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  #1  
Old 03-19-2012, 01:20 PM
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Default Islam in the bible

Author:


Thomas McElwain



Thomas McElwain was born in Ashtabula, Ohio, but never lived there. Most of his family remains in West Virginia. He has made his home in Finland for most of his adult life. He finished high school in Puerto Rico in 1968, and received the diplome d'etudes biblique from Seminaire Adventiste in Collonges-sous-Saleve, France, in 1972. He studied general and comparative ethnography in Sweden and finally defended a doctoral dissertation in comparative religion at the university of Stockholm in 1979. In 1982 the same institution awarded him the degree of oavlönad docent or associate professor, a largely honorary position with few or no teaching duties.

McElwain has pursued an academic career as an assistant and lecturer over the period of 1979 to 2000 at the University of Turku in Finland first in the department of Comparative Religion and later in Social Polity. He has also taught English, French, Spanish, and New Testament Greek in various colleges in Finland. He served the Seventh Day Baptist Missionary Society in the Nordic area from 1986 to 1990, largely doing aid and social outreach in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. He served as director of interfaith dialogue at the Islamic Centre of England in 2001-2002. He has also carried on his own translation business, translating mostly academic works between 1980 and 2000. He has also taken an interest in the preservation of an Iroquoian language he had contact with from childhood, West Virginian Mingo, which led to his activity as language consultant to the Seneca Nation Education Program in 1974 and later academic research.
He has published both academic and apologetical works, among the latter Islam in the Bible, Invitation to Islam, The Secret Treasures of Salaat, Hello, I'm God, and Makkah at Dawn, the diary of his pilgrimage to Mecca in 2005 as a guest of the Shirazi Foundation. His greatest interest is writing poetry and he has produced The Beloved and I, the New Jubilees Version of Sacred Scripture in Verse with Verse Commentary. This work is a translation of the Bible, the Qur'an and other ancient texts with commentaries in sonnet-form.

Bibliography


*Mythological Tales and the Allegany Seneca: A Study of the Socio-Religious Context of Traditional Oral Phenomena in an Iroquois Community. Stockholm Studies in Comparative Religion 17. Stockholm: Almqvists & Wiksell International, 1978. ISBN 91-22-00181-6
*Toward an ethnography of faith: Dair Abu Maqar (1979)
*Semantic variation and change in Seneca language and religion (1979)
*Methods in Mask Morphology: Iroquois False Faces in the Ethnographical Museum of Stockholm (1980)
*Our Kind of People: Identity, Community and Religion on Chestnut Ridge. A Study of Native Americans in Appalachia. Stockholm Studies in Comparative Religion 20. Stockholm: Almqvists & Wiksell International, 1981. ISBN 91-20-04726-6
*The archaic roots of eastern woodland eschatology (1986)
*A comparison of some gigantic characters in Iroquois and Saami traditions (1987)
*Seneca Iroquois concepts of time (1987)
*The language of Seneca Christianity as reflected in hymns (1990)
*Asking the stars: Seneca hunting ceremonial (1992)
*Technology and the supernatural in native explanations of Seneca narrative (1992)
*Rites of sacrifice in a Turkish Alevi village (1993)
*A structural approach to the Biblical Psalms (1994)
*Hello, I'm God: A Bektashi Rosary. London: Minerva, 1998. ISBN 0754101487.
*Islam in the Bible. London: Minerva, 1998. ISBN 0-7541-0217-3. Available here from Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project (2002).
*Shi'i beliefs in the Bible (London Lectures)
*'
*"Sufism Bridging East and West: the Case of the Bektashis" in Sufism in Europe and North America ed. David Westerlund (2004)
*Makkah at Dawn: Diary of a Pilgrimage (2006)
*The Beloved and I (2006)

Information about the author are taken from: Thomas McElwain

To Be Continued..
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  #2  
Old 03-19-2012, 01:21 PM
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Lecture 1


The Bible in a Nutshell


The purpose of this lecture is to establish the fact that it is just as easy to prove Islam using a proof-text method of appeal to the Bible as it is to prove any of the forms of Christianity that use that method. It is not the intention to suggest that the proof-text method is sufficient or even valid. In a systematic review such as this, it is necessary to note all convolutions. The desire to show to what extent the Bible is the common property of Middle Eastern religions, at least on some level, leads to the necessity of approaching the text from a proof-text point of view as well as from more sophisticated methods.

