C: Christian. M: Muslim.
C. Why have there been in the last decade many discussions held between Christians and Muslims about their beliefs?
M. I think because we both have several things in common. We believe in the One Creator Who had sent many Prophets and in Jesus as the Messiah as well as the Word of God which had been denied by the Jews.
Our Holy Qur'an mentions in Surah 3:45: "[Remember] when the angels said, "O Mary! Verily Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word from Him, his name will be Messiah Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and in the hereafter, and of those who are near to Allah...."
Dialogues have been held everywhere in Europe, Canada, the USA and Australia. Even the Vatican is not spared where discussions were held between Vatican theologians and Egyptian Muslim scholars in Rome in 1970 and in Cairo in 1974 and 1978. Also between Vatican theologians and Saudi Arabian Muslim scholars in Rome in 1974. Many times in Colombo, not to mention Muslims invited by many churches to present Islam.
C. If Christianity is nearly two thousand years old and Islam more than fourteen hundred years, why were these discussions not held centuries ago?
M. For the last three to four centuries many Asian and African countries dominated by Muslims were colonized by Britain, France, Holland, Belgium, Spain and Portugal. Many Christian mission colonists tried to convert as many Muslims as they could by whatever means they had, by giving them medical treatment, clothes, food, jobs to the poor, but only a few were converted. A small part of the elite were converted to Christianity because of their prejudice that Christianity brought them to their civilization and progress of knowledge. They had a wrong notion because this progress was attained after the separation of state and church in Europe.
After the Second World War many Muslims from Asian and African countries were emigrating as workers and professionals to the Western Hemisphere, which brought them more in contact with the Christians. Also students were active in introducing Islam.
C. Do you see other reasons why many dialogues were held nowadays even by their respective missions?
M. I think the gap between both is becoming smaller as each is more tolerant, although both are still competing in getting more converts. I still remember my Christian teacher who used to say, "Muhammad the imposter, the dreamer, the epileptic." You now find fewer writers depicting Islam in such a manner.
We Muslims feel closer to the Christians than to the Jews and disbelievers, as the Qur'an prophesied in Surah 5:82: "Thou wilt find the most vehement of mankind in hostility to those who believe (to be) the Jews and the idolaters. And thou wilt find the nearest of them in affection to those who believe (to be) those who say: Lo! We are Christians. This is because there are among them priests and monks (i.e.- persons entirely devoted to the service of God, as were the Muslims), and because they are not proud." Some Christian denominations are making tremendous progress now by acknowledging for the first time in history that Muhammad [PBUH] descended from Ishmael through his second son Kedar. The Davis Dictionary of the Bible, 1980, sponsored by the Board of Christian Education of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, writes under the word Kedar: "... A tribe descended from Ishmael (Gen. 25:13)... The people of Kedar were Pliny's Cedrai, and from their tribe Mohammed ultimately arose." The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia quotes the following from A. S. Fulton: "... Of the Ishmaelite tribes, Kedar must have been one of the most important, and thus in later times the name came to be applied to all the wild tribes of the desert. It is through Kedar (Arab.Keidar) that Muslim genealogists trace the descent of Mohammed from Ishmael."
Also Smith's Bible Dictionary will not stay behind and prints the following: "Kedar (black). Second son of Ishmael (Gen. 25:13) ... Mohammed traces his lineage to Abraham through the celebrated Koreish tribe, which sprang from Kedar. The Arabs in the Hejaz are called Beni Harb (men of war), and are Ishmaelites as of old, from their beginning. Palgrave says their language is as pure now as when the Koran was written (A.D. 610), having remained unchanged more than 1200 years; a fine proof of the permanency of Eastern Institutions."
The biggest asset brought by Muslim immigrants to the Western hemisphere is not their manpower but the Islam which is now taking root here. Many mosques and Islamic centers are established and many are reverted into Islam. I prefer the word reverted and not converted, as everybody is born in submission to Allah, i.e. Islam, this is the nature of every child born. The parents or the community convert him to Judaism, Christianity, other faiths, or atheism.
