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Islam means "submission to God in peace". Islam teaches there is only One God, whose primary name is "Allah" in the Arabic language. Islam is the same essential message given to all the prophets, from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and finally to the Last Prophet, Muhammad, (peace be upon them all). They all proclaimed the same basic Divine message: worship only God, stop worshipping human beings and other created things There's a different between Islam and Muslims!! What's the purpose of life? What Do You Know About Islam? Not what you have heard about Islam, not what you have seen in the actions of some Muslims, but what do you really know about Islam?

Monday, October 5, 2015

First Chapter of the Quran




Description: A brief commentary on Surah Al-Fatiha.



“I begin with the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
All praise is to God, Lord of all the worlds
Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Master of the Day of Judgment
You Alone do we worship and You Alone do we ask for help
Guide us to the straight path
The Path of those on whom You bestowed Your bounties
Not the path of those who incurred Your wrath or those who went astray.” 
(Quran 1:1-7)


Prophet Muhammad, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, told us, that this chapter in the Quran is unlike any other. Nothing like it was revealed in any previous scripture. When one recites this chapter sincerely they would be professing their belief as a true Muslim.

All praise is to God

When you state that all praise is due to God alone, you are in fact acknowledging that only He has all the attributes of perfection and that only He is the bestower of all the bounties that any of His creation enjoys.  And since gratefulness is the essence of worship, you are also acknowledging that He is the only one who deserves to be worshipped.

Lord of all the worlds

The Arabic word for Lord, Rubb, conveys a number of meanings that are not accurately captured by the English word Lord. It means that He is the one who owns, who creates, who sustains and who looks after all that exists.  The only relationship between Him and all creation is that He is the creator of all that exists.  He cannot therefore be the father of anyone in any real sense! To say that He is the Creator and yet the father of some of His creation is a contradiction in terms.  You don’t create your child, you beget him.  It is because of this that the Quran keeps reminding those who claim that God has children (the Arabs who used to say that the angels are the daughters of God, the Christians who say that Jesus is the son of God, and a Jewish sect who used to believe that Ezra is the son of God) that God is the Creator and Owner of everything.    

Most Gracious, Most Merciful

The two Arabic words, Rahman and Raheem, for which these English phrases stand, are two intensive forms of a root word which conveys the meaning of mercy.  Rahman is more intensive than Raheem, and refers to God’s all-encompassing mercy, His mercy to all His creation in this life and the life to come.  Raheem refers to His special mercy to the faithful.  No created being can therefore be Rahman, but created beings can be described as Raheem in a limited and special sense of the word. 

Master of the Day of Judgment

God is the Master of all days and all things, but while some people can have some limited mastership or even falsely claim to have it, no one can be, or claim to be master in any sense on the Day of Reckoning.  On that Day God will ask all of His creation: “To whom is sovereignty today?” And the answer will be “To God,the One who holds absolute sway over all that exists”.  This reminds us of the fact that this world is only a transient station on the road to the final abode where we shall either be rewarded or punished for what we do here. 

You Alone do we worship and You Alone do we ask for help

The foregoing verses were like an introduction to this one.  It is as if you are saying: because we acknowledge the fact that all praise is to You, that You are the Lord of all the worlds, that You are Most Gracious and Most Merciful, and that You Alone are the Master of the Day of Judgment, we hereby declare that we worship none but You and seek help from none except You.   This verse emphasizes the fact that what is important is not only that You worship God, but that you worship none besides Him, because none except Him deserves to be worshipped.  Worship in the broader sense of the word includes that you obey none but Him in any absolute sense, love no one as or more than you love Him and pray to no one except Him. It also includes that you seek help from none but God; this doesn’t mean that you don’t extend or accept any help from any of God’s created beings in matters in which they have the power to help.  It only means that you believe that even when you give or receive such help that it is ultimately coming from God because nothing in this world happens without His will and power.  So it is from Him alone that you are ultimately turning for help, and it is on Him that you ultimately and absolutely depend. 

Guide us to the Straight path

Having acknowledged all those truths about God, and having declared to Him that it is He Alone that we worship and ask for help, we now go on to ask Him to grant us the thing that we need most: knowing and taking the shortest path that leads to Him.  Having known who God is we are convinced that such guidance must come from Him, that it must be available to all who want to follow it, and that there must be no doubt about the fact that it is from Him.  That guidance, we know, is no where to be found in any complete way except in God’s words, the words that He revealed to His chosen Prophets like Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad, may God praise them all.  But we also know for sure that none of the books that contain that guidance is now at our disposal except one - the Quran.  It is to this Divine book that we must turn for a detailed description of the Straight Path that leads to our Lord.  This path is an absolute path that was given to each Prophet and Messenger of God and it does not change over the passage of time.

The Path of those on whom You bestowed Your bounties

The straight path described in the Quran is not a theoretical path; it is an actual path that some people before us have taken.  As Muslims, we believe every Prophet and Messenger of God preached the belief in the Oneness of God and that all worship was to be dedicated to Him alone.

Not the path of those who incurred Your wrath or those who went astray

Just as the Straight Path is described above in a positive way, the paths of those who deviated from it are described in a negative manner. We always ask our Lord to keep us away from the paths taken by two kinds of deviant people: those who knew the truth about religion and yet refused to act according to it, and there brought upon themselves the wrath of God. The second group of people were those who made their religion suit their whims and desires and are thus went astray.  The Quran tells us in some detail about their main deviations, among the greatest of which is that they have no great respect for God or His words: they ascribe to Him imperfect, even insulting attributes; they distort His words at will to make them suit their own wishes or preferences and they commit immoralities in the name of religion.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A Day and a Night in Ramadan (part 1 of 2) The Fast of the Day




Description: A typical day in the life of a Muslim in Ramadan.


Ramadan is a very special month for the Muslims, as in it Muslims around the world perform various types of worship, the most important of them being fasting.  This fasting of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, mandatory upon all adolescents and adults who have the ability.  Ramadan is also the month in which the first revelation came to the Prophet Muhammad, and thus is called the “Month of the Quran”.  During this month, there is a noticeable change in people’s lives as well as societies.  This article will describe a typical day of a Muslim during this month of forgiveness.

An Early Meal

“Eat a predawn meal, for indeed in it there is blessing.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)


Although not obligatory, Muslims families throughout Ramadan rise early in the morning before the first traces of light and partake in a light meal in implementation of this Prophet teaching.  Usually, the day of a Muslim starts with the dawn prayer performed when the first traces of light appear in the sky, but since it is the time when one starts the fast by withholding from food or drink, the Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, encouraged Muslims to arise before that time and partake in a meal.

From this it is clear that the point of fasting is not that one feels hunger throughout the day, but rather that one changes their lifestyle in order for it to be more conducive to the worship of Allah, a fact which will become quite clear.  One who often misses the dawn prayer, the hardest of the five prayers to perform due to its stated time, in this blessed month arises early in order to partake in a meal.  Thus this person becomes accustomed to awakening at an early hour, ultimately helping him to perform the dawn prayer for the rest of the year.

The most beloved of the voluntary prayers is one called “Qiyaam –ul-Layl”, or the Night Prayer[1].  This prayer is performed before the dawn prayer in solitude.  It is so beloved that it is usually nicknamed “the Prayer of the Pious”, a prayer performed by the devout when the majority of people are still sleeping in their beds.  God described this prayer in the Quran, saying:

“Their sides forsake from (their) beds, calling upon their Lord in fear and in hope….” (Quran 32:16)

Waking in the early hours before dawn to eat a meal also encourage the believers to perform this blessed prayer, one which otherwise seem like an arduous task for some.

This predawn meal is to be eaten close to the time of dawn, and thus people continue to eat until they hear the mu’ezzin, or caller of prayer, call out the azaan from the local mosque, signaling that the first traces of light have appeared.  Thus, Muslims end their meal and prepare themselves to attend the congregational prayer at their local mosque, held five times a day throughout the year.

