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Revelation In Islam

Presentation by

Mark Hamza Dougherty

Blacksburg, VA  -  Dzul-Qa'idah 1420 A.H. - February 2000 C.E.

In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.  -  Peace be upon him who is rightly guided.

Dr. Maneh Al-Johani (from his article, "The Truth about Jesus", available on the internet) states quite clearly:
"Islam considers itself the final link in the long chain of revelation. It promises the followers of previous faiths great rewards if they add belief in Islam to their belief in their previous faith."

According to the Hadith from the collection, Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol. 7, Hadith No. 20, The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, "And if any man of the people of the scriptures (Jews and Christians) believes in his own Prophet and then believes in me, too, he will (also) get a double reward."

Christians will likely recognize the similarity of the following hadith to their own scripture, but with perhaps a more "completed" meaning to the parable.

According to Sahih Al-Bukhari, Vol.3, Hadith No.471, narrated Abu Musa, r.a.: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "The example of Muslims, Jews and Christians is like the example of a man who employed laborers to work for him from morning till night for specific wages. They worked till mid-day and then said, 'We do not need your money which you have fixed for us and let whatever we have done be annulled.' The man said to them, 'Don't quit the work, but complete the rest of it and take your full wages.' But they refused and went away. The man employed another batch after them and said to them, 'Complete the rest of the day and yours will be the wages I had fixed for the first batch.' So, they worked till the time of Asr (afternoon) prayer. They said, 'Let what we have done be annulled and keep the wages you have promised us to yourself.' The man said to them, 'Complete the rest of the work, as only a little of the day remains,' but they refused. Thereafter, he employed another batch to work for the rest of the day and they worked for the rest of the day till sunset, and they received the wages of the two former batches. So, that was the example of these people (Muslims) and the example of this light [Islamic Monotheism, the Qur'an, the Sunna (legal ways of the Prophet (pbuh)) and the guidance which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) brought] which they have accepted willingly."

The topic I have been given is "Revelation in Islam," but before we can discuss this topic, we should try our best to place the subject in its rightful context. That is..

Humans have basic needs

    Physical or natural needs

  1. Need for food
  2. Need for shelter
  3. Need for rest
  4. Need for safety
  5. Need for procreation

  6.  

All of the above are physical needs which man's nature requires of him, and without which he will be unsatisfied and restless. Along with man's physical needs, he has other needs.

    "Other" needs

We may call them psychological, emotional, spiritual, or inner needs. Our concern right now is not to assign a name to these often unspoken needs, but only to recognize that man has more than just the need for physical satisfaction.

Jeffrey Lang (from his book, "Struggling to Surrender: Some Impressions of an American Convert to Islam", written in 1994) offers a very personal reflection on this matter:
"…the life-long tension –more unconscious than conscious-between the desire to return to the comfort of the womb and breast and the need to strike out independently on one's own is a primal catalyst for the development of the self. These two unavoidable upheavals in our lives originate through an irrepressible will to love. Similarly, our earthly separation from God and the inner conflict that creates between our spiritual, often unconscious, desire to return to Him and our innate drive for personal autonomy, fires our total spiritual and personality development. It is in this way that the sacred love of mother and child is a sign of the supreme mercy that brought us into the world."

Suzanne Haneef (in her book "What Everyone Should Know About Islam and Muslims," 1985) states her belief on this subject:
"…for human beings, due to their very nature; need, want and in fact do submit to something. The only relevant question then is, To whom or to what? To be a Muslim is to answer this most fundamental of all questions….by submitting one's life to God…alone, following the guidance of Islam, which consists, in essence, of the instructions of the Lord of the universe to His creatures….both past and present, concerning how to submit to Him."

A verse from the Qur'an actually offers an intriguing explanation as to why the true nature of all men, women, and children is to worship God.

     
    Qur'an 7:172 ("The Heights")
    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    And (remember) when your Lord brought forth from the children of Adam, from their loins, their seed (or from Adam's loin his offspring) and made them testify as to themselves (saying): "Am I not your Lord?" They said; "Yes! We testify," lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: "Verily, we have been unaware of this."

