The Commonly used Concepts In Christian-Muslim Relations

18 02 2010

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It is not an easy task, that of a calm dialogue between Christians and Muslims, due to several historical reasons that established centuries of dispute, conflict and misunderstanding. However, the necessity today, requires a quest for a common ground of co-habitation, compromise, peace and cooperation, in order to establish a new kind of relations, away from all kinds of conflict, of the past and present, which resulted only in misery, pain and hatred, which are considered as a leaving of the spirit of religion and an acceptance of Satan’s appeal.

It is a hard test , that both Muslims and Christians are asked to pass, in order to perform what God sent down in their Gospel and Koran, the Gospel of love and the Koran of mercy, so to accomplish what God recommended them to have as a duty towards people, regardless of those other people’s attitude towards them, if not then, where is that arguing in the “way that is better”, if there is no “bad deed” committed by the other as it is cited in the Koran, and what virtue you have, if you greeted  only your brothers, and what’s the reward, if you only loved those who loved you as the Gospel says; it is in such a manner that hatred would disappear, and intimate loyalty spreads between the different parties.

Positive Sides

The discovery of Christian books by Muslims, throughout a modest and open spirit, searching for the right existing inside them, then, the discovery of Muslim’s books by Christians in the same way, would certainly eliminate obstacles from the way of the Christian-Muslim mutual approximation, which would make of their dialogue a fruitful one. It’s sufficient for Muslims while studying the Gospel, to emphasize the positive sides, so they could discover a vast world of righteousness, light, morality, and clemency. The same thing is required from our brothers the Christians, since their concentration on propagated dubiosities deprives them from the seeing of sparkling lights, inside the Holly Koran, which does not mean the exclusion of criticism during the studying, that cuts the limits clear between the word of God on the one hand, and the understanding, interpretation, and interference of people, on the other hand, that I consider as a vast domain for research, to both Christians and Muslims. Yet, we urgently need today, to open wide our eyes on the positive sides belonging to both parties, in an attempt to bridge the gap between them. For that sake, I allowed myself to deal with Evangelical and Koranic texts in a direct manner, seeking light and guidance, needed in our Christian – Islamic dialogue. Thus, the plain light I found in them, I will expose to you here.

One message    

The call of Jesus, peace be upon him, was but an elucidation of the truth contained in the unique divine message that all prophets brought with them, Jesus son of Maria was one of its elected messengers. Think  not  that I am come  to destroy  the  law,  or  the  prophets: I am not  come  to destroy, but  to fulfill.(17)” [1] Jesus called his followers to be righteous, even more than scribes and Pharisees, only then, they could enter the Kingdom of Heaven and receive the great reward.

Mohammad peace be upon him, was not a case apart, his message neither. He was one amongst the elected good prophets, who confirm one another, and believe one the other, thus convey the same message throughout the different times and places, people and races. God Almighty says:

13. The same religion has He
Established for you as that
Which He enjoined on Noah—
The which We have sent
By inspiration to thee—
And that which We enjoined
On Abraham, Moses, and Jesus:
Namely, that ye should remain
Steadfast in Religion, and make
No divisions therein:
To those who worship
Other things than God,
Hard is the (way)
To which thou callest them,
God chooses to Himself
Those whom He pleases,
And guides to Himself
Those who turn (to Him).
[2]

Therefore, Mohammad peace and blessing be upon him, is sharing the same message with the Christ, he didn’t come to destroy, but to fulfill; he didn’t come to supplant, but to confirm and testify, which can be realized through many Koranic texts alluding to the ratification of the precedent books and, its testifying upon it .But, most of the people of the scripture, and many Muslims have for this question, several explanations that have driven out the words from their emplacement, and made them bear perceptions, which we consider perturbed and troubled. We hope in our studying to put things back into the right context, drawing attention to the human impacts historical and doctrinal upon that it assumed.

It was recommended from our prophet, peace and blessing be upon him, as from all the believers in the book, to care about themselves and stand firm, as they were ordered, say they believe in the books sent down by God, and never judge the others, since God is the Lord for everyone, and to everyone their deeds, then no dispute should there be. God is the judge when people will be exposed before him[3].

It is the same matter emphasized by the Christ, and exposed to his followers through preaching and parables , amongst which is the parable of the wheat and weeds which should both be left until harvest time when the weeds will be burned, and the wheat be taken to the householder’s stores[4]. What we are concerned with in this parable, is that judging others would be the right of none, their inculpation, is not the right of anyone, nor any sect, but it is to God, on the Day of Judgment, when everyone will receive their merited reward. All those Christians and Muslims, who gave themselves the right to judge the others, accusing them of unbelief, criminalizing them, for their difference in religion or doctrine, are completely wrong. This led to a great evil surrounding their relations, of which the effects still have shadows on the present days.

The call of the prophets is one which is general not private. It is not concerning a category or sect, a genre or race. So the Christ was, while discussing with Jewish clerics, aiming to drop the racial basis on which they build their religiousness. One of the parables he used, was one of the king, who made a wedding for his son, and sent his servants to invite private guests, who didn’t respond, though he prepared a great welcome, one went to his farm, the other to his merchandise, the rest transgressed his servants through killing and insult , so, he got furious because they didn’t deserve; therefore, he sent his servants  into the highways, and invited as many people as they can find[5], so is God’s call, it is not concerning the elite only, but even those who are not elected for it, especially when the invited doesn’t respond to, or accept the invitation.

Confession and repentance  

The question of repentance is one of the human subjects that the mission and message of Christ are based upon, to the extent that we could sum up his message in his saying: “repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” He gave examples to people through parables of  all kind, like the parable of the shepherd who owned a hundred  sheep, lost one, so he left the ninety-nine in the wilderness and went in the search of one, thus when finding it, was happier with the one than the ninety-nine[6]. He gave as well the parable of the woman who had ten pieces of silver, when she had lost one, she lighted a candle and swept the house, when she had found it, she called her friends and neighbors to celebrate the finding of the piece[7], and other parables[8].

