Christianity that was Islam
· ‘Islam the religion of all prophets (An abridged and combined edition of “Charms of Islam” and “Islam our choice”)’
· ‘The true Message of Jesus Christ’ by Dr. Bilal Philips.
· All quotes from the bible have been taken from ‘the niv study bible (new international version) published by hodder & stoughton.
· All quotes from the Qur’an have been taken from ‘the interpretation of the meanings of the noble Qur’an’ published by Dar-us-salam publications
Presented are six articles which discuss and compare various issues of Islam and Christianity. In addition, certain Christian beliefs are addressed from an Islamic point of view.
The information for these articles was taken from several different sources, the titles of which have been given at the end of every article. For more details on the various subjects, I urge the reader to refer to these titles and to do his/her own research into other sources, as we should only judge something based on knowledge that we have attained and not merely by using our own opinion.
The aim of these articles is not to insult any other religion, nor to personally attack Jews, Christians or adherents of any other faith. The aim is merely to share information and to make clear what the standpoint of Islam is regarding the issues that are addressed.
Since the beginning of time, the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them has blessed humanity by sending us Prophets and Messengers to tell us about who He is and what He wants from us. He has not left it up to us to figure out the meaning of life on our own, but He has sent us His Guidance as a Mercy from Him, so that we may not be lost. And as our Creator, it is His right to govern us, while it is our duty to serve and obey Him. For the slave serves his Lord, and not the other way around. Therefore it is incumbent on us to follow His Guidance, which He has revealed to us.
After a Messenger was sent to a people, it was a duty on those people to follow and obey him; in fact, we can read in the Revealed Scriptures what happened to those people who decided that they did not need guidance and they could do it on their own, and thus they followed their own lust and were led astray. The people, to whom Prophet Noah was sent, for example, were drowned when they did not want to take heed, and the city of Sodom and its people were destroyed when they did not listen to Prophet Lot; the Pharaoh and his people were drowned when they denied Prophet Moses.
One of the major religions of the world today is Christianity, whose followers proclaim to follow Jesus Christ (May Allah’s peace be upon him), after whom their religion is named. Let us now take a brief look at the history of Christianity to find out whether what they follow are actually the teachings of Jesus Christ or something quite different.
The way of Jesus
Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) started his missionary activities when he was about thirty years old, and they ended when he was about thirty-three. The Bible tells us that, as long as Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) was on the earth, he obeyed the law of Moses, the Torah; in other words, he was a practicing Jew:
· He believed in one God and not in a trinity;
· He was circumcised;
· He did not eat pork;
· He observed all the Jewish festivals;
· He himself never claimed to be the only begotten son of God or to be divine.
Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) was born a Jew and never denied the Message which was brought by Moses (May Allah’s peace be upon him) and the other Prophets of Allah, the Exalted, none of whom said anything about a trinity. Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) himself said in Matthew 5:17, that he had come to fulfill the law, not to change or cancel it, so he followed the same belief as all the prophets before him:
‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.’
The Jews at the time of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) were monotheistic, meaning they believed in one God and did not believe in a trinity. They thought that Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) was the one who would restore the kingdom of Israel, which we can find in Acts 1:6:
‘So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”’
As for the original followers of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him), they gave him highest honor, but certainly did not call him God. The title which they gave him was Messiah in Hebrew, which has the same meaning as the Greek word Christos, namely ‘anointed’, in other words ‘appointed in a religious way’.
As we shall see, the concept that Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) was divine came about much later and was never taught by Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) himself nor by his early followers. So how come Christianity is so different today from what Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) actually preached?
The Gospel according to Paul.
