In whom can true Islam be found?

In whom can true Islam be found?

Introduction

The word “Islam” is derived from an Arabic root-word SLM which means “submission” to Allah. It describes a state of total submission to the will of Allah. In its true meaning, the state of devotion is expected to be absolute, both in word and in deed.

Under what circumstances can true submission to Allah be achieved?

Is Islam an exclusive right of any particular religious group?

We often hear Muslims or followers of the path that was laid by Muhammad referring to themselves exclusively as Muslims. All other religions are branded “Kaffirs” or teachings of infidels or unbelievers. In the eyes of those who claim to be Muslims, all unbelievers are doomed for hell for deviating from the path.

Does the Qur’an affirm this position? Who is a true Muslim? This question is the central theme we want to seek answers from both the Qur’an and the Bible.

Who is a Muslim?

It is strongly believed in Muslim circles that all the prophets of God were Muslims and many also believe that Islam even began at the time of Adam. They argue that Islam did not begin with Muhammad but was perfected during his time. Their popular quotation to support this assertion is:

Qur’an 5:3 …This day have I perfected your religion for you, and completed my favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion…

Supposing all the prophets were Muslims, (including Jesus Christ, who came before Muhammad), and also that Islam existed even at the time of Adam; then who was the founder of Islam? Can we claim that Muhammad was the originator? At best, he can be described as the perfecter. For Muhammad to be either the perfecter or the model of perfected Islam, we would expect his Islam to be perfect (total submission) without falling short in any way at all.

Islam Misunderstood

Does a person consider himself a Muslim because of the set of rituals he follows, a particular kind of name he bears, or his mode of dress? The answer to this question is a big “No”. We need to take note of the fact that Moses and all the earlier prophets never confessed Muhammad by reciting the Kalimat Shahada, (“There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”)

How then do we reconcile the claim that they were Muslims since recitation of the Kalimat Shahada is a prerequisite in Islam? This raises a question of considerable importance: Which Islam did these prophets practise? Is it the Islam viewed in God’s perspective as total submission or the Islam practised as a religion by the followers of Muhammad? Certainly, what God expected from the prophets, who are acknowledged as Muslims, was total submission to His Will. They were not Muslims because they were appointed as prophets, but rather because of their ability and willingness to submit to God.

Understanding Islam in this light makes us appreciate much better what God wants from us when we claim to be Muslims.

This view is rightly in line with the Qur’anic injunction which states that:

Qur’an 3:85 “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to God), never will it be accepted of him, and in the hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good).”

Does this statement mean that we are required to adopt Arabic names, assume certain postures and face specific directions in prayer before God accepts us as Muslims? If this is our opinion about Islam, then how do we reconcile this view with these words?

Qur’an 2:62 “Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians; any who believe in God and the Last day and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord, and on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.”

The above statement clearly shows that being a Muslim means more than following prescribed cultural and religious practices.

It shows that God does not prescribe Islam as an exclusive religion for, in that case, Christians would have to renounce their faith, change their names, recite the Kalimat Shahada and face a particular direction in prayer.

Some people think they achieve Islam by merely facing a particular direction in prayer and for that matter consider that as righteousness. What does the Qur’an say about this?

Qur’an 2:177 It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards East or West…

Qur’an 2:115 To God belong the East and the West, wheresoever ye turn, there is the presence of God. For God is all-pervading, all-knowing.

Some people also think they are Muslims because they wash certain parts of the body before praying to God and that righteousness comes through ceremonial cleanliness. Qur’an 5:7 is the usual quotation that is employed to substantiate the claim that this is the purity that God has enjoined:

Qur’an 5:6 “O ye who believe! When ye prepare for prayer, wash your faces and your hands and arms to the elbows; rub your heads with water and wash your feet to the ankles…”

The assurance of forgiveness of sins through washing with water is further clarified in Islam. Abu Hurairah relates that the Holy Prophet said that when a Muslim makes ablutions and washes his face, the water carries away all sins committed by his eyes; when he washes his hands, the water carries away all sins committed by his hand; and when he washes his feet, the water carries away all sins towards which he had walked; and he emerges cleansed of all his sins. (Culled from Riyadh Salihin pg. 93)

This is all that the Muslim understands he is doing when he washes himself before prayer. But, can sin be located on any part of the body? Can it be washed away with water? In which form does sin exist? What constitutes sin is found in the heart of man said Jesus the Messiah.

