We have published a video of our last event on YouTube.
Prepared by Philip Voerding and Chris Hawes
5) Root Four: Guidance
Just as Jesus the Messiah was given by Allah the 12 Apostles to rightly guide those who believed the Gospel after he ascended into Heaven, so to was the Prophet Muhammad given by Allah 12 Vice Regents (also called Imams) to guide the Muslim community after he passed from the scene. Just like the prophets, including Muhammad, these Vice Regents were infallible.
O, you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those among you invested with Divine Authority; and if ye differ, bring it before Allah and the Messenger if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. This is the best and the fairest way of settlement.
- Quran 4:49.
(And remember) the Day (of Judgment) when We shall call human beings with their Imams. – Quran 17:71
These Twelve Vice Regents or Imams are descendants of the Prophet Muhammad. The first was Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib and the twelfth is Imam Al-Mhadi, who will return with Prophet Jesus the Messiah and destroy the Anit-Chirst and his works.
6) Root Five: Resurrection and Judgment
The Quran teaches that there is a Last Day, a Resurrection of all humans, and a Divine Judgment, followed by the Life Hereafter, either in Paradise or in Hell. After death, each person will get the reward or punishment for the deeds he or she performed while alive.
Beware when the Event would occur
No soul would then falsify its occurrence,
(Many) will it bring low,
(Many) will it bring high;
When the earth will be shaken to its depths,
And the mountains would crumble
Becoming dust all scattered about.- Quran 56:1-6.
7) The Trunk of the Tree
The Five roots of True Religion are the basic principles which give the foundation to the “tree” of Islam. Thus the Roots provide the basis of Religion, which is submission to Allah. So, if the roots provide the foundation for the trunk of the “tree”, what will be the “branches” of the “tree”?
8) The Ten Branches of the Tree
When someone believes the Five Roots of Religion, and becomes a Muslim, he or she is obliged to perform certain deeds according to Allah’s will as given through the Prophet as taught by the 12 Imams. These are the Ten Branches of the Tree:
9) How to Become a Muslim
Consider and investigate whether Islam is the true code of life for humanity. If you believe that it is, then to become a Muslim you must turn to God and repent of all your sins. God is compassionate and merciful and will forgive you your sins. Then declare your new faith by saying:
Finally, ask your brothers and sisters in Islam, “What should I do next?” and they will be more than happy to help you.
Prepared by Philip Voerding and Chris Hawes
1) The Five Roots of True Religion
Islam can be described as a tree comprised of roots, trunk and branches.
Each “root” will be described briefly in the following paragraphs.
2) Root One: The Oneness of God
The first root is the “Oneness of God”. There can only be one God. The Quran, the Holy Scripture of Muslims, says this of God:
Say: He is Allah, the One
The One upon who all depend
Who does not give birth nor was He born
And there is none like Him. – Quran 112:1-4.
Allah is unique. Allah is Uncreated, The Eternal, is not born, is the Knower of all things, and the Perfect. Allah cannot be compelled. Allah is true in His words and promises. Allah is All-powerful.
Also, Allah has no partner of partners. Allah is not made or composed of any material. Allah cannot be divided even in imagination. Allah cannot be confined to any place, for Allah has no body. Allah does not change. Allah is invisible. Allah has no needs. Allah’s attributes cannot be separated from Him.
3) Root Two: The Justice of God
Allah is Just. This means Allah is not a tyrant. He rewards everyone depending on his or her deeds. The one who obeys Allah will be saved and receive Paradise as his or her reward.
The one who disobeys Him will be sent to Hell. The Quran says:
Allah affirms that there is no god but Him,
And so do the angels,
And those endued with knowledge,
He is standing firm in justice. – Quran 3:18
Allah is always just and never chooses to be unjust because He will not do that which is against His nature and character. Why would Allah, who is perfect, act imperfectly? The answer is that He will never act imperfectly. Allah is also the Beneficent, which can also be translated as the Compassionate and the Merciful.
4) Root Three: Prophethood
Since Allah is Just, He has a plan for His creatures. This plan is for them to do His will in all their relationships with each other as well as with Him. Therefore, Allah has sent prophets to acquaint humanity with these principles and codes of life.