This is also a proof that Islam is not spreading by the sword but simply by propagation by individuals or groups of Muslims. We don't have special missions organized as in Christian missions.
The world population has increased 136% from 1934 through 1984, Christianity with 47% and Islam with 235%. See The Plain Truth, February 1984, in its 50 Year Anniversary issue, quoting from The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1935 and Reader's Digest Almanac and Year-book 1983.
C. If all three religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are claiming to emanate from the One and same Creator, why do they differ?
M. All Prophets from Adam to Muhammad [PBUT] were sent with the same message: that is, the total submission of mankind to Allah. This submission in Arabic is called Islam; Islam means also Peace, peace between the Creator and His creatures. Unlike the names Judaism and Christianity, this name Islam has been given by Allah, the Creator Himself, as mentioned in Surah 5:3: "This day I have perfected your religion for you and completed My favor on you, and have chosen for you as the way of life Al-Islam as your religion." Neither the name Judaism nor Christianity is found in the Bible, not even in a Bible dictionary. No Israelite prophet mentioned the word Judaism. Jesus never claimed to establish Christianity on earth and never called himself a Christian. The word Christian is mentioned only three times in the New Testament and first by pagans and Jews in Ancioch about 43 A.D., long after Jesus had left this earth. Read in Acts 11:26: "...And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."
Later by King Agrippa II to Paul in Acts 26:28: "Then Agrippa said unto Paul. Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian."
So the name Christian was first given by foes rather than friends. And finally by Peter in his letter to comfort the faithful in I Peter 4:16: "Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed...."
The first Muslim on earth is not Muhammad but Abraham who submitted totally to Allah. But Islam as a way of life had been revealed to other prophets prior to Abraham like Adam and Noah. Then Islam follows as the way of life for all humanity.
C. How could Abraham be a Muslim? He is known as a Jew!
M. A Jew? Who told you that?
C. We are taught that; it must be confirmed by the Bible, too.
M. Can you show me where in the Bible it says that he is a Jew? If you can't find it quickly, let me help you. Read Genesis 11:31.
C. "And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife, and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran and dwelt there."
C. So Abraham who was born in Ur of Chaldees could not have been a Jew, First because Ur of Chaldees was in Mesopotamia, which is now a part of Iraq. He was then more an Arab than a Jew. Secondly the name Jew came after the existence ofJudah, the great-grandson of Abraham (see chart on page 4). Read further, Genesis 12:4 and 5.
C. "... and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran.... and into the land of Canaan they came."
M. So Abraham emigrated to Canaan at the age of seventy-five and the Bible clearly mentioned that he was there a stranger in Genesis 17:8: "And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." Read now Genesis 14:13.
C. "And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew,"
M. How can you call Abraham a Jew if the Bible itself calls him a Hebrew which means a man from the other side of the Euphrates. It also means pertaining to Eber,a descendant of Shem. Read now in Genesis 32:28 what happened to the name of Jacob after wrestling with an angel.
C. "And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel; for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."
M. So Abraham was a Hebrew. The descendants of Jacob were Israelites consisting of the twelve tribes. Judah was nicknamed "Jew" so that only Judah's descendants were called Jews originally.
To know who Moses really was, read Exodus 6:16-20.
C. "And these are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations; Ghershon, and Kohath, and Merari.... And the sons of Kohach: Amram.... And Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses."
M. So Moses was not a Jew because he was not descended from Judah but a Levite. Moses was the "law-giver" (Torah is law) to the children of Israel.
C. How can you explain that?
M. Because we are using the Holy Qur'an as standard. You can explain the Bible and correct the Jewish and Christian prejudice with the context of the Qur'an. It is the last revealed Book which has never been corrupted or adulterated. Its contents has been guaranteed by Allah in Surah 2:2: "This is the Scripture whereof there is no doubt..." and also in Surah 15:9: 'No doubt We have sent down the Qur'an and surely We will guard it (from corruption)." This verse is a challenge to mankind. It is a clear fact that more than fourteen hundred years have passed and not a single word of this Qur'an has been changed although disbelievers tried their utmost to change it, but they failed miserably in their efforts. As it is mentioned in this Holy Verse: "We will guard this Book," by Allah, He has guarded it.
