous guests and for the poor. Similarly, the ceremonies of the Jewish leaders in Babylonia [Iraq] and the patronage of the leading Jews in Moslem Spain, indicate conditions of ease and plenty.

“The attitude toward these non-Moslems in the Islamic territories was shaped in principle in accordance with the concept of dhimma, meaning protection granted to them by agreement or treaty… In return, their lives and property were protected and, in accordance with the general attitude of Islam to infidels, they were assured liberty of faith and worship. They were also permitted to organize themselves as they wished, and the Jews fully availed themselves of that permission.

“From the Jewish viewpoint, this conglomerate of Moslem attitudes to infidels was easier to live with than the one that had been established by Christianity, particularly in the Byzantine Empire. As we have noted above, for hundreds of years the overwhelming majority of Jews lived in the Islamic territories. Although it is possible to perceive some Christian impact on the Moslem attitude towards non-believers and even towards the Christians themselves, the moderation with which the Moslems applied this influence proved to be of great importance to the majority of Jewry over a long period. Unlike the masses of Christians and pagans who joined the Moslems over the first half century or so, the overwhelming majority of the Jews under Moslem rule held firmly to their own faith.”31

As to the settlement and economic activity in the 16th and 17th centuries and the establishment of the Sephardic Diaspora in the Ottoman Empire, the above book states:

“A considerable stream of exiles from Spain overflowed into the Ottoman Empire. Once the latter had annexed Erez Yisrael, it became a lodestone for Marranos who wished to repent and return to their former faith…. The sultan at the time of the expulsion, Bayezid, welcomed the refugees fleeing from the fanatical Christians. As recorded by a Jewish contemporary ‘the Sultan sent men ahead, and spread the word through his kingdom in writing as well, declaring that none of his officers in any of his cities dare to drive the Jews out or expel them, but all of them were to welcome the Jews cordially.’ It can be assumed that this imperial protection and the order granting right of domicile were issued through the influence of the leaders of the long-established Jewish community in the Ottoman Empire… Success was not restricted exclusively to medical and court circles. It seems that in the Ottoman Empire it was felt that the absorption of the exiles from the West provided social, cultural and even military advantages… The exiles gradually dispersed throughout the main cities of the Empire. Many synagogues were to be found in Constantinople during the sixteenth century. In this city they settled in quarters where Jews had not formerly resided. Salonika also became one of their main centres, and similarly Adrianople and Smyrna (Izmir). The exiles also established themselves in smaller cities. Expulsions from southern Italy helped to diversify the Jewish community and increase the various congregations in the Empire.”32

What is clear is that historically the relationship between Jews and Muslims living under Muslim Sultans was rather amicable and, that even in places like Palestine, Muslim people did not have any problem with Jews living there. The relationship soured only after the Balfour Declaration (1917) when the British allowed European Jews to colonize Palestine.33

As to the matter of jizya imposed on Jews, one simply has to read European history about what had happened to the European Jewry who sought protection from the Christian royalty in the medieval times. In return for royal protection during the first two Crusades, German Jews were made ‘serfs of the Imperial Chamber’ and were required to pay vast sums of ‘protection money’ for this privilege. Those Jews eventually became a very real source of royal revenue. As the king’s property, they could be – and were – bought, loaned and sold, to pay off creditors. The custom spread to other European countries. Church leaders justified this status theologically on the basis of earlier Church teaching that the Jews were doomed to eternal servitude for having crucified their lord – Jesus Christ.34

Unfortunately, the protection for which the Jews paid such a hefty price in Europe did not always materialize. For instance, before setting out for the 3rd Crusade the Crusaders plundered the possessions of the Jews, who had fled into the royal castle where they were besieged by the warriors – many of whom were deeply in debt to their quarry. In York, England, the climax was reached when a stone, thrown from the castle, killed a Christian monk. A battle cry was raised urging the people to “destroy the enemies of Christ.” When the Jews saw the fury of the besiegers and felt their fate to be sealed, they took their own lives, cutting one another’s throats. When the mobs gained access to the tower, the few Jews left, who begged for baptism and deliverance, were slaughtered. The total casualties have been estimated variously from 500 to 1500. From this scene of carnage, the attackers converged on the cathedral and burned all the records of financial obligations to the Jews kept in its archives.35

Writing in 1135, the French scholar Pierre Abelard has a European Jew in “Dialogue between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian” spoke these words:

“No nation has ever suffered so much for God. Dispersed among all nations, without king or secular ruler, the Jews are oppressed with heavy taxes as if they had to repurchase their very lives every day. To mistreat the Jews is considered a deed pleasing to God. Such imprisonment as is endured by the Jews can be conceived by the Christians only as a sign of God’s utter wrath. The life of the Jews is in the hands of their worst enemies. Even in their sleep they are plagued by nightmares. Heaven is their only place of refuge. If they want to travel to the nearest town, they have to buy protection with the high sums of money from the Christian rulers who actually wish for their death so that they can confiscate their possessions. The Jews cannot own land or vineyards because there is nobody to vouch for their safekeeping. Thus, all that is left them as a means of livelihood is the business of money-lending, and this in turn brings the hatred of Christians upon them”36

Bottom line: the status of a dhimmi in a Muslim-run state was much better compared to that of a Jew living in Christian-run Europe.

There is no denying that the Jewish tribe of Bani Quraiza was punished by the Prophet of Islam. But can Muhammad (S) be blamed for their treason? They were punished not for rejecting Muhammad (S) as the last Prophet (nabi) of Allah, but for their confessed crime against the nascent Islamic state, and judged by their own laws, by their appointed judge. My question is: was Musa [Moses] (AS) more merciful to the Jews when he and his faithful disciples killed 3000 misguided Children of Israel (Exodus 32:28)? [See Md. Saidul Islam’s “Were the Jews maltreated by Prophet Muhammad, or vice-versa?” for a good analysis.]

A closer scrutiny will show that the verses in the Qur’an that castigated Jews of Madinah for their nefarious activities were comparatively milder than those found in the Bible (see, e.g., the Books of Isaiah, Micah, Hosea and Ezekiel, and especially those of Jesus in the so-called NT).37

D. Israel and cost of progress:

As any evangelical Christian-Zionist would be expected these days, the Jesuit missionary is very gay to report about the “progress” of the colonizing enterprise – Israel. He does not tell us that the land was stolen in a landmark Christian-Zionist conspiracy from its native people and given to outsiders from Europe (mostly Kharazites) who had no claim. He also does not tell us that the so-called progress of Israel has been costing America billions of dollars. The latter’s naked support of the rogue state has given us the cliché: the tail that wags the dog! [Interested readers may like to read John Mearsheimer and Stephan Walt’s recently published work “The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy,” London Review of Books, March 2006, to understand Israel’s harmful effect.]

E. Status and Worship:

Commenting on the Qur’anic verse 98:4-6, the Jesuit says, “This implies that the Bible is inferior. Verse five says that Jews and Christians must do salat (prayer five times a day) and give zakat (required charity).” Such comments once again show that he needs to study the Bible before getting jumpy with the Qur’an. Don’t Jews and Christians pray and pay alms?38 Didn’t Jesus pray also (Mark 1:35, 14:35-39; Matt. 26:39-44)? So why complain? Interestingly, he is very upset about the Qur’an having put the idolaters in the same sentence as the people of the Book, as can be seen in the last phrase of the next statement where he says, “Verse six categorizes unbelievers among the People of the Scripture (= the Bible) with idolaters, the most impure of all humans.” It is no coincidence that the Biblical prophets killed the idolaters en masse whereas, after the conquest of Makkah, the Prophet of Islam announced a general amnesty against the idolaters. (See, e.g., Exodus 22:20 – “Anyone who sacrificed to any god other than the Lord must be destroyed.”)

F. Law of Retaliation:

The Jesuit makes a fool of himself when he alleges, “Siddiqui omits Sura 5:45, which imposes retaliation, literal eye for an eye. Would radical Muslims want to impose this around the world?” The Qur’anic verse in question talks about the retaliatory laws of the Books of the Children of Israel, e.g., Exodus (21:23-5), Leviticus (24:20) and Deut. 19:21. If the Christian missionary had an open mind, and not the kind of obsessed mind he had demonstrated, he could have noticed the clear preference enunciated in the Qur’an in the very next sentence within the same verse 5:45, which states, “But if any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself.” As has been noted by Karen Armstrong every harsh verse in the Qur’an is followed by those that seek compassion and not retaliation. The Qur’anic message is of moderation, and not extremes. Muslims are, thus, called upon to be a “middle” nation (ummatan wasatan).

G. Morality:

Let me now touch upon the matter of the Judeo-Christian morality in the Bible of which the Jesuit is convinced that Islam cannot contribute anything. Let us look at this haughty assertion from the Bible itself.

  • A prophet is reported to have committed sex with his own daughters.
  • A prophet is reckoned to have committed adultery with another man’s wife.
  • A prophet indulges in calf-worship.
  • A prophet’s son impregnates his own son’s wife and becomes the father of twin sons who are to become father of great prophets to come later (e.g., David, Solomon and Jesus). Yet this son is blessed by the prophet. Another son commits fornications with the prophet’s consort.
  • A prophet abandons his faith in one True God and take to idolatry and builds idol temples.
  • One of the prophets wrongly attributes his own false statements to God.

