A common word? (extremely long)

October 18, 2007 at 4:27 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful

A Common Word between Us and You(Summary and Abridgement)

Muslims and Christians together make up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice between these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians. 

But is this peace the Islamic ideal of peace or the Christian one? They are two different ideals, and to see that all one has to do is look at the way Islamic countries and scriptures promote peace as opposed to Christian countries.

 The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbor.  

I ask the same question of the Muslims that was asked of Jesus by the scribe in Luke 10: Who is my neighbor? According to the response Jesus gave, my neighbor is everyone. But according to the Islamic scriptures, that’s not the case, as we will see below…

 These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity. The following are only a few examples:Of God’s Unity, God says in the Holy Qur’an: Say: He is God, the One! / God, the Self-Sufficient Besought of all! (Al-Ikhlas, 112:1-2). Of the necessity of love for God, God says in the Holy Qur’an: So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion (Al-Muzzammil, 73:8). Of the necessity of love for the neighbour, the Prophet Muhammad r said: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”In the New Testament, Jesus Christ u said: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. /  And you shall love the Lord  your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. / And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)e fIn the Holy Qur’an, God Most High enjoins Muslims to issue the following call to Christians (and Jews—the People of the Scripture): Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him). (Aal ‘Imran 3:64)The words: we shall ascribe no partner unto Him relate to the Unity of God, and the words: worship none but God, relate to being totally devoted to God.  Hence they all relate to the First and Greatest Commandment. According to one of the oldest and most authoritative commentaries on the Holy Qur’an the words: that none of us shall take others for lords beside God, mean ‘that none of us should obey the other in disobedience to what God has commanded’. This relates to the Second Commandment because justice and freedom of religion are a crucial part of love of the neighbour.Thus in obedience to the Holy Quran, we as Muslims invite Christians to come together with us on the basis of what is common to us, which is also what is most essential to our faith and practice: the Two Commandments of love. 

While this all sounds sweet and bubbly and cheerful, it is not what Muslims and Christians have in common that makes us the same. It is what we do not have in common that makes us different. This idea of One God in Islam is different than Christianity. When Muslims say there is one God, they mean it literally. The sura they quote from is sura 3. If you read a little before the quoted verse (read it in context), you will see that when the Quran says that we are to worship one God, it is talking about God. Reading on, you find out that the Muslim faith teaches that Jesus Christ is not the Son of God. It says that He was made just like Adam, from the dust and God spoke to Him and said “Be” and He was (Sura 3:59). He is a prophet and a good man to Muslims, but that is all He is. It then goes on to say that if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, you are to gather your family with the Muslim’s family and God’s curse will be on the liar (implied here in context to be the Christian).

 Also, the writers say that the words “none of us shall take others for lords beside God” (again referring to Jesus) mean “none of us should obey the other in disobedience to what God has commanded”. If that’s the case, is it possible for Muslims and Christians to come to a compromise? If what I believe directly contradicts what someone else believes and I’m to obey that over what they say, will it be possible to compromise? In the beginning of sura 3, it says that Jesus is the Messiah. Muslims must have a different definition of Messiah than the Jews and Christians do. According to Christians and Jews, the Messiah is the One who is coming to redeem Israel (Jews) and Gentiles (Christians) from their sins…Then (in verse 55) when “God” tells Jesus that “He” is going to terminate Jesus’ life, “He” says “I will exalt those who follow you above those who disbelieve till the Day of Resurrection”. If the Muslim “God” chose to exalt those who follow Jesus above those who disbelieve, shouldn’t the Muslims, if they’re truly submitted?