The Month of the Quran

After attending the dawn prayer, many Muslims choose to sit in the mosque for a while and recite a selected portion of the Quran at this time.  Recitation of the Quran is recommended at all times, and due to it one’s faith increases in Islam:

“The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts tremble with fear, and when His Verses are recited unto them, they (i.e. the Verses) increase their Faith; and they put their trust in their Lord (Alone).” (Quran 8:2)

Being the month in which the Quran was revealed, Muslims are even more zealous to recite its entirety, as this was also done by the Prophet.

“[The Prophet] would meet him (Gabriel) every night in Ramadan and they would recite the Quran to each other.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Quite often in Ramadan in the Muslim world, you will hardly find a mosque empty during any part of the day.  Muslims try to set aside time this month in order to complete the Quran and ponder its meanings.

Fasting of the Day

In most Muslim countries, workload and schedules are lightened in order to accommodate for the special features of this month.  Children go to school at a later time to accommodate for their early rise and the late night prayer, and the majority of businesses close well before dusk.  Many stores also remain open throughout the night.

During daylight hours until the sun sets below the horizon.  Muslim abstain all types of food and drink, as well as sexual intercourse with their spouses.  This creates a sense within the Muslim throughout the day that they are obeying the commands of God, as they leave things which are perfectly permissible at other times.  This created within the Muslims a conscience which encourages them to leave those deeds impermissible at all times.  Muslims, dry-mouthed from lack of water and abstaining from all types of food seen throughout the day, gain a sixth sense – God consciousness - and this is the goal of fasting the month of Ramadan.  God says in the Quran:

“Fasting has been prescribed for you as it has been prescribed for those before you in order that you become of the God-conscious.” (Quran 2:183)

Fasting is a secret worship which a person offers to God.  He may very well eat and drink in privacy without anyone coming to know of it… but the trait which keeps the Muslim from doing so is this consciousness of His Lord.

For this reason, one sees that many sinful Muslims as well leave many of their sins during this blessed month, due to its sacredness, and one hopes that this will cause them to be more faithful throughout the remainder of the year.

The Prophet warned Muslims against certain sins they might easily fall into and thus ruin the goal of fasting.  The Prophet said:

“Whoever does not stop speaking falsehood and acting in accordance with it, God has no need of him giving up his food and drink.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

He also warned against being provoked into behaving rudely.  He encouraged Muslims to respond to one who may provoke him by saying:

“Indeed I am fasting, Indeed I am fasting.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

These Prophetic sayings are clear in that the main benefit of Ramadan is spiritual and moral rectitude.

Thus one finds in Muslim societies that a spirit of peace dwells in the hearts of Muslims throughout Ramadan, due to the extra worship and avoidance of all evilness and ill manners.  One finds that people are generally more easy to deal with and lighthearted, and when one lives in a society for one month in which most of the people are fasting, the sense of unity and brotherhood which results is unmatched by any other occasion, except maybe the Hajj.


Iftar, or Breakfast

As the day ends, Muslims gather in their homes in wait for sunset.  Mothers and daughters are usually busy at this time preparing breakfast and dinner, while men usually return from their work and slip into more comfortable clothes, either taking time to recite the Quran or help out in the preparation for breakfast.  Before sunset, the family gathers at the dining table in wait for the mu’ezzin,  utilizing this time supplicating to Allah and asking Him for His Mercy.

“Indeed for each fasting person there is a prayer which is answered when they break their fast.” (Tuhfat-ul-Muhtaj)

Once the call to prayer is heard, Muslims hurry to break their fast with dates, in emulation of the Prophet, and offer words of gratitude taught by the Prophet.

“The Thirst has been quenched, and the veins have become moist and full, and the reward is certain, God willing.” (Abu Dawood)

Many Muslims add:

“Oh Allah, indeed for You Alone I have fasted, and in You alone I have believed.  With your provisions I have broken my fast, and upon You I have trusted.”

Muslims then eat a light meal of various appetizers and drinks.  Many times, Muslims find themselves either invited or inviting others, whether they be members of the extended family, one’s friends, or the poor.  The majority of mosques also offer free food in order ease the sufferings for the poor.  May mosques hold iftar in order to strengthen community ties, common in countries in which Muslims are minorities.  Prophet Muhammad encouraged to feed others during this blessed month in his saying:

“Whoever gives food to a fasting person with which to break his fast, he will have a reward equal to his (the fasting person)…” (Al-Tirmidhi)


Special rations are also distributed to needy households in the beginning of the month by charitable organizations to meet the needs of the month.

The delight felt at breaking fast is one truly indescribable.  Never does the most meager of meals seem so tasty or bring so much joy to a believer.  Indeed the Prophet spoke the truth when he said:

“The fasting person will feel two moments of joy: one moment when he breaks his fast and another when he meets his Lord.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

There is no time at that point to eat a large meal, as sunset is the time for another prescribed prayer.  Muslims prepare to attend the congregational prayer, mostly always at walking distance.  After attending the dusk prayer, some Muslims eat dinner, while others delay eating until the night prayer is finished, an event which is one of the main features of the night of Ramadan, another spiritual dimension of this blessed month of mercy and blessings.


Footnotes:

[1] Literally, “The Standing of the Night” due to its lengthy recitation which is performed during standing in prayer.



A Day and a Night in Ramadan (part 2 of 2) Worship of the Night

Description: A typical night in the life of a Muslim in Ramadan.


After performing the dusk prayer, Muslims return to their homes either to continue with their appetizers or eat dinner.  Most people, however, choose not to eat much, as it will hinder them in performing that worship which is the delight of the believer in Ramadan – the taraweeh prayer.  This prayer is held immediately after the night prayer, which is performed when the last traces of dusk disappear, about an hour and a half after the dusk prayer.

The Taraweeh  (Night Prayer)


The taraweeh is a special prayer performed in congregation.  It is quite long, lasting about an hour to an hour and a half.  It is performed every night of Ramadan, and in it most of the Imams, or prayer leaders, seek to complete the recitation of the entire Quran.  In it Muslims pray to their Lord, standing, bowing and prostrating to Him, and gain the opportunity to listen to the Quran in its entirety, listening to its verses in a melodious voice as if they were being revealed then and there.  Mosques with more proficient recitors tend to fill quickly, so worshippers arrive earlier than the stated time to reserve their place.  Some mosques have over a thousand worshippers who come from all over the city to attend.  Indeed it is an experience one awaits an entire year to experience.  The taraweeh prayer is a means of forgiveness, as the Prophet said:

“Whoever stands the night in prayer in Ramadan believing in God and seeking His reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Worshippers listen to the Quran being recited in prayer and ponder over its meanings, and the voice of the Imam has much to do with the effect it has on people.  In various mosques, it is not rare to see people crying while listening to its verses, verses which speak of the blessings of God, His Mercy and Love, His Paradise which He has reserved for the patient believers, as well as verses which speak about the sufferings of Hell.  The Quran is a revelation which speaks to each individual, and thus each individual feels that God is directly addressing him when he hears it.  Thus the feelings which arise while listening to its recitation is truly incomparable and indescribable.

At the end of the taraweeh prayer, the Imam and the congregation raise their hand in supplication to God for themselves and for the Muslims, asking God to forgive their sins, give them strength to practice their faith and remain firm, enter them into Paradise, to cure the sick, to forgive those who have already passed away, and all other good things of this world and the next.  They also ask God to save them from the punishment of the day of Judgment, to ease their account on that day, and also to ease the sufferings of their brethren throughout the world.  It is not uncommon to find the majority of the congregation in tears begging their Lord.  Indeed the taraweeh prayer is one of the highlights of Ramadan and plays a great role in giving inspiration to and the rectitude of the Muslims.

After the taraweeh, Muslims return to their homes and eat dinner, and then retire to bed in preparation for their early rise for the predawn meal.

As one can see, Ramadan is a month in which various kinds of worship are performed to God.  Ramadan is like a training period in which Muslims change their lifestyles to one which is in accords to God’s commandments.  From the time a person awakens in the morning, throughout the day and into the night, a Muslim is performing various types of worship, some obligatory while others voluntary, all in order to gain the pleasure of his Lord.  This month is indeed a key factor in the lives of Muslims, a period of rejuvenation in which the believer is inspired for another year in his life, one filled with the pleasure of God and void of His anger.