Nor would we punish without sending messengers to give warning.
- Quran 17:15
Adam was the first Prophet. Other prophets include Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, John the Baptist, Jesus the Messiah, and Muhammad, who was the last Prophet. In all, 124,000 thousand prophets were sent to various peoples at various times.
In fundamental principles, the prophets never disagreed. They were sent to different peoples, at different times, in different regions. The last Prophet, Muhammad was sent to all humanity with the final message from Allah. Islam (which means Peace with and Submission to Allah) is the perfect code of life for all peoples in all places for all times to come.
We have not sent you (all of the prophets) but as a mercy unto all the worlds. – Quran 21:17
And we have not sent thee but as a universal messenger to announce and to warn. But most of the people do not understand. – Quran 34:28
The Perfect Statistic Score of the Quran!
All of the examples so far given concerning the various angles from which one can approach the | Qur’an have undoubtedly been subjective in nature; I however there does exist another angle, among others, which is objective and whose basis is mathematical. It is surprising how authentic the Qur’an becomes when one assembles what might be referred to as a list of good guesses. Mathematically, it can be explained using guessing and prediction examples. For instance, if a person has two choices (i.e., one is right, and one is wrong), and he closes his eyes and makes a choice, then half of the time (i.e., one time out of two) he will be right. Basically, he has a one in two chance, for he could pick the wrong choice, or he could pick the right choice. Now if the same person has two situations like that (i.e., he could be right or wrong about situation number one, and he could be right or wrong about situation number two), and he closes his eyes and guesses, then he will only be right one fourth of the time (i.e., one time out of four). He now has a one in four chance because now there are three ways for him to be wrong and only one way for him to be right. In simple terms, he could make the wrong choice in situation number one and then make the wrong choice in situation number two; OR he could make the wrong choice in situation number one and then make the right choice in situation number two; OR he could make the right choice in situation number one and then make the wrong choice in situation number two; OR he could make the right choice in situation number one and then make the right choice in situation number two. Of course, the(only instance in which he could be totally right is the last scenario where he could guess correctly in both situations. The odds of his guessing completely correctly have become greater because the number of situations for him to guess in have increased; and the mathematical equation representing such a scenario is 1/2 x 1/2 (i.e., one time out of two for the first situation multiplied by one time out of two for the second situation).
Continuing on with the example, if the same person now has three situations in which to make blind guesses, then he will only be right one eighth of the time (i.e., one time out of eight or 1/2 X 1/2 X 1/2). Again, the odds of choosing the correct choice in all three situations have decreased his chances of being completely correct to only one time in eight. It must be understood that as the number of situations increase, the chances of being right decrease, for the two phenomena are inversely proportional.
Now applying this example to the situations in the Qur’an, if one draws up a list of all of the subjects about which the Qur’an has made correct statements, it becomes very clear that it is highly unlikely that they were all just correct blind guesses. Indeed, the subjects discussed in the Qur’an are numerous, and thus the odds of someone just making lucky guesses about all of them become practically nil. If there are a million ways for the Qur’an to be wrong, yet each time it is right, then it is unlikely that someone was guessing. The following three examples of subjects about which the Qur’an has made correct statements collectively illustrate how the Qur’an continues to beat the odds.
In the 16th chapter the Qur’an mentions that the female bee leaves its home to gather food. Now, a person might guess on that, saying, “The bee that you see flying around – it could be male, or it could be female. I think I will guess female.” Certainly, he has a one in two chance of being right. So it happens that the Qur’an is right. But it also happens that was not what most people believed at the time when the Qur’an was revealed. Can you tell the difference between a male and a female bee? Well, it takes a specialist to do that, but it has been discovered that the male bee never leaves his home to gather food. However, in Shakespeare’s play, Henry the Fourth, some of the characters discuss bees and mention that the bees are soldiers and have a king. That is what people thought in Shakespeare’s time – that the bees that one sees flying around are male bees and that they go home and answer to a king. However, that is not true at all. The fact is that they are females, and they answer to a queen. Yet it took modern scientific investigations in the last 300 years to discover that this is the case.
So, back to the list of good guesses, concerning the topic of bees, the Qur’an had a 50/50 chance of being right, and the odds were one in two.