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,And may peace and blessings be upon the Prophet Muhammad

A COMMON WORD BETWEEN US AND YOU

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,           

Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and fair exhortation, and contend with them in the fairest way. Lo! thy Lord is Best Aware of him who strayeth from His way, and He is Best Aware of those who go aright.(The Holy Qur’an, Al-Nahl, 16:125) 

(I) LOVE OF GOD LOVE OF GOD IN ISLAM

The Testimonies of Faith               

The central creed of Islam consists of the two testimonies of faith or Shahadahsi, which state that: There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God. These Two Testimonies are the sine qua non of Islam. He or she who testifies to them is a Muslim; he or she who denies them is not a Muslim. Moreover, the Prophet Muhammad r said: The best remembrance is: There is no god but God’….ii 

 If these are the two testimonies of the Muslim faith, then again, there can be no basis for unity. Sura 5 says that Muslims are not to befriend disbelievers. Those who claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior would be seen as denying the statement “there is no god but God”. They would be seen as disbelievers and therefore, according to the Quran, would not be worthy of being befriended. Not only that, those Christians who have studied the Quran even a little bit cannot agree with the second statement of the Muslim faith. Muhammad wasn’t a messenger from God. The words of the Quran contradict the words of the Old and New Testaments numerous times. Even in the Quran it says that no one can alter the Word of God (sura 6:34), but Muslims claim that the Bible has been corrupted. Even though we have thousands of examples of consistency that date back hundreds of years…Not only that, Muslims claim that the Quran is and has always been what they have today, that it was given in Arabic to Muhammad. But they never seem to mention that shortly after the death of Muhammad, one copy of the Quran was sent to all those who believed in Islam and all other copies were ordered to be burned (Hadith Vol. 6, Book 61, #510). If that’s the case, how can we compare the current version of the Quran to the others?  

The Best that All the Prophets have Said             Expanding on the best remembrance, the Prophet Muhammad r also said: The best that I have said—myself, and the prophets that came before me—is: ‘There is no god but God, He Alone, He hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things’iii. The phrases which follow the First Testimony of faith are all from the Holy Qur’an; each describe a mode of love of God, and devotion to Him.            The words: He Alone, remind Muslims that their heartsiv must be devoted to God Alone, since God says in the Holy Qur’an: God hath not assigned unto any man two hearts within his body (Al-Ahzab, 33:4). God is Absolute and therefore devotion to Him must be totally sincere.            The words: He hath no associate, remind Muslims that they must love God uniquely, without rivals within their souls, since God says in the Holy Qur’an: Yet there are men who take rivals unto God: they love them as they should love God. But those of faith are more intense in their love for God …. (Al-Baqarah, 2:165). Indeed, [T]heir flesh and their hearts soften unto the remembrance of God …. (Al-Zumar, 39:23). 

As was said before, the mention of God having no associate is a direct reference to Jesus. It is saying that Jesus is not the Son of God and should not be worshipped. In sura 2:166 it says that those who were followed will disown those who follow them, which is again a reference to Jesus. The footnote in the version of the Quran that I have even makes this clear and includes Mary, Muhammad, and Ali.

             The words: His is the sovereignty, remind Muslims that their minds or their understandings must be totally devoted to God, for the sovereignty is precisely everything in creation or existence and everything that the mind can know. And all is in God’s Hand, since God says in the Holy Qur’an: Blessed is He in Whose Hand is the sovereignty, and, He is Able to do all things (Al-Mulk, 67:1).            The words: His is the praise remind Muslims that they must be grateful to God and trust Him with all their sentiments and emotions. God says in the Holy Qur’an: And if thou wert to ask them: Who created the heavens and the earth, and constrained the sun and the moon (to their appointed work)? they would say: God. How then are they turned away ? / God maketh the provision wide for whom He will of His servants, and straiteneth it for whom (He will). Lo! God is Aware of all things. / And if thou wert to ask them: Who causeth water to come down from the sky, and therewith reviveth the earth after its death ? they verily would say: God. Say: Praise be to God! But most of them have no sense. (Al-‘Ankabut, 29:61-63)vFor all these bounties and more, human beings must always be truly grateful:God is He Who created the heavens and the earth, and causeth water to descend from the sky, thereby producing fruits as food for you, and maketh the ships to be of service unto you, that they may run upon the sea at His command, and hath made of service unto you the rivers; / And maketh the sun and the moon, constant in their courses, to be of service unto you, and hath made of service unto you the night and the day./ And He giveth you of all ye ask of Him, and if ye would count the graces of God ye cannot reckon them. Lo! man is verily a wrong-doer, an ingrate. (Ibrahim, 14:32-34)viIndeed, the Fatihah—which is the greatest chapter in the Holy Qur’anvii—starts with praise to God: In the Name of God, the Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful. /Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds. / The Infinitely Good, the All-Merciful. /Owner of the Day of Judgement. / Thee we worship, and Thee we ask for help. /Guide us upon the straight path. / The path of those on whom is Thy Grace, not those who deserve anger nor those who are astray.  (Al-Fatihah, 1:1-7)The Fatihah, recited at least seventeen times daily by Muslims in the canonical prayers, reminds us of the praise and gratitude due to God for His Attributes of Infinite Goodness and All-Mercifulness, not merely for His Goodness and Mercy to us in this life but ultimately, on the Day of Judgementviii when it matters the most and when we hope to be forgiven for our sins. It thus ends with prayers for grace and guidance, so that we might attain—through what begins with praise and gratitude— salvation and love, for God says in the Holy Qur’an: Lo! those who believe and do good works, the Infinitely Good will appoint for them love. (Maryam, 19:96) 