Matthew 15:19-20 “For out of the Heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean.”

Since the heart, although it is the seat of all evil deeds, is not included in the bodily parts that are washed, then the washing of the face, hands, nose, mouth, ears and feet is insufficient to make one a Muslim. After all, when one flatulates (passes wind), the ablution is violated and Allah cannot listen to you unless you wash yourself again. As if it is flatulence that separates us from God. Is it not sin that God detests in our lives as we claim to be Muslims? This is indeed what the Bible tells us:

Habakkuk 1:13

“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.”

Isaiah 59:1-2 “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear to dull to hear. But your inquities have seperated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”

Who then can be considered a Muslim before God? Does your understanding of a Muslim refer to someone who has a beard, wears a long robe and touches the ground with his forehead as a sign of submission? If this is what makes one a Muslim, then what brand of Muslims should one expect? Can we say that Jesus was a Muslim only because he had a beard, wore long robes, performed ablution and prayed with his forehead on the ground? Did Jesus only pray in one way, always with his face on the ground?

Did Jesus also wash his feet before washing that of his disciples?

The Bible confirms that Jesus also prayed while kneeling:

Luke 22:41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed...

On other occasions, he prayed standing and looked towards heaven:

John 11:41 Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.”

John 17:1 After Jesus said this, he looked towards heaven and prayed…

As far as Jesus was concerned, worshipping God should be done in spirit and in truth. The mode and procedure is unimportant and cannot of itself make a person a Muslim. There is no proof that Jesus ever practised the rituals being advocated by Muslims.

He never visited any holy city in order to become a Muslim. Daniel did not pray with his face on the ground; he prayed on his knees but his prayers were still answered by God. Our God should not be seen as a one-way God.

Daniel 6:10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened towards Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.

Remember that Muhammad also initially prayed facing Jerusalem, not Mecca, when he was living in Medina. What led to his changing the direction from Jerusalem to Mecca?

The apostle Peter also prayed on his knees for Dorcas to be brought back to life again.

Acts 9:40 Peter sent them all out of the room, then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning towards the dead woman, he said, ‘Tabitha, get up.’ She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up.

This verse clearly shows that the experience of God’s power does not lie in one’s posture at prayer but purely on the basis of faith in Him. Christians in Acts 21:5 prayed to their God on their knees, their faces were not on the ground and yet God listened to them.

Does biological birth make a person a Muslim? This is how scores of people come to identify themselves as Muslims without ever asking why they are Muslims.

In the light of all these observations we need to come back to our question: Who is a Muslim?

The Real Islam and How the Prophets Fared

Let us remind ourselves that submission to God (Allah), and only to God (Allah), constitutes Islam. Anything short of this is something else. One can call himself a Muslim only when one is able to submit his will completely to God and not to Satan. One has to listen to and follow the voice of God, and only God. The moment one deviates and listens to the voice of Satan, one becomes disqualified as a Muslim by God’s standard even though the person may still be practising the rituals of ablution, prostration, etc.

The Prophet Adam

Islam by its definition began with Adam and so he was a Muslim. Adam continued to be a Muslim as long as he submitted to God. How did he fare? We need to examine his life. Adam remained in the Garden of Eden and as a Muslim listened only to the voice of God until Satan came his way. Then what happened? The Qur’an reveals a surprising truth that would help us see things clearly:

Qur’an 2:36 Then did Satan make them (Adam and Eve) slip from the Garden and get them out of the state (of felicity) in which they had been…

God spoke to Adam and his wife and gave them a command to follow:

Qur’an 7:19 “Adam dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden and enjoy (its good things) as ye wish; but approach not this tree, or ye run into harm and transgression.”

As a Muslim, Adam should have listened to God and not to anyone else. His will should have been completely submitted to God. This is what we mean by Muslim, and this is what God expects from Muslims. However, instead of submitting to God, Adam and his wife preferred to listen to the words of another voice:

Qur’an 7:20-21 Then began Satan to whisper suggestions to them… And he (Satan) swore to them both, that he was their sincere adviser.