The perverse who repented and returned to God’s path, are far better than those elites that refuse their brothers’ repentance, and their return to the Lord’s way. Maybe the repentance of Muslims and Christians today from the mistakes of the past, would make that longly wished human nation out of them, as he accomplished it in parties preceding them, which were enemies, so God joined their hearts together and became thanks to his grace brothers[9].

It’s not difficult for those who experienced the bitterness of wars, and enmities, then tasted the sweetness of stability, co-operation and brotherhood, to fasten and reject that enmity so to perform brotherhood, accepting then differences and recognizing the different, which would be but an enrichment of everyone. The world today is intensely expecting the profound compromise of Muslims and Christians, that would have universal effects on humanity overall to live in a happy new world.

Grabbing the kingdom of God from those who do not deserve

Grabbing the kingdom of God from those who don’t deserve, is one of the primordial subjects that Christ treated with the Jews who refused that other people have their share of the Kingdom. He was peace and blessing be upon him, clarifying that through a multitude of parables, one amongst many, that of a man who had “two sons; and he came to the first, and said, Son, go work to day in my vineyard. (29)  He answered and said, I will not: but afterward he repented, and went. (30)  And he came to the second, and said likewise. And he answered and said, I go, sir: and went not. (31)  Whether of them twain did the will of his father? They say unto him, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. (32)  For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him. »[10]

And he gave them a second parable of the man who had a vineyard, and let it out to others who didn’t accomplish that man’s will, thus, would expel them out of his vineyard and give it to other men, and those other men are but the nation who will render him the fruits at their season[11], and respect his slaves and sons, not harming them , it is a proof that God is never favoring anyone, or any nation among nations following their belonging, but following their deeds. The one that rejects God’s message then repents and returns to him ,is far better than the one who accepts it, but doesn’t work with it ,and the law of God in what He  created requires that He Almighty deprives unqualified people from the  message, and gives it to the ones who deserve it. it is the same Coranic logic while dealing with people. Allah Almighty says: But if these disbelieve therein, then indeed we entrusted it to a people who are not disbelievers therein.(89)”[12]

The repentance we are calling to, is a repentance from collective sins, perceptional, conceptual, and intellectual, of which in fact, if we don’t get rid, will not be capable to make  a single step forward on the way, of good human relations, which the prophets peace be upon them called to. So, necessary it is that real repentance, without hypocrisy or lies, so we can redeem their sins and mistakes, to receive the reward here on earth, and in the hereafter. It  is what the Koran is telling us about in several verses[13],and I think it is time for Christians and Muslims to declare their repentance from all historical, cultural, religious and sociological sins they didn’t commit, yet inherited from their predecessors, ideas wich are not  part of religion, and over which have no power.

Arrogance and vanity

Arrogance, vanity, and self-praise, and despising others who are different in religion, doctrine or creed, are great sins, the way individuals had fell in them, groups and sects and nations, many, did too. Because of them they believed in false ideas about themselves, and others around them, then committed because of them, unlimited crimes at the expense of the different, amongst which are the Christian and Muslim sects themselves. the one contemplating the sacred book and the Koran, knows very well how difficult was the treatment of that sin, and its clarification to the different nations through their messengers, whom God sent to purify, teach, and remove from sins ,among those, were Christ and Mohammad the last messenger peace and blessing be upon them all.

Evangelical and Coranic revisions

The Christ taught his followers through preaching and parables which are many, that vanity was the most dangerous thing that can affect the people of religion, and he was peace be upon him making a great effort to abolish it, either with Jews, with whom he held discussions, or with his faithful followers. It’s come in Luke’s Gospel, that peace be upon him:

« spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: (10) Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. (11)  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. (12) I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. (13)  And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.     (14)  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. »[14]

The Christ was not treating the problem of vanity in individuals only, but was doing it on another scale, that of the community and nation. Thus, he talked about God’s kingdom, and the alternation in nations of the religious experience, and equality of nations in reward though came different in time and place, also, he was manifesting how much necessary it is to the followers of messengers not to argue with God, upon equality of people in reward, though came different in time. For this, he gave the example in a parable of a man who used laborers in his field, and agreed with some on a wage of one penny a day, those he used early in the day, used others in the third hour, and some in the sixth and ninth hour, then he found other idle laborers  in the last hour of the day which none asked for work, sent them to his vineyard, so when it was evening, he gave every one a penny, he began by the last then the first.

“(10)  But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. (11)  And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,  (12)  Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.  (13)  But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny? (14)  Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.[15]

It is a strong message from Jesus, which he used to cure people from vanity, those who think themselves deserving of a wage more than the other nations, since they have an ancient in history, or because of any other advantage. It is then a message, which deserves contemplation from all, Jews, Christians and Muslims.

The same idea occurs in Mohammad’s message, peace and blessing be upon him. He was emphasizing the unity of religion, and considered people equal before God, individuals as nations, and that almighty would reward every individual, and every nation following their deeds; not on any other basis ,in that what almighty god says in the Koran :

” 62. Those who believe (in the Qur-ān),
And those who follow the Jewish (scriptures),
And the Christians and the Sabians,—
Any who believe in God
And the Last Day,
And work righteousness,
Shall have their reward
With their Lord: on them

Shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.[16]

The Koran criticized the attitude of the group of Jews and Christians who didn’t understand the truth, and pretended to be owners of the right, the others owners of falsehood. The Almighty says:

113. The Jews say: « The Christians
Have naught (to stand) upon;
And the Christians say:
« The Jews have naught
(To stand) upon. » Yet they
(Profess to) study the (same) Book.
Like unto their word

Is what those say who know not;

But God will judge

Between them in their quarrel

On the Day of Judgment.[17]

This verse clarifies that the sayings of Jews and Christians is not true, especially the Christians who read in the Jewish book, and consider it part of their sacred book, the same for those who claim that the people of the book, Jews and Christians follow nothing, it is the saying of ignorant, amongst them some Muslims who do not know, yet say the same. How could they say so, and their Koran is confirming the book before it, They all have to stop the judgment on each other, see into themselves, and leave the judgment for  God, Lord of all, to judge between them, in what they have been differing.