       

What is religion? What is the source of religion?

As we are living in a country that has Christian roots, it may be appropriate to look at Christianity as an illustrative example of just what makes up a religion. My only qualification for this task is that, before I became a Muslim, I was a Christian. In Christianity, as with any other system of belief or ideology, I believe, each of us should at some point, take at least some level of "ownership" or responsibility in his or her beliefs. What do I mean by ownership? What I mean is that each one of us, at some point in our life, should examine the source, validity, and appropriateness of what we were taught about religion. Perhaps each of us should start by asking ourselves the basic question, what is religion?

Is religion an experience or a doctrine? Or is religion so defined that it can be referred to as both experience and doctrine. In other words, as a commitment to a belief, as well as the belief itself (whether personal or institutionalized). Both of these definitions, in fact, are very close to those found in "Webster's 9th Collegiate Dictionary." Now, concerning the experience of religion, each person must speak to his own personal experience. Concerning religious doctrine, however, we can and should make some examination into the source of these doctrines.

Over the centuries, the sources of doctrinal Christianity have been put to task by numerous thinkers and Biblical scholars, from Thomas Jefferson to Albert Schweitzer. The doctrines of Christianity have outlived them all so far. Unfortunately, according to the 1993 book, "The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus," "The level of public knowledge of the Bible [today] borders on the illiterate. ..church and synagogue have failed in their historic mission to educate the public in the fourth "R", religion." The authors continue, "Many English-speaking people are not even cognizant that the original languages of the Bible were Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament). As a consequence [of the version authorized by King James in 1611], the English Bible has rapidly become the only version of the Bible known to most English-speaking people, including many clergy. Many Americans do not know there are four canonical gospels, and many who do, can't name them. The public is poorly informed of the assured results of critical scholarship, although those results are commonly taught in colleges, universities, and seminaries."

If these assertions are true, for such a group of people there is little likelihood they will be able to ask the tough questions needed to critically examine the source of their religious doctrine. In all likelihood, many may well be ignorant of what Christian doctrine proposes to teach them. Aside from those individuals who have made their faith an integral and dynamic part of their lives, I believe religious ignorance and apathy have become the tragedy of Christianity in the West, at least as I have observed it.

Muhammad Asad, formerly Leopold Weiss, an Austrian statesman, journalist and author, writes (in his book "Islam at the Crossroads", 1947) about the loss of the religious orientation in the West, an outcome that has its roots in the so-called Middle Ages:
"The liberation of the European mind from the intellectual bondage to which the Christian Church had subjugated it took place in the time of the Renaissance and was to a very large extent due to the new cultural impulses and ideas which the Arabs had been transmitting to the West for several centuries."

"The Middle Ages had laid waste Europe's productive forces. Sciences were stagnant, superstition reigned supreme, the social life was primitive and crude to an extent hardly conceivable today. At that point the cultural influence of the Islamic world – at first through the adventure of the Crusades in the East and the brilliant universities of Muslim Spain in the West, and later through the growing commercial relations established by the republics of Genoa and Venice – began to hammer at the bolted doors of European civilization. Before the dazzled eyes of the European scholars and thinkers another civilization appeared – refined, progressive, full of passionate life and in possession of cultural treasures which Europe had long ago lost and forgotten. What the Arabs had done was far more than a mere revival of old Greece. They had created an entirely new scientific world of their own and developed until then unknown avenues of research and philosophy. All this they communicated through different channels to the Western world; and it is not too much to say that the modern scientific age in which we are living at present was not inaugurated in the cities of Christian Europe, but in Islamic centres as Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, Cordova, Nishapur, Samarqand."

"The effect of these influences on Europe was tremendous. With the approach of Islamic civilization, a new intellectual light dawned on the skies of the West and infused it with fresh life and thirst for progress. It is no more than a just appreciation of its value that European historians term that period of regeneration the Renaissance – that is, "re-birth." It was, in fact, a re-birth of Europe."

