An Open Letter
TO CHRISTIANS WITH LOVE
Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him!) was the last but one prophet of God. Christmas Day, the birth date of Jesus is as important to Muslims as it is to Christians. IMW wishes greetings to the whole mankind on this occasion, especially to Christians and Muslims.
By Dr Javed Jamil
Dear Christian brothers and sisters
Peace be upon you all!
I have been feeling strongly for quite some time that I must address an open letter to all our Christian brothers and sisters. The reasons are multiple.
First, Christians are the biggest majority of the world today. (This is another matter that, according to the statistics only a small percentage of “Christians” do believe in the fundamentals of Christianity.)
Second, the Holy Quran praises Christians for certain of their qualities. It states:
“… and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth: they pray: “Our Lord! We believe; write us down among the witnesses. What cause can we have not to believe in God and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?” (5: 82-84/A)
Third, Christians are mostly educated people, and it is much easier for the more educated to appreciate the beauty of the message of Quran than it is for the less educated.
Before inviting you to study the religion of Islam, I must clarify a few misunderstandings prevalent among Christians regarding Islam and Muslims, which have been aggravated in the wake of the attacks on World Towers in the US. Christians in larger numbers have now started believing that Muslims hate Christians and want to kill them on account of their religion. Here, it would be appropriate to state that:
1. Islam literally means PEACE and there is nothing in the religion of Islam that allows or exhorts Muslims to kill (–except when attacked or victimised–) people of other faith on the ground of their beliefs.
2. Those who planned attacks in America were neither themselves Islamic priests nor had any sanction of Islamic authorities;
3. No Islamic scholar condoned their actions; in fact Islamic scholars were unanimous in condemning the attacks. This is another matter that many of those had hardly any sympathy for a number of the policies of American government. The governments of most Muslim countries supported America in its war against Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
4. Those who planned these attacks had done so not to express their hatred for Christianity; it was directed against the US hegemony.
Conversely, there have been a number of Christian rulers and armies that killed Muslims in millions. Serbian President Millesowich slaughtered about hundreds of thousands of Bosnian Muslims. Soviet army (mostly Christians) killed about half a million in Afghanistan. Does this mean that Christianity was responsible for killing of Muslims?
You must understand and realise the fact that out of all those who do not believe in the fundamentals of Christianity it is only Muslims who love all those whom Christians love: God, Mary, Jesus, John the Baptist, Holy Spirit and all other messengers of God including Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Job, Jonas, David and Solomon (Peace be upon them!). Love for them is an inseparable part of Islamic Faith. Not only their belief in Jesus and respect for him and his mother are profound, they also believe Jesus will come again in the world and will unite Muslims and Christians against the Evil forces ruling the world. And most Muslim scholars believe that the time of Second Advent of Christ is not far away.
Quran glorifies Jesus (Peace be upon him!) and Mary (Peace be upon her!)) in no uncertain terms. Muslims regard Jesus as the penultimate Prophet of Islam (the last being Muhammad (Peace be upon him!)) and “Statement (Kalimah), Messenger of God”. And though it might sound incredible to Christians but the fact is that apart from several stories common in Quran and Bible, there are many events in the lives of Jesus and Mary that are described only in Quran; Bible is silent about them. For example, Quran describes in detail the story of how Virgin Mary went on to take bath and The Holy Spirit announced to her the birth of Jesus as a miracle of God. It also describes events related to the birth of Jesus, difficulties faced by Mary, the help by God, slandering of Mary by the community and Jesus’ miraculous speaking in the cradle to silence his mother’s detractors. Not only this, Quran also describes in detail the birth of Mary herself and her miraculous childhood. It also describes the birth of John the Baptist. These all stories are not present in any of the versions of Gospel. At the same time, Quran does also not fail to rectify certain misconceptions about Jesus’ life that will be discussed later.
This will also be interesting for you to know that Quran coins for Jews and Christians a very respectable term, “Ahl-e-Kitab”, the People of the Book because they have been reading earlier parts (Torah, Psalm sand Gospel) of the Book of God. To affirm their proximity to Muslims, several practical measures have been taken. The foods of Muslims and People of Book have been declared lawful for both. Quran states:
“The food of the People of Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them.” (5:5)
Taking another major leap towards bonding Muslims with the People of Book, Muslims have been permitted to marry Christian and Jew women; they are not required to change their religion. Quran states:
“(Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time,- when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness.” (5: 5)
Muslim rulers have also taken care to judge the internal affairs of Christians (as well as of Jews) on the basis of their own laws.