They claimed as well, that who ever is following their way is on the right path, and who ever is differing, is in great delusion. The Almighty says:

135. They say: « Become Jews

Or Christians if ye would be guided

(To salvation). » Say thou:

« Nay! (I would rather) the Religion

Of Abraham the True,
And he joined not gods with God. »

136. Say ye: « We believe In God, and the revelation

Given to us, and to Abraham,
Ismā’īl, Isaac, Jacob,
And the Tribes, and that given
To Moses and Jesus, and that given
To (all) Prophets from their Lord:
We make no difference
Between one and another of them:
And we bow to God (in Islam)[18]. »

137. So if they believe

As ye believe, they are indeed
On the right path; but if
They turn back, it is they
Who are in schism; but God will
Suffice thee as against them,
And He is the All-Hearing,

The All-Knowing.)[19].

The criticism that the Koran addressed their sayings here with, does not mean that Judaism and Christianity are false religions, what is understood is that the belonging to any doctrine be it Jewish or Christian, adding to them all the Islamic doctrines and others, does not necessarily guarantee being on the right way, Godspeed or safety. It is the same matter emphasized by Christ in his call, when clarifying to his followers whom were the real Christians; so, the question of belonging and following and claiming, are not substitutes for deeds, the basis on which God accepts or rejects people. For many would come on the day of resurrection, claiming to be one of the Christ’s followers; though, if their deeds do not witness for them that day, The Christ will ignore them, since they didn’t abide by God’s will[20]; The Christ tolled them, that people’s value is determined through their own deeds, which are the real fruits that show allude to their good or bad trees. Christ manifested that his true followers are those doing what they have listened to through his sayings.[21]                                                                                                                  

The Koran criticized those who claim being the best and favored by God, amongst the people of the book. Saying they are those who will enter the heavens, and that the others shall be in hell, and that Fire would touch them only for few days, and the others would eternally stay in[22], this verse shows us that God didn’t promise any of the people concerning the matter, so who ever committed bad deeds and was surrounded by sins, his wishes would be of no benefit, nor would they save him from torment; yet, the believers who are accomplishing good deeds, God would not make the recompense of whomever did good, be lost. It is a matter in which both Muslims and the people of the book are equal, so it’s not appropriate to understand that the Koran is praising Muslims at the expense of Judaism and Christianity. It makes these general laws applied on us and them, hell is for villains, paradise for the good, thus, it has no relationship with belonging to any sect or religion or doctrine, God will have all nations before him on the day of judgment , and the Lord is never unjust to worshipers.

The belief in this superiority has pushed Man towards vanity then dropped him in Satan’s traps[23]. It is a general vanity that Jewish and Christians fell into, Muslims after that, and many other nations; when we do revise those concepts, it is confirmed to us regardless of our different backgrounds, that we are all humans, best of us to God are the most pious, not to people, not following their wishes or sayings, it is on that certain Day, where He will gather us , and each person will be paid in full what she has earned, when none  will be dealt with unjustly. Then, it would be of no benefit to say fire would touch them only for some days, then they will discover that their vanity sayings were but lies they created in God’s religion.

The Koranic and Evangelical instructions, are addressing all people, they are far from being of racial nature. So, it’s not acceptable to consider they are praising some, at the expense of others, but they are establishing the general rules which should be followed regardless of one’s belonging, which on the other hand is obliging both Christians and Muslims to read each other’s books, make benefit from them, as they are considered open human books, bearing inside all the light and right; presenting clarifications to people concerning all in which they differ. I suppose then, that I can through these paragraphs, make an approach to the idea of self-praise for Christians and Muslims, and clarify how did the Gospel and Koran treated it, and how did the Christ and Muhammad peace be upon them, even other prophets did warn people to it, and manifested its danger, and urge them to cure the self from it in many texts.                                                    

Children of the Kingdom

Amongst the most important ideas that lead to self-praise, is the claim of being a child of the kingdom, or of God. Yet, some Jews used to claim that, and considered themselves children of the Kingdom, those qualified to inherit the afterlife at the expense of all the other people. The Christ was always clarifying the mistake in their belief[24].If the children of the kingdom do not have good deeds which really qualify them to win paradise and be saved from hell, they would be cast out to the outer darkness since they are not a good deed, yet, many people and nations who do not belong to the children of the kingdom as they claim, would sit down with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and win the eternal life.

There have been another story in the Gospel, that which clarifies the way the children will be cast to the outer darkness, and the less favored will sit down with Abraham,[25] which perfectly agrees with the Koranic sayings concerning self-praising, and the Jews and Christians claims that they are God’s children and his loved ones.[26]Through several texts, The Koran coincides with the human evangelical vision, though the Christian and Islamic literatures do not follow this profound prophetic vision. That is why I believe, such readings may contribute to the recuperation of these concepts.