In addition to the subject of bees, the Qur’an also discusses the sun and the manner in which it travels through space. Again, a person can guess on that subject. When the sun moves through space, there are two options: it can travel just as a stone would travel if one threw it, or it can move of its own accord. The Qur’an states the latter – that it moves as a result of its own motion. To do such, the Qur’an uses a form of the word sabaha to describe the sun’s movement through space. In order to properly provide the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the implications of this Arabic verb, the following example is given. If a man is in water and the verb sabaha is applied in reference to his movement, it can be understood that he is swimming, moving of his own accord and not as a result of a direct force applied to him. Thus when this verb is used in reference to the sun’s movement through space, it in no way implies that the sun is flying uncontrollably through space as a result of being hurled or the like. It simply means that the sun is turning and rotating as it travels. Now, this is what the Qur’an affirms, but was it an easy thing to discover? Can any common man tell that the sun is turning? Only in modern times was the equipment made available to project the image of the sun onto a tabletop so that one could look at it without being blinded. And through this process it was discovered that not only are there three spots on the sun but that these spots move once every 25 days. This movement is referred to as the rotation of the sun around its axis and conclusively proves that, as the Qur’an stated 1400 years ago, the sun does, indeed turn as it travels through space.
And returning once again to the subject of good guess, the odds of guessing correctly about both subjects – the sex of bees and the movement of the sun – are one in four!
Seeing as back fourteen centuries ago people probably did not understand much about time zones, the Quran’s statements about this subject are considerably surprising. The concept that one family is having breakfast as the sun comes up while another family is enjoying the brisk night air is truly something to be marveled at, even in modern time. Indeed, fourteen centuries ago, a man could not travel more than thirty miles in one day, and thus it took him literally months to travel from India to Morocco, for example. And probably , when he was having supper in Morocco, he thought to himself, “Back home in India they are having supper right now.” This is because he did not realize that, in the process of traveling, he moved across a time zone. Yet, because it is the words of Allah, the All-Knowing, the Qur’an recognizes and acknowledges such a phenomenon. In an interesting verse it states that when history comes to an end and the Day of Judgment arrives, it will all occurring in an instant; and this very instant will catch some people in the daytime and some people at night. This clearly illustrates Allah’s divine wisdom and His previous knowledge of the existence of time zones, even though such a discovery was non-existent back fourteen centuries ago. Certainly, this phenomenon is not something which is obvious to one’s eyes or a result of one’s experience, and this fact, in itself, suffices as proof of the Qur’ans authenticity.
Returning one final time to the subject of good guesses for the purpose of the present example, the odds that someone guessed correctly about all three of the aforementioned subjects – the sex of bees, the movement of the sun and the existence of time zones – are one in eight!
Certainly, one could continue on and on with this example, drawing up longer and longer list of good guesses; and of course, the odds would become higher and higher with each increase of subjects about which one could guess. But what no one can deny is the following; the odds that Mohammed an illiterate, guessed correctly about thousands and thousands of subjects, never once making a mistake, are so high that any theory of his authorship of the Qur’an must be completely dismissed – even by the most hostile enemies of Islam!
Indeed, the Qur’an expects this kind of challenge. Undoubtedly, if one said to someone upon entering a foreign land, “I know your father. I have met him,” probably the man from that land would doubt the newcomer’s word, saying, “You have just come here. How could you know my father?” As a result, he would question him, “Tell me, is my father tall, short, dark, fair? What is he like?” Of course, if the visitor continued answering all of the questions correctly, the skeptic would have no choice but to say, “I guess you do know my father. I don’t know how you know him, but I guess you do!” The situation is the same with the Qur’an. It states that it originates from the One who created everything. So everyone has the right to say, “Convince me! If the author of this book really originated life and everything in the heavens and on the earth, then He should know about this, about that, and so on.” And inevitably, after researching the Qur’an, everyone will discover the same truths. Additionally, we all know something for sure: we do not all have to be experts to verify what the Qur’an affirms. One’s iman (faith) grows as one continues to check and confirm the truths contained in the Qur’an. And one is supposed to do so all of his life.