Here the writers express their reason for worshipping “God”. They say that they give praise and worship to “Him” in prayer at least 17 times a day so that they can hope to be forgiven of their sins. Muslims cannot know whether or not they will be forgiven of their sins. Christians, through the repentance of sin and belief in the death and resurrection of Christ can know without a doubt that they are forgiven. It is not prayers that redeem us from sin, but the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the grave that redeem us (Rom. 10:9-10, Gal. 3:13-14).            

 The words: and He hath power over all things, remind Muslims that they must be mindful of God’s Omnipotence and thus fear Godix. God says in the Holy Qur’an:… [A]nd fear God, and know that God is with the God-fearing. / Spend your wealth for the cause of God, and be not cast by your own hands to ruin; and do good. Lo! God loveth the virtuous. / …. (Al-Baqarah, 2:194-5)… [A]nd fear God, and know that God is severe in punishment. (Al-Baqarah, 2:196)Through fear of God, the actions, might and strength of Muslims should be totally devoted to God. God says in the Holy Qur’an:…[A]nd know that God is with those who fear Him. (Al-Tawbah, 9:36) ….O ye who believe! What aileth you that when it is said unto you: Go forth in the way of God, ye are bowed down to the ground with heaviness. Take ye pleasure in the life of the world rather than in the Hereafter ? The comfort of the life of the world is but little in the Hereafter. / If ye go not forth He will afflict you with a painful doom, and will choose instead of you a folk other than you. Ye cannot harm Him at all. God is Able to do all things. (Al-Tawbah, 9:38-39)cThe words: His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things, when taken all together, remind Muslims that just as everything in creation glorifies God, everything that is in their souls must be devoted to God:All that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth glorifieth God; His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things. (Al-Taghabun, 64:1)            For indeed, all that is in people’s souls is known, and accountable, to God:He knoweth all that is in the heavens and the earth, and He knoweth what ye conceal and what ye publish. And God is Aware of what is in the breasts (of men). (Al-Taghabun, 64:4) 

This sounds good, but the desire to be devoted to something is only as good as the object of that devotion. If you are sincere about your faith, but your faith is misplaced, it doesn’t matter how sincere you are. You can be sincerely wrong. It is not the sincerity with which someone believes, but the where they place that belief. If that belief is placed in anything other than Jesus Christ, the crucified and resurrected Savior of the world, then it is a misplaced faith (John 14:6). 