The house of worship for all

Jesus’ message was one that is human and universal. It was a general call, as were his critical revisions of Judaism aiming at the dropping of its racial basis, without touching at the spirit of its eternal words, since peace be upon him didn’t come to destroy but to fulfill; and one of the subjects criticized by Christ in the Jewish behavior, is the limitation of the divine religion in the Jewish nation; and the conversion of God’s houses of prayer to thieves’ den, (17) ‘ And he taught, saying unto them,’ « Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? But ye have made it a den of thieves »[27]. Muhammad peace and blessing be upon him, was but following the path of messengers former to him, Jesus one among them; his message was one that is human and universal, bearing inside the same light and guidance present in the former book, and accomplishing the same critical revisions that Christ performed with Jews, without touching at the basis or essence of religion. And since Muhammad didn’t come to refute or abolish, but to approve and complement, one of his criticisms of the precedent religious behaviors, was related to the prevention of prayers in God’s houses and their destruction, to the extent that it’s seen as one of the biggest forms of injustice ever : 

114. And who is more unjust
Than he who forbids
That in places for the worship

Of God, God’s name should be

Celebrated?—whose zeal
Is (in fact) to ruin them?
It was not fitting that such
Should themselves enter them
Except in fear. For them
There is nothing but disgrace
In this world, and in the world
To come, an exceeding torment.
[28]

When the Koran defends mosques in general, it is but a defense of all worship places where the name of God is glorified, and which do not concern only Muslims, but all nations as the Christ mentioned before. God has guaranteed the right of people in worshiping Him, regardless of the differences in religious or nation belongings. He considered the mischief on earth, in the confrontation of people each other, equal to the interdiction of people from their rights in worship and destruction of their worship houses, God Almighty says:” And if Allah did not check one set of people by means of another, the earth would indeed be full of mischief”. The Almighty says as well: “ For had it not been that Allah checks one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques, Wherein the Name of Allah in mentioned”. From these verses we can deduce that worship places concern all peoples and nations, which would help us, understand fully his saying Almighty:

35. God is the Light Of the heavens and the earth. The parable of His Light
Is as if there were a Niche
And within it a Lamp:
The Lamp enclosed in Glass:
The glass as it were
A brilliant star:
Lit from a blessed Tree,
An Olive, neither of the East
Nor of the West,
Whose Oil is well-nigh
Luminous,
Though fire scarce touched it
Light upon Light!
God doth guide
Whom He will
To His Light:
God doth set forth Parables
For men: and God
Doth know all things.

36. (Lit is such a Light)
In houses, which God
Hath permitted to be raised
To honour; for the celebration,
In them, of His name:
In them is He glorified
In the mornings and
In the evenings, (again and again),

37. By men whom neither

Traffic nor merchandise
Can divert from the Remembrance
Of God, nor from regular Prayer

Nor from the practice

Of regular Charity:
Their (only) fear is
For the Day when
Hearts and eyes

Will be transformed(In a world wholly new),—« [29]

The Christ and Muhammad peace and blessing be upon them, were establishing the universal religion, the one in which all nations are equal, and have all their human rights, among which is the right or religiousness and worship. Yet, many are the Christians and Muslims whom do not accept each other and each other’s religion; moreover, the occurrence of any problem between the two parties leads to the demolishing of the other’s houses of worship, and the forbidding of God’s name to be glorified, it is the greatest injustice and extreme mischief

The deeds and value of Man

The value of people was always related to their deeds, never to their belonging or ancestry. When exposed before God on the Day of Resurrection they will be distinguished through their deeds not anything apart[30] ,for, God wants people to be good to themselves, and to each other , not leaving any hungry or thirsty, or stranger nor bare , neither sick nor imprisoned; when it is all accomplished, they will have worshiped the Lord, otherwise, their worship would be of no value

The crucial thing that can unify Christians and Muslims today, in order to overpass the mistakes of the past; is the co-operation to accomplish shared human projects, which could abolish poverty, and starvation, sickness and thirstiness, bareness, homelessness of individuals and groups, backwardness and wars; only then, would the Christ and the last messenger, as would all the prophets peace and blessing be upon them, be satisfied with the right path we joined

A brief look at the call of Prophet John the Baptist, while preparing the Christ’s coming, is revealing the importance of deeds undoubtedly.[31] Which alludes to the fact that the value of Man is determined through his deeds, not belonging, ancestry or race?  He was dropping peace be upon him, the racial ideology and shows that nobleness and purity of people have got no relation to the belonging or not to father Abraham, since God is able to make out of stones children of him, if they performed his deeds. And even unfruitful branches are separated from the roots to be in fire burned, since they give no fruit. The same for branches of Abraham’s tree, who do not have good deeds, are refuted by their origins, cut from them, and thrown in fire. Abraham’s real children are those who changed their attitude from bad to good, and asked about the- what- should- be- done.[32]

The vices of the self, instead of the others’

Since the Koranic and evangelical messages both called to righteousness and good deeds, the one striving for perfectness, should not scrutinize the other’s vices, but see his own vices to change, then try to be good and perfect as the Lord wants. The Christ says:

«  Judge not, that ye be not judged.  (2)  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (3)  And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?  (4)  Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? (5)  Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. »[33]

Self- praise deprives Man from seeing his own vices, yet sees in the self only perfectness. On the other hand, he would look at other’s vices, ignoring their virtues; and instead of casting out the piece of wood from his eyes, he seeks the mote in his brother’s. It is what we find actually in what we call the Christian –Islamic dialogue, and Islamic-Christian one, where you see the Christians scrutanizing to find any vice, mistake or wrong in Muslim’s religion, by the same token, you will find  Muslims seeking the same in Christians’ religion and what they have ; therefore, a brief look at the Christian- Islamic dialogue channels or electronic sites, confirms what we say. To resume, both Christians and Muslims praise the self and what they are, devalorising the others ; saying they are the people of the right, the others people of falshood, so if anyone wanted to be guided and saved, enter paradise and flee hell, they have to belong and be one of us, or they will be in hell, claiming that the others are following nothing unless they follow what we have.                                              

Who’s the nearest?  