May God (Allah) guide everyone closer to the truth.
An interesting characteristic of the Qur’an is how it deals with surprising phenomena which relate not only to the past but to modern times as well. In essence, the Qur’an is not and old problem. It is still a problem even today – a problem to the non-Muslims that is. For everyday, every week, every year brings more and more evidence that the Qur’an is a force to be contended with – that its authenticity is no longer to be challenged! For example, one verse in the Qur’an reads:
“Do not the unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together, then We clove them asunder, and made from water every living thing? Will they not then believe?”
Ironically, this very information is exactly what they awarded the 1973 Noble Prize for – to a couple of unbelievers. The Qur’an reveals the origin of the universe – how it began from one piece – and mankind continues to verify this revelation, even up to now. Additionally, the fact that all life originated from water would not have been an easy thing to convince people of fourteen centuries ago. Indeed, if 1400 years ago you had stood in the desert and told someone, “All of this, you see (pointing to yourself), is made up of mostly water,” no one would have believed you. Proof of that was not available until the invention of the microscope. They had to wait to find out that cytoplasm, the basic substance of the cell, is made-up of 80% water. Nonetheless, the evidence did come, and once again the Qur’an stood the test of time. In reference to the falsification tests mentioned earlier, it is interesting to note that they, too, relate to both the past and the present. Some of them were used as illustrations of Allah’s omnipotence and knowledge, while others continue to stand as challenges to the present day. An example of the former is the statement made in the Qur’an about Abu Lahab. It clearly illustrates that Allah, the Knower of the Unseen, knew that Abu Lahab would never change his ways and accept Islam. Thus Allah dictated that he would be condemned to the Hellfire forever. Such a chapter was both an illustration of Allah’s divine wisdom and a warning to those who were like Abu Lahab.
An interesting example of the latter type of falsification tests contained in the Qur’an is the verse which mentions the relationship between the Muslims and the Jews. The verse is careful not to narrow its scope to the relationship between individual members of each religion, but rather, it summarizes the relationship between the two groups of people as a whole. In essence, the Qur’an states that the Christians will always treat the Muslims better than the Jews will treat the Muslims. Indeed, the full impact of such a statement can only be felt after careful consideration of the real meaning of such a verse. It is true that many Christians and many Jews have become Muslims, but as a whole, the Jewish community is to be viewed as an avid enemy of Islam. Additionally, very few people realize what such an open declaration in the Qur’an invites. In essence, it is an easy chance for the Jews to prove that the Qur’an is false – that it is not a divine revelation. All they have to do is organize themselves, treat the Muslims nicely for a few years and then say, “Now what does your holy book say about who are your best friends in the world – the Jews or the Christians? Look what we Jews have done for you!” That is all they have to do to disprove the Qur’an’s authenticity, yet they have not done it in 1400 years. But, as always, the offer still stands open!
In an article under the subject of the Qur’an, the Catholic Church states, “Over the centuries, many theories have been offered as to the origin of the Qur’an… Today no sensible man accepts any of these theories.”!! Now here is the age-old Catholic Church, which has been around for so many centuries, denying these futile attempts to explain away the Qur’an. Indeed, the Qur’an is a problem for the Catholic Church. It states that it is revelation, so they study it. Certainly, they would love to find proof that it is not, but they cannot. They cannot find a viable explanation. But at least they are honest in their research and do not accept the first unsubstantiated interpretation which comes along. The Church states that in fourteen centuries it has not yet been presented a sensible explanation. At least it admits that the Qur’an is not an easy subject to dismiss. Certainly, other people are much less honest. They quickly say, “Oh, the Qur’an came from here. The Qur’an came from there.” And they do not even examine the credibility of what they are stating most of the time. Of course, such a statement by the Catholic Church leaves the everyday Christian in some difficulty. It just may be that he has his own ideas as to the origin of the Qur’an, but as a single member of the Church, he cannot really act upon his own theory. Such an action would be contrary to the obedience, allegiance and loyalty which the Church demands. By virtue of his membership, he must accept what the Catholic Church declares without question and establish its teachings as part of his everyday routine. So, in essence, if the Catholic Church as a whole is saying, “Do not listen to these unconfirmed reports about the Qur’an,” then what can be said about the Islamic point of view? Even non-Muslims are admitting that there is something to the Qur’an – something that has to be acknowledged – then why are people so stubborn and defensive and hostile when Muslims advance the very same theory? This is certainly something for those with mind to contemplate – something to ponder for those of understanding!