About 5 years after the end of Jesus’ (May Allah’s peace be upon him) ministry, a young rabbi by the name of Paul, who claimed to have seen Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) in a vision, began to change Jesus’ (May Allah’s peace be upon him)way. Paul had considerable respect for Roman philosophy and he spoke proudly of his own Roman citizenship. He had been persecuting the Jews, but then suddenly he announced his conversion to the faith of Jesus (May Allah’s peace upon him), although he had never met Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him). In fact, when we examine the accounts of Paul’s vision of Jesus, we find different versions describing the same event:
1. In Acts 9:3-7 we read that only Paul fell to the ground while his companions stood speechless, and Paul was told to go to Damascus to find out about his mission
2. In Acts 26:12-18 we read that they all fell to the ground and Paul was told there and then what his mission was. However, Paul claimed the vision he had of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) was so real to him that he refused to learn from or follow the apostles of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) who had actually been with Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) and could give an eyewitness account of his life. He did not find it necessary to study Jesus’ (May Allah’s peace be upon him) teachings, and his conviction was that non-Jews who became Christians, should not be burdened with the Torah in any respect. In other words, what Paul preached was different from what Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) had preached and which was actually followed by Jesus’ (May Allah’s peace be upon him) disciples.
It was primarily through the efforts of Paul that the Church began to take on its non-Jewish character. Paul wrote most of the New Testament letters, which the Church now accepts as the official doctrine and inspired Scripture. These Letters do not preserve the Gospel of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) or even represent it; instead, Paul transformed the teachings of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) into a Greek-Roman philosophy. For Paul, the central point was a divine and supernatural action: the incarnation of God into Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him), (which means that God became flesh in the human body of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him), his death and resurrection, and only he who believes in this can obtain salvation. This was the most important, according to Paul, but Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) himself never mentioned it. Actually, when we look at the teachings of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him), we see that it is directed to the individual personally: man should submit his soul to God and to God’s Will completely. When asked about the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:37, Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) answers: “Love the Lord, your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
After Paul died, there was a serious conflict between the Pauline interpretation of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) and that of the early followers of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him), who originated from Jerusalem. This led to a complete break between the two and then the Pauline Christian church was founded, which really was a new religion, separated from what the originally Jewish followers of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) believed. The latter did not cut their links with Judaism, but regarded themselves as practicing Jews who also believed in Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) as a human Messiah figure, not part of God.
When the Jews resisted the Romans, who supported the teachings of Paul, their Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed and the Jewish Christians were scattered. Their power and influence as the Mother Church and the centre of Jesus’ (May Allah’s peace be upon him) movement had come to an end, and the Pauline Christian movement, supported by the Romans, began to make headway.
The selection of the Four Gospels.
Philosophers during the time after Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) believed in the Triad, or 3 gods, and thus we can understand how the original purity of the Christian faith became infiltrated with this polytheistic belief. In order to make Christianity more acceptable amongst the common people at that time, the Church decided to put three persons on the divine throne. Towards the end of the third century, at least 3 church councils were held at Antioch, to debate on Paul’s doctrine of the trinity. After Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) had already been made into a second god, the holy ghost was declared to be the third person of the trinity. It is thus clear that this doctrine was not something that came with Prophet Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him), but it was invented by people after him.
In 325, the council of Nicaea was held and preceded over by the Roman Emperor. Bishops, mainly from churches that were usually under the control of Pauline Christians, decided on theological matters and which books would be recognized as the Gospel. At that time there were many written stories about the life of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) and there was no such thing as the four Gospels the way we have it now.
The bishops were forced to sign a formula of faith which stated that Christ was of the same divine nature as God. Out of hundreds of written stories, four were selected by a majority of votes, as being the Gospel and the word of God, while the rest were burnt. The Emperor then decreed that this decision be considered as approved by the Divine Will and that the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), should be believed to be the word of God. Only these four Gospels, which were in the Greek language, were accepted; the Hebrew Gospels, in which the words of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) were safe, were burnt. Anyone found to be possessing, concealing or preaching anything other than the “authorized” word of God would be punished with death. As a result, about one and a half million Christians were killed.