Religious dialogue or religious mutual closeness does not mean that a party cedes some of its ideas and beliefs to the other. Mutual closeness begins when both parties perform the right and light present in their book, believing in those which have come in their counterpart’s book; amongst which are the shared human values, that none of the religions, or doctrines or philosophies, ignore. Concerning this, the Bible tells us about a dialogue held between a Jewish and the Christ about nearness:

« And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  (26)  He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? (27)  And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. (28)  And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. (29)  But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour? (30)  And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  (31)  And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. (32)  And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. (33)  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, (34)  And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  (35)  And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. » (36)  Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? (37)  And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. »[34]

The nearest is the one who does good things for you, useful and merciful to you, apart from his doctrinal or religious belonging; the remote then, can belong to your religion, race and blood, but can’t be useful nor merciful; thus, Christianity was a merciful call and the text between our hands proves that, so is the message of Muhammad, a message of universal mercy which can be summed up in God Almighty saying: “And we have sent you not but as a mercy for the Alamin”; regardless of all that, centuries of misunderstanding stood as obstacles before that kind of closeness, which the Holy Koran alludes to , that emotional closeness existing with one of the Christian parties. The Almighty says:

And nearest among them in love
To the Believers wilt thou
Find those who say,
« We are Christians »:
Because amongst these are
Men devoted to learning
And men who have renounced
The world, and they
Are not arrogant.

83. 86 And when they listen
To the revelation received
By the Apostle, thou wilt
See their eyes overflowing
With tears, for they
Recognise the truth:
They pray: « Our Lord!
We believe; write us
Down among the witnesses.

84. 87 « What cause can we have
Not to believe in God
And the truth which has
Come to us, seeing that
We long for our Lord
To admit us to the company
Of the righteous? »

I believe it is time to find out ways of communication and mutual closeness between Christians and Muslims, and I believe that what the Koran called “pushing with the better” and Christ called “being good to hatful” should be tried until the enemy of the past becomes an intimate hail-fellow, and it is the shared responsibility of both parties, and as it is concerning politicians, it is the responsibility of intellectuals and scholars and media and others in the same way.

After this intellectual questioning, which will need to be answered inside the framework of Christian-Islamic dialogue, I will suggest two dubiosities which I consider as basic and important obstacles in that dialogue. One said by Muslims, the other repeated by Christians.

The first is the Muslim’s saying that the former books were misstated, and that the Christians lost their way, unless they convert to Islam since God would not accept but Islam.

The second is the saying of Christians: The Koran was copied by Muhammad from the legal sacred books, and other sources, then worded it in a plain Arabic language, and it is an outstanding disbelief of parties in each other with which they are holding a dialogue, the thing that interdicts a true dialogue, and the finding of a common word. I hope my suggestion would direct it towards the right way.

The dubiosity related to the abolition and refutation of the sacred books by the Koran[35]

The Muslims say: The Koran refutes and abolishes the sacred books former to it, and that it is the concerned with the word Dhikr ”Reminder”, in his Almighty saying: “Verily, we, it is we who have sent down the Dhikr ”Reminder”,  and surely, we will guard it.” Then the former books which were sent down to the other prophets and messengers, are not concerned with that appellation, since they knew a changing and misstate, because of their rabies and monks who couldn’t assume the responsibility of guarding them. Thus, those books serve to nothing, and their people are following nothing, unless they convert, and believe in what Muhammad has come with, or God will accept no justice, faith, or good deeds from any of them. Then they are disbelievers and polytheists, no longer are they people of the scripture, and are not judged following that belonging. Those who think this, testify using his Almighty saying: “and whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him, and in the hereafter he will be one of the losers.” And when we add  some texts which are taken out of their textual and historical contexts, like his Almighty saying  Then kill the Mushrikun (polytheists) wherever you find them” , they will be wanted killed, and maybe the killer be rewarded. This saying, taking into consideration the differences between movements, is acquiring cultural commonness in our Islamic world, making any attempt  for a common word between religions or shared values with people of the scripture impossible, urging things towards differentiations between Muslims and the others, on a basis of religious sayings, like the right and wrong; disbelief and faith; allegiance and disassociation; as they put the callers to cohabitation, peace, human values, and cooperation, in an embarrassing situation, making them traitors, hypocrites, enemies and allies of disbelievers

Replies and clarifications

1 – To reply to these ideas, we can say: The Koran is not abolishing the former books, nor refuting them, it is confirming the former scripture testifying upon the guidance and light in it, manifesting what it contains of revelation, prophesy and glorification of God’s name. Thus, the Koran never referred to it negatively, and all what is in it about the sacred books is recognition and confirmation, high regards and respect. Moreover, the one who reads the Koran finds out that a crucial part of it repeats what comes in the sacred books under these titles “ and mention in the book”, or “ Verily, this is in the former scriptures” or “ And verily, it is in the scriptures” or “ This is their description in the (Torah)” or “ but their description in the (Gospel)”, therefore, the saying that “The Koran abolished and refuted the former books” is completely wrong.

2 – Their saying that the meaning of the Almighty saying: “Verily, we, it is we who have sent down the Dhikr ”Reminder”, and surely, we will guard it”, means the Koran not the other scriptures, is not true, for several reasons; one of them is that the word Dhikr ”Reminder”, has described the Koran as it described the former books, as the Almighty says:

48. In the past We granted To Moses and Aaron The Criterion (for judgment),
And a Light and a Message (Dhikr : Reminder)
For those who would do right,—

49. Those who fear their Lord
In their most secret thoughts,
And who hold the Hour
(Of Judgment) in awe.

50. And this is a blessed
Message (Dhikr: Reminder) which We have
Sent down: will ye then
Reject it?
[36],

Following this verse, God granted Moses And Aaron a Reminder for the pious.                                            

And God Almighty said:

7. Before thee, also, the apostles

We sent were but men,
To whom We granted inspiration:
If ye realise this not, ask
Of those who possess the Message (Dhikr :Reminder)
[37], the people of the Reminder here are the followers of the prophets, whom God revealed to before Muhammad, and God’s saying shows it: “then ask those who are reading the book before you”, they are the people of the Reminder.