Need I continue any further to show how hollow such assertions about superiority of Judeo-Christian morality sound?39

Jesuit Christians give the impression that celibacy is preferred over marriage for the clergy. Yet a reading of the so-called New Testament gives the impression that the disciples of Jesus may not have abstained from sex (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:6, 1 Cor. 9:5). There are now claims that Jesus himself may not have been celibate either.

As hinted earlier, according to early Christian fathers, truth is called falsification and vice-versa. In a Gnostic Gospel, an early Christian Theodore asks Clement of Alexandria (150-215 CE) – an early Church father – the veracity of the recorded message that Jesus was a homosexual (na ‘oozu billah). In reply, Clements writes, “To them, therefore, as I said above, one must never give way; nor, when they put forward their falsifications, should one concede that the secret Gospel is by Mark, but should even deny it on oath.”40

There are Christian churches in the USA that ordain gay and lesbian priests and draw their legitimacy from such claims. One simply wonders if sodomy and other forms of sexual abuse of children by Christian priests draw their moral justification from such records of Jesus’s life (na ‘oozu billah)! Evidence suggests that many instances of child abuse by clergy were not one-time, isolated incidents. Shielded by a church culture of secrecy, some priests preyed upon numerous victims during multiple parish assignments. Church records have revealed stories of many other repeat abusers, including priests who traded drugs for sex with minors, fathered children, and physically assaulted their victims. In the case of almost every predator priest, church officials had reports of abusive behavior, but allowed the priests to remain in ministry. In many cases, accused priests were sent for brief periods of psychological evaluation and then returned to parishes — where they abused again.41

According to Catholic moral theology42 (for ordained priests), priests can have sex three times a year (for details consult: St. Alphonsus Liguori’s work.43). In a 1983 doctoral thesis by Richard Blackmon, 12% of the 300 Protestant clergy surveyed admitted to sexual intercourse with a parishioner and 38% admitted to other sexualized contact with a parishioner.44 In separate denominational surveys, 48% of United Church of Christ female ministers and 77% of United Methodist female ministers reported having been sexually harassed in church.45 17 percent of laywomen said that their own pastor had sexually harassed them. Ten percent of Protestant pastors had been sexually active with an adult parishioner.

According to the dictates of the NT, the Church does not allow divorce (Matt. 5:32). This ruling has contributed to illicit sexual relationship. Surveys by Baltimore psychologist and marital researcher Shirley Glass showed that 25% of wives and 44% of husbands in the USA at one time or another have had sexual relationship outside of marriage (USA Today, Jan. 9, 2003).46 It does not take a psychologist to understand the effect of unhappy marriage on crimes that is glued by Church edicts! [The leading cause of death of pregnant women in the USA is murder (CNN, Dec. 14, 2004).]

One-third of all U.S. children are born out of wedlock. One-half of all U.S. children will live in a one-parent house (CNN, Dec. 10, 2004). A recent survey in UK showed that the proportion of children born outside marriage has leapt from 12% in 1980 to 42% in 2004, according to the Office for National Statistics. In contrast, 15 other EU countries had an estimated average of 33%, the annual ONS’ Social Trends report said.47 In the USA, 70% of all black children are born out of wedlock. Sixty-five percent of never-married black women have children, double that for white women.48

As to violence, rape, murder, the less said the better. The crime statistics in any major city in the USA is sure to dwarf crime rates in many eastern countries.49

One simply wonders how much of all these immoral and criminal activities in the Christian society draw their inspiration from the Christian teaching of vicarious atonement, so tersely articulated by our Jesuit propagandist: “I do not believe that my good works get me into heaven. Only Christ’s good work on the cross does this – a bodily and literal crucifixion that the Qur’an denies in Sura 4:157!”

Succinctly speaking, Christianity has no moral high ground and has failed abysmally.50

Conclusions

In closing, let me say that unlike Christianity, which is responsible for breeding a society devoid of any moral obligation through its notion of original sin and the accompanying theology of vicarious atonement, Islam preaches individual accountability for oneself. Its practicality, notions of peace, justice and pluralism put it on a serious level to have a genuine dialogue of civilizations.51 Bigotry and racism should not stand in the way of the West to open that dialogue. They need it more than they are willing to admit it.

Islam, more than any other religion, embodies the concept of coexistence.52 Denying it will only reflect on one’s inherent xenophobia and bigotry. Let the Christian xenophobe reflect on Muhammad’s (S) statement:

“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them.

No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.

No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate.

No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray.

Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

Such were the memorable words of Muhammad (S), the Prophet of Islam, in the year 628 CE, when he granted this historic document, also known as the Charter of Privileges, to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mt. Sinai.53

Is there anything remotely similar to this document that an Islamophobe can produce from his/her founder(s) of the faith? Not a chance!

Peace, Salam, Shalom, Shanti. What I Did Not Say And The Missionary Myopia 2

The author, Dr. Habib Siddiqui may be contacted directly at saeva@aol.com
Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "What I Did Not Say And The Missionary Myopia," in Bismika Allahuma, May 22, 2006, last accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.bismikaallahuma.org/op-ed/missionary-myopia/
  1. See e.g., http://www.bare-jesus.net for a detailed analysis, which are unflattering to Christianity. []
  2. For a short biography see here. []
  3. See this author’s article, Islam and Co-existence. []
  4. See this author’s article, Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi: Why a different yardstick for Muslims? for a sample of violent and demeaning verses in Christian and Jewish religious books. []
  5. We should not, therefore, be surprised with the killings of POWs in Iraq and Afghanistan by Jesus-loving, faithful Christian warlords. []
  6. Deut. 18:18 offers a close resemblance. []
  7. In a celebrated hadith Muhammad (S) instructed his army: “Depart in the name of Allah, and be His helper. And kill not any old man, nor young boy, nor child, nor woman. But be good-doers, for Allah loves those who do good.” []
  8. It is worth mentioning here that this tax was collected to guarantee protection of lives and properties of the ‘protected’ people, who needed not to participate in Jihad. The dhimmis were also exempt from payment of other forms of taxes that were mandatory on Muslims. []
  9. See the article: Non- Muslims and the Law of Social Security in Islam By Shaykh Shawkat Husayn – for an excellent analysis. See also: Anecdotes from the life of the Prophet Muhammad by Mumtaz Ahmed Faruqui; “A True Word – Here’s to You, Dr. Robertson” by Amir Butler. []
  10. See also this author’s article “Real Islam and Jihad – a rejoinder” for an understanding on the subject of Jihad. []
  11. See the Book of Revelations []
  12. The Outline of History by H.G. Wells; The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon. []
  13. See also Acts 5:1-11. []
  14. Quoted from Kurt Eggers []
  15. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14577d.htm []
  16. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02084a.htm []
  17. Edward Peters, Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe; R. Dean Peterson, A Concise History of Christianity; James A. Haught, Holy Horrors; J.N. Hillgarth, Christianity and Paganism; Malcolm Lambert, Medieval Heresy. []
  18. A study of the lives of many former slaves who became the Companions of the Prophet (S) is sufficient to prove this. For instance, Salman al-Farisi’s (RA) slave master was a wealthy Jew from Banu Qurayza. (See also Maulana Rumi’s masterpiece – Mathnabi.) []
  19. Human Rights in Islam by Abul ‘Ala Mawdudi. []
  20. Read this author’s The Book of Devotional Stories (in print) for stories of some of these early Muslims. []
  21. See the Qur’an for many such references, e.g., 4:92, 5:89, 58:3, 90:13, 24:33, 9:60, 2:177, 2:221, 4:25, 4:36. []
  22. See Fethullah Gulen’s article: How is it that Islam, a religion inspired by God for the good of humanity, allows slavery? []
  23. According to some historians, eighteen million Africans are estimated to have died during the Atlantic slave trade. In American Holocaust (1992), David Stannard estimates that some 30 to 60 million Africans died being enslaved. Howard Zinn puts the number at 40 million. []
  24. See, this author’s “An anatomy of racism” and “White Man’s Burden: the never-ending saga.” []
  25. The only real exception is Portugal (1761), however, the practice continued for decades in its colonies. []
  26. For a full treatment, interested readers may consult Prof. Ali Mazrui’s books, including The Africans, a PBS Documentary, USA. []
  27. http://www.sudanembassy.org/ (and click the link to The Sudan Slave Trade). []
  28. See, e.g., Choose: Islam Scary, Lite or Dry?by David Need for a review on Spencer’s book. []
  29. A History of the Jewish People, edited by Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson. []
  30. Heritage: Civilization and the Jews by Abba Eban. []
  31. For a brief review of the book, see: http://www.muhajabah.com/jewsofislam.htm []
  32. op. cit., pp. 631-3 []
  33. See this author’s article: The Case of Jerusalem — for a detailed treatment of the holy city. []
  34. Edward H. Flannery, The Anguish of the Jews: Twenty-Three Centuries of Antisemitism, Paulist Press, New York/Mahwah, 1985; Michael L. Brown, Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People, Destiny Image Publishers, Shippensburg, 1992. []
  35. Flannery, op. cit. []
  36. ibid. []
  37. See this author’s article, Quod licet Iovi non licet bovi: Why a different yardstick for Muslims? for detailed analysis. []
  38. See the book: “To pray as a Jew: a guide to the prayer book and the synagogue service” by Hayim Halevy Donin, New York: Basic Books, c1980. []
  39. The interested reader may like the read Mowlana Rahmatullah Kairanvi’s “Izhar-ul-Haq” for a detailed analysis of the Bible. []
  40. For details, see: The Gnostic Society Library, Gnostic Scriptures and Fragments, The Secret Gospel of Mark; see also Acts of John, from “The Apocryphal New Testament,” M.R. James – translation and notes, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924 []
  41. http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/nation/12707654.htm; http://www.bishop-accountability.org/; http://www.telegram.com/static/crisisinthechurch/092205.html; http://www.ffrf.org/timely/pedo1992.php; http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/extras/coverups_archive.htm; http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/stories5/040704_vermont.htm; http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/stories5/022804_victims.htm; http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/scandal/; http://www.ffrf.org/timely/1990study.php; http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0MKY/is_16_29/ai_n15779345; http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0412/09/asb.01.html. []
  42. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14611a.htm []
  43. http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_author/129/St._Alphonsus_Liguori.html []
  44. Richard A. Blackmon, unpublished Ph. D. dissertation (1984). The Hazards of Ministry. Fuller Theological Seminary: Pasadena, CA. Note: The author noted that 16 ministers did not answer the question concerning sexual intercourse with parishioners, indicating that the percentage is probably higher. []
  45. Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence (1992). Clergy Sexual Misconduct: Sexual Abuse in the Ministerial Relationship. Seattle, WA []
  46. http://www.dearpeggy.com/announce20.html; Conservative estimates in the West suggest that 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have an extramarital affair (http://www.dearpeggy.com/affairs.html#3). []
  47. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4733330.stm []
  48. http://www.saveus.org/docs/factsheets/portrait_black_family7-12-05.pdf; http://www.citypages.com/databank/26/1264/article12985.asp. []
  49. http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/; http://www.singstat.gov.sg/ssn/feat/4Q94/feat.html; http://www.crimestatistics.org.uk/tool/; http://www.police999.com/stats/index.html []
  50. See, e.g., the book: Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and the Catholic Church by Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Penguin, 1990 []
  51. See this author’s 1994 article: Islam and the West: The Need For a Bilateral Talk []
  52. See this author’s “Islam and Coexistence” for supporting evidences. []
  53. ‘Muslim History: 570 – 1950 C.E.’ by Dr. A. Zahoor and Dr. Z. Haq, ZMD Corporation. P.O. Box 8231 – Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8231. []
Categories
Op-Ed