Because Adam failed to listen only to God and instead turned and submitted to Satan, disaster came upon him and his wife:

Qur’an 7:22 “So by deceit he (Satan) brought about their fall (Adam and his wife)…

Are we going to argue that Adam was ignorant of the will of God before he fell with his wife? The answer is an emphatic “No!”

The assertion that they were ignorant can never be true because God had given them a clear command to follow. God’s judgement was:

Qur’an 20:121 Thus did Adam disobey his Lord, and allow himself to be seduced.

The words submission and disobedience are never synonymous, and therefore, disobedience to God cannot be seen as Islam nor can one who disobeys ever be worthy of the title “Muslim.” Adam clearly disobeyed God. He refused to listen and submit to God alone, instead he listened to and submitted to Satan. In the light of his action, can we regard Adam as a Muslim in the real sense of the word? I know someone may say, “He turned back to God afterwards and God forgave him.” However, the fact still remains that Adam did submit to Satan and thus, disqualified himself from being a Muslim before God. Hence his expulsion from the presence of God.

Qur’an 7:24 (Allah) said: “Get ye down...”.

We have realised that, although Adam was a Muslim, he could not submit himself perfectly and whole-heartedly to God. Satan was able to overcome him with his suggestions and ideas. Adam inevitably cried out to God as a sign of failure to measure up to the standard of God; and asked for forgiveness from God.

Qur’an 7:23 They said: “Our Lord! We have wronged our own souls: If Thou forgive us not and bestow not upon us Thy Mercy, we shall certainly be lost.”

The “Muslim” in Adam became tainted and his Islam fell short of complete submission and obedience to God. Hence Satan was able to gain a victory in the life of Adam according to his vow to take revenge against God.

Qur’an 7:16, 17 “Because thou has thrown me out of the way, Lo! I will lie in wait for them on the straight Way. Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left, nor will thou find in most of them gratitude (for thy mercies).”

The Prophet Moses

Let us examine Moses in the light of the claim that he was a Muslim. How did he become a Muslim? Was he able to submit perfectly to God without yielding to Satan in his life? Obviously not, for we see that Satan also played tricks on him and succeeded in getting him to act contrary to God’s will. Moses at a point obeyed Satan and subsequently had to confess the fact with remorse and shock:

Qur’an 28:15 He said: “This is a work of Evil (Satan): For he is an enemy that manifestly misleads!”

The fact is that, tragically, Moses was also floored by Satan and as a result, he also cried out for forgiveness:

Qur’an 28:16 He prayed: “O my Lord! I have indeed wronged my soul! Do Thou then forgive me!”

Moses is highly regarded as a prophet and as a Muslim. However, he could not submit to God fully throughout his life without giving in to Satan. Satan was able to achieve his aim of causing all the descendant of Adam, as well as Adam himself, to sin against God. Moses therefore, joined in the ranks of Adam as one who had to ask for forgiveness for his sin. Yes, Moses sinned against God according to Satan’s plot (Qur’an 7:16-17).

The Other Prophets

At this juncture, we need to remind ourselves that Islam means total submission. How do we then reconcile the occasional disobedience that became manifest in the lives of the prophets?

In fact, God summoned a whole host of other prophets such as in Noah (Nuh), David the Prophet (Dawud) and Solomon (Sulaiman). Yet, God did not find one true Muslim among them who could practise Islam perfectly by submitting to God alone throughout his life. Contrary to God’s desire, all these Prophets at one time or another in their lives also submitted to Satan and sinned against God. Each one, therefore, had to ask forgiveness from their Lord even as the Qur’an shows.

After sinning against God, this was how Noah also expressed his guilt.

Qur’an 11:47 “…And unless thou forgive me and have mercy on me, I should indeed be lost.”

David also:

Qur’an 38:24 David asked for forgiveness of his Lord.

And Solomon:

Qur’an 38:35 “O my Lord! Forgive me.:”

How come that Satan was able to seduce all these prophets and cause them to submit to him, thus disqualifying them as Muslims? Can any of them boast that he was a Muslim? Satan would only remind them, “Have you forgotten how I caused you to sin by obeying my will?” It is worthwhile to note that, all the Prophets were “Descendants of Adam,” Rusullum-min-kum (Qur’an 7:35).