God Almighty says as well:

44. (We sent them) with Clear Signs
And Books of dark prophecies;
And We have sent down
Unto thee (also) the Message (Dhikr);
That thou mayest explain clearly
To men what is sent
For them, and that they
May give thought.
[38]

All these verses manifested to us, that God sent down a Reminder to other messengers before Muhammad, and their followers are those people of Reminder, who are asked about the revelation  to those men prophets, in the same way that God sent down a Reminder to Muhammad to clarify the former, confirm it, and testify upon it. And He Almighty said:

105. Before this We wrote
In the Psalms, after the Message (Dhikr)
(Given to Moses): « My servants,
The righteous, shall inherit
The earth. »
[39]

And it is still a reminder of the former books. Yet, the concept of Dhikr does not acquire meaning itself, but from the reminding with what has come in the former book: “A mention of the mercy of your Lord to his slave Zakariah,”, “this is the reminder for those with me and the reminder for those before me”, “we narrate unto you their story with truth: Truly they were young men who believed in their Lord, and we increased them in guidance.”                                                                                                      

Amongst the reasons which make wrong, the fact of consecrating the Koran with God’s preservation is that the Reminder that the messengers before Muhammad peace be upon them, is the Right that the Wrong can never defeat, regardless of all trials either with Muhammad, or before. It is the light of God which can never be extinguished by the wills of the biased, and God will bring His light to perfection, though the disbelievers, polytheists, and criminals hate. Thus, the coming of the Koran, is but an unmasking of all ways of past, present and coming falsifications, accomplished by the people of the scripture or else. While contemplating this verse, will plainly see that it is treating the Reminder that God sent down, so He would not preserve what He revealed to Muhammad, and not preserve, what He sent down to Moses and Jesus. Therefore, what would be the reason for it, and what proof is there if the Koran does not mention it.

3 – And their saying: “Those books were falsified, the Koran testifies that in many texts” needs a reflection. The Holly Koran didn’t say these books of God knew change or falsification, but mentioned that some people of the scripture, while dealing with the book, had falsified, hidden, manifested, masked Right with Wrong, left the book of God behind their backs, and purchased little gain with it. Between these two matters, a great difference; the book of God, its words, and the Reminder in it , and the right, guidance and light that the prophets came with is preserved in the old testament, the new testament and the Koran; following His Almighty saying:

27. And recite (and teach)
What has been revealed
To thee of the Book
Of thy Lord: none
Can change His Words,
And none wilt thou find
As a refuge other than Him.
[40].                           

What people did when dealing with their sacred books does not have one facet; which is the reason behind the speech of the Koran concerning the people of the scripture. There is a distinction between two parties among them, they are not the same, a party who believes truly, reciting the book of God in the right way, performing its rules in his life, following its light and guidance; it is one of the pious. And another party who leaves the book behind his back, following what Satan recited during Salmon’s reign, changing the emplacement of the words; all are behaviors that the people of the book did towards their Lord’s book.

Why did the Koran mention them to us? To tell us behold those perverse who falsified their book, yet for you, I took the responsibility of preserving yours from any falsification you can perform? Don’t worry then, you are rescued from what the other nations were exposed to?

I believe, it is the natural result of the speech of private preservation; or, what the others committed against their books, we can do as well, their leaving the book behind their backs, is not different from our messenger’s saying: “Oh my Lord, verily my people deserted this Quran”. Thus, the prolonged term, and hard-heartedness of those who received the book, can touch Muhammad’s followers as well, unless they are on guard not to fall in the mistakes of the former. It is why the Koran warned them: “ Has not the time come for the hearts of those who believe to be affected by God’s Reminder and that which has been revealed of the truth, lest they become as those who received the scripture before and the term was prolonged for them and so they hearts were hardened? And many of them were disobedient.”

The loser at the final stage is not the Reminder, since God promised to preserve it, before and after; but the losers are those who lost their way towards it, with their attempts  to put out its Divine light, then it was theirs that was extinguished, and God’s light remained brilliant, walk in it, the heavens and earth and all it is upon them “Their likeness is as the likeness of the one who kindled a fire; then, when it lighted all around him, God took away their light and left them in darkness. They could not see. They are deaf, dumb and blind, so they return not.”God the Majestic says true.

When the Holly Koran tells us about the attitude of the people of the scripture, towards their Torah and Gospel, even towards the Holly Koran, as about their attitude towards their prophets and the last messenger, it tells us about the behaviors of the followers of the Mohammedan experience, positive and negative; it was but showing us the wisdom of God in His creatures, and unveiled the nature of people in all their differences, through specific experiences and examples, to tell us at the end: “ Then take admonition, O you with eyes.” ; so the Koran was guiding people to the most right in the dealing with God Almighty’s books and His messengers; and warning from human interference that may touch those books whenever, especially by the hands of their followers.                                                                     

What the Koran told us about in the way the people of the scripture dealt with their sacred books, or the Holly Koran, is presenting humanity with a perfect method in the way it should be dealt with revelation. We need some contemplation into the Koran to extract it, it is a human method favorable for all people, if ever they wanted to deal with revelation in the right way, be it the believers in Muhammad or the people of the scripture. It is a possible task that needs time and dedication.

All that was based on the idea of refutation, abolition, and falsification of the former book is inconsiderable. Amongst which, is the polytheism and disbelief of all the people of the book, the reality is that they are not alike, among them believers and nonbelievers; as it is the case of Muhammad’s Followers. God will be the judge of all concerning what they were differing upon. As for the concept of Islam, and who is the Muslim, it in fact needs a re- reading from the founding texts, which would recuperate the universal and human concept of Islam, far from any Islamic historical indoctrination, that wanted to monopolize the concept, and eliminate many nations and races from it.