"These movements were sound in their way, and, if they had met with real spiritual success, they might have produced a certain reconciliation between science and religious thought in Europe. But, as it happened, the wrong caused by the Church of the Middle Ages was already too far-reaching to be repaired by mere reformation, which, moreover, quickly degenerated into political struggles between interested groups. Instead of being truly reformed, Christianity was merely driven into defence and gradually forced to adapt an apologetic attitude. The Church – whether Catholic or Protestant – did not really give up any of its mental acrobatics, it incomprehensible dogmas, its world-contempt, its unscrupulous support of the powers-that-be at the expense of the oppressed masses of humanity: it merely tried to gloss over these grave failings and to "explain them away" by means of hollow assertions. No wonder, therefore, that, as the decades and the centuries advanced, the hold of religious thought grew weaker and weaker in Europe, until in the 18th century the predominance of the Church was definitely swept overboard by the French Revolution and its cultural consequences in other countries."

"At that time again it appeared as if a new spiritual civilization, freed from the tyrannical gloom of the scholastic theology of the Middle Ages, had a chance of growth in Europe. In fact, at the end of the 18th and the early 19th century we encounter some of the best and spiritually most powerful European personalities in the domain of philosophy, art, literature and science. But this spiritual, religious conception of life was and remained restricted to a few individuals. The great European masses, after having been for so long a time imprisoned in religious dogmas which had no connection with the natural endeavors of man, could not, and would not, once those chains were broken, find their way back to a religious orientation."

Are all religions man-made?

So how did we get to such a state in the West?

Jeffrey Lang, (from his book, "Struggling to Surrender") states that:
"Religion (in the West) today is a product, a creation of man, of the state that chooses to compartmentalize spiritual from material, sacred from profane."

Maneh Al-Johani (from his article, "The Truth About Jesus (pbuh)") explains that:
"…distortion and misunderstanding in the history of Christianity drove people away not only from Christianity, but from other religions, including Islam, which is not affected by these problems. This is due to the fact that many people think that because Islam is a religion (the meaning of the very word is limited in Western languages) it must be similar to Christianity. Very few people will have the interest and the ability to discover the falsehood of this assumption."

Mrs. Zahra Aziz (an English Muslim convert) offers her hypothesis of the man-made origins of Christian doctrine:
"Christianity became built around the personality of Jesus himself. By laying more and more stress upon the magnetic and wonderful personality of Jesus and unable and unwilling to describe the Prophet's effects upon all who came to him in everyday terms – more and more attributes are added to his reputation – a man who could perform miracles, bring back the dead to life, heal the leper, cure the blind – all by God's Will, is indeed a wonderful man – blessed by God – born by God's will to do His service. But after his death, the 'magical' personality must be kept alive and 'Son of God' appears to suitably qualify all his actions. Living in a society, strongly favored by the Greco-Roman gods, all 'super human,' the educated early Christians must surely also have been influenced in thought by their surroundings. Paul himself, one of the great teachers of Christianity, was a Hellenized Jew, who never saw or met Jesus in his lifetime. Yet, many of his reported sayings show the influence of the times in which he lived. "The Living Lord" was very real to him."

In his article, Mr. Al-Johani reports that Dr. Robert Alley, a former University of Richmond Professor, lost his post as chairman of the Department of Religion because he holds the view that Jesus never claimed to be the son of God. Al-Johani quotes Dr. Alley as saying, "The (Bible) passages where Jesus talks about the Son of God are later additions… what the church said about him. Such a claim of deity for himself would not have been consistent with his entire lifestyle as we can construct. For the first three decades after Jesus' death Christianity continued as a sect within Judaism. The first three decades of its existence of the church were within the synagogue. That would have been beyond belief if they (the followers) had boldly proclaimed the deity of Jesus."

According to the findings of the gospel scholars making up the Jesus Seminar, eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the four canonical gospels were not actually spoken by him. To further state the findings of the book, "The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus", published in 1993, "…the church appears to smother the historical Jesus by superimposing this heavenly figure on him in the.…so-called Apostles' Creed…."