Islam And Co-Existence

Author’s note: The Interfaith Coalition of Nashville organized this year’s interfaith conference in the Vanderbilt University, Nashville, USA. Judaism was represented by Dr. Donna Whitney, Christianity by Dr. Tom Davis, Hinduism by Dr. Howard J. Resnick (HD Goswami), and Buddhism by Professor Win Myint. I represented Islam. The conference was opened by Dr. Jawaid Ahsan. Dr. Charles Hembrick, Professor Emeritus of Religion at Vanderbilt University, moderated the conference.

Introduction

It is not easy to discuss about a religion that is not only the least understood of all major religions but is now considered to be on a collision course with the rest of the world. The offensive cartoon controversy has only heightened the mistrust and seemed to embolden those who have been selling the poisonous pill of “clash of civilizations”. There is no denying that 9/11 has provided bigots, racists, and self-proclaiming “experts” and “think tanks” to define Islam in ways that only unmask their level of hatred and bigotry. The “Islam” they define is simply unknown to my people.

Yet the hard fact is there are Muslims who come in different shades and colors, orientations or mindsets. Not all are saints nor are all mujahids in being able to control their lower instincts of anger, passion and ego. So we have the Zarqawis today as much as we had the Hashishyyin that had terrorized the Muslim world in the 12th and 13th centuries. And then there are those who believe that their suicidal attacks would set others free.

As the specter of violence has become a fact of life today, the temptation is too great to condemn an entire religious tradition for the senseless or desperate actions of a few. But that would be wrong. If we cannot condemn all faiths for the crimes of their adherents, we simply cannot have a different set of standards for Muslims. For example, if we cannot condemn Christianity for colonization and massacre of unarmed civilians across the globe during the last two millennia, including the massacre in Jonestown (Guyana) and Waco (USA), killings in Ireland, Uganda, Haiti and Liberia, ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Daghestan, Nagorno Karabach and Mindanao Islands (in the Philippines), and genocides in Congo, Rwanda, and in today?s Afghanistan and Iraq; if we cannot condemn Judaism for the crimes of Baruch Goldstein or Rabbi Meir Kahane?s group, or the war crimes of Israeli leaders ? Sharon, Olmert, Netanyahu and others – in Occupied Palestine and Lebanon; if we cannot condemn Hinduism for the murder of MK Gandhi, and massacre of thousands of Muslims in Kashmir, Mumbai, Assam and Gujarat, and the killings of Sinhalese Buddhists in Sri Lanka; if we cannot condemn Buddhism for the killing fields in Cambodia, or the massacre of Rohingya Muslims in Arakan (Myanmar), or the killings of Tamils in Sri Lanka and Muslim minorities in Thailand ? we simply have no right to condemn Islam for 9/11.

If a Muslim youth today appears to be frustrated and angry it is not because of the theology of Islam but due to his apparent inability as a human being to comprehend and/or tolerate monumental hypocrisy and double standards that he sees, plus the mistreatment of his fellow brethren as third-class citizens of this planet. From one continent to another, he sees how his fellow human beings are massacred, maimed and mutilated; how colossal abuses of human rights are routinely carried out against them. And yet there are none, not even their own leaders in the post-colonial nation-states, who speak and take action for them. It is a sad and humiliating experience for them.

Background information on Islam

The entire history of mankind has been a class struggle between the forces of light and darkness, good and bad, truth and falsehood. The forces of goodness have struggled to bring about an ideal society that is just and balanced both inwardly and outwardly. Unfortunately, more often than not humanity has failed to find that equilibrium, balance and harmony between the outward and the inward, the external and the internal. The ideal that Islam has been seeking for the past fourteen centuries is also a universal one – the establishment of a just society. Truly, in this pursuit, the mission of Muhammad (S), the Prophet of Islam, was very similar to those of all the prophets and sages that came before him.

Islam came as a guiding light into a dark world ? a world that needed a lightning bolt to wake up from its deep slumber. It came in an age of truth-defying Ignorance when the worship of one True God from China and Japan in the East to Morocco and Iceland in the West was replaced by worship of myriads of demigods. There were false notions of superiority and egotism on the basis of race, color, tribe and ethnicity. Islam came to a nation that boasted of its depth of corruption and debauchery in social and moral issues. Historically, Islam came after the fall of the Roman Empire and the collapse of the ?dark ages.? In the nearby Persian Empire, there was a lot of political bickering for power and in far-away Roman Empire, there were signs of decadence everywhere, and in Arabia, the land that was supposed to reshape the destiny of mankind, its people were devoid of compassion and moral values.

But it was in Arabia, at the confluence of the three great continents of Asia, Africa and Europe, that Muhammad (S) – the Prophet of Islam, a Meccan from the illustrious family of the Quraysh, a descendant of the Babylonian Abraham, and the Egyptian Hagar – was born in 570 CE (or 53 BH of the Muslim calendar). And here it was that the Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad (S) in Arabic when he was 40 years old (in 13 BH). Coming into a world that was stained by corruption and disintegration, Islam provided a unique pattern that was unknown in the entire history of man?kind. Islam provided three basic elements — faith in one God (Allah), reform of self and reform of the society at large. Islam remained as a religious commitment, a socio-economic-political program, but above all a vehicle for the “continuous reform” of the society.

The subject I want to discuss here is: what does Islam say about peaceful co-existence with peoples of other faiths? Does Islam believe in diversity, multi-culture and pluralism? The answer to all these questions is an emphatic yes.

In what follows, I shall quote from the Qur’an to support my claim.

Islam rejects racism and preaches alternative criteria for God’s people:

Islam rejects the notion that God is biased or partial to a particular race or tribe, and that His Mercy is locked up to a certain group. Allah says, “O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes so that you may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.”1

With such profound statements in the Qur?an, Islam was able to wipe out age-old ethnocentric notions of superficial superiority and exclusive nobleness of mankind. Challenging the claims of the egocentric people who claimed that none shall enter paradise unless he belongs to their race and ethnicity, the Qur?an says, “Bring your proof if you are truthful.”2 As to the true criteria for such a qualification, the Qur?an proclaims, “Nay, but whosoever submits himself to Allah and he is a doer of good, for him there shall be his reward with his Lord, on such shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.”3

Islam preaches unity of mankind:

The Qur’an repeatedly emphasizes the unity of mankind, i.e., they come from the same parents: “Mankind were but one community; then they differed?”4

Prophet Muhammad (S) in his farewell Hajj sermon delivered on the 9th day of Dhul-Hijjah, 10 A.H. in the ‘Uranah valley of Mount Arafat in Makkah, said, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.”