Quran on Mary and Jesus
Let us first see what Quran states about Mary and Jesus. Quran states:
Behold! a woman of Imran Said: “O my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for thy special service: So accept this of me: for Thou hearest and knowest all things. When she was delivered, she said: “O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered Of a female child!” And God knew best what she brought forth “And nowise is the male like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected.” Right graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty: to the care of Zakariya was she assigned. Every time that he entered (her) chamber to see her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you? She said:
“From God: for God provides sustenance to whom He pleases, without measure. ” (3: 35-37/A)
* Kaf.Ha.Ya `Ain.Sa. (This is) a recital of the mercy of thy Lord to His servant Zakariya. Behold! he cried to his Lord in secret, praying: “O my Lord! Infirm indeed are my bones, and the hair of my head doth glisten with grey: but never am I unblest, O my Lord, in my prayer to thee! “Now I fear( and colleagues) (will do) after me: But my wife is barren: So give me an heir as from Thyself, (one that) will (truly) represent me, and represent the posterity of Jacob; and make him, O my Lord! one with whom Thou art well-pleased!” (19: 1-6/A)
* While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, the angels called unto him: “God doth give thee glad tidings of Yahya, witnessing the truth of a word from God, and (be Besides) noble, chaste, and a prophet, of the (goodly) company of the righteous.” He said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son, seeing I am very old, and my wife is barren?” “Thus”, was the answer, “doth God accomplish what He willeth.” He said: “O my Lord! Give me a sign!” “Thy sign,” was the answer, “shall be that thou Shall speak to no man for three days but with signals. Then celebrate the praises of thy Lord again and again, and glorify Him in the evening and in the morning.” (3: 39-41/A)
* (To his son came the command): “O Yahya! take hold of the Book with might”
And We gave him wisdom even as a youth, and pity (for all creatures) as from Us, and purity: he was devout, and kind to his parents, and he was not overbearing or rebellious. So peace on him the day that he was born the day that he dies and the day that he will be raised up To life (again)! (19: 12-15/A)
* Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! God has chosen thee and purified thee-chosen thee above the women of all nations. O Mary! worship: thy Lord devoutly: prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down.”
This is the part of the tidings of the things unseen, which we reveal onto thee
(O Apostle !) by inspiration: Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: nor wast thou with them when they disputed (the point). Behold! the angels said: O Mary! God giveth thee Glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those Nearest of God; He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity; and he shall be (of the company) Of the righteous.” (3: 42-46/A)
* Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the east she placed a screen (to screen herself) from them. Then we sent to her our angel and he appeared before her as man in all respects. She said: “I seek refuge from thee to (God) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear God.”
He said: “Nay I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee
The gift of a holy son.” She said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?” He said: “So (it will be): thy Lord saith, `That is easy for Me and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a mercy from Us’: It is a matter (so) decreed.” (19: 16-21/A)
* So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place. and the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: She cried( in her anguish): “Ah! would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!” But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree) “Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; and shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye and if thou dost see any man, say, “I have vowed a fast to (God) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into no talk with any human being.” At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said :”O Mary! Truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy Mother a woman unchaste!” But she pointed to the babe. They said: “How can we Talk to one who is a child in the cradle?” He said: “I am indeed a servant of God: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet: and He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live; He hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up To life again”! (19: 22-33/A)
* “And God will teach him the Book and wisdom, the Law and the Gospel, and (appoint him) an apostle to the children of Israel, (with this message): `I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, In that I make for you Out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, And breathe into it, And it becomes a bird By God’s leave: And I heal those Born blind, and lepers, And I quicken the dead By God’s leave; And I declare to you What ye eat, and what ye store In your houses; surely Therein is a Sign for you If ye did believe; (I have come to you), To attest the Law Which was before me. And to make lawful To you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you;
I have come to you With a Sign from your Lord. So fear God, And obey me. It is God Who is my Lord And your Lord: Then worship Him. This is a Way. That is straight.’ (3: 48-51/A)
* Behold! the Disciples said: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Can thy Lord send down to us A tablet set (with viands) From heaven?” Said Jesus: “Fear God, if ye have faith.” They said: “We only wish To eat thereof and satisfy Our hearts, and to know
Thou hast indeed Told us the truth; and That we ourselves may be Witnesses of the miracle.” Said Jesus son of Mary: “O God our Lord! Send us from heaven A Tablet set (with viands), That there may be for us Fro the first and the last of us A solemn festival And a sign from Thee; And provide for our Sustenance, For thou art the best Sustainer (of our needs).” God said:” I will Send down unto you: But if any of you After that resisteth faith, I will punish him With a penalty such As I have not afflicted On anyone among All the peoples.” (5: 114-115/A)
* O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of God As said Jesus the Son of Mary To the Disciples, “Who will be My helpers to (the work Of) God?” Said the Disciples, “We are God’s helpers!” Then a portion of the children Of Israel believed, and A portion disbelieved: But We gave power To those who believed Against their enemies, and they became The ones that prevailed. (61: 14/A)
* And remember, Jesus, The son of Mary, said: “O children of Israel! I am the apostle of God (Sent) to you, confirming The Law (which came) Before me, and giving Glad tidings of an Apostle To come after me, Whose name shall be Ahmed. (61: 6/A) (Note: Ahmed means `praiseworthy’, the word nearest to the original Hebrew word, which is now translated as “counsellor” or “comforter”.)