The revision of such concepts and their deconstruction in the light of the religious basic texts, is primordial for the distinction between the Divine and human, the Absolute and relative, and the dropping of that halo, on the other hand, down from the commonly used religious concepts that God didn’t legitimate , and the clarification of its historicity and relativity, at last, the reconsideration of the concepts and high values which are absolute, offering them their due value and dimension.

coranbible.jpg

The dubiosity concerning the copying of what has come in the sacred books, and its reformulation in a plain Arabic language

Although the Lady Mary the Virgin is one of the greatest Christian religious personalities, considering her, and her son a miracle of God sent to humanity, yet  didn’t receive enough consideration in the legal Christian books, gospels, works, letters and visions, even though the spurious and hidden Christian books contain the important part of this consideration owed; we believe that the Holly Koran is a new reading of the majority of those texts, we could understand from it, that the Koranic text is far from being a recopying of Christian texts ( or Jewish, when the old testament is concerned), into Arabic language, as some do understand, and some others propagate; but it is a scientific study, confirming the facts present in the legal texts and others, then reconsidering the concepts, ideas, beliefs and conceptions which the recorders of the sacred text, Jewish or Christians, the majority of which is contained in the illegal and hidden texts “ the Apocrypha” , as it discusses with the opposing people of the scripture, on what they were differing upon, and presents suggestions and clarifications in that dispute; I suppose, the one who would contemplate them would know that Muhammad peace and blessing be upon him, was not an exception among God’s messengers, or a claimer; as do believe most of our brothers the Christians and Jews, but he was the coming prophet, the witness upon what had the Christ and prophets before him come with, and that which he utters was  of God’s revelation; he is the messenger that Christ announced, and warned his followers from disbelieving in him, because whomever disbelieves in him, is a disbeliever of Christ himself and all the prophets, and whomever believes in him, is a believer in Christ and the prophets, believes in God’s words, stable forever. Thus, whomever didn’t believe, better for him to tie a millstone around his neck, then be thrown in the sea; as the Christ said it peace be upon him.

In this attempt, we are displaying the qualitative addition in the Koran, which every Christian and Muslim needs to know, to understand the relationship between the Gospel and Koran; since the Koran is not a book written on the basis of what has come in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, recorded by Muhammad deliberately, as would many people of the scripture claim; as it is not a book refuting or abolishing the other scriptures as would Muslims say; it is then, a book which confirms the others, testifying upon them; and that, we will see in the following comparison concerning the story of the virgin in the legal Gospel and the Holly Koran, then we pass to the Koran confirming, testifying upon, and dealing with the other different Christian sources.

The miraculous birth and physical birth: A confirmation

There was no narration of the Virgin’s life, before the miraculous birth, in Mark or John’s Gospels, but in Matthew and Luke’s ones. We shall register some remarks before comparison. The Gospel of Matthew opens with a mention of Jesus Christ’s ancestry, determining the principal idea of that opening in that Jesus is son of David, son of Abraham; which means that it is the coming Christ following Jewish appointments, which expect him to be a Jewish from the offspring of David and Abraham, and accomplish the promise, by owning the land, and recuperating the Kingdom. It is no longer important, that contradiction between the miraculous birth without a father and the physical birth from a Jewish father; and the first idea we can cede in favor of the second then, on which the theory of Paul is based, which talked about the two births: the physical from David, and the spiritual from God, the miraculous birth, then vanishing; though the two Gospels talked about it, and considered it a miracle and sign of God to the people; and before continuing our talking about the physical birth, it is crucial to confirm the presence of the miraculous birth in the two Gospels; it has come in Matthew’s:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. »[41]

The Birth of Jesus then, is a miraculous one, and a sign of God that proves there is no impossibility for Him, since He can make the elderly able to conceive thanks to His power, by the same token He Almighty had chosen Mary for the mission, and made her a miracle, example for all. It is what we can plainly recite in Mary’s prayer and thanking of God, in Luke’s Gospel itself, where he says:

And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,( 47)  And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. (48)  For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. (49)  For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.»[42]

She was peace be upon her, a believer, pious; God has chosen her out of knowledge, and made a miracle out of her, as He made great things through her, that all generations blessed her.

That is the right that the Koran has come to confirm and make plain, then abolish the wrong that opposes it, and clarifies the right upon which the people of the scripture are disputing, God Almighty says:

45. Behold! the angels said:
« O Mary! God giveth thee
Glad tidings of a Word
From Him: his name
Will be Christ Jesus,
The son of Mary, held in honour
In this world and the Hereafter
And of (the company of) those
Nearest to God;

46. « He shall speak to the people
In childhood and in maturity.
And he shall be (of the company)
Of the righteous. »

47. She said: « O my Lord!
How shall I have a son
When no man hath touched me? »
He said: « Even so:
God createth
What He willeth:
When He hath decreed
A Plan, He but saith
To it, ‘Be,’ and it is!
[43]

All those clarifications are but attempting to come up with one truth, the confirmation of what has come of announcements in the Gospel and miracles concerning The Virgin Mary and her child; and at the same time it has come to show the right in what the church Men see illegality; or hidden and spurious, and testifies for it, then revises what the church men added to Christ’s religion as concepts and conceptions, discussing them through strong arguments present in their own book.

The churchmen had judged many Evangelical texts as illegal, not because there are lacking conditions related to language, time of record, personality of the scribe only, but because what they bear as ideas, are against the church’s beliefs that were agreed upon by the synods, that claimed the illegality of those texts, just to exclude all the scriptures not fitting their agreement; amongst those scriptures: the Gospels of Childhood, which and regardless of some spuriosity, they bear a large part of truth, and many of them, considered sources to the legal Gospels themselves, and many of them state important details about the Virgin’s life, her chastity, purity and devotion, neglected all by the legal texts, though the Christian celebrations celebrate still, those events, amongst them, the birth of the Virgin, Her entering the temple, her leaving it, which are considered, in some Christian countries, important religious holidays celebrated every year.