No monopoly in God’s message:

The Qur’an says, “And there is not a nation but a warner has passed among them.”5) That is, Allah, in His infinite wisdom, has sent prophets and messengers to all the nations for their guidance.6

The call of the Qur’an is a call to unity of belief: “He has laid down for you the religion which He enjoined upon Noah, and which We revealed to you, and which We enjoined upon Abraham, Moses and Jesus: Establish the religion, and be not divided therein.”7

Further: “Lo! This, your religion, is one religion, and I am your Lord, so worship Me. And they have broken their religion among them, (yet) all are returning unto Us.”8

Islam presents itself as a way to reconcile the differences between Jews and Christians. The compromise offered by Islam affirms common elements between Judaism and Christianity, and accepts Moses and Jesus Christ (AS) as two of the greatest prophets of all time, sent for guidance of humanity. Islam accepts the virgin birth of Jesus and considers both Mary and Jesus (AS) as chaste and pious, but rejects Trinity. To accept only some of the prophets to the exclusion of others is to fail to heed the divine call: “Verily those who deny God and His apostles and desire that they differentiate between God and His apostles and say ‘We believe in some and we deny, some,’ and intend to take a course between this (and that), these are the infidels, truly, and We have prepared for the infidels a disgraceful torment.”9

To have faith and to be a faithful is to believe and put one’s beliefs into action. The Qur?an says: “It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, righteousness is rather one who believes in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Book, the apostles, and gives his wealth out of love for Him to the kindred and the orphans and the poor and tire wayfarer and the needy and for those in bondage, and established prayer and pays zakat and those who fulfill their promise when they make a promise and the patient ones in distress and affliction and in the time of war. These are they who are the Truthful and these are they who are the pious.”10

The Qur’an epitomizes the concept of plurality when it proclaims: “Verily We sent down the Torah in which there is guidance and light…”11

“And We caused Jesus son of Mary to follow in their footsteps confirming the Torah which was before him and We gave him the Evangel in which was guidance and light…”12

“Verily, those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabeans, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there shall be no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.”13

Islam abhors coercion and intolerance

Islam does not believe in coercion and intolerance, as is clear from the Qur’anic verse 2:256 ?la ikraha fid-din? (meaning: there is no compulsion in religion). Belief or faith is a thing that people must choose for themselves. That is why Allah has not forced anyone to be a true believer and has given him the free will to choose between various options. The Qur?an says: “Say: ‘The truth is from your Lord’: Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it).?14 Religious aggressors are threatened with a “humiliation” in this world and a “mighty chastisement”15 in the Hereafter. Churches, monasteries, synagogues and mosques, according to the Qur’an, are all places of worship.16 The Qur’an categorically says, “To you be your religion, to me my religion.”17

The Prophet Muhammad(P) was repeatedly told not to feel bad when he was rejected by some people: “And if they deny you, those before them also denied. Their messengers came unto them with clear proofs, and with Psalms and the Scripture giving light.”18 Muhammad?s (S) duty was only to convey the message: “If then they turn away, We have not sent you (Muhammad) as a guard over them. Your duty is only to convey (the message)?”19 In another place, likewise, the Qur?an says, “And say, ‘The truth is from your Lord, so whosoever wants let him believe and whosoever wants let him deny.'”20

All these verses make it clear that there is no room for coercion or compulsion in matters of faith.

Islam welcomes diversity in matters of faith

Islam teaches that human diversity is a sign of God’s mercy and a portent for men of knowledge: “And of His (God’s) signs are the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colors.”21

The Qur’an accepts the reality of difference and diversity within humanity. It gives the impression that diversity is part of the divine plan: “If the Lord had willed, He would have made mankind into a single nation?”22

The Qur’an recognizes the legitimate multiplicity of religious convictions and laws, as can be seen from the verse: “To each of you God has prescribed a Law and a Way. If God would have willed, He would have made you a single people. But God?s purpose is to test you in what He has given each of you, so strive in the pursuit of virtue, and know that you will all return to God, and He will resolve all the matters in which you disagree.”23

Muslims are therefore told to proclaim: “Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered (as Muslims).”24

It is because of such lofty notions of diversity and tolerance that the Islamic civilization was pluralistic and unusually tolerant of various social and religious denominations, something that was simply unthinkable elsewhere in the middle ages. Jewish historians testify to the fact that, had it not been for the protection and tutelage provided by Muslim rulers, Jews could not have survived in the Middle Ages. It was all too natural for European Jewry to find refuge among Muslims in North Africa and the Ottoman Empire when Christian Europe was resorting to inquisition, pogroms and holocaust to exterminate them. Muslim rulers never interfered with the religion of their subjects either. There was never anything like the inquisition or the fires of Smithfield. Thus a number of small Christian sects, regarded as heretical by the larger sects, which would inevitably have been exterminated if left to the mercies of the larger sects whose power prevailed in Christendom, were protected and preserved by the power of Islam. Even to this very day, there are groups like the Mountain Jews, Yazidis and Sabaeans (Sabians) that are surviving with their culture and religion intact.

Today we stand on the carcass of religion. Many religious leaders have become the vultures who devour our corpse. They breed hatred and intolerance. And then there are the secular fundamentalists who would only have it their way.

Naturally, there is a debate today what is worse: a secular fundamentalist or a religious fanatic? In my opinion, both are bad. As much as the former needs to respect religious sensibility of others, the latter needs to inculcate God-consciousness that helps him to tolerate other human beings for “if your Lord willed, all on the earth would have believed, in total; will you then compel them to believe?”25 It was that easy for Him.

Concluding remarks

While ignorance is bliss, little knowledge is dangerous. Nearly 70 years ago, Marmaduke Pickthall, the English poet and translator of the Qur’an said:

“If Europe had known as much of Islam, as Muslims knew of Christendom in those days [of the Crusades] those mad, adventurous, occasionally chivalrous and heroic, but utterly fanatical outbreak known as the Crusades could not have taken place, for they were based on a complete misapprehension.”26

I wish I could say that situation has improved in this age of information super-highways. Alas, it has not! My hope is that inter-faith programs like this would help peace-loving people of this planet to come together to fight and oppose bigotry and intolerance in whatever shade they come. Islam and Co-Existence 3

Dr. Habib Siddiqui delivered this speech at the Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN on March 11, 2006. Apparently it had attracted the attention of a rabid Christian missionary who offered a response to it. The rebuttal to that Christian response is here.
Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Islam And Co-Existence," in Bismika Allahuma, March 17, 2006, last accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.bismikaallahuma.org/op-ed/islam-and-co-existence/
  1. Qur’an 49:13 []
  2. Qur?an, 2:111 []
  3. Qur?an, 2:112 []
  4. Qur’an 10:19 []
  5. Qur?an 35:24 []
  6. See also Qur’an 2:213 and 10:37 []
  7. Qur’an, 42:13 []
  8. Qur’an 21:92-93 []
  9. Qur’an, 4:150-151 []
  10. Qur?an, 2:177 []
  11. Qur’an, 5:44 []
  12. Qur’an 5:46 []
  13. Qur’an, 2: 62 []
  14. Qur’an 18:29 []
  15. Qur’an 2:114 []
  16. Qur’an 22: 40 []
  17. 109:6 []
  18. Qur?an 35:25 []
  19. Qur’an 42:48 []
  20. Qur’an 18:29 []
  21. Qur’an 30:22 []
  22. Qur’an 11:118 []
  23. Qur’an 5:49 []
  24. Qur’an 2:136 []
  25. Qur’an 10:99 []
  26. Marmaduke Pickthall, Madras Lectures on Islam (1927) []
Categories
Bible Contradictions External Contradictions Of The Bible The Bible

Geographical Errors Within The New Testament

It is well known that the Gospel of Mark contains numerous geographical errors. This is summed up in Kummel’s classic, Introduction to the New Testament:

[T]he considerations against this assumption [that John Mark, companion of Peter, wrote the gospel of Mark] carry weight. The author obviously has no personal knowledge of Palestinian geography, as the numerous geographical errors show. He writes for Gentile Christians, with sharp polemic against the unbelieving Jews. He does not know the account of the death of the Baptist (6:17 ff) contradicts Palestinian customs. Could a Jewish Christian from Jerusalem miss the fact that 6:35 ff and 8:1 ff are two variants of the same feeding story? The tradition that Mk was written by John Mark is therefore scarcely reliable. The reference to I Pet 5:13 (“The elect of Babylon and my son Mark also greets you”) does not account for the tradition, but only the subsequent linking up of the author of Mk with the preaching of Peter. Accordingly, the author of Mk is unknown to us.1

In fact, one of the reasons why many scholars doubt that the anonymous author of Mark was a Jewish individual and a native of Palestine is precisely due to the presence of a number of geographical errors, mistakes and confusions in this gospel. If the author was a native of Palestine and a Jew, then how was he so ignorant regarding the region’s geography?