* And (the unbelievers) Plotted and planned, And God, too, planned And the best of planners Is God. Behold! God said: “O Jesus ! I will take thee And raise thee to Myself And clear thee (of the falsehoods) Of those who blaspheme; I will make those Who follow thee superior To those who reject faith, To the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all Return unto me, And I will judge Between you of the matters Where in ye dispute. (3: 54-55/A)
* That they said( in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus The son of Mary, The Apostle of God;” But they killed him not, Nor crucified him, But so it was made To appear to them, And those who differ There in are full of doubts, With no (certain) knowledge, But only a conjecture to follow, For of a surety They killed him not; Nay, God raised him up Unto himself; and God Is exalted in Power, Wise…. (3: 157-158/A)
Differences between Islam and Christianity
As seen above, Qur’an pays great respect to all those who are revered by Christianity. But while Christian priests are admired for certain qualities, Qur’an does not fail to put the matter straight by criticising Christianity in matters that dilute or corrupt the absolute monotheism. Jesus was a man of truth like all other messengers of God but he was a chosen human being, who would guide mankind in a way instructed by God. God is Absolute, Infinite and Perfect. Not even for an iota of time can He, in part or as a whole, become limited or bound by space or time. For whatever aim, God can never be caught by human beings and killed. Jesus was very special; whatever he did and said was in accordance with what God wanted him to say or do. This is another matter that many of his sayings or doings were not correctly recorded or interpreted. He was not the SON of GOD biologically but metaphorically, because God the Absolute creates and not reproduces. Reproduction is a sign of dependence. It can be proven from Bible that, at several places, Jesus called God as Father of not only himself but also of all humans; he called himself “Son of Man” at several places. Humans were called “sons of God” at several places in both Old and New Testaments. God may be like father in the sense that He is Kind towards His creatures in some of the ways as a father is expected to be kind to his children. But to call Him Father in the Biological sense would deprive Him of His Absoluteness. God is one that encompasses the whole universe (even any other universes that might be existing) and controls it. One who can create anything need not reproduce. Furthermore, Son of God cannot be a role model for sons of men. Jesus was born without a father as a special miracle of God like Adam was born without parents and Eve without mother.
Islam (literally meaning PEACE, and defined as TOTAL SUBMISSION TO GOD) is not a new religion. It is the same religion, which Adam, Abraham, Moses and Jesus (Peace be upon them!) followed, and that hundreds of thousands of other messengers and devotes of God spread all over the world, except that God remodelled the constitution to suit new requirements. The basic philosophy of Belief in One God, Belief in His Messengers and Books, Belief in Hereafter and Belief in GOOD ACTIONS remains the same. But as Quran is for all times to come, it sets guidelines concerning all matters of life. Unlike Christianity that primarily seeks to reform an individual, Islam also gives well-defined principles about family and social life, including social, political, legal and economic systems.
ISLAM THE RELIGION OF PEACE
Islam, as opposed to the propaganda unleashed by the enemies of Islam, which gains credence from the activities of some Muslims who endeavour to use violence as a method of protest against the designs of some Western governments, Islam remains a system committed to and aimed at PEACE.
This is not without significance that Islam literally means Peace, and is defined as submission to God which means that peace cannot be obtained without total submission to the Lord of the universe. Similarly Iman means total satisfaction which again can be obtained only through unshared devotion to God. When Quran calls, “Enter Islam wholeheartedly”, it does not merely invite its adherents to follow the institutionalised system of Islam; it also beckons to them that the real, comprehensive and long lasting peace can be achieved only through total acceptance of the System of God. ….. And the best way to achieve peace, Quran states, is to continuously engage in Jihad, which again has the most comprehensive meaning possible. Jihad is primarily aimed at achieving peace at all levels; it implies revolution: within the body, and outside. Endeavours to achieve peace, the regular (or major) Jihad, must obviously be chiefly through peaceful means; but if peaceful means are not enough to ensure peace, armed (or minor) Jihad must be used, whenever unavoidable, in order to quell aggression, violence and mischief. Jihad is obligatory for every Muslim who must “enjoin good and forbid evil”. But, before telling others to behave, one has to learn behaving oneself. This makes Jihad against “self” as the best form of Jihad. Internal revolution is a sine qua non for external revolution. The external revolution has, however, not to be forgotten; it has to remain the ultimate goal. The combination of Internal and External Revolution alone can lead to real peace.