On the contrary, all the other holy books (Torah, Psalms, Gospels, etc) have been adulterated in the form of additions, deletions or alterations from the original.
C. What does the Qur'an say about Abraham and Moses that you can deduce it from the Bible?
M. In Surah 3:65: "0 people of the Scripture [Jews and Christians]! Why do you dispute about Abraham, while the Torah and the Gospel were not revealed till after him? Have you then no sense?"
And in Surah 3:67: "Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was a true Muslim (worshiper of none but Allah alone) and he joined none in worship with Allah."
In Surah 2:140: "Or say you that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the twelve sons of Jacob were Jews or Christians? Say (0, Muhammad), "Do you know better or does Allah (know better)? And who is more unjust than he who conceals the testimony he has from Allah? And Allah is not unaware of what you do." Of course they were not Jews or Christians as the name Jews came after Judah and the name Christians came long after Jesus had left.
C. It feels strange to hear the name Allah. Why don't you say God if you speak English?
M. Yes, indeed, the name Allah seems to be strange to non-Muslims but this name has been used by all Prophets since Adam until Muhammad [PBUT]. It is a contraction of the two Arabic words Al-Ilah, i.e. The God. By dropping the letter "I" you will find the word Allah. According to its position in an Arabic sentence it can have the form Allaha which is close to the Hebrew name of the Creator, i.e. Eloha. But the Jews are using wrongly the plural form Elohim which denotes more than one God. The word Allaha sounds closer to the Aramaic word for God used by Jesus, namely Alaha (see Encyclopedia Britannica 1980 under Allah and Elohim). So while the name Allah is strange to non-Muslims, it is not strange to all Prophets from Adam to Muhammad [PBUT], as they propagated in principle the same Islam, i.e. total submission, and the word Allah denotes the personal name of the Supreme Being. It is not subject to plurality or gender, so there is no such thing as Allahs, or male or female Allah, as there
is Gods or God and Goddess. It is confusing to use the word God as many English-speaking Christians still consider Jesus as God. Even the word Creator is also confusing, as many Christians still maintain that Jesus had created the world. Not only the name Allah is strange, but also the way Muslims worship Allah with ablution, bowing, knecling, prostration and fasting is strange to non-Muslims, but not strange to all Prophets. While ablution (washing of face. arms, feet, and moistening of the hair) prior to worship is abandoned by modern Christians, it is still required by Muslims and previous Prophets, as seen in the following passages of the Bible: Exodus 40:31-32: "And Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet thereat; When they went into the tent of the congregation, and when they came near unto the altar, they washed; as the Lord commanded Moses." Although Paul made many changes in Jesus" teaching, he was still faithful in respect to ablution as seen in Acts 21:26: "Then Paul took the men, and the next day purifying himself with them entered into the temple..." Muslim women perform their prayer with their head covered as in I Corinthians 11:5,6 and 1 3: "But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered... Judge in yourselves, is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered?" Muslims worship with bowing, kneeling, prostration and without shoes as done by previous Prophets: Psalm 95:6: "0 come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. Joshua 5:14: "And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship..." I Kings 18:42: "And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees" Numbers 20:6: "... and they (Moses and Aaron] fell upon their faces: and the glory of the Lord appeared upon them." Genesis 17:3: And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying..." Exodus 3:5 and Acts 7:33: And he [God] said [to Moses], Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
A Christian will shiver in hearing that Pilgrimage or Haj as is now done by Muslims by circumambulating around the sacred stone Ka'bah in Mecca, had been performed by many Prophets, even by Israelite Prophets.
C. I never read Pilgrimage or sacred stone in the Bible.
M. This has been mentioned clearly several times bur overlooked by Bible readers:
1. Jacob on his way to Padan-aram saw a vision and built the next morning a pillar of stone which he called Beth-El, i.e. the House of the Lord (Genesis 28:18-19).