Before approaching the specifics, a pilot project that seeks to establish whether basic Islamic issues are to be found in the Bible is in order. If they cannot be found, then it is of no use to take the trouble of further examination. The specific issues chosen for this task are those fundamentals known in Shi’ite Islam as the roots of faith. We have already examined the Sunnite pillars of faith in some detail. Rather that going into such detail at this point for the roots according to Shi’ite Islam, we shall merely make a brief mention of each one. However, some of them are amplified by related issues that appear important because of Christian doctrine.

These roots of faith are five. The first is the oneness of God. This is amplified here by texts relating to the belief that God does not incarnate, that there is no salvation in the son of man, and that God is changeless. The second root of faith is the justice of God. The third root of faith is prophethood. This has already been examined in general in the light of many texts above, but here the particular reference to Muhammad is mentioned. This will form the focus of latter discussion as well. The principle of divine guidance is the fourth root. This is amplified by a Biblical reference to the word Ali. The final principle of faith is the Day of Judgment, which has also been dealt with in detail above, but is here amplified by its relationship to the gospel or message of Jesus (as).

I have given a transliteration of the proof-texts underlining the significant portions. This is expecially necessary in the two or three cases in which I have radically disagreed with the commonly used translations.

There is only one God.


Psalms 86:10 (Hebrew) atta Elohim levaddekha. For you are great, and do wondrous things: you are God alone.

Isaiah 45:5 (Hebrew) ani YHWH we-en ‘odh zulathi en elohim: a-azerkha welo yedha’tani. I am the LORD, and there is no other, there is no God beside me: I girded you, though you have not known me.

That one God is just, and the only Saviour.


Isaiah 45:21 (Hebrew) Haggidhu wehaggishu af yiwwa’atzu yakhdaw: mi hishmia’ zoth miqqedhem me-az higgidhah halo ani YHWH we-en odh elohim mibbal’adhi el tzaddiq umoshia’ ayin zohathi. Tell it, and bring them near; indeed, let them take counsel together: who has declared this from ancient time? who has told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no other God beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

God is not a man or the Son of man.


Numbers 23:19 (Hebrew) lo ish el wikhazzev uven adham weyithnetham: hahu amar welo ya’ase wedhibber welo yeqimenna. God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: has he said so, and shall he not do so? or has he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Notice that according to the text God is not a human being, not “the son of man,” not any “person” or “persons” at all, not one person nor three persons.

The Son of man cannot save you.


Psalms 146:3 (Hebrew) al tivtkhu vindhivim: beven adham she-en lo theshu’a. Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no salvation.

God does not change.


pasa dosiv agayh kai pan dwrhma teleion anwyen estin katabainon apo tou patrov twn fwtwn par w ouk eni parallagh h trophv aposkiasma James 1:17 (Greek) pasa dosis agathe kai pan dorema teleion anothen estin katabainon apo tou patros ton foton par o ouk eni parallage e tropes aposkiasma. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

If God does not change, as this Bible passage and several others maintain, then God does not incarnate, since incarnation requires change. God does not change into anything, not even a man.

God reveals His message to humankind through His servants the prophets.


Amos 3:7 (Hebrew) ki lo ya’ase adhonay YHWH davar ki im gala sodho el ‘avdhaw hannevi-im. Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he will reveal his secret to his servants the prophets.

Many people will not believe the message of God through Muhammad (as).


Psalm 106:24 (Hebrew) wayyim-asu be-eretz Hamda: lo he-eminu lidhvaro. Indeed they despise the land of Muhammad, they do not believe his word.

The biased translator wishes to translate the name Muhammad, thus making “pleasant land” instead of “the land of Muhammad.” But this is not possible, because the sentence goes on to say “his word.” The possessive pronoun is masculine, showing Hamda to be a proper masculine name, rather than a feminine common noun as the ending might suggest. There are a number of such names in the Bible, feminine in form but masculine in meaning.

God made Abraham (as) a guide for all nations, in the following words spoken to him.