There are other special features in Ramadan.

The Last Ten Nights

1.    “Indeed we have revealed it (the Quran) in the Honored Night.

2.    And what will explain to you what the Honored Night is?

3.    The Honored Night is better than a thousand months.

4.    In it, the angels descend as well as the Spirit (Gabriel) by the permission of their Lord, with all types of decrees.

5.    ‘Peace’ it is until the rising of dawn.” (Quran:97:1-5)

It was Ramadan in which the Quran was revealed from the heavens to the Earth.  More specifically, it was one of the last ten nights of this blessed month.  The Prophet said:

“Seek the Honored Night in the last ten.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

 On that night, worship and good deeds are better than performing them for a thousand months, as mentioned in the verses above.  Thus the Prophet would increase his worship by staying awake the whole night in worship.

“When he entered the [last] ten [nights] of Ramadan, the Prophet would ‘rollup his sleeves’ and give life to the whole night, and waken his family.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Muslims in Ramadan seek this Honored Night in order that they may be given an increase in reward.  Muslims spend the whole night in worship, from praying the taraweeh prayer to reading the Quran, supplicating to God, and praying extra voluntary prayers.  During these nights, there is even an extra congregational prayer held in the mosques which lasts for about an hour and a half to two hours up until the time of the predawn meal.  Nights are alive with worship, and people for these ten nights expend all efforts in doing so, seeking that they may have spent the Honored Night in the worship of God.  The Prophet said:

“Whoever stood in prayer in the Honored Night, believing in God and hoping for His reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Ramadan is a month of forgiveness, and people hope that they will people from those who are saved from the Fire:

“God chooses who will be saved from the Fire (in Ramadan), and that is every night.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

For this reason in Ramadan, people fast, pray, and seek the Honored Night in order that they may be forgiven for their shortcomings and enter Paradise.

Umrah (Lesser Pilgrimage to Mecca)

The Prophet encouraged people to visit the Kaaba and perform the lesser pilgrimage, or Umrah.  He said:

“Indeed performing Umrah in Ramadan is equal to performing Hajj with me.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Thus, millions of people flock to Mecca to perform this lesser pilgrimage, most coming during the last ten days of the month hoping to earn the reward of Hajj and also witnessing the prayers at the Kaaba, an exhilarating experience for the believer.  One meets Muslims from all parts of the world, from all cultures and races, and all have congregated in this sacred sanctuary, fasting throughout the day and worshipping throughout the night, all to earn the pleasure of their Creator, their Lord.

A Month of Forgiveness

We mentioned various Prophetic sayings which state that the various types of worship in Ramadan are a means for forgiveness.  Fasting, the taraweeh prayer, and praying in the Honored Night are all means of forgiveness.

“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan, believing in God and hoping for His reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

“Whoever stands the night in prayer in Ramadan believing in God and seeking His reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

“Whoever stood in prayer in the Honored Night, believing in God and hoping for His reward, all his previous sins will be forgiven.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

Ramadaan in general is a month of savior from the Fire:

“God chooses who will be saved from the Fire (in Ramadan), and that is every night.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

A Month of Charity

As mentioned before, people seek to feed others with food for which to break their fast and donate food rations to needy families to suffice them the month of Ramadan.  In addition to this, people are more charitable in general during Ramadan, as charity is considered worship for which God will reward them.  The companioned the Prophet, Abdulah b. Abbas, said:

“The Prophet was the most generous of people, and he was even more generous in Ramadan.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)

In order to increase in their good deeds, some Muslims choose to offer their Zakaah[1], or obligatory annual charity, in this month as well.

Private Devotion

There is a special type of worship in Islam in which one devotes himself to the mosque for a period of time, whether it be for a day or a week, and spends his time in reciting the Quran and mentioning praises of God, again a training for having a person becoming accustomed to living a life revolved around the worship of God.  In secluding oneself from one’s daily routine and indulging in the worship of God, he learns to prioritize his life and give less worth to the life of this world.  The Prophet, may the mercy and blessings of God be upon him, himself would practice this act of devotion, called I’tikaaf, during the last ten days of Ramadan.  He would pitch a tent in the mosque and seclude himself in it, busying himself in various types of individual worship.

Muslims around the world take leave from their work or school and try to fulfill this act of worship, but because of its difficulty, as it entails a type of cutting off from daily life, few people do so.  None the less, the majority of the congregational mosques do have a few people who take to this worship.

Conclusion

As one can see, Ramadan is indeed a very special time for Muslims around the world.  It is a month of worship in which sinners repent and return to God, and the believer rejuvenate their faith.  It is a training period in which one becomes accustomed to leading a life in accordance to the commands of God and seeking His Pleasure.  It is a time when one strengthens their relationship with their Creator.  It is a time when one trains himself to do extra acts of worship in addition to the obligatory.  The month of Ramadan is one which has no match, and the feelings Muslims have in this month are unexplainable.  For this reason, the companions of the Prophet would ask God to give them the blessing to experience Ramadan six months before its arrival, and for six months after its departure, they would seek forgiveness from God for their shortcomings in it.  We ask God to accept the Muslims fasting and praying in this blessed month, and to give others the guidance to be able to fast it as Muslims.


Footnotes:
[1] See (http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/46).


By M. Abdulsalam 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Idolatry (part 1 of 5)




Description: How idolatry crept into Christianity.  Part 1: The meaning of ‘worship’.

It is a strange irony that those who reverence stones live in glass ideologies.

—L.  Brown

Idolatry—every monotheist abhors the thought, and yet many commit the crime themselves.  Few today fully grasp the complexities of this issue, for the definition of idolatry has been buried beneath nearly 1,700 years of church tradition.

The second commandment states, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4–5).  Alternate translations employ slightly different, though significant, wording, as for example: “You shall not bow down to them or worship them” (NRSV, NIV).

The commandment not to make carved images speaks for itself, as does the subsequent decree not to make any likeness whatsoever.

These directives could not be clearer.

It is man’s nature, however, to seek loopholes in laws, taxes, and scripture.  Consequently, there are those who consider the initial order not to make “carved images” or “any likeness of anything” conditional upon the following decree not to serve or worship the images—the argument being that if nobody actually worships the image itself, then it’s permissible to make it.  But that’s not what the commandment says.  And in any case, caution dictates avoiding what God has forbidden, for the one who trespasses can expect to be held accountable.

But let’s take a step backward.  What do the words serve and worship really mean?

The verb to serve, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, means “to give the service and respect due to (a superior).”[1]  So, if placing images in exalted positions (statues of saints literally placed upon pedestals, religious icons framed, etc.), spending time, energy and money to dust, clean, beautify, and preserve them are not acts of service and respect, what are?

The typical Christian response?  That these acts of service are not acts of worship.

Now, wait a minute.  The word worship wasn’t even around two thousand years ago.  In fact, it wasn’t around one thousand years ago.  It didn’t exist in the English language during the period of revelation, even if the New Testament had been written in English, which it wasn’t.  So what words were available in biblical times?  What is the meaning from which the word worship was derived?

Not surprisingly, we trace the word worship back to a sense of having worth: a sense of worthiness:

Worship began life as a compound noun meaning virtually “worthiness.” It was formed from the adjective worth and the noun suffix -ship ”state, condition,” and at first was used for “distinction, credit, dignity.” This soon passed into “respect, reverence,” but it was not used in specifically religious contexts until the 13th century.  The verb dates from the 12th century.[2]

And this from the New Catholic Encyclopedia:

Worship: In Anglo-Saxon, “weorð-scipe” meant “worth-ship,” in which “worth” is to be understood in the sense of value or honor.  Worship, therefore, originally meant the state of worth, the quality of being valuable or worthy.[3]

So what does the second commandment really say?  Not only should one not bow or pray to man-made images (in the manner of many Catholics), but one should not even value these images.

“But we don’t value them!” the average Christian responds.