Racist sayings

The emphasis of the Koran upon the miraculous birth, and confirmation of what the Gospel has come with, clashes with the Jewish racist sayings, which suppose that the Christ is Jewish, and his ancestors are David and Abraham, who would own the land, and recuperates the Kingdom. Yet, history proved that during the times of Jesus, his message was not come to accomplish those dreams and wishes, but to make people return- especially the Children of Israel- to their Lord, and win his forgiveness if to him they repent.The Christ was a plain miracle, a child without father, that God has chosen to be a messenger to humanity, which is a clear message to the Children of Israel, that the prophesy and the book, is not necessarily existing to be in them and their antecedents, but God is able to create a human being without a father and make a messenger out of him, then grant him with prophecy and the book; which would be the case of Christ and his mother the virgin.

Yet, a party of the Children of Israel rejected the logic, and disbelieved in the call of Christ, declared a war upon it, regarding all levels, especially on a level of ideas and concepts; and the Gospel manifested to us some of those discussions held in the Christ’s times, the Gospel then stated that the Christ replied to them, and refuted them, in another narration it says that there have been a dissociation. In the Gospel of Matthew we learn that Christ discussed with the Pharisees:

“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, (42)  Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The Son of David. (43)  He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, (44)  The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? (45)  If David then call him Lord, how is he his son? (46)  And no man was able to answer him a word, neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.[44]

Following this answer, Jesus Christ refused to be son to David, and rejected the saying of the scribes and Pharisees[45], and that condemnation was possible to be based on the miraculous birth to refute the physical birth, not the spiritual one, he will then tell them: how could you say, I am son to David, and my mother has never known a man, didn’t have any relationship with anyone, but were me and her, a miracle of God sent to humanity? As was confirmed in Evangelical texts we mentioned and other texts they considered spurious. The subject of physical birth from David is the cause of dissociation in society where Christ lived, and it is what John states in his Gospel: 

Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. (41)  Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? (42)  Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? (43)  So there was a division among the people because of him. »[46]

Following this description offered by John the Baptist, those refusing his being the Christ or prophet, built their position on the belief that the Messiah and prophet would come from David’s offspring, which proves the fact that they already knew he was not from David’s offspring, but they fully knew he was son of Mary, a child without father, which led to the dissociation, then, believed those who believed in the miracle, and disbelieved those who wanted, among the Children of Israel.                                                                                

The Koran didn’t allow any interpretation of the verses concerning this matter. That  is why it didn’t mention the name of Jesus, but followed by his mother’s: “Isa ibn Maryam” “Jesus Son of  Mary”, In order not to leave any opportunity for the interpreters, be it in the question of  Physical birth, or the spiritual birth, “ son of David” or “son of God”; as it was keen on details of the birth and described in precise description that confirms the Evangelical description, emphasizes it, and builds on it; the Angel came to her, and talked to her concerning the good news, then she rejected it as no one knew her, or had a relation with her, then the angel tolled her about God’s will, to make out of her and her son a miracle sent to all; and that the matter would be with God’s permission, who if wanted any thing it tells it Be, and it is. Thus, she accepted God’s will, and responded to his orders, then was what was about the miraculous birth.

Therefore, the Koran, and while rereading the story of the Lady Virgin, was taking a scientific position, critical, that none can perceive, but if they were studying the sacred book. This is why God Almighty said about the Israeli scholars: “Is it not a sign to them that the learned scholars of the Children of Israel knew it?” the context of speech was about questions related to the Jewish sacred book, the same thing can be said about the Christian questions, it is an example for our brothers the Christians, which shows what is new in the Koranic text, in relation to the former books, as it shows Muslims, that Muhammad, didn’t come to abolish nor to refute, but he came to confirm and believe and complement, which means that the Right which Christ and prophets came with, before him , is still existing in the sacred book as it has been sent down, nothing of it was lost, and never would it be, regardless of the attempts of the biased. The criticism of the Koran concerning the deeds of some Christians and Jews, regarding their book, was never meant to criticize the Jewish or Christian religion or refute it, in the same way that the Christ criticized the deeds of Pharisees, scribes and Sadducees, he criticized the deeds, as well, of his disciples, which is the case for all the prophets of God, their critical revision, never means refutation.

Notes :

1-Matthew, 5: 17-20.

2-Koran, Chapter: 42, verse: 13: source of translation: The Yusuf Ali English text is based on the 1934 book, The Holy Qur-an, Text, Translation and Commentary, (published in Lahore, Cairo and Riyadh)

3-Koran, 42:15.

4-Matthew, 13: 24-30.

5-Matthew, 22: 1-14.

6-Luke, 15: 1-7.

7-Ibid., 8-10.

8-Ibid., 11-30

9-Koran, 3: 102- 105

10-Matthew, 21: 28-32.

11-Ibid., 33-46. See Mark, 12: 1-11.

12-Koran, 6:82.

13-Koran, 66:8.

14-Luke, 18: 9-14.

15-Matthew, 20: 1-16.

16-Koran, 2: 62.

17-Ibid., verse: 113.

18-I prefer to translate the verse with : (and to God we have submitted).

19-Koran, 2: 135-137.

20-Matthew, 7: 21-23.

21-Luke, 6: 46-49.

22-Koran, 2: 80-82.

23-Koran, 3: 23-25.

24-Matthew, 8: 11-12.

25-Luke, 16: 19-31.

26-Koran, 5:18-19.

27-Mark, 11:17.

28-Koran, 2: 114.

29-Koran, 24: 36-37.

30-Matthew, 25: 31-46.

31-Matthew, 3: 7-10.

32-Luke, 3: 7-14.

33-Matthew, 7: 1-5.See, Luke, 6: 41-42.

34-Luke, 10:25-37.

35-This paragraph was cited in the Ramadanic lecture I gave in the presence of his highness prince Mohmed BENZAID.

36-Koran, 21:50.

37-Ibid., verse: 7.

38-Koran, 16: 44.

39-Ibid., 21:105.

40-Koran, 18: 27.

41-Matthew, 1:18.

42-Luke, 1: 46-49.

43-Koran, 3: 45-47.

44-Matthew, 22: 41-46.

45-Luke, 39:44.

46-John, 7:40-43.

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