Genesis 12: 3 (Hebrew) wa-avarkha mevarakhekha umqallelkha a-or: wenivrekhu vekha kol mishpekhoth ha-adhama. And I will bless them that bless you, and curse him that curses you: and in you shall all families of the earth be blessed.

To be continued..
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  #3  
Old 03-19-2012, 01:21 PM
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Moses (as) prayed for a divinely appointed guide to come after him.


Numbers 27: 16 (Hebrew) Yifqodh YHWH Elohe harokhoth lekhol basar: ish ‘al ha’edha. asher yetze lifnehem wa-asher yavo lifnehem wa-asher yotzi-em wa-asher yevi-em: welo thiheye ‘adhath YHWH katz-tzon asher en lahem ro’e. Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation, 17 Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.

The principle of a divinely appointed leader goes back earlier than Moses (as), but here we see Moses (as) praying on behalf of one such figure.

Moses (as) invoked the name of Ali (as) in speaking to the Pharaoh.


Exodus 8:5(9) (Hebrew) wayyomer Moshe lefar’o hithpa-er ‘Ali lemathay a’tir lekha wela’avadhekha ul’ammekha lehakhrith hatzfarde’immimmekha umibbattekha raq baye-or tish-sha-arna. And Moses said to Pharaoh, Glorify Ali: when shall I intreat for you, and for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only?

The translation which says “Glory over me” simply does not make sense.

The people of Israel sang about Ali (as) as they walked in the wilderness.


Numbers 21:17 (Hebrew) az yashir yisra-el eth hash-shira hazzoth ‘Ali ve-er ‘enu lah. Then Israel sang this song, Ali (the Exalted one) is a well (of water); sing to it.

The translation that says “Rise up, O well” only fits a surealistic painting. In reality, wells do not fly.

David (as) prophesied the coming of Islam.


Psalms 29:11 YHWH ‘oz le’ammo yitten: YHWH yevarekh eth ‘ammo vash-shalom. The LORD will give strength to his people; the LORD will bless his people with Islam.

The word Islam is cognate with the Hebrew word for “peace.” It is the proclamation of reconciliation and peace, not only between God and humankind, but between one nation and another, one family and another, one individual and another. It also reconciles the opposing “parts” into which humankind would divide the impartial God into the one true God without parts and without limitations. Islam, meaning peace, is peace in every possible sense.

God will forgive those who pray towards His house, according to the petition of Solomon (as).


1 Kings 8:30 (Hebrew) weshama’ta el tekhinnath ‘avdekha we’ammekha yisra-el asher yithfallu el hammaqom hazze: we-atta tishma’ el meqom shivtekha el hash-shamayim weshama’ta wesalakheta. And listen to the supplication of your servant, and of your people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear in heaven your dwelling place: and when you hear, forgive.

Forgiveness depends on the grace of the one true God alone, with nothing added, no sacrifice human or otherwise. It is offered to those who turn in prostration toward Him, repenting and asking forgiveness.

God will take vengeance on the wicked and reward His worshippers on the day of judgement, as He promised Moses (as).


Deuteronomy 32:41-43 (Hebrew) im shannothi beraq kharbi wethokhez bemishpot yadhi: ashiv naqam letzaray we limsan-ay ashallem. ashkir khitz-tzay middam wekharbi tokhal basar: middam khalal weshivya merosh par’oth oyev. harninu ghoyim ‘ammo ki dham ‘avadhaw yiqqom: wenaqam yashiv le’atzaw wekhifer adhamatho ‘ammo. 41 If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. 42 I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy. 43 Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.

Of nearly one hundred texts mentioning the Gospel, only one actually tells us what the message of the Gospel contains, the Gospel in a nutshell.


Revelation 14:6,7 kai eidon aggelon petomenon en mesouranhmati econta euaggelion aiwnion euaggelisai touv kayhmenouv epi thv ghv kai epi pan eynov kai fulhn kai glwssan kai laon. legwn en fwnh megalh fobhyhte ton yeon kai dote autw doxan oti hlyen h wra thv krisewv autou kai proskunhsate tw poihsanti ton ouranon kai thn ghn kai thn yalassan kai phgav udatwn. Revelation 14:6-7 (Greek) kai eidon angelon petomenon en mesuranemati ekhonta evangelion aionion evangelisai tus kathemenus epi tes ges kai epi pan ethnos kai fylen kai glossan kai laon: legon en fone megale fobithete ton theon kai dote avto doksan oti elthen e ora tes kriseos avtu kai proskynesate to poiesanti ton uranon kai ten gen kai ten thalassan kai pegas ydaton. And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.