 As we can see from all the passages quoted above, souls are depicted in the Holy Qur’an as having three main faculties: the mind or the intelligence, which is made for comprehending the truth; the will which is made for freedom of choice, and sentiment which is made for loving the good and the beautifulx. Put in another way, we could say that man’s soul knows through understanding the truth, through willing the good, and through virtuous emotions and feeling love for God. Continuing in the same chapter of the Holy Qur’an (as that quoted above), God orders people to fear Him as much as possible, and to listen (and thus to understand the truth); to obey (and thus to will the good), and to spend (and thus to exercise love and virtue), which, He says, is better for our souls. By engaging everything in our souls—the faculties of knowledge, will, and love—we may come to be purified and attain ultimate success:So fear God as best ye can, and listen, and obey, and spend; that is better for your souls. And those who are saved from the pettiness of their own souls, such are the successful. (Al-Taghabun, 64:16)c            In summary then, when the entire phrase He Alone, He hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things is added to the testimony of faith—There is no god but God—it reminds Muslims that their hearts, their individual souls and all the faculties and powers of their souls (or simply their entire hearts and souls) must be totally devoted and attached to God. Thus God says to the Prophet Muhammad r in the Holy Qur’an: Say: Lo! my worship and my sacrifice and my living and my dying are for God, Lord of the Worlds. / He hath no partner. This am I commanded, and I am first of those who surrender (unto Him). / Say: Shall I seek another than God for Lord, when He is Lord of all things? Each soul earneth only on its own account, nor doth any laden bear another’s load…. (Al-An’am, 6:162-164)            These verses epitomize the Prophet Muhammad’s r complete and utter devotion to God. Thus in the Holy Qur’an God enjoins Muslims who truly love God to follow this examplexi, in order in turn to be lovedxii by God:Say, (O Muhammad, to mankind): If ye love God, follow me; God will love you and forgive you your sins. God is Forgiving, Merciful. (Aal ‘Imran, 3:31) 

This is a direct contradiction to what was expressed above. Here, they are saying that if you follow Muhammad, “God” will love you and forgive you of your sins. Why then, do Muslims have to hope to be forgiven. Shouldn’t they know? And how should they follow Muhammad? In word or in deed? If they follow him in word, they would obey the entire Quran (since it was given to him by the angel Gabriel about 600 AD) and would not seek to befriend Christians (which many do) and would seek to bring retribution upon Christians and those who support Israel (which many do – think 9/11). Or should they follow him by deed, making alliances while they are not strong enough to carry out their desires and then later on reneging on those alliances and utterly destroying cities in the name of Allah. Should they listen to Muhammad in word and only have up to four wives, or follow his example and have up to thirteen, including an 8 year old girl? Which Muhammad do they follow and do either lead them to live peacefully with others?            

Love of God in Islam is thus part of complete and total devotion to God; it is not a mere fleeting, partial emotion. As seen above, God commands in the Holy Qur’an: Say: Lo! my worship and my sacrifice and my living and my dying are for God, Lord of the Worlds. / He hath no partner. The call to be totally devoted and attached to God heart and soul, far from being a call for a mere emotion or for a mood, is in fact an injunction requiring all-embracing, constant and active love of God. It demands a love in which the innermost spiritual heart and the whole of the soul—with its intelligence, will and feeling—participate through devotion.  

This constant ignoring of the fact that this quoted sura refers to Jesus is shady and deceitful to say the least in a letter supposing to offer the olive branch of peace to Christians.           

None Comes with Anything Better We have seen how the blessed phrase: There is no god but God, He Alone, He hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things—which is the best that all the prophets have saidmakes explicit what is implicit in the best remembrance (There is no god but God) by showing what it requires and entails, by way of devotion. It remains to be said that this blessed formula is also in itself a sacred invocation—a kind of extension of the First Testimony of faith (There is no god but God)—the ritual repetition of which can bring about, through God’s grace, some of the devotional attitudes it demands, namely, loving and being devoted to God with all one’s heart, all one’s soul, all one’s mind, all one’s will or strength, and all one’s sentiment. Hence the Prophet Muhammad r commended this remembrance by saying:He who says: ‘There is no god but God, He Alone, He hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things’ one hundred times in a day, it is for them equal to setting ten slaves free, and one hundred good deeds are written for them and one hundred bad deeds are effaced, and it is for them a protection from the devil for that day until the evening. And none offers anything better than that, save one who does more than that.xiii In other words, the blessed remembrance, There is no god but God, He Alone, He hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things, not only requires and implies that Muslims must be totally devoted to God and love Him with their whole hearts and their whole souls and all that is in them, but provides a way, like its beginning (the testimony of faith)—through its frequent repetitionxiv—for them to realize this love with everything they are.
            God says in one of the very first revelations in the Holy Qur’an: So invoke the Name of thy Lord and devote thyself to Him with a complete devotion (Al-Muzzammil, 73:8). ^ 

Is this saying that you can chant this prayer over and over to achieve the ability to love “God” and be devoted solely to “Him”? 