Oh, really?  Well, in that case, you won’t mind if we just toss them into the garbage or flush them down the toilet.  I mean, they’re worthless, right?  Without value, right?  And what do we do with worthless things?  We throw them away, don’t we?

The point is that, yes, Christians value their images, and in this manner they violate the second commandment.

Does idolatry manifest itself in other ways?

Sure.  Ever wonder why people used to (and in some cases, still do) greet upper-tier clergy, royalty, and members of the social elite as “Your worship?” By this phrase, commoners venerate men and women of high worth, position, and social status.  So is that worship?  According to the definition of the word, yes.  “Your worship” meant “Your worthiness,” and conveyed the distinction of high value.

So does this mean the commoners who used this phrase worshipped those they addressed in such a manner?  Uh, yes.  Yup, that’s about it.  Not only did they worship them, they idolized them, and we see this dynamic applied as much to music, sports, and movie stars in the present day as we do to clergy, royalty, and the social elite.

“Oh, come on,” you might say, “You’re being ridiculous.” No, I’m being precise.  I’m not saying God has forbidden us to honor such individuals; I’m just saying that, yes, addressing individuals in such terms as “Your worship” is a form of worship.  However, where this crosses the line into the forbidden zone is when people revere others as gods, or grant them the honor and respect reserved for our Creator.  Should they prefer these individuals’ guidance to the laws and guidance of revelation, they usurp God’s authority.  Likewise, should they revere such an individual by, oh let’s say, claiming him to be infallible or by bowing down to him (even if just to kiss his ring), they grant him the rights and special honor reserved for Almighty God.

In this manner, idolatry does not require a statue, although statues certainly heighten the offense.  After all, “idolatry refers to the worship of gods other than the one, true God, and the use of images is characteristic of the life of the heathen.”[4]

It is interesting to have a Catholic encyclopedia provide such a definition, isn’t it?  Why, we don’t even need to read between the lines to realize it is self- condemning!

Unfortunately, many modern Christian denominations justify their practices more on the basis of tradition than scripture.  Rarely is scripture given priority over tradition.  Examples do exist, however.  As recently as the 1500s, the Nestorian Christians of the Malabar Coast in India were presented with an image of the Virgin Mary for the first time.  Largely sheltered from European influence, these Malabar Coast Christians had remained ignorant of the changes instituted by the various councils and synods of the European churches.  Only with the establishment of sea routes in the sixteenth century did the two begin to interact.  As Edward Gibbon noted,

Their separation from the Western world had left them in ignorance of the improvements or corruptions of a thousand years; and their conformity with the faith and practice of the fifth century, would equally disappoint the prejudices of a Papist or a Protestant.[5]  So how did they respond when presented with an image of the Virgin Mary?

The title of Mother of God was offensive to their ear, and they measured with scrupulous avarice the honours of the Virgin Mary, whom the superstition of the Latins had almost exalted to the rank of a goddess.  When her image was first presented to the disciples of St. Thomas, they indignantly exclaimed, “We are Christians, not idolaters!”[6]


Footnotes:
[1] Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 1997. Tenth edition. Merriam-Webster, Inc.
[2] Ayto, John. 1991. Bloomsbury Dictionary of Word Origins. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Limited.
[3] New Catholic Encyclopedia. 1967. Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America. Vol 14, p. 1030.
[4] Ibid., Vol 7, p. 348.
[5] Gibbon, Edward, Esq. 1854. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. London: Henry G. Bohn. Vol. 5, Chapter XLVII, p. 263
[6] Ibid. vii Ibid., Chapter XLIX, p. 359.
Idolatry (part 2 of 5)

Idolatry
 (part 2 of 5) 

  Description: How idolatry crept into Christianity.  Part 2: Introduction of pictures and sculptures in the Church and the beginning of image-worship. 

It is worth noting that these Malabar Coast Christians were neither incorrect nor alone in their views:

The primitive Christians were possessed with an unconquerable repugnance to the use and abuse of images, and this aversion may be ascribed to their descent from the Jews, and their enmity to the Greeks.  The Mosaic law had severely proscribed all representations of the Deity; and that precept was firmly established in the principles and practice of the chosen people.  The wit of the Christian apologists was pointed against the foolish idolaters, who bowed before the workmanship of their own hands, the images of brass and marble, which, had they been endowed with sense and motion, should have started rather from the pedestal to adore the creative powers of the artist.[1]

Or, to put it in simpler and more modern English,

The primitive Christians had attacked image worship as the work of the devil and there had been wholesale destruction of every type of idol when Christianity had at last triumphed.  But over the succeeding centuries, the images crept back, appearing under new names but, to the critical eye, with an identical role.  It was the Christians of the East who first began to feel that much of the pagan religion that their forefathers had destroyed, at such cost in martyrs’ blood, was insensibly being restored.[2]

Religious art nonetheless was approved at the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, and idol worship invaded Catholic services from that time on.  Gibbon comments:

At first the experiment was made with caution and scruple; and the venerable pictures were discreetly allowed to instruct the ignorant, to awaken the cold, and to gratify the prejudices of the heathen proselytes.  By a slow though inevitable progression, the honours of the original were transferred to the copy; the devout Christian prayed before the image of a saint; and the pagan rites of genuflexion, luminaries, and incense, again stole into the Catholic Church.[3]

Given time (Gibbon continues),

The worship of images had stolen into the church by insensible degrees, and each petty step was pleasing to the superstitious mind, as productive of comfort and innocent of sin.  But in the beginning of the eighth century, in the full magnitude of the abuse, the more timorous Greeks were awakened by an apprehension, that, under the mask of Christianity, they had restored the religion of their fathers; they heard, with grief and impatience, the name of idolaters; the incessant charge of the Jews and Mahometans, who derived from the law and the Koran an immortal hatred to graven images and all relative worship.[4]

All whose Christianity was based upon scripture, apostolic example, and the teachings of the prophets opposed the introduction of idol worship.  Hence, when Emperor Constantine’s congruently named sister, Constantina, requested a representation of Jesus Christ in 326 CE, Eusebius of Nicomedia answered haughtily, “What, and what kind of likeness of Christ is there? Such images are forbidden by the second commandment.”[5]

Over two centuries ago, Joseph Priestley penned a summary that not only explained the history, but also the reason for this corruption of Christian orthodoxy:

Temples being now built in honour of particular saints, and especially the martyrs, it was natural to ornament them with paintings and sculptures representing the great exploits of such saints and martyrs; and this was a circumstance that made the Christian churches still more like the heathen temples, which were also adorned with statues and pictures; and this also would tend to draw the ignorant multitude to the new worship, making the transition the easier.

Paulinus, a convert from paganism, a person of senatorial rank, celebrated for his parts and learning, and who died afterwards bishop of Nola in Italy, distinguished himself in this way.  He rebuilt, in a splendid manner, his own episcopal church, dedicated to Felix the martyr, and in the porticoes of it, he had painted the miracles of Moses and of Christ, together with the acts of Felix and of other martyrs, whose relics were deposited in it.  This, he says, was done with a design to draw the rude multitude, habituated to the profane rites of paganism, to a knowledge and good opinion of the Christian doctrine, by learning from those pictures what they were not capable of learning from books, of the lives and acts of Christian saints.

The custom of having pictures in churches being once begun (which was about the end of the fourth or the beginning of the fifth century, and generally by converts from paganism) the more wealthy among the Christians seem to have vied with each other, who should build and ornament their churches in the most expensive manner, and nothing perhaps contributed more to it than the example of this Paulinus.

It appears from Chrysostom, that pictures and images were to be seen in the principal churches of his time, but this was in the East.  In Italy, they were but rare in the beginning of the fifth century, and the bishop of that country, who had got his church painted, thought proper to make an apology for it, by saying that the people being amused with the pictures would have less time for regaling themselves.  The origin of this custom was probably in Cappadocia, where Gregory Nyssenus was bishop, the same who commended Gregory Thaumaturgus for contriving to make the Christian festivals resemble the pagan ones.