The Gospel in a nutshell is three commands: Fear God (that is, do as God commands instead of conforming to what the neighbor thinks), glorify God (that is, recognize God alone as the source of all good things and give thanks to Him), and pray to Him in prostration. The Gospel gives two explanations for these commands: everyone is going to be held accountable to God in the judgement, and God is deserving of worship and obedience because He is the Creator of all things.

Obviously it is necessary to go beyond a mere proof-text method. However, the experiment of proof-texting shows that Islam is clearly as capable of being established on the basis of proof texts as any tradition that has ever appealed to texts as evidence of its system of doctrine and practice.

To be continued...

Source of the Book:
Shi'i beliefs in the Bible (London Lectures)
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Old 03-28-2012, 11:37 AM
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Lecture 2

The Fragrance of Islam
________________________________________

Islam and Christianity have had a mottled history of confrontation. They are sister faiths having roots in Middle Eastern monotheism and still have a great deal in common. Yet they have been pitted against each other throughout the history of Islam since the appearance of the prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace) in the beginning of the eighth century CE. The two faiths have been associated with opposing cultural, social and political systems for over fourteen hundred years, and yet Muslims and Christians have had enormous influences one on the other.

Although Islam can be more truthfully said to have been spread by the caravan than by the sword, neither faith has been a stranger to violence. Yet the word Islam comes from the same root as peace. Surely anyone claiming to be a Muslim who does not foster peace is making a false claim. Much has been made of violent acts in recent times, but it should be remembered that all of these are in the context of quarrels among wealthy oil families, both Western and Middle Eastern. At times they are able to agree, despite their differences of religion, and when they do not, religion is only a pretext. Christianity and Islam share a belief in a figure known to the former as antichrist and to the latter as dajjal. In Islamic belief, this figure has only one eye. Those who have only one eye, an eye for oil, and no eye for social justice, morality and ethics other than to appeal to them as a pretext for their own agenda, surely betray both Islam and Christianity.

The incident of the woman anointing the feet of Jesus (as) with fine perfume brings to mind a certain tradition often quoted by orientalists. It is said that the Prophet (as) once said that he had loved women, and that he had loved sweet odors, but that the solace of his soul had been prayer. It is my purpose to open a few of the perfume bottles of Islam from the Christian Scriptures themselves, so that the Christian can enjoy both the savour of Christ who accepted the sinful woman and her gift as well as the faith of the last of the prophets. At the same time, it should be remembered that Islam is not based on the Bible, but on the holy Qur’an and the traditions of the prophet and his family (as).

Tawheed or the Unity of God


“Say, He, God, is one (alone). God, the needless, He does not beget nor is He begotten, and there is none like Him, no not one.” Qur’an 112. This text is used by millions of Muslims daily as a part of their prayers. It expresses the first and foremost principle of Islam, the unity and uniqueness of God. In this matter, Islam contrasts with Christianity, which acknowledges a trinity, or one god in three persons.

We find the Christian Scriptures wholly agreeing with this basic Islamic principle of faith. In Deuteronomy 32:39 we find God Himself speaking “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me.” In his prayer Nehemiah (9:6) confessed “Thou, even thou, art Lord alone, thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.” Jesus agrees that this is the first principle of faith when he says in Mark 12:29 “The first of all the commandments is Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord.” St. Paul, apostle beloved of Christians says in 1 Corinthians 8:6 “But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things.”

The Justice of God

The second great principle of Islamic faith is the assurance that God is not arbitrary, but essentially just. The justice of God is expressed in Qur’an 3:17 “God (Himself) witnesses that there is no god but He, and (so do) the angels and those possessed of knowledge, standing firm for justice, (there is) no god but He, the Mighty the Wise.” The same great attribute is mentioned many times in the Bible. In Deuteronomy 32:4 we read “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgement: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.”