What are the characteristics of the true religion?

If there is such a thing as a true religion, what does it look like?

Jeffrey Lang (from "Struggling to Surrender") offers his thoughts:
"True religion does not promote such a separation (spiritual from material, sacred from profane), but promotes a way of life, as directed by the Creator through information transmitted through Prophets and Messengers."

This, according to the teachings of Islam, is the reason God sends divine inspiration to prophets, to convey the true way of life to men.
 

    Qur'an 49:13 ("The Dwellings")
    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    "O Mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily, the most honorable of you in the sight of God is that (believer) who fears God much (abstains from all kinds of deeds which He has forbidden) and loves God much (performs all kinds of deeds which He has ordained). Verily, God is All-Knowing, All-Aware."


Muhammad Asad (from "Islam at the Crossroads"):
"What we call the 'religious attitude' is the natural outcome of man's intellectual and biological constitution. Man is unable to explain to himself the mystery of life, the mystery of birth and death, the mystery of infinity and eternity. His reasoning stops before impregnable walls. The human being with all the intricate mechanism of his soul, with all his desires and fears, his feelings and his speculative uncertainties, sees himself faced by a Nature in which bounty and cruelty, danger and security are mixed in a wondrous, inexplicable way…on lines entirely different from the methods and the structure of the human mind. Never has purely intellectual philosophy or experimental science been able to solve this conflict. This exactly is the point where religion steps in. The [truly] religious man knows that whatever happens to him and within him can never be the result of a blind play of forces without consciousness and purpose; he believes it to be the outcome of God's conscious Will alone, and therefore, organically integrated with a universal plan."

Mr. Asad continues, "Thus, the conception of "worship" in Islam is different from that in any other religion. Here it is not restricted to the purely devotional practices, for example prayers or fasting, but extends over the whole of man's practical life as well. If the object of our life as a whole is to be the worship of God, we necessarily must regard this life, in the totality of all its aspects, as one complex moral responsibility. Thus, all our actions, even the seemingly trivial ones, must be performed as acts of worship: that is, performed consciously as constituting a part of God's universal plan. Such a state of things is, for the man of average capability, a distant ideal; but is it not the purpose of religion to bring ideals into real existence?"
 

    Qur'an 22:34,35,37 ("The Pilgrimage")
    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

    "And for every nation We have appointed religious ceremonies, that they may mention the Name of God over the beast of cattle that He has given them for food. And your God is One God, so you must submit to Him Alone. And give glad tidings to the obedient (who obey God with humility)."

    "Whose hearts are filled with fear when God is mentioned; who patiently bear whatever may befall them; and who offer prayers perfectly, and who spend (in God's Cause) out of what We have provided them….It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches God, but it is piety from you that reaches Him."

    Qur'an 2:177 ("The Cow")
    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    "It is not piety and righteousness that you turn your faces towards east and west, but piety is (the quality) of the one who believes in God, the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, the Prophets and gives his wealth, in spite of love for it, to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to the poor who beg, and to the wayfarer, and to those who ask, and to set slaves free, and offer prayers perfectly, and gives the Zakat (prescribed charity) and who fulfill their covenant when they make it, and who are patient in extreme poverty and ailment and at the time of fighting. Such are the people of the truth and they are the pious."

    Qur'an 98:5 ("The Clear Evidence")
    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    "And they were commanded not, but that they should worship God, and worship none but Him Alone (abstaining from ascribing partners to Him), and to offer prayers perfectly and give Zakat (prescribed charity) and that is the right religion."

    Piety is in the heart [from An-Nawawi's "Forty Hadith," (hadith #35)]
    On the authority of Abu Huraira (may God be pleased with him), who said: the Messenger of God (pbuh) said: "Do not envy one another; do not inflate prices one to another; do not hate one another; do not turn away from one another; and do not undercut one another, but be you, O servants of God, brothers. A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim; he neither oppresses him nor does he fail him, he neither lies to him nor does he hold him in contempt. Piety is right here – and he pointed to his breast three times. It is evil enough for a man to hold his brother Muslim contempt. The whole of a Muslim for another Muslim is inviolable: his blood, his property, and his honor."
    It was related by Muslim.
     