Just as Adam was subdued by Satan, so also all his descendants came under the control and influence of Satan. We are therefore confronted with this inevitable question: “Who among the prophets was able to surrender his will perfectly to God, and to completely subdue Satan?” Do not think that we do not believe in or respect God’s prophets. They were indeed God’s prophets.

However, that does not stop us from examining their lives to see whether they remained Muslims or whether Satan could ever accuse them of any sin. Did any of the prophets ever succeed in living without sin? Yes, there is someone among the prophets, who remained a Muslim without any sin whatsoever. Let us read what Abu Huraira reported Muhammad, Allah’s Messenger, was saying:

“There is none among the sons of Adam who is born but not touched by the Satan at the time of his birth. So he cried loudly because of Satan’s touch. But this is not the case with Mary and her son.”

The above Hadith supports Allah’s revelation in the Qur’an about Jesus’ sinlessness even before his birth. For the angel announcing the birth said to Mary:

Qur’an 19:19 “Nay I am only a messenger from thy Lord (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son...”

Even before the birth of Jesus, the angels knew him to be holy, pure, sinless and faultless.

In the light of the above claim, Jesus stands out as unique among all the prophets who were descendants of Adam. Hence all the others died and went back into dust according to divine law, (Annaso kuluhum banuu Adam. Wa Adam min turaabin).

The superiority of Jesus above all other prophets is underlined in the following verse.

Qur’an 4:171 “…Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more) than an apostle of God, and His word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him…”

All the prophets, from Adam right down to Jesus, can equally be referred to as apostles or messengers of Allah. However, none of them takes the titles Allah’s Word or His Spirit apart from Jesus alone. Jesus Christ never sinned because he is Allah’s Spirit (Ruhu’llah). Since Allah’s Spirit is holy, Jesus must also be holy even as confirmed by the Qur’an and by the ample evidence of his sinlessness in the Bible.

It was Jesus alone who overcame Satan. How did he do it? He triumphed over Satan by the cross. The devil defeated all the prophets, and there is no doubt about that. It was the devil who seduced all the prophets to disobey and sin against God – and thereby they were unable to surrender fully to God. Consequently, all the prophets asked for forgiveness of their Lord for the sins they committed. In contrast, neither the Qur’an nor the Bible ever records Jesus asking for forgiveness. That is because there was no sin in the life of Jesus that he should ever need to ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, it is recorded that Muhammad sometimes asked for forgiveness of Allah more than seventy times a day. This may sound unbelievable, but is quite evident from “Riyadh Salihin” (pg.16) as Abu Hurairah relates that he heard the Prophet say:

“Allah is my witness, that I seek forgiveness of Allah and turn to Him more than seventy times a day.”

The need of Muhammad to ask for forgiveness, is supported by the following verses from the Qur’an:

Qur’an 4:105-106 We have sent down to thee the Book in truth, that thou might judge between men, as guided by God, so be not used as an advocate by those who betray their trust.

But seek the forgiveness of God, for Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.”

Qur’an 40:55 (Pickthall) Then have patience (O Muhammad). Lo! The promise of Allah is true. And ask for forgiveness of thy sin…

Qur’an 47:19 (Pickthall) So know (O Muhammad) that there is no God save Allah, and ask for forgiveness for thy sin…

Qur’an 48:2 (Pickthall) That Allah may forgive thee of thy sin that which is past and that which is to come...

This again confirms the fact that the prophets could not practise Islam (surrender their will to God perfectly) without any sin coming into their lives.

According to the Qur’an all the prophets were Muslims, but at a point in time in their lives, they chose to obey Satan and sin against God.

In an attempt to justify the title Muslim for the prophets, someone once remarked, “prophets of God do not sin, but they commit faults.” Yet, the Qur’an itself has recorded that they sinned and therefore had to ask forgiveness from their Lord. What is the difference between sin and faults? When one sins against God, what prayer do we say? Who taught us this prayer of forgiveness?

- “Astagfirul-llaha Rabbi min kulizambin wa atubu ilayhi.” What does the word “zambin” stand for? Did the Prophet not also recite this same prayer? How come that in his case and that of the other prophets, the word means “faults” but in our case, it means “sin”?

Think about that!

The very fact that Jesus was the only sinless one among the prophets explains clearly why he alone is the Messiah. Therefore it stands to reason that of all the prophets, he alone is destined to come back to the earth as a judge before the world comes to an end.