Muslims understand that God’s justice is essential and intrinsic. Justice is not a separable attribute, nor even a part of God, but God’s very being. The unity of God implies to the Muslim that God has no limits nor parts. Having no limits, there is no limit to God’s perception and knowledge. Having no parts, God must be impartial. The unity of God implies His intrinsic justice. He has all knowledge of every situation, and being impartial, He is perfectly just.

The Apostleship


The third great principle of Islamic faith is apostleship. This is expressed in the holy Qur’an 10:47. “And for every people (was sent) an apostle; and when came their apostle, the matter between them was decided with equity and they shall not (in the least) be done (any) injustice.” This text of the Qur’an notes that the justice of God requires Him to reveal His will to all humankind. Therefore He has sent prophets to all nations. Islam requires belief in all true prophets, both the prophet mentioned in the Bible and those mentioned in the Qur’an. Muhammad (as) is the last of the prophets sent by God. Thus Qur’an 33:40 says “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but an Apostle of God and the last of the prophets: And God is of all things ever the Knower.”

In the Christian Scriptures we find the same principles. In Amos 3:7 it says “Surely the Lord will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” The question arises whether or not Muhammad (as) is mentioned in the Bible. Many texts might be applied to him, but several mention him by name. One of the most important of these is Psalm 106:24, which says “They despise the land of Muhammad (Hebrew Hamda), they believe not his word.” This is a Biblical prophecy indicating that when Muhammad (as) should come, many would find an excuse not to believe in him because of his country of origin. Indeed, we find this to be the case.

To be continued...
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Old 03-28-2012, 11:38 AM
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Divine Guidance


The fourth great principle of Islamic faith is divine guidance. It is also a logical deduction from the principle of the unity of God. The unity of God implies His justice. God’s justice implies verbal revelation of His will, otherwise He would be unjust in holding people accountable for their actions. But verbal revelation, the word of the prophets, implies further guidance, guidance in action, guidance in flesh and blood. A good illustration of this is an assembly kit. When you buy something that needs to be assembled, there is always a printed instruction manual. Most of us have experienced how confusing such manuals can be. If there is someone who has done it before to show us how, we find the task much easier. The divine guide is one appointed by God to show us how to implement the revealed will of God.

In any practical situation, there are matters about which we might have questions that recourse to the Scriptures is insufficient. Even after reading the Bible and the Qur’an, we are unsure what to do. The role of the divine guide is to show us what to do. The Arabic word for the divine guide is Imam, although this is often used merely to refer to a simple leader of prayer. The word leader in referring to the divine guide is much more than that, however. The holy Qur’an mentions that God made Abraham (as) not only a prophet, but a leader or Imam for humankind, in Qur’an 2:125 “And remember when his Lord tried Abraham with certain words then he fulfilled them: He said, Truly I make you an Imam for humankind…”

The principle of divine guidance runs like a golden thread throughout the Christian Scriptures as well. The necessity of divine guidance is expressed very neatly in the story of Philip in Acts 8:30-31 “Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me?” The statement of the Ethiopian shows clearly that the writings of the prophets are not enough. There must also be a divine guide to implement them in practice.

The leadership of Abraham (as) continued through his descendants, finally coming to the holy Prophet Muhammad (as), who passed it on to his cousin and son-in-law Ali ibn abi Taleb (as). This was done publicly after the event of the Prophet’s (as) last pilgrimage to Mecca. The greater portion of the Muslims at the time were witnesses to the fact. At that time Ali (as) was appointed, and the appointment has gone down to eleven of his descendants, the last of which is believed to be still living and ruling. The Bible also shows a number of series of twelve leaders, such as the twelve patriarchal reigns in Genesis, the twelve sons of Ishmael, the twelve sons of Jacob, the twelve judges of Israel, the twelve righteous kings of Judah, and the twelve disciples of Christ (as).

The Day of Judgement


The differences between the Islamic and Christian concepts of the Day of Judgement are difficult to find, and hardly to be understood by any but the specialist, so close are the two faiths in this regard. This is the final great principle of Islamic faith, and it is mentioned in many passages of the holy Qur’an, such as 99:6-8 “On that day people will come out (from their graves) in (scattered) groups, to be shown their own deeds. Then he who has done an atom-weight of good shall see it. And he who has done an atom-weight of evil shall see it.” Jesus makes the same point in Matthew 12:36 “But I say unto you, That ever idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement.”