Prophethood

Need for Prophets

A'La Maududi (from "Towards Understanding Islam," published in 1977) raises the question as to why mankind needs prophets:
"Is the fundamental need of human culture confined to the need of experts and specialists in the fields of law and politics, science and mathematics, engineering and mechanics, finance and economics and the like, or does it need men who may show man the Right Path – the way to God and salvation? Other experts provide man with the knowledge of what is in the world and of the ways and means to use that, but there must be someone to tell man the purpose of creation and the meaning of life itself. What man himself is and why he has been created? Who has provided him with all the powers and resources and why? What are the proper ends of life and how are they to be achieved? What are the proper values of life and how can they be attained? This is the most cardinal need of man and unless he knows this he cannot erect the edifice of culture on sound foundations and cannot succeed in life here and the hereafter. And our reason refuses to believe that God Who has provided man with even the most trivial of his requirements would ignore to provide for this greatest, most paramount and most vital need. Nay, it can never be so. And it is not so. While God has produced men of distinction in arts and sciences He has also raised men with deep vision, pure intuition, and highest faculties to know and understand Him. To them, He Himself revealed the way of godliness, piety, and righteousness. He gave them the knowledge of the ends of life and values of morality and entrusted with them the duty to communicate the Divine Revelation to other human beings and to show them the Right Path. These men are the Prophets and Messengers of God."

Prophethood in Islam

Jeffrey Lang (from "Struggling to Surrender) compares Christian and Muslim appreciation of revelation :
"The majority opinion of Christian scholars today is that the Bible is a synthesis of different levels of holy inspiration. When the Muslim speaks of revelation [on the other hand], he is usually referring to the most direct kind: the Prophet as the human instrument through which God literally "speaks" or reveals His Will, as in the Biblical descriptions: "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and I will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command them" (Deuteronomy 18:18) and "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself: but whatever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he shall show you things to come" (John 16:13). The Muslim does acknowledge, however, that this [direct revelation] is not the only type of divine communication.

     
    Qur'an 42:51 ("The Consultation"):
    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    "And it is not given to mortal man that God should speak unto him otherwise than through sudden inspiration, or from behind a veil, or by sending a messenger to reveal, by his leave, whatever He wills: for verily, He is exalted, wise."


A'La Maududi (in his book "Towards Understanding Islam") describes the extraordinary aspects of a prophet:
"The Prophets distinguish themselves in the human society by their special aptitudes, natural bents of mind and a pious and meaningful living, more or less in the same way as other geniuses in art and sciences distinguish themselves by their extraordinary capacities and natural aptitudes. Every such talent distinguishes itself by its remarkable power and extraordinary achievements. Others cannot stand a match to it. The same is true of a prophet. His mind grasps problems which defy other minds; he speaks and throws rare lights on subject on which no one else can speak; he gets insight into such subtle and intricate questions that no one else would have even understood after years of deep thought and meditation. His nature and disposition are so good and pure that in all affairs his attitude is that of truthfulness, straightforwardness, and nobility. He never does or utters wrong, nor does he commit any evil. He always inculcates virtue and righteousness, and practices himself what he preaches to others. No incident of his life shows that his life is not in accordance with his ideal. His character is without blemish and even the minutest scrutiny fails to reveal any flaw in his life. And all these facts, all these attributes, make it evident that he is the Prophet of God and faith must be reposed in him."

Maududi continues, "When it becomes quite clear that such and such a person is the true Prophet of God, the natural dictate of this realization is that his words should be accepted, his instructions followed, and his orders obeyed. It is quite unreasonable to accept a man as God's true Prophet, and yet not believe in what he says or not follow what he ordains; for your very acceptance of him as God's Prophet means you have acknowledged that what he says is from God, and that whatever he does is in accordance with God's Will and Pleasure."