Read with me from the Qur’an:

Qur’an 43:61

“And he (Jesus) shall be a sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgement).”

If Moses, David, Solomon, Muhammad and the rest were to come as judges, Satan would remind them of their sins. They failed to practise Islam perfectly because at some point or other Satan was able to outwit them. Hence they failed to become Muslims in the real sense of the word. In complete contrast, Jesus actually practised Islam (total surrender) without any sin. This is the real Islam that God is looking for and in this sense, Jesus was the only true Muslim. Yet, you will agree with me that Jesus never confessed Muhammad in order to become a Muslim, nor did he journey to Mecca to strengthen his faith and fulfil the set requirements of the Islamic religion. No, Jesus was a Muslim because he never sinned against God and that is why he alone should be followed.

No Muslim will agree to be referred to as a Muhammadan because that word means “a follower of Muhammad.” Muslims want it to be known that they worship Allah alone and that Muhammad only made the religion of Islam known. Yes, they are right.

Likewise, one cannot follow Moses or David or any of the other prophets. The only one who can be followed is Jesus.

Sinlessness Of Jesus Christ

In The Bible Sinfulness simply means not being able to conform to the will of God; whereas the opposite, sinlessness, means complete conformity to the will of God. This is basically what Islam and Muslims are seeking to achieve. However, as soon as one deviates towards the path of sin, one can no longer be described as a Muslim or identified as someone who is practising Islam. Practising one’s will and not the will of God can best be described as something else, it is not Islam.

It takes someone who has lived his whole life without committing even one sin to be able to claim that he is a Muslim and that he is practising Islam. Only Jesus can make such a claim for only he was able to live the whole of his life on earth without sin even until he was taken up into heaven (Qur’an 4:158).

The sinlessness of Christ is best proved by the plain, inspired words of God:

1 Peter 2:21, 22 He committed no sin and no deceit was found in his mouth.

1 John 3:5 But you know that he appeared sp that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.

We have encountered scores of people who by way of discrediting the scriptures, say they only believe in the “red-letter words” (the words spoken by Jesus) in the Bible. Thank God, John 8:48 is redlettered:

“Which of you convinceth me of sin?”

Christ was the only man with two legs, two hands, one nose and all the other human qualities that could ever make that claim honestly after Adam’s fall. Jesus never admitted a fault nor asked for forgiveness of sins.

“Did Jesus and his disciples not steal corn in Matthew 12:1?2?”

This is the usual question posed by those who find it difficult to accept the sinlessness of Christ.

Did Jesus not curse the fig tree? Yes he did, but still he asks “Which of you convinceth me of sin”? Be careful, the question comes from Jesus so be mindful of your answer, for you stand to be judged by him in the last day.

The Qur’an clearly affirms the truth that it is proper to follow Jesus. He is the best coach to train you by his teachings and give you the power to become a Muslim. He alone is a Muslim in the real sense of the word and by God’s standard.

Were you thinking it was not proper to follow Jesus? Come with me into the Qur’an.

Qur’an 3:55 …I will make those who follow thee (Jesus) Superior to those who reject faith, t ? o the Day of Resurrection…

At this point, it has been proved beyond all doubt that Jesus was the only one who was able to practice proper submission to the will of God. Whosoever wants to practise proper Islam cannot do better than to accept and become a follower of Jesus. If it is now your desire to follow Jesus Christ, to practise his kind of Islam (total submission to the will of God) and thereby, to become a true Muslim by God’s standard, then I encourage you to invite Jesus into your life right now. If you do so, he will come and abide with you in power and your life will not remain the same again.

Please pray with me now:

Father in heaven, I thank you for sending your only Son Jesus Christ to come and demonstrate the true way of Islam to us. I now accept and willingly acknowledge that Jesus is the only one who lived a totally sinless life on earth and therefore he is the only one who has truly submitted himself fully to God. Your son Jesus is Holy because you are Holy. I do now invite Him into my life and humbly ask for His Holy Spirit to empower me so that I may also truly submit myself to God. Since He was able to remain truly submitted to God, I strongly believe that, with His anointing, I too will be able to do so. I know that this is His wish for my life.

Thank you for having come into my life to mould and transform me into one who is truly submitted to God as the Father so desires.

Thank you in Jesus’ precious name, Amen!