Essentially, the arguments against John Mark, a Jewish resident of Jerusalem and later the companion of Paul and also of Peter, writing this Gospel are that he does not appear to be familiar with the geography of Palestine in the first century (Mark 7:31; 11:1) or with Jewish customs, overgeneralizes about the Jews (7:3-4), from whom he seems to distance himself, and does not reflect the theology of either Paul or Peter as a companion might (Phlm 23; cf. Col. 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11).2

To give an example, we read in the gospel according to Mark the following account:

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt there which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you,’Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The lord needs it and will send it back shortly.'” They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They answered that Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had out in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming of the kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” (Mark 11:1-11)

In Mark 10:46 however, we read that Jesus was in Jericho. The sentence above shows that Jesus and his group were travelling from Jericho to Jerusalem via Bethphage and then Bethany. This, however, is quite impossible. Bethany is further away from Jerusalem than Bethphage is. The Biblical theologian, D.E. Nineham, comments:

The geographical details make an impression of awkwardness, especially as Bethphage and Bethany are given in reverse order to that in which travellers from Jericho would reach them…and we must therefore assume that St Mark did not know the relative positions of the two villages on the Jericho road…3

The missionaries would obviously deny the above glaring error in Mark with their multiferous explanations. However the author of Matthew fully realised that Mark, who was supposedly “inspired”, had made a gross factual error. Matthew, who copied Mark changed this passage to remove the error:

“When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives…” (Matthew 21:1)

Note that Matthew had removed the reference to Bethany completely from Mark’s account. Again the most likely explanation is that Matthew noticed Mark’s error and tried to correct it. As Randel Helms informs us:

Mark writes on the basis of a vague knowledge of Judaean geography, not knowing that one approaching Jerusalem from the east on the road from Jericho would reach first Bethany and then Bethphage, not the reverse order he indicates. However, the important location is the Mount of Olives; typology, not history, is at work here. The typological fiction continues on the basis of Zech. 9:9 LXX:

‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the king is coming to thee, just and a Saviour [sozon, “saving”]; he is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal [polon neon, a “new (unridden) foal”].’

It is only with this passage that we can understand why Mark has Jesus specify that his diciples obtain a “colt [polon] which no one has yet ridden” (Mark 11:2). Mark ignores the danger and unlikelihood of riding on an unbroken, untrained animal, assuming its miraculous tractability; typology rather than history is operative here.4

Who is correct, Matthew or Mark? Was Mark “inspired” or was Matthew “inspired” as far as the above passage is concerned?

Bruce M. Metzger makes mention of several internal and geographical errors within the New Testament in which later scribes attempted to clear away:

A few scribes attempted to harmonize the Johannine account of the chronology of the Passion with that in Mark by changing ‘sixth hour’ of John xix. 14 to ‘third hour’ (which appears in Mark xv. 25). At John i. 28 Origen 1 altered in order to remove what he regarded as a geographical difficulty, and this reading is extant today in MSS. 33 69 and many others, including those which lie behind the King James version. The statement in Mark viii. 31, that ‘the Son of man must suffer many things…and be killed and aftee: three days rise again’, seems to involve a chronological difficulty, and some copyists changed the phrase to the more familiar expression, ‘on the third day’ . The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews places the golden altar of incense in the Holy of Holies (Heb. ix. 4), which is contrary to the Old Testament description of the Tabernacle (Exod. xxx. 1-6). The scribe of codex Vaticanus and the translator of the Ethiopic version correct the account by transferring the words to ix. 2, where the furniture of the Holy Place is itemized.5

Another Christian scholar, Raymond E. Brown, notes the inability of the author of Mark to identify the geographical places in ancient Palestine. He says:

That the author of this Greek Gospel was John Mark, a (presumably Aramaic-speaking) Jew of Jerusalem who had early become a Christian, is hard to reconcile with the impression that it does not seem to be a translation from Aramaic,82 that it seems to depend on traditions (and perhaps already shaped sources) receieved in Greek, and that it seems confused about Palestinian geography83 (The attempt to claim that Mark used geography theologically and therefore did not bother about accuracy seems strained).6

In footnote 83, Brown had in fact revealed another instance of the gospel author’s unfamiliarity with ancient Palestine geography. He states that:

83 Mark 5:1, 13 betrays confusion about the distance of Gerasa from the sea of Galilee (n. 17 above). Mark 7:31 describes a journey from Tyre through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee in the midst of the Decapolis. In fact one goes SE from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee; Sidon is N for Tyre, and the description of the Sea of Galilee in the midst of the Decapolis is awkward. That a boat headed for Bethsaida (NE side of the Sea of Galilee) arrives at Gennesaret (NW side: 6:45,53) may also signal confusion. No one has been able to locate the Dalmanutha of 8:10, and it may be a corruption of Magdala.7

Though Brown attempts to explain away these geographical errors by stating that “one must admit that sometimes even natives of a place are not very clear about geography”8, he does not deny their presence in the text. In another footnote, he states that:

Many other examples of improbable reconciliations could be offered. Since Matt has a Sermon on the Mount and Luke has a similar Sermon on the Plain (Matt 5:1; Luke 6:7), there must have been a plain on the side of the mountain. Since Matt has the Lord’s Prayer taught in that sermon and Luke has it later on the road to Jerusalem (Matt 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4), the disciples must have forgotten it, causing Jesus to repeat it. Mark 10:46 places the healing of the blind man after Jesus left Jericho, while Luke 18:35; 19:1 places it before Jesus entered Jericho. Perhaps Jesus was leaving the site of the OT Jericho and entering the site of the NT Jericho!9

Furthermore, the Gospel according to Luke, another anonymous gospel, also contains a number of geographical errors that have led scholars to the conclusion that its author was not from Palestine. Brown comments:

What happens when Jesus goes to a deserted place (Luke 4:24-44) exhibits typical Lucan universalizing, since the people rather than Simon and his companions come to seek out Jesus. Compared to Mark 1:39, which has Jesus going through the synagogues of all Galilee, Luke 4:44 localizes the synagogues in Judea. That may illustrate the vagueness of Luke’s ideas of Palestinian geography, since in the next verse (5:1) Jesus is still in Galilee, at the Lake. Or does Luke’s Judea simply mean “the country of the Jews”?10

Brown presents another example of Luke’s confusion with Palestinian geography:

3. Last Stage of Journey till Arrival in Jerusalem (17:11-19:27). This begins with the uniquely Lucan cleansing of the ten lepers, including the thankful Samaritan (17:11-19). Jesus has been travelling toward Jerusalem since 9:51, and in 9:52 his messengers entered a Samaritan village. That at this point in the story he is still passing between Samaria and Galilee tells us that the journey is an artificual framework (and also that Luke may not have had a precise idea of Palestinian geography).11

G. A. Wells in his The Historical Evidence for Jesus makes mentions a number of geographical errors within the gospel according to Mark together with quoting other Biblical scholars admiting the presence of these errors and confusions in this gospel:

Mark makes serious mistakes in his geographical references to Palestine. He knows the Galilean place names and the general relative positions of the localities, but not specific details. Hence he “represents Jesus as travelling back and forth in Galilee and adjacent territories in a puzzling fashion” (Kee, 117, pp 102 – 3). To go (as Jesus is said to in Mk. 7:31) from the territory of Tyre by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee “is like travelling from Cornwall to London via Manchester” (Anderson, 2, p 192). Again, Mark’s “references to movements across the Sea of Galilee are impossible to trace sequentially. Mention of specific location near the sea are either unknown sites, such as Dalmanutha (8:10), or are patently inaccurate, as in the designation of the eastern shore of the lake as the country of the Gerasenes (5:1)” (Kee, loc cit). Gerasa is more than thirty miles souteast of the lake, too far away for the setting of the story which demands a city in its vincinity, with a precipitous slope down to the water. Probably all that concerned Mark, collecting and adapting pre-existing stories about Jesus, was that the lake and its surrounding territories, some Jewish and some mainly Gentile, was an ideal setting for journey’s of Jesus and his disciples, showing how both Jews and Gentiles responded to him with faith. That place names in Mark caused perplexity among early readers is shown by the wide range of variants in the textual tradition where names occur in the gospel. Perplexity is also evidenced by Matthew, who changed Mark’s Gerasenes to Gadarenes (Mt. 8:28), Gadara being a well-known spa only eight miles from the lake.12

Michael T. Griffith makes note of this confusion between Gerasenes and Gadarenes, and says that:

According to most modern versions of the Bible, Mark 5:1 refers to the Sea of Galilee’s eastern shore as the country of the Gerasene:

“They [Christ and the disciples] came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes” (RSV; so also the NIV and the New American Bible).

This translation is based on the fact that the best and oldest manuscripts for this verse all read “the country of the Gerasenes.” However, the Sea of Galilee’s eastern shore cannot qualify as the land of the Gerasenes because Gerasa (modern Jerash) is more than thirty miles to the southeast. In addition, the account which follows verse 1 requires a nearby city with a steep slope leading down to the Sea of Galilee. This could not possibly be Gerasa. Gerasa is simply too far away, and there is no slope running all the way from that site to the Sea of Galilee.

In the KJV, Mark 5:1 reads, “the country of the Gadarenes,” but this is based on inferior readings from the Greek texts. As mentioned above, the best and oldest manuscripts read “the country of the Gerasenes.” In any event, Gadara, though closer than Gerasa, is still too far away to fit, since it is located about six miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee.

According to the KJV rendering of Matthew 8:28, the region in question is named “the country of the Gergesenes.” This reading is based on inferior manuscript evidence and represents a scribal addition by later copyists (Metzger 1971:23-24). The best textual evidence for Matthew 8:28 reads “the country of the Gadarenes,” which is how it appears in the better modern translations of Matthew. Again, though, Gadara is too far away from the Sea of Galilee. To add to the confusion, Luke 8:26 follows the geography attributed to Mark. Although the KJV reads “the country of the Gadarenes,” this is another case of this version’s reliance on inferior textual evidence. The better modern translations read “Gerasenes.”