Though many churches in this age were adorned with the images of saints and martyrs, there do not appear to have been many of Christ.  These are said to have been introduced by the Cappodocians; and the first of these were only symbolical ones, being made in the form of a lamb.  One of this kind Epiphanius found in the year 389, and he was so provoked at it, that he tore it.  It was not till the Council of Constantinople, called In Trullo, held as late as the year 707 CE, that pictures of Christ were ordered to be drawn in the form of men.[6]


Footnotes:
[1] Ibid., Chapter XLIX, p.  359.

[2] Chamberlin, E.  R.  1993.  The Bad Popes.  Barnes & Noble, Inc.  p.  11.
[3] Gibbon, Edward, Esq.  Vol.  5, Chapter XLIX, p.  361.
[4] Ibid., p.  365.
[5] Hodgkin, Thomas.  1967.  Italy and Her Invaders.  Vol.  VI, Book VII.  New York: Russell & Russell.  p.  431.
[6] Priestley, Joseph, LL.D.  F.R.S.  1782.  An History of the Corruptions of Christianity.  Birmingham: Piercy and Jones.  Vol.  1; “The History of Opinions relating to Saints and Angels,” Section 1, Part 2— “Of Pictures and Images in Churches.” pp.  337–339.


Idolatry
(part 3 of 5)

Description: How idolatry crept into Christianity.  Part 3: How an effort by the Emperor of Constantinople, Leo III to destroy images was dampened.  Striking parallels between the teachings of Christianity and some ancient civilizations.   


In 726 CE, a scant nineteen years following the Council of Constantinople, the Emperor of Constantinople, Leo III (also known as Leo the Isaurian, but best known as Leo the Iconoclast) began to destroy images within the expanding circle of his influence.  Thomas Hodgkin noted,

It was the contact with Mohammedanism which opened the eyes of Leo and the men who stood around his throne, ecclesiastics as well as laymen, to the degrading and idolatrous superstitions that had crept into the Church and were overlaying the life of a religion which, at its proclamation the purest and most spiritual, was fast becoming one of the most superstitious and materialistic that the world had ever seen.  Shrinking at first from any representation whatever of visible objects, then allowing herself the use of beautiful and pathetic emblems (such as the Good Shepherd), in the fourth century the Christian Church sought to instruct the converts whom her victory under Constantine was bringing to her in myriads, by representations on the walls of the churches of the chief event of Scripture history.  From this the transition to specially reverenced pictures of Christ, the Virgin and the Saints, was natural and easy.  The crowning absurdity and blasphemy, the representation of the Almighty Maker of the Universe as a bearded old man, floating in the sky, was not yet perpetrated, nor was to be dared till the human race had taken several steps downward into the darkness of the Middle Ages; but enough had been already done to show whither the Church was tending, and to give point to the sarcasm of the followers of the Prophet when they hurled the epithet “idolaters” at the craven and servile populations of Egypt and Syria.[1]

The irony of Emperor Leo’s transition from victor over the Saracens in Eastern Europe to Leo the Iconoclast is inescapable.  After he defeated the Muslims, he adopted their drive to abolish idolatry.  In any case, Pope Gregory II attempted to dampen Leo’s enthusiasm with the following counsel:

Are you ignorant that the popes are the bond of union, the mediators of peace between the East and West?  The eyes of the nations are fixed on our humility; and they revere, as a God upon earth, the apostle St.  Peter, whose image you threaten to destroy .  .  .  Abandon your rash and fatal enterprise; reflect, tremble, and repent.  If you persist, we are innocent of the blood that will be spilt in the contest; may it fall on your own head.[2]

As George Bernard Shaw stated in the preface to his play, Saint Joan, “The Churches must learn humility as well as teach it.”[3]  No doubt the person who shouts, “Look at how humble I am! Can’t you tell I’m the most humble person you ever saw?” is instantly disqualified.  More to the point, the pope who sanctioned images while at the same time stating, “But for the statue of St.  Peter himself, which all the kingdoms of the West esteem as a god on earth, the whole West would take a terrible revenge”[4]  should perceive an asteroid-sized theological inconsistency.  Exactly who should “reflect, tremble and repent” should be boldly obvious.

That Pope Gregory II and his followers were willing to wage war in defense of their images testifies to the extraordinarily high value (that is to say, the worth, the worthiness—i.e., the worship) they placed on these images.  And spill blood they did, to such an extent that the defeat of Leo’s army at Ravenna turned the waters of the river Po red.  So badly was the river polluted that “during six years, the public prejudice abstained from the fish of the river .  .  .”[5]

When the Synod of Constantinople convened in 754 CE, the Roman Catholic Church staged a boycott due to non-conformity of the Greek Church with Catholic teaching.  Or at least, that was the excuse they offered.  A more likely scenario, perhaps, was that the Catholics recognized their inability to defend a practice that was scripturally condemned by the Almighty God they claimed to worship.

Nevertheless, the Synod of Constantinople convened without them and after a serious deliberation of six months the three hundred and thirty-eight bishops pronounced and subscribed a unanimous decree that all visible symbols of Christ, except in the Eucharist, were either blasphemous or heretical; that image worship was a corruption of Christianity and a renewal of Paganism; that all such monuments of idolatry should be broken or erased; and that those who should refuse to deliver the objects of their private superstition, were guilty of disobedience to the authority of the church and of the emperor.[6]

The fact that the synod exempted the Eucharist from association with paganism is particularly curious to those knowledgeable of ancient Persian and Egyptian rites and rituals.  The Persians employed consecrated water and bread in the ancient cult of Mithras.[7]  As T.  W.  Doane notes in his 1971 study, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions,

It is in the ancient religion of Persia—the religion of Mithra, the Mediator, the Redeemer and Saviour—that we find the nearest resemblance to the sacrament of the Christians, and from which it was evidently borrowed.  Those who were initiated into the mysteries of Mithra, or became members, took the sacrament of bread and wine.  .  .  .

This food they called the Eucharist, of which no one was allowed to partake but the persons who believed that the things they taught were true, and who had been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sin.  Tertullian, who flourished from 193 to 220 A.D., also speaks of the Mithraic devotees celebrating the Eucharist.

The Eucharist of the Lord and Saviour, as the Magi called Mithra, the second person in their Trinity, or their Eucharistic sacrifice, was always made exactly and in every respect the same as that of the orthodox Christians, for both sometimes used water instead of wine, or a mixture of the two.[8]

The cult of Osiris (the ancient Egyptian god of life, death, and fertility) offered the same allure of an easy salvation as did Paul’s concept of salvation through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.  “The secret of that popularity was that he [Osiris] had lived on earth as benefactor, died for man’s good, and lived again as friend and judge.”[9]  The ancient Egyptians commemorated Osiris’ birth with a cradle and lights and annually celebrated his alleged resurrection.  They also commemorated his death by eating sacred bread that had been consecrated by their priests.  They believed this consecration transmuted the bread to the veritable flesh of Osiris.[10]  If it all sounds familiar, it should, for as James Bonwick comments, “As it is recognized that the bread after sacerdotal rites becomes mystically the body of Christ, so the men of the Nile declared their bread after sacerdotal rites became mystically the body of Isis or Osiris: in such manner they ate their god.”[11]

Furthermore, as Bonwick writes,

The cakes of Isis were, like the cakes of Osiris, of a round shape.  They were placed upon the altar.  Gliddon writes that they were “identical in shape with the consecrated cake of the Roman and Eastern Churches.” Melville assures us, “The Egyptians marked this holy bread with St.  Andrew’s Cross.” The Presence bread was broken before being distributed by the priests to the people, and was supposed to become the flesh and blood of the Diety.  The miracle was wrought by the hand of the officiating priest, who blessed the food.[12]

In like fashion, ancient Buddhists offered a sacrament of bread and wine, Hindus a Eucharist of soma juice (an intoxicating plant extract), and the ancient Greeks a sacrament of bread and wine in tribute to Demeter (aka Ceres, their goddess of corn) and Dionysos (aka Bacchus, their god of wine).  In this manner, they ate the flesh and drank the blood of their gods.[13]


Footnotes:
[1] Hodgkin, Thomas.  Vol.  VI, Book VII, p.  431
[2] Gibbon, Edward, Esq.  Vol.  5, Chapter XLIX, pp.  376–7.