2. Years later the same Prophet, Jacob, was ordered by Allah to go to Beth-El (Genesis 35:4,14,15). Jacob removed all the strange Gods prior to going there. Later also Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] removed all idols around the sacred stone Ka'bah in Mecca.
3. Another pillar was built by Jacob and his father-in-law Laban (Genesis 51:45-49): "And Jacob cook a stone, and set it up for a pillar. And Jacob said unto his brethren, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap; and they did eat there upon the heap. And Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. . . . And Mizpah; for he said. The Lord watch between me and thee..."
4. Jephthah and Ammon had a war against each other. Jephthah swore to the Lord in Mizpeh of Gilead to sacrifice his only daughter if he won. He did win, and burnt his daughter there alive as an offering to the Lord (Judges 11:29-59).
5. Four hundred thousand swordsmen from the eleven tribes of Israel swore before the Lord in Mizpeh to exterminate the tribes of Benjamin (Judges 20 and 21).
6. The children of Israel under Samuel swore in Mizpeh to destroy their idols if they won against the Philistines (I Samuel 7).
7. The whole nation of Israel assembled in Mizpeh when Samuel was appointed king of Israel (1 Samuel 10).
It is obvious now that there is no Mizpah left in the world except the oldest one in the Holy City of Mecca built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, from whom later Prophet Muhammad arose. Muslims are really the followers of all Prophets. I can tell you other things about Muslims, Islam and Muhammad [PBUH] in the Bible, but why should you know this if you are not looking for the truth?
C. I am sure of my own belief as a Christian but I am stimulated to know more about both religions. 1 feel sometimes ridiculed as a Christian after reading books written by Muslims.
M. Did it affect you in your religious life?
C. Yes, I am not going to Church as regularly as before. I have been secretly reading books written by Muslims. I have asked several Muslims what was not clear to me, but not to my satisfaction. I am looking for a belief chat I can rely on, that can give me peace of mind, scientifically acceptable, and not just believe in it blindly.
M. It should be like that. I appreciate your attitude. But we are not allowed to allure anyone. We propagate only to those who want to listen to us.
C. But I am free to choose any belief I like and nobody can stop me.
M. Yes, there is no compulsion in religion.
C. Why are Muslims calling other people to accept their belief, then?
M. As Christians ask the Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah, we Muslims ask the Christians as well as Jews and all mankind to accept Muhammad [PBUH] as the Seal of all Prophets. Our Prophet Muhammad [PBUH] said: "Convey my message even one ayah (verse of the Holy Qur'an)."
Also, Isaiah mentioned in chapter 21:13, The burden upon Arabia," which means the responsibility of the Muslim Arabs, of course of all Muslims now, to spread the Islam. Isaiah mentioned this after he saw in a vision a chariot of asses and a chariot of camels (21:7): "And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently wit. much heed."
The chariot of asses turned out to Jesus who entered Jerusalem (John 12:14; Matthew 21:5). Who then was the chariot of camels? It could not be other than Muhammad [PBUH] who came about six hundred years after the advent of the Messiah. If this is not accepted, then this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled.
C. Your explanation stimulates me to review the Bible more carefully. I would like to get more discussions with you.
M. Yes, if you are successful in this world, it doesn't mean that you will be successful in (he hereafter. The hereafter is much better and more lasting than this life. People are now becoming more materialistic and secular. Let us come together several times and discuss the differences frankly and without prejudice. Islam is based on reason, and you should not just accept it. Even your Bible says, "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good" (I Thessalonians 5:21).
C. You quoted just now "chariot of camels" from Isaiah and made the conclusion that it was Muhammad. Is he then prophesied in the Bible?
C. In the Old or New Testament?
M. In both. But you cannot recognize him in the Bible as long as you don't believe in the Oneness of God. I mean as long as you still believe in the Trinity, the Divinity of Jesus, the Divine Sonship of Jesus, the Original Sin and the Atonement. All these are doctrines made by men. Jesus had prophesied (Matthew 15:9) that people will worship him uselessly and believing in doctrines made by men: "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."