"It is noteworthy that in very important worldly affairs an expert is needed for advice, and when you turn to the expert you thereafter trust his advice and entirely depend upon it. You rather surrender your own right of judgment and inference and follow him gracefully. Every ordinary man cannot be a master in all arts and crafts of the world. The proper way for an average human being is to do what he can and, in respect of things he cannot do, to use all his wisdom and shrewdness in finding out the proper man to guide and help him, and after finding such a man to accept his advice and follow him. When you are sure that a certain person is the best man available for your purpose, you solicit his advice and guidance, and have complete trust in him."

     
    25 prophets mentioned in Qur'an, 5 of strong will

    According to the teachings of Islam, there are many Prophets and Messengers of God, about 25 of them are mentioned in the Qur'an, out of these 25, only five are of strong will, namely Muhammad, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus - son of Mary (peace be upon them all).  This is referred to in the following verses of the Qur'an:

    Qur'an 33:7 ("The Confederates")
    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    "And (remember) when we took from the Prophets their covenant, and from you (O Muhammad), and from Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus son of Mary. We took from them a strong covenant."

    Previous Messengers – Qur'an 4:163-164 ("The Women) & 57:26-27 ("Iron")

    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    "Verily, We have inspired you [O Muhammad (pbuh)] as We inspired Noah and the Prophets after him; We (also) inspired Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and Al-Asbat (the twelve sons of Jacob), Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David We gave the Zabur (Psalms).

    And Messengers We have mentioned to you before, and Messengers We have not mentioned to you,-and to Moses God spoke directly."

    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    "And indeed, We sent Noah and Abraham, and placed in their offspring Prophethood and Scripture, and among them there is he who is guided, but many of them are Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to God).

    Then, We sent after them, Our Messengers, and We sent Jesus - son of Mary, and give him the Injil (Evangel). And We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him, compassion and mercy. But the Monasticism which they invented for themselves, We did not prescribe for them, but (they sought it) only to please God therewith, but that they did not observe it with the right observance. So We gave those among them who believed, their (due) reward, but many of them are Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to God)."

    Previous Books – Qur'an 5:44-48 ("The Table Spread")

    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    "Verily, We did send down the Torah (to Moses), therein was guidance and light, by which the Prophets, who submitted themselves to God's Will, judged the Jews. And the Rabbis and the priests (too judged the Jews by the Torah after those Prophets) for to them was entrusted the protection of God's Book, and they were witnesses thereto. Therefore fear not men but fear Me (O Jews) and sell not My Verses for a miserable price. And whosoever does not judge by what God has revealed, such are the Kafirun (i.e. disbelievers – of a lesser degree as they do not act on God's Laws).

    And We ordained therein for them: "Life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal." But if anyone remits the retaliation by way of charity, it shall be for him an expiation. And whosoever does not judge by what God has revealed, such are the Zalimun (polytheists and wrong-doers - of a lesser degree).

    And in their footsteps, We sent Jesus - son of Mary, confirming the Torah that had come before him, and We gave him the Evangel, in which was guidance and light and confirmation of the Torah that had come before it, a guidance and an admonition for Al-Muttaqun (the pious).  Let the people of the Evangel judge by what God has revealed therein. And whosoever does not judge by what God has revealed (then) such (people) are the Fasiqun (the rebellious i.e. disobedient of a lesser degree to God).

    And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad (pbuh)) the Book (this Qur'an) in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it and Mohayminan (trustworthy in highness and a witness) over it. So judge between them by what God has revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging away from the truth that has come to you. To each among you, We have prescribed a law and a clear way. If God willed, He would have made you one nation, but that (He) may test you in what He has given you; so strive as in a race in good deeds. The return of you (all) is to God; then He will inform you about that in which you used to differ."
     

Afterword: Finality of Prophet Muhammad's Message

Source: Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri's "The Reliance of the Traveler – A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law", circa 1360 C.E.

"This section has been translated to clarify some possible confusion among Muslims as to Islam's place among world religions. The discussion centers on three points:

     
    (1) Muhammad (pbuh) is the last prophet and messenger. Anyone claiming to be a prophet or messenger of God after him or to found a new religion is a fraud, misled and misleading.