[3] Shaw, George Bernard.  1924.  Saint Joan.  Preface.
[4] Labbe, P.  Venice, 1728–1733.  Sacrosancta Concilia.  Vol.  VII, p.  7.
[5] Gibbon, Edward, Esq.  Vol.  5, Chapter XLIX, p.  379.
[6] Ibid., p.  369.
[7] Bonwick, James, F.R.G.S.  1956.  Egyptian Belief and Modern Thought.  Colorado: Falcon’s Wing Press.  p.  417.
[8] Doane, Thomas W.  1971.  Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions.  New York: University Books.  pp.  307–308.
[9] Bonwick, James.  p.  162.
[10] Ibid., p.  163.
[11] Ibid., p.  417.
[12] Ibid., pp.  417–418.
[13] Doane, Thomas W. pp. 305–309.


Idolatry

(part 4 of 5)


Description: How idolatry crept into Christianity.  Part 4: How Christianity further drenched itself into creation-worship.


The religious parallels are so obvious as to demand explanation.  We can reasonably question how the cults of Isis and Osiris placed the mark of St.  Andrew’s cross on their consecrated bread two thousand years before St. Andrew was born.  Clairvoyance on the part of the Egyptians, or religious plagiarism on the part of St. Andrew? In addition, there are striking similarities between the mysteries of Pauline Christianity and those of the cults of Isis and Osiris—mysteries to include the virgin birth (Isis the virgin mother, Horus the child) and the atoning sacrifice of Osiris, followed by his resurrection and assumption of the role of redeemer.  Justin Martyr, the famous Christian apologist, dismissed these similarities by claiming that Satan copied the Christian ceremonies in order to mislead the remainder of mankind.[1]  However, taking note of the time sequence, these earlier Eucharistic practices and mysteries of faith preceded those of Catholicism by more than two thousand years.

Considering this fact, T.  W.  Doane reasonably concluded,

These facts show that the Eucharist is another piece of Paganism adopted by the Christians.  The story of Jesus and his disciples being at supper, where the Master did break bread, may be true, but the statement that he said, “Do this in remembrance of me,”—“this is my body,” and “this is my blood,” was undoubtedly invented to give authority to the mystic ceremony, which had been borrowed from Paganism.[2]

Invented statements, in the Bible?  How can that be, when all of the gospels record Jesus’ words at the paschal meal? Well, all but one, that is.  According to John 13:1, Jesus was arrested before the Passover feast.  So it’s John against the Synoptics.  Or, to make the contest even, it’s John against Q (abbreviation of the German word Quelle, meaning “source”)—the hypothesized common source document of the Synoptic gospels.

Lest anybody misunderstand, Catholics do not tolerate a symbolic interpretation of their sacramental rites.  The Council of Trent (1545–63 CE) established laws concerning the alleged transubstantiation of the Eucharist, and these laws stand to this day.  Not even the more liberal Second Vatican Council (1962–65) effected a change.  In short, the Council of Trent’s judgment reads:

Canon 1: If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ, but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema.[3]

In other words, anyone who considers the bread and wine of the Eucharist to be merely symbolic is to be anathema (i.e., cursed and excommunicated).  This judgment is reinforced by the following:

Canon 6: If anyone says that in the holy sacrament of the Eucharist, Christ, the only begotten Son of God, is not to be adored with the worship of latria, [4]  also outwardly manifested, and is consequently neither to be venerated with a special festive solemnity, nor to be solemnly borne about in procession according to the laudable and universal rite and custom of the holy Church, or is not to be set publicly before the people to be adored and that the adorers thereof are idolaters, let him be anathema.[5]

In other words, those who refuse to adore, venerate, or glorify are to suffer the same fate as those who consider the Eucharist symbolic.  These Catholic laws remain on the books to the present day, which explains why so many Protestant denominations have sidestepped away from their Catholic cousins and either abolished or watered-down their veneration of the Eucharist.  This reaction is particularly easy to understand, for many pagan cultures taught assimilation of the qualities of the ancestral totem through eating “bread transmuted into flesh.” Which group has the real sacred saltine remains the subject of ongoing debate.

Returning to the main subject, the Catholic Church responded to the Synod of Constantinople of 754 CE by calling a second Council of Nicaea in 787 CE.  This council reinstated image worship on the basis that “the worship of images is agreeable to Scripture and reason, to the fathers and councils of the church.”[6]

Suddenly, the theory that certain eighth-century clergy partook of hallucinogenic mushrooms begins to look pretty good.  We have to wonder what apostolic fathers and which scripture this council consulted.  For that matter, exactly how is this decision “agreeable to scripture and reason”?

In any case, those religious communities that objected to Christian idol worship were “cleansed” by the Catholic armies.  Beginning with the slaughter of Unitarian Christians in the mid-ninth century, Empress Theodora gained the dubious distinction of being the one “who restored the images to the Oriental [i.e., Eastern Orthodox] church.”[7]  All subsequent efforts to eradicate images in the church were quashed, resulting in the idolatrous practices witnessed to this day.

Of even greater concern is the adoption of human idols.  Priest-worship surfaced in the early thirteenth century, in the form of priests acting as intermediaries for confession and absolution of sins.  Pope-worship became manifest in the form of ritual kissing of the Pope’s foot or ring.  The creative doctrine of papal infallibility, as defined by Pope Pius IX at the First Vatican Council in 1869–1870, set the pope as rival with God.  The worship of Mary and the title “Mother of God” were canonized considerably earlier, at the Council of Ephesus in 431 CE.  Directing prayers to saints, angels and the Virgin Mary was officially sanctioned from the early seventh century.  The famous prayer to the Virgin Mary, Ave Maria (Hail Mary), lagged a thousand years behind, and received official formulation in the reformed Breviary of Pope Pius V in 1568.  However, among all the human subjects of worship, Jesus Christ is hands down the most worshipped mortal ever to have walked the earth.


Footnotes:
[1] Ibid., p. 307.
[2] Ibid., p.  312.
[3] Schroeder, Rev.  Henry J., O.P.  1941.  Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (Original Text with English Translation).  London: B.  Herder Book Co.  p.  79.
[4] Schroeder, Rev.  Henry J.  p.  80.
[5] latria, the worship or adoration owed to God alone, as opposed to dulia (the honor given to the saints) and hyperdulia (the honor given the Virgin Mary) – McBrien, Richard P.  (General Editor).  1995.  HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism.  New York: HarperCollins Publishers.
[6] Gibbon, Edward, Esq.  Vol.  5, Chapter XLIX, p.  397.
[7] Ibid., Vol.  6, Chapter LIV, p.  242.

Idolatry

(part 5 of 5)

Description: How idolatry crept into Christianity.  Part 5: Some thought-provoking questions.  

A powerful challenge to Trinitarian thought, initially attributed to Theophilus Lindsey (1723–1804 CE) and subsequently argued by Unitarian Christians worldwide, asks how those who worship Jesus would respond, were he to return and pose the following questions:

a)    Why did you address your devotions to me? Did I ever direct you to do this, or propose myself as an object of worship?

b)   Did I not uniformly and to the last set an example of praying to the Father, to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God? (John 20:17)

c)    When my disciples requested me to teach them to pray (Luke 11:1–2), did I ever teach them to pray to myself? Did I not teach them to pray to no one but to the Father?

d)   Did I ever call myself God, or tell you that I was the maker of the world and to be worshipped? e) Solomon, after building the temple said, "Will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built" (I Kings 8:27).  So how could God ever have dwelt on earth?

These questions are all the more relevant, for Christians expect that when Jesus returns, he will denounce many "Christians" as disbelievers.  As stated in Matthew 7:21–23,

Not everyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name, cast out demons in your name, and done many wonders in your name?" And then I will declare to them, "I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness!"

So if Jesus will disown some Christians who prophesied, cast out demons, and performed wonders in his name (i.e., those who say "Lord, Lord"), who are these disbelievers going to be?