Thus there are five great principles of Islam. The unity of God implies His justice. The justice of God implies the necessity of revelation. Revelation implies someone to implement it. Finally, human beings are held responsible for how they relate to the revelation of God’s will. Besides the five great principles of Islamic faith there are many practices that logically proceed from them, as well as being expressed in revelation. Ten of these are traditionally considered to be basic. These are daily prayer in prostration, fasting during the month of Ramadhan, pilgrimage to the house of God in Mecca, charity taken from one’s assets, charity taken from one’s profits, jihad or endeavour in the way of God, enjoining good, opposing evil, respect for godly people, and avoidance of wicked people.

Prayer in Prostration


Muslims are known particularly for their daily prayer in prostration. Therefore the holy Qur’an (6:163) states “Say: Truly my prayer and my sacrifice, my life and my death, (are all only) for God, the Lord of the worlds.” Actually Islamic prayer is better described in the Bible than in the Qur’an. Every time and gesture of Islamic prayer in prostration is mentioned in the Bible. Nearly every common phrase of the prayer is to be found in the Psalms of David. It is one of the incongruities of reality that Muslims follow the Bible so closely in their prayer, while Christians and Jews have developed extra-Biblical practices of prayer. Yet the latter claim to base their practice on the Bible, whereas Muslims do not. Muslims base their practice on the Qur’an and tradition. If anything can be said about humankind, it is that we are irrational.

The example of Jesus praying in prostration is mentioned in Matthew 26:39 “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed.” Prayer as specific times in the day is also mentioned in the Bible, Psalm 32:6 “For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.” Also Psalm 69:13 “But as for me, my prayer is unto thee, O Lord, in an acceptable time.” The cry “Allahu akbar” is mentioned as belonging to prayer in Psalm 35:27; 18:5,6; 30:8; 34:3; and 55:16. Standing, bowing, kneeling, and prostrating are all gestures of prayer in the Psalms. Prayer towards the house of God is commended in Psalm 5:7 “But as for me, I will come into thy house in the multitude of thy mercy; and in thy fear will I worship toward thy holy temple.”

Islamic prayer brings the individual into paradise itself. When I began dialogue with Muslims, one of the first things I was told was “If you only knew how sweet is prayer in prostration, you would fight us to get it.” That is entirely true.

To be continued...
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Old 03-28-2012, 11:39 AM
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Fasting

In Qur’an 2:183 it says “O you who believe! Fasting has been ordained to you as it was ordained to those before you so that you might guard yourself (against evil).” Interestingly enough, fasting is not mentioned in the books of Moses (as) except for the forty day fast of Moses (as) himself. A similar fast was performed by Jesus (as) upon receiving the Gospel, and by Muhammad (as) as well. Yet we know that fasting in the ninth lunar month, the month of Ramadhan, was practiced from early times, as the Qur’an indicates. Evidence of this is in Jeremiah 36:9 “And it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the Lord to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem.” We know that this was a common religious practice from the fact that this king was not a righteous one. He did not proclaim anything good unless it was an established practice.

The reason for fasting is to help us to guard ourselves against evil. That is, it fosters doing the right thing. It makes us stop to reevaluate our lives and redetermine to act in ethical, moral, and just ways.

Pilgrimage

It is incumbent on every Muslim to go to the house of God in Mecca at least once in a lifetime if possible. It says in the Qur’an (22:27) “And proclaim to the people the Pilgrimage! They will come to you on foot and on lean camel, coming from every remote (high) way.”

Pilgrimage to Jerusalem is mentioned often in the Gospel in relation to Jesus (as). But Jesus (as) prophesies in John 4:21 that the time will come “when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.” Muslims believe that the Pilgrimage to Mecca refers back to the experience of Abraham, who rebuilt the house of God there, making it a holy place down to our days as well. At the beginning of his ministry, Muhammad (as) continued the direction of prayer towards Jerusalem. It was only later that the prophecy of Jesus (as) was fulfilled, and Mecca rather than Mount Gerazim or Jerusalem, became the proper place of pilgrimage and the right direction of prayer.