LOVE OF GOD AS THE FIRST AND GREATEST COMMANDMENT IN THE BIBLEThe Shema in the Book of Deuteronomy (6:4-5), a centrepiece of the Old Testament and of Jewish liturgy, says: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! / You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.xvLikewise, in the New Testament, when Jesus Christ, the Messiah u,  is asked about the Greatest Commandment, he answers u:But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. / Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, / “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” / Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ / This is the first and greatest commandment. / And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ / On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40)            And also:Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” / Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. /  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. / And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)            The commandment to love God fully is thus the First and Greatest Commandment of the Bible. Indeed, it is to be found in a number of other places throughout the Bible including: Deuteronomy 4:29, 10:12, 11:13 (also part of the Shema), 13:3, 26:16, 30:2, 30:6, 30:10; Joshua 22:5; Mark 12:32-33 and Luke 10:27-28.             However, in various places throughout the Bible, it occurs in slightly different forms and versions. For instance, in Matthew 22:37 (You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind), the Greek word for “heart” is kardia, the word for “soul” is psyche, and the word for “mind” is dianoia. In the version from Mark 12:30 (And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength) the word “strength” is added to the aforementioned three, translating the Greek word ischus.
            The words of the lawyer in Luke 10:27 (which are confirmed by Jesus Christ u in Luke 10:28) contain the same four terms as Mark 12:30. The words of the scribe in Mark 12:32 (which are approved of by Jesus Christ u in Mark 12:34) contain the three terms kardia (“heart”), dianoia (“mind”), and ischus (“strength”).
            In the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! / You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength). In Hebrew the word for “heart” is lev, the word for “soul” is nefesh, and the word for “strength” is me’od.
            In Joshua 22:5, the Israelites are commanded by Joshua u to love God and be devoted to Him as follows: “But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, to love the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Joshua 22:5)            What all these versions thus have in common—despite the language differences between the Hebrew Old Testament, the original words of Jesus Christ u in Aramaic, and the actual transmitted Greek of the New Testament—is the command to love God fully with one’s heart and soul and to be fully devoted to Him. This is the First and Greatest Commandment for human beings. ¯            In the light of what we have seen to be necessarily implied and evoked by the Prophet Muhammad’s r blessed saying: ‘The best that I have said—myself, and the prophets that came before me—is: ‘There is no god but God, He Alone, He hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things’ xvi, we can now perhaps understand the words ‘The best that I have said—myself, and the prophets that came before me’ as equating the blessed formula ‘There is no god but God, He Alone, He hath no associate, His is the sovereignty and His is the praise and He hath power over all things’ precisely with the ‘First and Greatest Commandment’ to love God, with all one’s heart and soul, as found in various places in the Bible. That is to say, in other words, that the Prophet Muhammad r was perhaps, through inspiration, restating and alluding to the Bible’s First Commandment. God knows best, but certainly we have seen their effective similarity in meaning. Moreover, we also do know (as can be seen in the endnotes), that both formulas have another remarkable parallel: the way they arise in a number of slightly differing versions and forms in different contexts, all of which, nevertheless, emphasize the primacy of total love and devotion to God xvii.

The truth is, this doesn’t line up with the commandment Jesus gave for one very important reason. Muhammad says that he speaks for himself and the prophets who came before him (which includes Jesus), and says that God has no associate. This statement in itself separates Muhammad from “those who came before him”. None of the “prophets who came before” Muhammad added that to the word of God. None of the others said that. Jesus wouldn’t have said that because it would have been a lie about Himself. The statement Muhammad makes adds to what Jesus said and Proverbs 30:5-6 say not to do that, lest God reprove you and you be found a liar. 