Answer: those who "practice lawlessness" (Jesus’ words, not mine).  And that is the point, isn’t it? For what law did Jesus teach? During the period of his mission, "the will of my Father in heaven" was Old Testament law.  That is what Jesus taught, and that is what Jesus lived by.

So where in his teachings or example did Jesus command servitude and worship of himself? Nowhere!  Just the opposite, in fact, for the Bible records him having taught, "‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve’" (Luke 4:8).  Furthermore, Jesus reportedly taught, "Why do you call me good: No one is good but One, that is, God" (Matthew 9:17, Mark 10–18, and Luke 18:19), and, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).

Perhaps for these reasons, Christians focused the first eighteen centuries of their worship on the Father, and the Father alone.  As Joseph Priestly tells us, praying to Jesus is a modern innovation, distant from both Jesus’ teachings and time:

Accordingly, the practice of praying to the Father only, was long universal in the Christian church: the short addresses to Christ, as those in the Litany, "Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us," being comparatively of late date.  In the Clementine liturgy, the oldest that is extant, contained in the Apostolical Constitutions, which were probably composed about the fourth century, there is no trace of any such thing.  Origen, in a large treatise on the subject of prayer, urges very forcibly the propriety of praying to the Father only, and not to Christ; and as he gives no hint that the public forms of prayer had anything reprehensible in them in that respect, we are naturally led to conclude that, in his time, such petitions to Christ were unknown in the public assemblies of Christians.  And such hold have early established customs on the minds of men, that, excepting the Moravians only, whose prayers are always addressed to Christ, the general practice of Trinitarians themselves is, to pray to the Father only.

Now on what principle could this early and universal practice have been founded? What is there in the doctrine of a Trinity consisting of three equal persons, to entitle the Father to that distinction, in preference to the Son or the Spirit?[1]

What is there, indeed? Priestley records a little-known aspect of Christian history: namely, that up to his time (late eighteenth century) the "general practice of Trinitarians themselves is, to pray to the Father only." Those who draw upon their modern Christian experience might mistakenly believe that the twenty-first century practice of praying to Jesus Christ dates from early Christianity.

Nothing is further from the truth.

For nearly eighteen hundred years following the birth of Christianity, prayers were directed only to God.  It wasn’t until 1787 when the Moravian Church, a Protestant sect founded in fifteenth-century Bohemia (in what is present-day Czechoslovakia), underwent a profound Pentecostal transformation and began directing prayers to Jesus Christ.

So why, if the three persons of the proposed Trinity are considered coequal, should such a preference for the Father have prevailed? And not just for a decade or two, but for the first eighteen hundred years of Christianity? Unless, that is, a greater lesson is to be learned from the uniformity of early Christian devotions than from the inconsistencies of Trinitarian theology.

Priestley was just one of many who attempted to prevent the derailing of Christian devotions from the Creator to His creation—Jesus, Mary, the Holy Spirit, and the multitude of saints.  However, no historical analysis of this subject would be complete without noting that Islam has always maintained a strictly monotheistic, iconoclastic faith, as described by Gibbon:

The Mahometans have uniformly withstood the temptation of reducing the object of their faith and devotion to a level with the senses and imagination of man.  "I believe in One God and Mahomet[2]  the apostle of God," is the simple and invariable profession of Islam.  The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol; the honours of the prophet have never transgressed the measure of human virtue; and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion."[3]


Footnotes:
[1] Priestley, Joseph.  1786.  The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley.  Edited by John Towill Rutt.  Hackney: George Smallfield.  Vol VI, p.  29.
[2] IslamReligion.com: Meaning Muhammad (in Medieval Latin, Polish, or French) [Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahomet]
[3] Gibbon, Edward, Esq.  Vol.  5, Chapter L, p.  533.



By Laurence B.  Brown, MD

Friday, May 22, 2015

Two picture of Jesus (peace be upon him) (Quranic and biblical)

The Trinity




  Two picture of Jesus
(peace be upon him)
(Quranic and biblical)


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

End Rohingya Crisis


‪#‎EndRohingyaCrisis‬
Please contribute with us in saving the Muslims of Burma who have fled from injustice and persecutions but fell into
the hands of human traffickers or seas
We are waiting for you to join in the tweet storm
#EndRohingyaCrisis
#أنهوا_أزمة_الروهنجيا
TIme of campaign 19-5-2015
9.00 PM Makkah Time

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Prophet’s Patience when Conveying the Message (part 1 of 2): The Followers of Muhammad are Patient




Description: The forbearance of Prophet Muhammad when spreading the message of Islam.

God tells us in the Quran that He sent Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, as a mercy for humankind.  "And We have sent you O Muhammad, not but as a mercy for humankind and all that exists." (Quran 21:107)  God did not say he was sent to the people of Arabia, or to a specific gender, to the people of the 7th century or even to his own people.   In fact Prophet Muhammad was rejected and humiliated by his own people. 
God also made it clear that Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, was a prophet like no other.  One whose message would spread far and wide and be applicable in all places for all times.  He overcame hardship, great sorrow, epic battles and sustained humiliation; however nothing deterred him conveying the message.  Prophet Muhammad was the first to convey God’s message in a form suitable for all people, in all places at all times.  The main message is simple; to worship God alone, without partners, sons or daughters, and Prophet Muhammad spread it with great forbearance and even greater tolerance.  His patience knew no bounds and was never ever goaded into behaving irrationally or angrily.  Violence was not part of the message and had no part in its spread. 

More than one billion Muslims across the globe love Prophet Muhammad, they respect him and follow him.  They hold him in such regard that for many it is emotionally painful to see or hear their beloved mentor ridiculed or disrespected.  Demonstrations across the globe whenever Prophet Muhammad’s name is disrespected or if his image is produced, hold testament to that.  However, violent, irrational behavior is not something learnt from Prophet Muhammad.  His face was firmly turned towards God and the Hereafter and his sole mission was to spread the message of the Most Merciful with patience and forbearance.

Spreading the word of Islam made Prophet Muhammad poor and a social outcast, after living a life of relative ease.  His lifestyle drastically changed for the worst and his life was threatened on more than one occasion.  In addition to that his family and his followers were ridiculed, derided and physically beaten.  The message however weighed heavily on his shoulders and even at his final sermon he asked the people to testify before God that he had delivered the message.

It is important that at this time in world history, when it sometimes seems as if the Muslim population is being herded into a corner or behind a fence, that we remember the patience of Prophet Muhammad and face our problems with the  same methods he used in the face of adversity.  Prophet Muhammad himself demonstrated enormous restraint and patience when he was insulted, belittled and beaten.   As his beloved wife Aisha said, "His character was a reflection of the Quran".[1]

At a very difficult time in his life, just after a period known as the Year of Sorrow, Prophet Muhammad went to the city of Taif hoping to find people who would listen and support his message to humanity.   Instead of support he found insults and injuries.  He was chased out of town.   With his sandals filled with blood, from the injuries inflicted upon him by men, women and children throwing rocks, Prophet Muhammad prayed to God for help.  In response, the Angel of the Mountains asked for the Prophet’s permission to cause the mountains surrounding Taif to crumble, killing all of the city’s inhabitants.   Despite his pain and suffering, something he had every right to be angry about, the Prophet’s reply was, "No, for I hope that God will bring forth from their progeny people who will worship God Alone, and none besides Him."

We have all heard the saying patience is a virtue, meaning that being patient is a noble and good trait to acquire.   Patience is a quality that we must practice and use in small situations and at times situations that loom large in our lives.  Reading even a small slice of Islamic history will show you that Prophet Muhammad was patient.  Patience does not mean to do nothing, it implies trying your best to ease the situation.  Thus he made efforts to alleviate the situation, such as the two migrations and the buying of slaves primarily to stop their torture and humiliation. 