Charity

Charity is enjoined on Muslims in the holy Qur’an 2:43 “Establish the prayer and give away the poor-rate and bow down (praying).” In the sermon on the mount Jesus (as) begins Matthew six with four verses enjoining charity. Charity has always been a primary Christian duty, and in this the two faiths of Islam and Christianity are very much agreed. In some sense we can take Matthew six as a summary of the teaching of Jesus (as). In Matthew five Jesus merely establishes his adherence to the law. In Matthew seven he describes the day of judgement. The meat of this sandwich is Matthew six, and the first principle of Matthew six is alms in charity. It is interesting to note that the rest of the chapter deals with prayer in prostration, fasting, and, in the last half, probably with pilgrimage.

Holy War

There are four kinds of holy war in Islam: striving with the self, striving with one’s wealth, striving with knowledge, and striving with the sword. These may well be in order of importance, the last being the least. Therefore the Qur’an (9:41) says “Go forth (with) light and heavy equipment and strive in the way of God with your property and your selves, this is better for you, if you knew (it).”

Thus the principle of Islam is to struggle or strive, first of all with oneself to maintain right, then with one’s wealth, intellectual capacity, and arms. Islam is not a pacifist religion, but military action is carefully circumscribed. Unfortunately most of the military action down through history has not been justifiable on Islamic principles. War to enhance territory and wealth is not justifiable, and this is the general situation. “Jehad should be exclusively in the way of the Lord and never for any territorial ambition.” (Introduction to the Holy Qur’an, S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali, page 123a).

Recent research suggests that Jesus (as) was not the sweet and effeminate saviour that many believe him to be, but a Zealot, establishing himself as the divinely appointed leader in the face of the Roman occupation. Whether or not that be the case, Christianity was spread throughout Europe by the sword and later throughout the world through colonial occupation. The greatest holocaust, insofar as the numbers of victims is concerned, was not the Jews in Europe in the 1940s, but the Indians in Mexico, of whom more than twice as many died in only half the time, during the first few years of Christian conquest, many of them being baptized against their will before being killed.

Islam is the faith of peace, and Muslims should invite Christians to join them in walking the middle line, not declining war when it is necessary to defend peace and justice, but fearlessly condemning the terrorism, violence, and oppression that is so visible in the present world as a result of politico-economic conflict.

Enjoining the good and opposing evil

This practice of Islam is expressed in the holy Qur’an 3:109 “You are the best group that has been brought forth for mankind: you enjoin goodness and you forbid evil, and you believe in God; and if the people of the Book had (also) believed (similarly) it had surely been better for them; of them (only some) are believers and most of them are perverse.”

The same principle is reiterated in Psalm 45:7 “Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” It is said that all are responsible to foster good and oppose evil to the best of their ability, if not by actions, then by words, and if not by words, then by thoughts. According to Islam good is whatever is in accordance with revealed divine law, and evil is anything that opposes it.

Respect for the godly and avoidance of the wicked

This Islamic principle is mentioned in the holy Qur’an 42:23 “That is of which God gives the glad tidings to His servants who believe and do good deeds; Say: I demand not of you any recompense for it (the toils of apostleship) but the love of (my) relatives, and whosoever earns good, We increase for him good therein, truly God is Oft-Forgiving the most Grateful (One).” Attachment to the godly refers to two groups: firstly to the worthy descendants of the Prophet (as) and specifically the divinely appointed guides, and secondly to those who earn good, or by their behaviour show their attachment to the will of God.

The same principle is found in the Bible as well, for example, in Malachi 3:18 “Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” The idea is to put a distinction between those who do right and those who do not. This is the basic criterion of distinguishing between people, and it implies that other criteria are wrong. Thus we should not distinguish between people on the basis of their wealth, race, appearance, or mental or physical capacity. We should respect people uniquely for the degree to which they show evidence of adherence to divine law and foster it. Attraction to celebrities is thus un-Islamic.

Down through the centuries Islam has been taught with the fingers of the hand, to make things simple and easy to remember. There are five basic principles and ten basic practices. These constitute the basics of Islam, but there are many other matters of grave importance, such as the many practices of purity, modesty, and justice. But these are all implicit in the one great principle that God is one.

Source:
Shi'i beliefs in the Bible (London Lectures)
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