Lindsey Pherigo sums up the situation with regard to Mark 5:1:

The general location [of the events spoken of in Mark 5] is reported [in vs. 1] to be the E shore of the Sea of Galilee but the exact location is reported in different ways. The oldest and best manuscripts have Gerasa, but this is too far from the Sea of Galilee to fit well. Matt. changes this to Gadara (“the country of the Gadarenes,” 8:28), but this, though nearer, is still too far from the water. Later copyists change both to “Gergesa,” which may correspond to some ruins on the E side of the sea. It remains a problem.13

Conclusion

We have thus shown that the scribes of the New Testament were certainly aware of the presence of errors, in this case geographical errors, within the New Testament text. That is why they had proceeded to clear up whatever obvious errors that recur within their texts. Many of such errors were thus “corrected” over the passage of time whereas others that escape “correction” are vehemently defended by current-day missionaries with the preference to use a number of highly-imaginative mental gymnastics.

And only God knows best! Geographical Errors Within The New Testament 5

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Geographical Errors Within The New Testament," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.bismikaallahuma.org/bible/geographical-errors-new-testament/
  1. Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 97 []
  2. Lee Martin Mc Donald and Stanley E. Porter, Early Christianity and its Sacred Literature, (Nov 2000, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.), p. 286 []
  3. Nineham, Saint Mark (Westminster John Knox Press, 1978), pp. 294-295 []
  4. Randel Helms, Gospel Fictions, p. 103 []
  5. Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament. Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (Third Enlarged Edition, 1992, Oxford University Press), pp. 199-200 []
  6. Raymond E. Brown, S.S., An Introduction To The New Testament, The Anchor Bible Reference Library (Doubleday, 1997) pp. 159-160 []
  7. ibid., p. 160 []
  8. ibid. []
  9. ibid., pp. 109-110 []
  10. ibid., pp. 238 []
  11. ibid., p. 251 []
  12. G. A. Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus (Prometheus Books, 1982), p. 230 []
  13. Michael T. Griffith, Is The Bible Inerrant And Complete? (1994) [Online Document] []
Categories
Jerusalem History

The Position Of Jerusalem And Haram As-Shareef In Islam

The purpose of this article is to explain the significance of Jerusalem, or also known to Muslims as Bayt al-Maqdis (The Holy House) or simply al-Quds (The Holy); and the Haram As-Shareef (The Noble Sanctuary) area from the viewpoint of Islam and Muslims. At the same time, we also seek to look at the common objections of the Zionists and Christian missionaries against the claim of Islam over Jerusalem as its third most holiest site and see whether it stands up to the scrutiny.

Jerusalem In the Qur’an

“Glory to [God] Who did take His Servant for a Journey by night from the Sacred Mosque to the Farthest Mosque, whose precincts We did bless – in order that We might show him some of Our Signs: for He is the One Who heareth and seeth (all things).” (Qur’an 17:1)

In Islam, the only place whereby the Farthest Mosque (Masjid Al-Aqsa) is located is in the city of Jerusalem. Furthermore, the surrounding land around the Mosque has also been described by the Qur’an as being holy:

“[Moses said] O my people! Enter the holy land [Palestine] which God has assigned to you…” (Qur’an 5:21)

The above verse in Qur’an 17:1 has also described the mosque to be located in surroundings which “… We [i.e. God] did bless”. It is interesting to note that that the location which “… We [i.e. God] did bless” is generally used in the Qur’an for Palestine1. The Bible too has referred to Palestine as a land blessed by God. Addressing the Israelites, Moses(P) is reported to have said about it:

For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with flowing streams, with springs and underground waters welling up in valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, a land where you may eat bread without scarcity, where you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron and from whose hills you may mine copper. You shall eat your fill and bless the LORD your God for the good land that he has given you. (Deuteronomy 8:7?10)

During the Mi’raj, the Prophet(P) is reported to have received from God the command of five daily prayers (salah) that all Muslims must perform. Upon his return to Mecca, the Prophet instituted these prayers. It is significant to note that he made Jerusalem the direction (al-Qiblah) which Muslims must face while doing their prayers (narrated by al-Bukhari, 41 and by Muslim, 525). Jerusalem is thus called Ula al-Qiblatain (the first qiblah). The Prophet(P) and the early community of Islam worshipped towards the direction of Jerusalem during their stay in Mecca. After the Hijra’ (migration), Muslims in Medina also continued to pray facing Jerusalem for almost seventeen months until God commanded the Muslims to change their direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca (Qur’an 2:142-150).

These established facts above clearly signifies the importance of Jerusalem in Islam. Furthermore, the Prophet(P)is reported to have said that:

You should not travel toward any other place for the purpose of worship and veneration except the three mosques: The Masjid al-Haraam [i.e. the Ka`abah]; the Masjid al-Aqsaa and this mosque [at Madinah] (Ibn Maajah)

Objections of Zionists and Christian Missionaries

We wish to examine two of the most often-repeated objections of the Zionists and the Christian missionaries to the claim of Jerusalem as the third-most holiest site in Islam. The first is as follows:

    …the Koran says nothing about Jerusalem. It mentions Mecca hundreds of times. It mentions Medina countless times. It never mentions Jerusalem. With good reason. There is no historical evidence to suggest Mohammed ever visited Jerusalem.

However, this claim is baseless. The reason they find difficulty in acknowledging the position of Jerusalem and the Haram As-Shareef in Islam is because of the general tendency of studying Islam in seclusion of the traditions of the Prophets of God preceding Muhammad(P). Islam is not a new religion. It has never claimed to be so. The Qur’an has clearly stated that Islam was the religion taught by all the prophets of God. The Islamic tradition is thus a continuation of the correct traditions of Judaism. If those in opposition to the Muslim claim over Jerusalem were to actually look at Islam, in the light of the foregoing principle, he/she would not find any problem in acknowledging that the position of Jerusalem in Islam is the same as it is in Judaism, merely on the grounds that Islam is actually in continuation of the true traditions of the prophets of God – including Moses(P), David(P), Solomon(P), John the Baptist(P) and Jesus(P) – even though the name of Jerusalem is not even mentioned once in the Qur’an.

The second objection commonly perpetuated by the Zionists is as follows:

    … Jerusalem was never the capital of any Arab entity. In fact, it was a backwater for most of Arab history. Jerusalem never served as a provincial capital under Muslim rule nor was it ever a Muslim cultural center.

To claim that Jerusalem is “unimportant” because it never served as a political capital for Muslims is hilarious in its absurdity and shows how desperate the Zionists are to deny the importance of Jerusalem to Muslims. The two holiest cities in Islam apart from Jerusalem – Mecca and Medina – had never become a political capital for an Islamic state. Medina was merely a city-state which the Prophet Muhammad had ruled, not a capital of a State. After the death of the Prophet(P), the Islamic capitals were subsequently located in (not in particular order) Baghdad, Damascus, Kufah, Cairo and Constantinople (Istanbul). The holy cities of Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem has never diminished in their status as the three most holiest sites in Islam, even though the Islamic capital were located and relocated somewhere else. If the Zionists want to deny Muslims the city of Jerusalem on the basis that it was never a “political capital”, then what about the cities of Mecca and Medina which was never a “political capital” during Islamic rule?

Jerusalem in Muslim History

We have seen in history of Jerusalem how Muslims had not only dedicated the site of Haram As-Shareef for worship to The One True God countless times, they had also sacrificed their lives for it.

Jerusalem was liberated by the Muslims in the first half of the seventh century C.E., when Muslims entered the holy city in 14 A.H./A.D. 638 during the reign of the second Caliph ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab(R). According to historical sources, the Caliph ‘Umar(R) came personally and specially to take over the city from its patriarch at that time, Sophronius, who refused to capitulate the city to anyone except `Umar(R). The sources also indicate that the Caliph declared a special Sulh (‘Ahd) to the Christians living in the city; its text developed in time to be known as the Covenant of ‘Umar. In this covenant, the Caliph guaranteed further religious freedom, safety of churches and secured the lives, fortunes and properties of the people living in the city (Mujir al-Din Vol. 1, 1973: 254)2.

The Muslims were horrified when they first discovered that that the area of Haram As-Shareef was abandoned and used as the city’s garbage dump. It was the Muslims who then cleaned and purified the place to its pristine form. We read that:

When the Arabs conquered Jerusalem they found the Temple Mount abandoned and filled with refuse. The abandonment of the Temple site was in accordance with with Jesus’ prophecy that not a stone would be left standing on another. ‘Umar ordered it cleaned and performed a prayer there.3

So we see that the Temple area had been abandoned some 600 years before the Muslims entered it. But who was using the holy site as a garbage dump?

Ever since the Persian occupation, when the Jews had resumed worship on the platform, the Christians had used the place as the city rubbish dump. When ‘Umar reached the old ruined gates of the Temple, says the Muslim historian Muj?r al-D?n, he was horrified to see the filth, “which was then all about the holy sanctuary, had settled on the steps of the gates so that it even came out into the streets in which the gate opened, and it had accumulated so greatly as almost to reach up the ceiling of the gateway.” The only way to get up to the platform was to crawl on hands and knees. Sophronius went first and the Muslims struggled up behind. When they arrived at the top, the Muslims must have gazed appalled at the vast and desolate expanse of Herod’s platform, still covered with piles of fallen masonry and garbage.4

So it was the Christians! The Christian attitude towards Jerusalem can be understood by reading the New Testament. Paul’s Epistles and the Book of Revelation may have defined a theological framework for the attitude towards Jerusalem, but the two synoptic gospels of Luke (19:42-44) and Matthew did more than that. They also provided guidelines for political or quaispolitical actions after Christianity became the officially established religion of the Roman Empire. The gospels relate how Jesus(P) rebuked his disciples when they admired the Temple’s beauty from the Mount of Olives:

His disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the Temple. But he answered them, ‘You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left any stone upon another.’ (Matthew 24:1-2).