(II) LOVE OF THE NEIGHBOUR

LOVE OF THE NEIGHBOUR IN ISLAM

There are numerous injunctions in Islam about the necessity and paramount importance of love for—and mercy towards—the neighbour. Love of the neighbour is an essential and integral part of faith in God and love of God because in Islam without love of the neighbour there is no true faith in God and no righteousness. The Prophet Muhammad r said: “None of you has faith until you love for your brother what you love for yourself.”xviiiAnd: “None of you has faith until you love for your neighbour what you love for yourself.”xix 

The number of times something is said has no direct correlation to how wonderful it is unless it is acted upon. This says that Islam promotes love for and mercy to your neighbor. So let me ask again, who is my neighbor? It would seem that Christianity and Islam have a different idea of what/who my neighbor is. Christianity says that my neighbor is all of mankind. And that I am to do for them what I can as long as it does not lead me into sin and away from God. If I can do good I should.

Islam says this on the surface, but what does the Quran say about who your neighbor is? We’ve already seen that Jews and Christians aren’t considered the neighbors of Muslims because they are disbelievers in Muhammad and the message of the Quran. Not only that, but in the Hadith, Muhammad says that he was ordered to fight with people until they accept only Allah (Hadith, Vol. 1, Book 2, #24). Is this showing love and mercy to your neighbor? Not once does Christ say to beat someone or kill someone because they don’t believe in Him. Are Muslim wives considered to be the neighbors of Muslim husbands? Sura 4:34 says that it’s ok to beat your wife (if you fear they’ll be disloyal). Is that showing love and mercy to them? The Bible says that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it.

             However, empathy and sympathy for the neighbour—and even formal prayers— are not enough. They must be accompanied by generosity and self-sacrifice. God says in the Holy Qur’an: It is not righteousness that ye turn your facesxx to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in God and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and giveth wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the pious. (Al-Baqarah 2:177)            And also: Ye will not attain unto righteousness until ye expend of that which ye love. And whatsoever ye expend, God is Aware thereof. (Aal ‘Imran, 3:92)          Without giving the neighbour what we ourselves love, we do not truly love God or the neighbour. ^ 

Once again, this sounds great, but is it truly lived out? Where is the self-sacrificing love that the writers profess should be overflowing from Muslims? Where is the example of generosity and mercy and giving that should be flowing from the Islamic faith toward all men? 

LOVE OF THE NEIGHBOUR IN THE BIBLE 

We have already cited the words of the Messiah, Jesus Christ u, about the paramount importance, second only to the love of God, of the love of the neighbour: This is the first and greatest commandment. / And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ / On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:38-40) And: And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:31)            It remains only to be noted that this commandment is also to be found in the Old Testament:You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbour, and not bear sin because of him. / You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:17-18) 

Thus the Second Commandment, like the First Commandment, demands generosity and self-sacrifice, and On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. ¯ 

This is true but there needs to be added what 1 John says about loving your brother. John says that the one who hates his brother walks in darkness. Would that include those who are ordered to fight against anyone that doesn’t believe in or worship Allah? But what he says in chapter 4 is the most telling. He starts the chapter by saying, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. But he doesn’t stop there. He goes on to say that, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  Here, John is saying that we should know what has come from God because if confesses Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Verses 15-18 make that clear: Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.  By simple logic, we can see that the one who abides in love is the one who confesses Jesus Christ as the Son of God. If this is the basis for love, then how can Muslims say they love their neighbor when they deny Jesus as the Son of God? 

 (III) COME TO A COMMON WORD BETWEEN US AND YOU

A Common Word 

Whilst Islam and Christianity are obviously different religions—and whilst there is no minimising some of their formal differences—it is clear that the Two Greatest Commandments are an area of common ground and a link between the Qur’an, the Torah and the New Testament. What prefaces the Two Commandments in the Torah and the New Testament, and what they arise out of, is the Unity of God—that there is only one God. For the Shema in the Torah, starts: (Deuteronomy 6:4) Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! Likewise, Jesus u said: (Mark 12:29) “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one”. Likewise, God says in the Holy Qur’an: Say: He, God, is One. / God, the Self-Sufficient Besought of all. (Al-Ikhlas, 112:1-2). Thus the Unity of God, love of Him, and love of the neighbour form a common ground upon which Islam and Christianity (and Judaism) are founded.
            This could not be otherwise since Jesus u said: (Matthew 22:40)“On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Moreover, God confirms in the Holy Qur’an that the Prophet Muhammad r brought nothing fundamentally or essentially new:  

That isn’t true. Muhammad brought many things that contradict both the Old and New Testaments.