    (2) Previously revealed religion were valid in their own eras, as is attested to by many verses of the Holy Qur'an, but were abrogated by the universal message of Islam, as is equally attested to by many verses of the Qur'an. Both points are worthy of attention from English-speaking Muslims, who are occasionally exposed to erroneous theories advanced by some teachers and Qur'an translators affirming these religions' validity but denying or not mentioning their abrogation, or that it is unbelief (kufr) to hold that the remnant cults now bearing the names of formerly valid religions, such as "Christianity" or "Judaism" are acceptable to God Most High after He has sent the final Messenger (pbuh) to the entire world. This is a matter over which there is no disagreement among Islamic scholars, and if English-speaking Muslims at times discuss it as if there were some question about it, the only reason can be that no one has yet offered them a translation of a scholarly Qur'anic exegesis (tafsir) to explain the accord between the various Qur'anic verses, and their agreement with the sunna. The few passages translated below will hopefully be of use until this has been done.

    (3) Islam is the final religion that God Most High will never lessen or abrogate until the Last Day
     

MUHAMMAD IS THE LAST PROPHET AND MESSENGER (pbuh)

     
    (Ibn Kathir:) God Most High says in the Qur'an 33:40 ("The Confederates"):

    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    "Muhammad (pbuh) is not the father of any man among you, but the Messenger of God and the Last of the Prophets. And God has knowledge of everything."
     

This Qur'anic verse is an unequivocally decisive primary text establishing that there will be no prophet after him. And since there will be no prophet (nabi), it follows a fortiori that there will be no prophetic messenger (rasul). The Prophet (pbuh) said:

     
    "Messengerhood and prophethood have ceased. There will be no messenger or prophet after me."
     

      "My likeness among the prophets is as a man who, having built a house and put the finishing touches on it and made it seemly, yet left one place without a brick. When anyone entered it and saw this, he would exclaim, 'How excellent it is, but for the place of this brick.' Now, I am the place of that brick: through me the line of the prophets (peace be upon them) has been brought to completion."
      "I have been favored above the prophets in six things: I have been endowed with consummate succinctness of speech, made triumphant through dread, war booty has been made lawful for me, the whole earth has been made a purified place of worship for me, I have been sent to all created beings, and the succession of prophets has been completed in me."

God Most Blessed and Exalted has stated in His Book, as has His Messenger (pbuh) in hadiths of numerous channels of transmission (mutawatir) that there will be no prophet after him, so that everyone may know that whoever claims this rank thereafter is a lying pretender, misled and misleading, even if he should stage miracles and exhibit all kinds of magic, talismans, and spells (Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Azim, 3.493-4)

Now the end result of the finality of the Prophet's (pbuh) Message is .....

     

THE ABROGATION OF PREVIOUSLY REVEALED RELIGIONS

     

(Imam Baghawi:) The Prophet (pbuh) said:

     
    "By Him in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad (pbuh), any person of this Community, any Jew, or any Christian who hears me and dies without believing in what I have been sent with will be an inhabitant of hell."

This is a rigorously authenticated (sahih) hadith that was recorded by Muslim (Sharh al sunna, 1.104-5).

     
    (Ibn Kathir:) God Most High says in the Qur'an 2:62 ("The Cow"):

    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    "Surely those who believe, those of Jewry, the Christians, and the Sabaeans – whoever has faith in God and the Last Day, and works righteousness, their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be upon them, and neither shall they sorrow."
     

Suddi states that the verse "Surely those who believe, etc." was revealed about the former companions of Salman the Persian when he mentioned them to the Prophet (pbuh), relating how they had been, saying, "They used to pray, fast, and believe in you, and testify that you would be sent as a prophet." When he finished praising them, the Prophet (pbuh) replied, "Salman, they are the denizens of hell," which came to discomfit Salman greatly, and so God revealed this verse.