Thus the message of Quran, the Final Document of Peace, is unequivocal; anything good and desirable has to be promoted, and anything undesirable has to be discouraged. All possible means within the ambit of Islam are to be availed for achieving the goal. This goal however cannot be achieved with perfection unless there is unity of mankind; and mankind cannot unite unless it submits to One God, imitates One Prophet, follows One Book and faces One Direction. This is the real meaning of Wahdat (Unity) that is central to all Islamic systems of affairs. Wahdat of God means, in effect, the Wahdat of mankind. The only way of achieving the real peace is therefore in accepting Wahdat in principle, and in practice. Wahdat of Muslim Community has to be not for confronting the Unbelieving world but for striving for the unity of the whole world, in accordance with the commands of God. Let us pray to the Lord of the Universe for the unity of mankind in total submission to His Law!
APPEAL TO CHRISTIANS
My Christian brothers and sisters-in-humanity! I invite you all to Islam, because you have perhaps a little greater right (on account of your devotion to the penultimate messenger of God and Islam) than any other community to accept and benefit from Islam, the Final Version of God’s religion. By accepting Islam, you will not abandon Jesus but will follow him, because Jesus followed none but ONE GOD. Jesus had never said that none would come after him and he gave a clear indication that “Father” will send a “COMFORTER” to guide mankind “who will glorify me”. Out of all the important historical religious figures, it was only Muhammad (Peace be upon him!) and none else who glorified Jesus. He commanded his followers to believe that Jesus brought the truth from God and generated such a love for Jesus in the minds of Muslims as no other religious community has. It is only due to his teachings that Muslims alone believe in his miraculous birth from only a woman and his ascending to the heaven. If he were not a true messenger of God, he would not have hesitated to point out to the “dubious” nature of the birth of Jesus. If he had not been categorical in his admiration of Jesus, Muslims too could have responded, in the like manner, to the rebukes and slanders some Christians use for Muhammad (Peace be upon him!). Those who speak abusively about Qur’an must know that the pages of Qur’an are full of the stories of Jesus and Mary, apart from the glorification of God the Only Creator and Lord of the Universe. The Holy Spirit brought Qur’an to Muhammad (Peace be upon him!). Along with you, followers of Islam alone are those who love Jesus and Mary (Peace be upon them!). Those who tried to kill Jesus were Jews; and Hindus, Buddhists, Janis and Zoroastrians do not believe in them at all. Islam declares Virgin Mary as PURE and “would-be-leader of women of her time in Paradise” and Jesus as one of the biggest miracles of God. Along with you, we Muslims too are waiting for his Second Advent when he, along with Mahdi, one of the descendants of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him!), will eliminate the forces of evils from the world.
LET US UNITE!
If you accept the religion of God, the penultimate Prophet of which was Jesus and the last one Muhammad (Peace be upon them!), the way will be opened for the triumph of the good over the bad. If you do not accept Islam, even then Christians and Muslims must make every possible effort to unite against injustice, chaos, exploitation, crimes and other evils that pervade society. Christians and Muslims, combined, form almost half of mankind. Hatred between them does not augur well for the world. Mutual understanding and co-operation will lead to a long-lasting peace in the world. Once they unite, they must endeavour to unite all others for the common good of the people of the world. The world today is being ruled not by the system of God but by a system created by the forces of business and globalisation for their own selfish interests. They have commercialised and glorified all those evils that Bible and Quran campaigned against. They have commercialised all forms of addictions, sex and crimes. The result is chaos at every level. Family system is being disintegrated. Sex and alcohol have become the greatest tormentors of humanity; their high scale and organised commercialisation has brought AIDS as one of the biggest killers of humanity, and exploitation of women and children in a big way. If these evils are not uprooted from society the day is not far when, despite all scientific and technological advancements, human life will become nothing but an unadulterated misery. Mankind already seems to be wandering on the road to ruin. Let us bring Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Jains and all others together on the path of peaceful struggle against all forms of evils!
Let us all pray to God for total peace in the world!
Dr. Javed Jamil
International Centre for Applied Islamics