 Naught is said to thee (Muhammad) but what already was said to the messengers before thee (Fussilat 41:43). And: Say (Muhammad): I am no new thing among the messengers (of God), nor know I what will be done with me or with you. I do but follow that which is Revealed to me, and I am but a plain warner (Al-Ahqaf, 46:9).  

I feel it necessary to repeat the warning that Paul gave to those in the Galatian church: But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! (Gal. 1:8) 

Thus also God in the Holy Qur’an confirms that the same eternal truths of the Unity of God, of the necessity for total love and devotion to God (and thus shunning false gods), and of the necessity for love of fellow human beings (and thus justice), underlie all true religion: And verily We have raised in every nation a messenger, (proclaiming): Worship God and shun false gods. Then some of them (there were) whom God guided, and some of them (there were) upon whom error had just hold. Do but travel in the land and see the nature of the consequence for the deniers! (Al-Nahl, 16:36)We verily sent Our messengers with clear proofs, and revealed with them the Scripture and the Balance, that mankind may stand forth in justice…. (Al-Hadid, 57:25)

Come to a Common Word!  

In the Holy Qur’an, God Most High tells Muslims to issue the following call to Christians (and Jews—the People of the Scripture): Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him). (Aal ‘Imran 3:64) 

Clearly, the blessed words: we shall ascribe no partner unto Him relate to the Unity of God. Clearly also, worshipping none but God, relates to being totally devoted to God and hence to the First and Greatest Commandment. According to one of the oldest and most authoritative commentaries (tafsir) on the Holy Qur’an—the Jami’ Al-Bayan fi Ta’wil Al-Qur’an of Abu Ja’far Muhammad bin Jarir Al-Tabari (d. 310 A.H. / 923 C.E.)that none of us shall take others for lords beside God, means ‘that none of us should obey in disobedience to what God has commanded, nor glorify them by prostrating to them in the same way as they prostrate to God’. In other words, that Muslims, Christians and Jews should be free to each follow what God commanded them, and not have ‘to prostrate before kings and the like’xxi; for God says elsewhere in the Holy Qur’an: Let there be no compulsion in religion…. (Al-Baqarah, 2:256). This clearly relates to the Second Commandment and to love of the neighbour of which justicexxii and freedom of religion are a crucial part. God says in the Holy Qur’an: God forbiddeth you not those who warred not against you on account of religion and drove you not out from your homes, that ye should show them kindness and deal justly with them. Lo! God loveth the just dealers. (Al-Mumtahinah, 60:8)e fWe thus as Muslims invite Christians to remember Jesus’s u words in the Gospel (Mark 12:29-31):… the LORD our God, the LORD is one. /  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. / And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against themso long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes, (in accordance with the verse of the Holy Qur’an [Al-Mumtahinah, 60:8] quoted above). Moreover, God says in the Holy Qur’an: They are not all alike. Of the People of the Scripture there is a staunch community who recite the revelations of God in the night season, falling prostrate (before Him). / They believe in God and the Last Day, and enjoin right conduct and forbid indecency, and vie one with another in good works. These are of the righteous. / And whatever good they do, nothing will be rejected of them. God is Aware of those who ward off (evil). (Aal-‘Imran, 3:113-115)Is Christianity necessarily against Muslims? In the Gospel Jesus Christ u says: He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters abroad. (Matthew 12:30)For he who is not against us is on our side. (Mark 9:40)  for he who is not against us is on our side. (Luke 9:50)According to the Blessed Theophylact’sxxiii Explanation of the New Testament, these statements are not contradictions because the first statement (in the actual Greek text of the New Testament) refers to demons, whereas the second and third statements refer to people who recognised Jesus, but were not Christians. Muslims recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah, not in the same way Christians do (but Christians themselves anyway have never all agreed with each other on Jesus Christ’s u nature), but in the following way: …. the Messiah Jesus son of Mary is a Messenger of God and His Word which he cast unto Mary and a Spirit from Him…. (Al-Nisa’, 4:171). We therefore invite Christians to consider Muslims not against and thus with them, in accordance with Jesus Christ’s u words here. 