The faith of the Jews was that of whoever adhered to the Torah and the sunna of Moses (upon him be peace) until the coming of Jesus. When Jesus came, whoever held fast to the Torah and the sunna of Moses without giving them up and following Jesus was lost.

The faith of the Christians was that whoever adhered to the Evangel and precepts of Jesus, their faith was valid and acceptable until the coming of Muhammad (pbuh). Those of them who did not then follow Muhammad (pbuh) and give up the sunna of Jesus (pbuh) and the Evangel were lost.

The foregoing is not contradicted by the hadith relating that the verse,

     
    "Surely those who believe, those of Jewry, the Christians, and the Sabaeans – whoever has faith in God and the Last Day …"

was followed by God revealing in the Qur'an 3:85 ("The Family of Imran"),

     
    In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
    "Whoever seeks a religion other than Islam will never have it accepted of him, and he will be those who have truly failed in the hereafter."

for the hadith merely confirms that no one's way or spiritual works are acceptable unless they conform to the Sacred Law of Muhammad (pbuh) now that he has been sent with it. As for people prior to this, anyone who followed the messenger of his own time was guided, on the right path, and was saved (Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Azim (y60), 1,103).

     

NO OBLIGATION FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT RECEIVE THE MESSAGE

     

Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri (from "The Reliance of the Traveler – A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law"), circa 1360 C.E (pg 3 a1.5):

According to this school (Shafi'i), a person is not morally obligated by God to do or refrain from anything unless the invitation of a prophet and what God has legislated have reached him. No one is rewarded for doing something or punished for refraining from or doing something until he knows by means of God's messengers what he is obligated to do or obliged to refrain from.

So whoever lives in such complete isolation that the summons of a prophet and his Sacred Law do not reach him is not morally responsible to God for anything and deserves neither reward nor punishment.

And those who lived in one of the intervals after the death of a prophet and before a new one had been sent were not responsible for anything and deserve neither reward nor punishment.

This view is confirmed by the word of God Most High in the Qur'an 17:15 ("The Journey by Night"):
 

    "We do not punish until We send a messenger."

Final words:  I ask Allah to forgive any mistakes in this writing, which are my own; and I thank Allah for any good in this writing, which is from Him, and from His Wisdom, with which He guides men.

       

SOURCES CITED


The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus, New Translation and Commentary. Robert W. Funk; Roy W. Hoover and The Jesus Seminar. Polebridge Press. 1993. 553 pages.

Forty Hadith. An-Nawawi. The Holy Koran Publishing House, Beirut, Lebanon. Translated by Ezzedin Ibrahim and Denys Johnson-Davies. 1976. 127 pages.

Interpretation of the Meanings of The Noble Qur'an in the English Language. Muhammad Taqi-ud Din Al-Hilali and Muhammad Muhsin Khan. A summarized version of At-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi, and Ibn Kathir with comments from Sahih Al-Bukhari. Maktaba Dar-Us-Salam, Saudi Arabia. 1993. 955 pages.

Islam at the Crossroads. Muhammad Asad. Arafat Publications. 1975 reprint. 160 pages.

The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an. Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Amana Corporaton, Maryland. 1989. 1758 pages.

The Reliance of the Traveller – A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law. Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri. In Arabic with facing English text, commentary and appendices edited and translated by Noah Ha Mim Keller. Sunna Books. 1991.

Struggling to Surrender: Some Impressions of an American Convert to Islam. Jeffrey Lang. Amana Publications, Beltsville, Maryland. 1994. 245 pages.

Towards Understanding Islam. Sayd Abul A'La Maududi. Islamic Teaching Center, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1977. Translated and edited by Khurshid Ahmad. 134 pages.

"The Truth About Jesus." Maneh Al-Johani. From the Sunnah Islamic page at website http://www.al-sunnah.com/truth_aboutjesus.htm (current as of February 2000).

Webster's 9th New Collegiate Dictionary. 1985.

What Everyone Should Know About Islam and Muslims. Suzanne Haneef. Library of Islam, Des Plaines, Illinois. 1985. 202 pages.



 


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