Art historians such as Nuseibah and Grabar have reached a similar conclusion concerning the Christian attitude towards the Temple Mount:

More importantly, not only was the Haram left barren, but that very barrenness was given the Christian significance of fulfilling Christ’s prophecy, “There will not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down” (Mark 13:2). The ruins of the Jewish Temple and whatever else had been there were to remains as signs of the triumph of Christianity.5

And as expected, the Temple Mount was left in the state of pile of fallen masonry and rubbish, until the Muslims arrive and cleaned the place.

On July 15, 1099 Jerusalem was taken from the Muslims by the Crusaders from Europe. The Crusaders slaughtered the inhabitants of Jerusalem in an unjustified carnage. Philip K. Hitti records that:

A month’s siege proved more effective. On July 15 the besiegers stormed the city and perpetrated an indiscriminate massacre involving all ages and both sexes. “Heaps of heads and hands and feet were to be seen throughout the streets and squares of the city”.6

The Dome of the Rock was converted into a Christian church called the templum domini – “Temple of our Lord.” The Dome of the Rock was used as a headquarters for the Knights of the Templar who officiated the Temple compound, while Masjid al-Aqsa was used as a stable for their horses. It was a Muslim leader, Sultan Salahuddin Al-Ayubbi (Saladin) who fought for the liberation of Jerusalem from the Crusaders and finally succeeded in liberating the city. After ninety years of Crusader control (1099-1187), Jerusalem surrendered to Saladin’s army on October 2, 1187. In contrast to the brutality of the Crusaders, Saladin treated the defeated Crusaders with kindness and mercy.

To those who object to the significance of Jerusalem in Islam, we can ask them a simple rhetorical question: if Jerusalem has no importance in Islam, why did the city had consistently played a significant role in rallying Muslims? Why did the Caliph ‘Umar(R) and Saladin respectively wasted their time and resources to take the trouble to liberate Jerusalem from those who defile Haram As-Shareef? The answer is obvious, Muslims do hold Jerusalem as a holy city and the city does hold an important position in Islam.

Conclusions

We have seen the evidence of the claim of Islam over Jerusalem, where Masjid al-Aqsa is located. The city of Jerusalem is very important to Muslims and they have a right to this city religiously, historically and legally. Muslims have always viewed Jerusalem as a holy place which must be defended because it is similar to Makkah in its holiness and has been so for more than 14 centuries. These places must be protected given that Abraham(P), the Father of all Prophets(P), had built the Ka`abah in Mecca and thereafter moved to Palestine where he passed away and was buried in Hebron near Jerusalem.

Muslims will never forget that they used to pray toward Jerusalem in the early stages of Islam before God ordered it to be changed to the Holy Shrine in Makkah. There is a mosque in Madinah that still has the two directions (one pointing toward Jerusalem and one towards Makkah), namely Masjid al-Qiblatain, as real evidence for this intimate connection between Jerusalem and Makkah. Muslims had also several times sacrificed their lives for the holy city, and sanctified Haram As-Shareef when it was defiled twice — after liberating the city from Byzantium rule and the Crusaders respectively. It was Islam that had continuously and consistently restored the sanctity of the Temple Mount, and made it a place of prostration and prayer.

And only God knows best. The Position of Jerusalem and Haram As-Shareef in Islam 7

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "The Position Of Jerusalem And Haram As-Shareef In Islam," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.bismikaallahuma.org/history/jerusalem/the-position-of-jerusalem-and-haram-as-shareef-in-islam/
  1. For examples see: Al-Aa`raaf 7: 137, Al-Anbiyaa 21: 71 and Al-Anbiyaa 21: 81. The Qur’an has several times referred to Palestine as al-ard al-muqaddasah (the sacred land; Qur’an 5:21) and called its surroundings barakna hawlaha (God’s blessed precincts; Qur’an 17:1) []
  2. Dr. Marwan Abu Khalaf, The Religious Factors in Settlement Patterns in Jerusalem in the Early Islamic Period [Online Document, archived], Ministry of Information, Palestine National Authority []
  3. C. Glasse, Dome Of The Rock, The Concise Encyclopaedia Of Islam (1989), Stacey International: London, p. 102 []
  4. Karen Armstrong, Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths, 1997, Ballantine Books: New York, p. 229 []
  5. Sa’id Nuseibah & Oleg Grabar, The Dome Of The Rock, 1996, Thames and Hudson: London (UK), p. 35 []
  6. Philip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs (10th Ed.), The Macmillan Press Ltd (1970), p. 639 []
Categories
Op-Ed Christianity Islam

We Cannot Afford To Maintain These Ancient Prejudices Against Islam

In the 12th century, Peter the Venerable, Abbot of Cluny, initiated a dialogue with the Islamic world. “I approach you not with arms, but with words,” he wrote to the Muslims whom he imagined reading his book, “not with force, but with reason, not with hatred, but with love.” Yet his treatise was entitled Summary of the Whole Heresy of the Diabolical Sect of the Saracens and segued repeatedly into spluttering intransigence. Words failed Peter when he contemplated the “bestial cruelty” of Islam, which, he claimed, had established itself by the sword. Was Muhammad a true prophet? “I shall be worse than a donkey if I agree,” he expostulated, “worse than cattle if I assent!”

Peter was writing at the time of the Crusades. Even when Christians were trying to be fair, their entrenched loathing of Islam made it impossible for them to approach it objectively. For Peter, Islam was so self-evidently evil that it did not seem to occur to him that the Muslims he approached with such “love” might be offended by his remarks. This medieval cast of mind is still alive and well.

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI quoted, without qualification and with apparent approval, the words of the 14th-century Byzantine emperor Manuel II: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The Vatican seemed bemused by the Muslim outrage occasioned by the Pope’s words, claiming that the Holy Father had simply intended “to cultivate an attitude of respect and dialogue toward the other religions and cultures, and obviously also towards Islam”.

But the Pope’s good intentions seem far from obvious. Hatred of Islam is so ubiquitous and so deeply rooted in western culture that it brings together people who are usually at daggers drawn. Neither the Danish cartoonists, who published the offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad last February, nor the Christian fundamentalists who have called him a paedophile and a terrorist, would ordinarily make common cause with the Pope; yet on the subject of Islam they are in full agreement.

Our Islamophobia dates back to the time of the Crusades, and is entwined with our chronic antisemitism. Some of the first Crusaders began their journey to the Holy Land by massacring the Jewish communities along the Rhine valley; the Crusaders ended their campaign in 1099 by slaughtering some 30,000 Muslims and Jews in Jerusalem. It is always difficult to forgive people we know we have wronged. Thenceforth Jews and Muslims became the shadow-self of Christendom, the mirror image of everything that we hoped we were not – or feared that we were.

The fearful fantasies created by Europeans at this time endured for centuries and reveal a buried anxiety about Christian identity and behaviour. When the popes called for a Crusade to the Holy Land, Christians often persecuted the local Jewish communities: why march 3,000 miles to Palestine to liberate the tomb of Christ, and leave unscathed the people who had – or so the Crusaders mistakenly assumed – actually killed Jesus. Jews were believed to kill little children and mix their blood with the leavened bread of Passover: this “blood libel” regularly inspired pogroms in Europe, and the image of the Jew as the child slayer laid bare an almost Oedipal terror of the parent faith.

Jesus had told his followers to love their enemies, not to exterminate them. It was when the Christians of Europe were fighting brutal holy wars against Muslims in the Middle East that Islam first became known in the west as the religion of the sword. At this time, when the popes were trying to impose celibacy on the reluctant clergy, Muhammad was portrayed by the scholar monks of Europe as a lecher, and Islam condemned – with ill-concealed envy – as a faith that encouraged Muslims to indulge their basest sexual instincts. At a time when European social order was deeply hierarchical, despite the egalitarian message of the gospel, Islam was condemned for giving too much respect to women and other menials.

In a state of unhealthy denial, Christians were projecting subterranean disquiet about their activities on to the victims of the Crusades, creating fantastic enemies in their own image and likeness. This habit has persisted. The Muslims who have objected so vociferously to the Pope’s denigration of Islam have accused him of “hypocrisy”, pointing out that the Catholic church is ill-placed to condemn violent jihad when it has itself been guilty of unholy violence in crusades, persecutions and inquisitions and, under Pope Pius XII, tacitly condoned the Nazi Holocaust.

Pope Benedict delivered his controversial speech in Germany the day after the fifth anniversary of September 11. It is difficult to believe that his reference to an inherently violent strain in Islam was entirely accidental. He has, most unfortunately, withdrawn from the interfaith initiatives inaugurated by his predecessor, John Paul II, at a time when they are more desperately needed than ever. Coming on the heels of the Danish cartoon crisis, his remarks were extremely dangerous. They will convince more Muslims that the west is incurably Islamophobic and engaged in a new crusade.