 First, the meaning of the scriptures in Mark 9:40/Luke 9:50 are in no way referring to demons. It is referring to the man who was working in the name of Jesus but wasn’t directly under his teaching. It is this kind of willy-nilly; take whatever scripture you can to make it mean what you want that deceives those who do not study. The man recognized Jesus as the Son of God. He had to. There was no other way for him to cast out demons. Jesus Himself said that He could not cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub, because a house divided against itself could not stand.

 Second, it is the very fact that Muslims do not recognize Jesus as the Son of God that is the problem! Without this recognition, Jesus Himself said that no man will enter the kingdom of heaven! (John 14:6) It is the one who confess Jesus as Lord and believes in his heart that God has raised Him from that dead that will be saved! (Romans 10:9-10).

As much as I would love to believe that Muslims could come together and find peace, the fact remains that as long as you deny the deity of the Son of the Living God, you don’t have common ground to stand on. It doesn’t matter how many other things you find in common with Christian belief, because it is this one difference that will continuously keep up separated.

 Finally, as Muslims, and in obedience to the Holy Qur’an, we ask Christians to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions … that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside God … (Aal ‘Imran, 3:64).
            Let this common ground be the basis of all future interfaith dialogue between us, for our common ground is that on which hangs all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:40). God says in the Holy Qur’an:Say (O Muslims): We believe in God 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. / And if they believe in the like of that which ye believe, then are they rightly guided. But if they turn away, then are they in schism, and God will suffice thee against them. He is the Hearer, the Knower. (Al-Baqarah, 2:136-137) 

As I said above, without the truth of Jesus as the Son of God, there is no common ground for us to stand on.

 Between Us and You Finding common ground between Muslims and Christians is not simply a matter for polite ecumenical dialogue between selected religious leaders. Christianity and Islam are the largest and second largest religions in the world and in history. Christians and Muslims reportedly make up over a third and over a fifth of humanity respectively. Together they make up more than 55% of the world’s population, making the relationship between these two religious communities the most important factor in contributing to meaningful peace around the world. If Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace. With the terrible weaponry of the modern world; with Muslims and Christians intertwined everywhere as never before, no side can unilaterally win a conflict between more than half of the world’s inhabitants. Thus our common future is at stake. The very survival of the world itself is perhaps at stake.
            And to those who nevertheless relish conflict and destruction for their own sake or reckon that ultimately they stand to gain through them, we say that our very eternal souls are all also at stake if we fail to sincerely make every effort to make peace and come together in harmony. God says in the Holy Qur’an: Lo! God enjoineth justice and kindness, and giving to kinsfolk, and forbiddeth lewdness and abomination and wickedness. He exhorteth you in order that ye may take heed (Al Nahl, 16:90). Jesus Christ u said: Blessed are the peacemakers ….(Matthew 5:9), and also: For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? (Matthew 16:26).    

I agree that the souls of mankind are at stake. It is a battle for the souls of mankind. On this battlefield, there can be no compromise for the simple reason that compromise would destroy the only chance that humanity has for being reconciled with God. While there may be “Christian leaders” who are willing to compromise the truth for the sake of “peace” and “harmony”, I will not. Without the Prince of Peace being recognized for who He is, there is no peace…

 So let our differences not cause hatred and strife between us. Let us vie with each other only in righteousness and good works. Let us respect each other, be fair, just and kind to another and live in sincere peace, harmony and mutual goodwill. God says in the Holy Qur’an:And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which God hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We have appointed a law and a way. Had God willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie one with another in good works. Unto God ye will all return, and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ. (Al-Ma’idah, 5:48) Wal-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,
Pax Vobiscum

I would like to close this by saying that I do not hate Muslims. I don’t wish to see any of them die in “holy wars” or wars of any kind. I don’t wish harm to them. I also understand that there are factions of both faiths that proclaim to be a part of those faiths and then act horribly, casting a shadow on all of those who hold to that faith. At the same time, I cannot compromise the faith that I have, and even more so, cannot compromise the object of that faith and what He did for me. It is because of Jesus Christ being the only begotten Son of the Living God and coming to earth to die on a cross for my sins 2000 years ago that I am who am I today.

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