During the next few decades, one Emperor would adhere to the Trinitarian faith and thus his subjects were also expected to believe the same; the next Emperor would follow the original Christianity and so then would the people. This ding-dong must have been very confusing for the ordinary people! However, there was a deep understanding at that time between the Church and the Roman Emperors, so if anyone went against the Church he would be persecuted by the army of the Empire. In this way, over a million Christians were killed for not following the doctrine of the Church. There were many bloodbaths, for the Church had to be obeyed.
The birth of Islam
However, the new version of Christianity was totally rejected by those who followed the original Christianity. The leader of this group was Arius, who was the bishop of Alexandria, and he reasoned that it is possible to imagine a time when Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) did not exist, which demonstrates the fact that Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) is not eternal. In other words, if we say that Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) is the son, then we have to admit that the father existed before the son and this means that Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) cannot be co-eternal with God.
Then Islam made its appearance. The Pauline-Christian leaders of the Church at that time must have seen a close resemblance between Islam and Unitarianism as preached by Arius. For it is an article of faith for Muslims to accept Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) as a prophet of Allah, the Exalted. Allah, the Exalted says in the Qur’an:
“Say (O Muhammad (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him): ‘We believe in Allah and in what has been sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, and Al-Asbat (the sons of Jacob) and what was given to Moses, Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between one another among them and to Him, the Exalted. We have submitted (in Islam).’” Surat Aal-Imran (3:84)
Both the followers of Unitarianism and Islam believe in one God; both claim to follow Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) who is regarded as a man; both believe in the virginity of Mary and both accept the Holy Spirit but rejected his divinity. So the hatred that the Pauline Christians had for Arius and his followers at that time was transferred to Islam. We only have to look at the history of Christianity and also the Crusades, to see which religion was in fact spread by the sword…
When we thus look at the history of Christianity and the way it is practised today by the majority of its followers, it may be fair to suggest that this religion should be called Paulinity instead. When we examine the matter carefully, we in fact see two types of Christianity:
1- The Christianity of Jesus, who said:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. (…) Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17 & 19)
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evil doers.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
“You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’ (Matthew 15:7-9)
“If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17)
2- The Christianity of Paul, who said:
“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:28)
“But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6)
“Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ (…)” (Hebrews 6:1)
“You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)
It was Paul who changed the laws and practices of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) and abolished them; he was the one who said circumcision was not necessary (Galatians 5) and that it was permissible to eat everything that was sold in the meat market, including pork (1 Corinthians 10:25). Paul, who never even met Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him), and who, as we have seen, gave different accounts of his vision of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him). Nowadays, if a witness gave different versions of what he witnessed in a Court of Law, his testimony would surely be rejected. Despite this, we find that the Church has accepted and preferred the teachings of Paul over the teachings of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him). However, in Matthew 10:24, Jesus says: “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master.” In John 14:12, Jesus says: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing.” and in verse 15: “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Therefore Paul should have followed Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) and obeyed his commands, and if the Christians truly love Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him), they should do the same.
It is clear that Christianity as we have it today, did not start off this way at the time of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him). He was a Prophet with a Divine Message to worship only one God: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10). However, it was the people who came after Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) who changed this Message and came up with their own doctrine to suit the needs of that time. As a result, modern day Christians have strayed from worshipping God in accordance with His Revelation, as given to Prophet Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him), and are now following a man-made religion as concocted by Paul. Even in this they are not united and many sects have developed within the Christian churches, and there are different opinions about the exact position of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) and other fundamental issues of faith.
To bring Light into the darkness and clarity amidst all the confusion, God in His infinite Mercy sent a final Prophet to the world. The name of this Prophet is Muhammad (May Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him), and his Message is the same as that of all the Prophets and Messengers who came before him, including Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him). For, as God is One, without change and with no beginning or end, there can also be only one religion, one way to know and to worship Him, and that is by submitting to Him. The Qur’an, God’s final Revelation to mankind, calls us back to the worship of only one God, without partners or associates, and it confirms that Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him) was only a Messenger. When we examine the teachings of Islam, we find that they are in line with the teachings of Jesus (May Allah’s peace be upon him). So who are the true ‘Christians’?