We simply cannot afford this type of bigotry. The trouble is that too many people in the western world unconsciously share this prejudice, convinced that Islam and the Qur’an are addicted to violence. The 9/11 terrorists, who in fact violated essential Islamic principles, have confirmed this deep-rooted western perception and are seen as typical Muslims instead of the deviants they really were.

With disturbing regularity, this medieval conviction surfaces every time there is trouble in the Middle East. Yet until the 20th century, Islam was a far more tolerant and peaceful faith than Christianity. The Qur’an strictly forbids any coercion in religion and regards all rightly guided religion as coming from God; and despite the western belief to the contrary, Muslims did not impose their faith by the sword.

The early conquests in Persia and Byzantium after the Prophet’s death were inspired by political rather than religious aspirations. Until the middle of the eighth century, Jews and Christians in the Muslim empire were actively discouraged from conversion to Islam, as, according to Qur’anic teaching, they had received authentic revelations of their own. The extremism and intolerance that have surfaced in the Muslim world in our own day are a response to intractable political problems – oil, Palestine, the occupation of Muslim lands, the prevalence of authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, and the west’s perceived “double standards” – and not to an ingrained religious imperative.

But the old myth of Islam as a chronically violent faith persists, and surfaces at the most inappropriate moments. As one of the received ideas of the west, it seems well-nigh impossible to eradicate. Indeed, we may even be strengthening it by falling back into our old habits of projection. As we see the violence – in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon – for which we bear a measure of responsibility, there is a temptation, perhaps, to blame it all on “Islam”. But if we are feeding our prejudice in this way, we do so at our peril. We cannot afford to maintain these ancient prejudices against Islam 8

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "We Cannot Afford To Maintain These Ancient Prejudices Against Islam," in Bismika Allahuma, September 19, 2006, last accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.bismikaallahuma.org/op-ed/we-cannot-afford-to-maintain-these-ancient-prejudices-against-islam/
Categories
Jerusalem History

The Dome Of The Rock (Qubbat As-Sakhra)

The most universally recognized symbol of Jerusalem is not a Jewish or Christian holy place but a Muslim one: the Dome of the Rock, or Qubbat as-Sakhra as it is known in Arabic. When people see its golden dome rising above the open expanse of Haram as-Shareef, they think of only one place in the world. The Dome of the Rock is undoubtedly one of the most celebrated and most remarkable monuments of early Islam, visited every year by thousands of pilgrims and tourists. It is Jerusalem’s answer to Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Rome’s St. Peter’s Square, London’s Big Ben and Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas twin towers; dazzling the minds of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. The Dome of the Rock is Jerusalem.

The Dome of the Rock was built around 688-691 C.E. (68-72 A.H.) by the Umayyad Caliphal-Walid ibn Abd al-Malik. This building is located in the middle of the Haram as-Shareef complex and the dome itself covers the Holy Rock, located directly under the dome, from which Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven on his night journey. The Holy Rock itself is a huge irregular rock measuring 17.7 metres north-south, 13.5 metres east-west, and 1.5 metres in height.

The building had underwent several restorations that maintained the original plan and design. It symbolizes the excellence of Islamic architecture and more than just an example of a typical mosque, it is also a reflection of its historical context. This includes the attempt to rival the Islamic empire’s predecessor in the area, the Byzantine-Christian empire, as well as to establish a monument over a holy site.1

The golden dome stretches 20 metres across the Noble Rock, rising to an apex more than 35 metres above it. Half of the lower part is covered with marble while the second half is covered with blue qashany squares inscribed with the Qur’anic chapter ‘Ya Sin’, a work commissioned in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent:

Ya Sin
By the wise Qur’an
Surely you are among those sent on a straight path
A revelation of the Mighty, the Compassionate
That you might warn a people whose fathers were never warned, so they are heedless
(Qur’an 36:1-6)2

The Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhra) 10
A partial view of the exterior of the Dome with Qur’anic inscriptions on blue qashany squares

The Dome of the Rock is an octagon; four of its sides face the 4 directions, and the Rock is in the center and is about 1.5 metres high. It measures 18 metres long by 13 metres wide, covered by a circular dome consisting of four circular fringes covered with marble squares with three marble columns between every two of them. They also carry 16 arches covered with white and black marble. The upper circular part of the Dome is covered with mosaic decorations of plants in harmonious colours, mainly green, blue and gold. The neck has some shells with 16 windows, made internally of glaze and externally of china or qashany blocks decorated with circular vents. The ceiling of the middle and external porches is flat and covered with wooden decorations leaning toward the external octagon and covered with lead sheets, but they are covered with silver aluminum sheets. The neck is covered with qashany decorations outside with a strip containing Sura’ al-Isra’a (The Night Journey), which was made in the 15th century. The neck had been covered with mosaics decorated with plant images. There are 40 columns, and 4 large external doors, namely David’s door or Isra’fil, the Paradise door, al-Aqsa door and the west door facing Bab al-Qattaneen.3

That this Muslim shrine has become the symbol of Jerusalem because of its magnificent golden dome dominating the skyline of Jerusalem is well recognized. Writing in about 985 C.E., Al-Muqaddas?the famous Muslim traveler born in Jerusalem, wrote that

At the dawn, when the light of the sun first strikes on the cupola and the drum catches the rays, then is this edifice a marvelous site to behold and one such that in all Islam I have never seen its equal; neither have I heard tell of aught built in pagan times that could rival in grace this Dome of the Rock.4

Writing of the sublimely beautiful structure with its heavenly dome, the British authority on Muslim architecture, K. A. C. Creswell, exclaimed:

Under a scheme whereby the size of every part is related to every other part in some definite proportion….the building instead of being a collection of odd notes becomes a harmonious chord in stones, a sort of living crystal; and after all it really is not strange that harmonies of this sort should appeal to us through our sight, just as chords in music appeal to our hearing. Some of the ratios involved….are fundamental in time and space, they go right down to the very basis of our nature, and of the physical universe in which we live and move.5

From the Muslim point of view, the Dome of the Rock was an answer to Christianity and its doctrines, providing Muslims with arguments to be used against Christian theology. The inscriptions are seven hundred and thirty-four feet long in all, amongst the lengthiest inscriptions in the world. There is a great amount of repetition and many quotations from the Qur’an The following extracts are as follows:

    Inner Face: South Wall. In the name of Allah the Merciful the Compassionate. There is no God but Allah alone; He has no co-partner. He is the Kingship and His the praise. He giveth life and He causeth to die, and He hath power over everything.

    South-East Wall. Verily Allah and His angels pronounce blessing upon the Prophet. O ye who have pronounced blessings upon Him and give Him the salutation of peace. O, People of the Book, do not go beyond the bounds in your religion and do not say about Allah anything but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is but a messenger of Allah and His word which He cast upon Mary and a spirit from Him. So believe only in Allah and of His messenger, but do not say “Three” (Trinity) and it will be better for you. Allah is only one God. Far be it from His glory that He should have a son.

    North Wall. The Messiah will not deign to be in the service of Allah nor will the angels who stand in his presence. O Allah; pray upon Thy messenger the servant Jesus – (N-W Wall) the son of Mary and peace be upon him the day of his birth, the day of his death and the day of his being raised alive. That is Jesus, son of Mary – a statement concerning which you are in doubt. It is not for Allah to take for Himself any offspring, glory be to Him.

    West Wall. Allah bears witness that there is no God but Him, likewise the angels and the people possessed of knowledge (S-W Wall) – Upholding justice. There is no God but He, the Almighty and All Wise. Verily, the religion in Allah’s sight is Islam.

    Outer Face: West and North-West Walls. In the name of Allah the Merciful and Compassionate. There is no God but Allah alone. Praise be to Allah who hath not taken to himself offspring. To Him there has never been any person in the sovereignty. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah, may God pray upon him and accept his intercession. Praise be God who has not taken unto Himself a son and who has no partner in sovereignty nor has He any protector on account of weakness.

In the last 1300 years, with only one exception6, the Dome of the Rock had always been in the hands of Muslims. The Dome of the Rock will always be sacred to Muslims and will remain there for as long as the Zionists do not attempt to destroy this Muslim shrine that has already been synonymous with the holy city of Jerusalem or deny Muslim access to the holy city.7

And only God knows best. The Dome of the Rock (Qubbat as-Sakhra) 11

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "The Dome Of The Rock (Qubbat As-Sakhra)," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.bismikaallahuma.org/history/jerusalem/the-dome-of-the-rock/
  1. Alia F. Hasan, The Dome of the Rock: the Atypical Mosque [Online Document] []
  2. The Dome of the Rock, Noble Sanctuary Online Guide [Online Document] []
  3. Al-Aqsa Mosque Under Israeli Occupation, Palestine Info [Online Document] []
  4. As cited by Solomon Steckoll, The Temple Mount (Tom Stacey, Ltd., London, 1972), p. 31 []
  5. As cited by Dome of the Rock, Sacred Sites [Online Document] []
  6. On July 15, 1099 Jerusalem was taken from the Muslims by the Crusaders from Europe. The Crusaders slaughtered the inhabitants of Jerusalem in an unjustified carnage. The Dome of the Rock was converted into a Christian church called the Templum Domini, “Temple of our Lord.” []
  7. It is unfortunate that the Zionists and Christian missionaries try to deny the significance of Jerusalem in Islam. Refer to The Position of Jerusalem and Haram As-Shareef In Islam. []