After ten years of living in Medina, ten years of teaching the people how to love and obey God, ten years of establishing a fair and equitable Islamic state, Prophet Muhammad and his followers were able to return to Mecca.   His patience was at last rewarded yet he still rode in on a donkey with tens of thousands of followers.  Prophet Muhammad could have thrown patience to the wind and exact a terrible vengeance.  He did not!  Mecca lay at his feet, enemies stood with heads bowed in surrender and Prophet Muhammad spoke by the mercy of his Creator and said, "I speak to you in the same words as (Prophet) Yusuf spoke to his brothers.  This day there is no reproof against you; Go your way, for you are free".[2]

Throughout his life and particularly during his Prophethood, Prophet Muhammad practiced patience and tried to encourage and even demand that his followers learn patience.  There are many instances of Prophet Muhammad advising patience.  The following story in particular paints a picture of a man who was able to show patience and forbearance above what is usual, but it also shows the lengths Prophet Muhammad would go to in order to teach his followers why they should always behave patiently and in the most correct way.

This is the story of the Jewish Rabbi, Zaid ibn Sanah.   Rabbi Zaid had loaned something to Prophet Muhammad.  He himself describes the scene and dialogue as follows.   "…Prophet Muhammad was attending the funeral of a man from the Ansar.  Abu Bakr and Umar, Uthman and some other Companions were with him.  After the funeral prayer he sat down close to a wall, and I came towards him, grabbed him by the edges of his cloak, looked at him in a harsh way, and said, ‘O Muhammad! Will you not pay me back my loan? I have not known the family of Abdul-Mutalib to delay in repaying debts!’  I looked at Umar whose eyes were swollen with anger! He looked at me and said: ‘O enemy of God, do you talk to the Messenger of God and behave towards him in this manner?!  By the One who sent him with the truth, had it not been for the fear of not entering the Heavenly Gardens, I would have beheaded you with my sword!’"

Prophet Muhammad was not late in repaying the debt, the Rabbi had accosted him and spoken badly.  How would we react?  In this year 2015 how would the majority of people react?  If you know those who would react calmly and accept harsh treatment with patience then you will be glad to know they are following the teachings of Prophet Muhammad.  In the next part we will discover just how this incident concluded and it just may surprise you.

Footnotes:
[1] Saheeh Muslim
[2] Recorded by Ibn Kathir, related by Saheeh Muslim and authenticated by Sheikh Al-Albani





The Prophet’s Patience when Conveying the Message (part 2 of 2): God Commands us to be Patient


Description: Examples of Prophet Muhammad’s patience and a brief look at God’s command to be patient.

This is a continuation of our story about Prophet Muhammad’s patience in the face of adversity.  We left off with Rabbi Zaid standing under the malevolent gaze of Umar.  The Rabbi turned away and Prophet Muhammad said to Umar, "… you should have given us sincere counselling, rather than act as you did! Go and repay him his loan, and give him twenty Sa’a (a measurement of weight) extra because you scared him!"

Prophet Muhammad was patient with everybody, his close companions, acquaintances such as the Rabbi, and even strangers.  He was suggesting that it would have been better for Umar to be patient and give sincere counselling such as suggesting a solution that left everybody satisfied, rather than lose his temper.When pondering this story one might  also wonder why the Rabbi was asking for the repayment days before the loan was due.  The men were in fact gathered together after the funeral of one of the residents of Medina.  Perhaps the Rabbi seized the opportunity to ask about his loan; perhaps he was an impatient man who wanted to make sure his loan would be repaid in a timely manner.  Humankind has all manner of ways of dealing with each other but following the example of Prophet Muhammad is always the best way, which becomes clear as we continue the story.

Rabbi Zaid then says, "Umar went with me, repaid me the debt, and gave me an extra twenty Sa’a of dates.  I asked him why and he replied, ‘The Messenger of God ordered me to give it to you because I frightened you.’"  Zaid realised then that Umar had no idea who he was and asked him if he did in fact know.  Umar answered that he had no idea.  Zaid looked at Umar and said, "I am Zaid ibn Sanah, the Rabbi".  Umar was amazed and asked Zaid why he behaved that way towards the Prophet? Zaid explained that he had seen many signs of prophethood in Muhammad except two and he wanted to test the final two signs.    They were that patience and perseverance would take precedence over anger, and that harsh treatment was repaid with kindness.  This was exactly what Rabbi Zaid had observed. 

Not only was Prophet Muhammad patient when conveying his message it was his patience that convinced people that his religion was the truth.  In this case Rabbi Zaid immediately renounced his religion and in front of Prophet Muhammad testified that there was none worthy of worship but God alone and that Prophet Muhammad was His messenger.[1]

Prophet Muhammad did not show such patience when conveying the message because he thought it might make his life easier, he did it because he was commanded by God to do so.  In many cases it did not make his life easier.   The Prophet’s uncle, the man known as Abu Lahab and his wife were great enemies of Islam and of Prophet Muhammad.  Every day they would throw stones and dirt at his house and encourage others to do so.  Many threw stones not only at his house but at his body.  Injuries were not uncommon.  Thorns were spread on the ground in a way that Prophet Muhammad could not avoid them and on many days the Prophet’s feet would bleed after extracting the thorns.  How did he react? With patience, with forbearance,  and with forgiveness.

To place emphasis on the importance of behaving in a calm and kind manner, God mentions it time after time throughout the Quran.  God says, bear patiently, forgive them, pardon them, and repress your anger.

"Those who spend (in God’s Cause) in prosperity and in adversity, who repress anger, and who pardon the people; verily, God loves the good-doers." (Quran 3:134)

"… And if you are patient and keep your duty - this is surely a matter of great resolution." (Quran 3:185)

"Many of the followers of the People of the Scripture wish that they could turn you back into disbelievers after you have believed… but you should pardon and forgive." (Quran 2:109)


Prophet Muhammad patiently bore the persecution and abuse that he suffered when calling people to the truth of Islam.  The idolaters, the pagans,  and the hypocrites all mocked him, insulted him, disbelieved him and abused him.  He was called a liar and a magician, a soothsayer and a madman but this did not deter him from conveying his message.  God had warned Prophet Muhammad that many would disbelieve, ignore or abuse him.

"So be patient (O Muhammad).  Verily, the Promise of God is true; and let not those who have no certainty of Faith discourage you from conveying God’s Message." (Quran 30:60)


When conveying the message Prophet Muhammad never lost his temper or behaved violently.  He never raised his voice or looked at them with disdain.  If he engaged in debate or argument he did so in a calm and clever way. 

"Invite humankind, O Muhammad to the way of your Lord with wisdom  and fair preaching, and argue with them in a way that is better…" (Quran 16:125)

"And argue not with the People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), unless it be in (a way) that is better (with good words and in good manner, inviting them to Islamic Monotheism with His Verses), except with such of them as do wrong; and say (to them): ‘We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you; our God and your God is One and to Him we have submitted’" (Quran 29:46)



When Prophet Muhammad spoke to his companions about conveying the message he was always concerned with their behaviour.   When sending companions to the Jews and Christians in Yemen he advised them to, "Be easy going and do not be harsh, give glad tidings and do not put people off."[2] Moreover God forbade anyone to initiate insults or to respond to harsh words about the message with insults. 
And insult not those whom they (disbelievers) worship besides God, lest they insult God wrongfully without knowledge" (Quran 6:108)
Prophet Muhammad and those who convey the message are commanded by God not to behave badly no matter what the provocation.  God says do not insult, do not respond and in addition to this we are told to turn away from the ignorant.  Prophet Muhammad did exactly what he was commanded to do - convey the message and bear the scorns patiently, forgive them and turn away from the ignorant.
"And if you invite them to guidance, they hear not; and you see them looking at you, yet they see not.  Hold fast to forgiveness, enjoin goodness and turn away from the ignorant." (Quran 7:198-199)
"So bear patiently what they say…" (Quran 20:130)
Prophet Muhammad’s patience when conveying the message was endless.  He never tired of speaking to people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, about the religion of Islam.  His sincerity was obvious and he never engaged in useless arguments or debates destined for disaster.  He treated people well, with kindness and compassion, he overlooked faults and bad behaviour and when all else failed, he turned away.  Violence, anger and rudeness were never part of his method nor were they part of his character.  He showed patience in the face of adversity and kindness in the face of harsh treatment.   



Footnotes:
[2] Saheeh Al-Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim



By Aisha Stacey