Recently, the leading intellectual in the Catholic Church – a man by the name of Hans – studied the Qur’an and gave his opinion of what he had read. This man has been around for some time, and he is highly respected in the Catholic Church, and after careful scrutiny, he reported his findings, concluding, “God has spoken to man through the man, Muhammad.” Again this is a conclusion arrived at by a non-Muslim source – the very leading intellectual of the Catholic Church himself! I do not think that the Pope agrees with him, but nonetheless, the opinion of such a noted, repute public figure must carry some weight in defense of the Muslim position. He must be applauded for facing the reality that the Qur’an is not something which can be easily pushed aside and that, in fact God is the source of these words. As is evident from the aforementioned information, all of the possibilities have been exhausted, so the chance of finding another possibility of dismissing the Qur’an is nonexistent. For if the book is not a revelation, then it is a deception; and if it is a deception, one must ask, “What is its origin” And where does it deceive us?” Indeed, the true answers to these questions shed light on the Qur’an’s authenticity and silence the bitter unsubstantiated claims of the unbelievers. Certainly, if people are going to insist that the Qur’an is a deception, then they must bring forth evidence to support such a claim. The burden of proof is on them, not us! One is never supposed to advance a theory without sufficient corroborating facts; so I say to them, “Show me one deception! Show me where the Qur’an deceives me! Show me, otherwise, don’t say that it is a deception!”
About seven years ago, I had a minister over to my home. In the particular room which we were sitting there was a Qur’an on the table, face down, and so the minister was not aware of which book it was. In the midst of a discussion, I pointed to the Qur’an and said, “I have confidence in that book.” Looking at the Qur’an but not knowing which book it was, he replied, “Well, I tell you, if that book is not the Bible, it was written by a man!” In response to his statement, I said, “Let me tell you something about what is in that book.” And in just three to four minutes I related to him a few things contained in the Qur’an. After just those three or four minutes, he completely changed his position and declared, “You are right. A man did not write that book. The Devil wrote it!” Indeed, possessing such an attitude is very unfortunate – for many reasons. For one thing, it is a very quick and cheap excuse. It is an instant exit out of an uncomfortable situation. As a matter of fact, there is a famous story in the Bible that mentions how one day some of the Jews were witnesses when Jesus raised a man from the dead. The man had been dead for four days, and when Jesus arrived, he simply said, “Get up!” and the man arose and walked away. At such a sight, some of the Jews who were watching said disbelievingly, “This is the Devil. The Devil helped him!” Now this story is rehearsed often in churches all over the world, and people cry big tears over it, saying, “Oh, if I had been there, I would not have been as stupid as the Jews!” Yet ironically, these people do exactly what the Jews did when in just three minutes you show them only a small part of the Qur’an and all they can say is, “Oh, the Devil did it. The devil wrote that book!”. Because they are truly backed into a corner and have no other viable answer, they resort to the quickest and cheapest excuse available. Another Example of people’s use of this weak stance can be found in the Makkans’ explanation of the source of Muhammed’s message. They used to say, “The devils bring Muhammad that Qur’an!” But just as with every other suggestion made, the Qur’an gives the answer. One verse in particular states:
“And they say, ‘Surely he is possessed [by jinn], ‘but it [i.e., the Qur'an] is not except a reminder to the worlds.”
Thus it gives an argument in reply to such a theory. In fact, there are many arguments in the Qur’an in reply to the suggestion that devils brought Muhammad (SAWA) his message. For example, in the 26th chapter Allah clearly affirms:
“No evil ones have brought it [i.e., this revelation] down. It would neither be fitting for them, nor would they be able. Indeed they have been removed far from hearing.”
And in another place in the Qur’an, Allah instructs us:
“So when you recite the Qur’an seek refuge in Allah from Shaytaan, the rejected.”
Now is this how Satan writes a book? He tells one, “Before you read my book, ask God to save you from me.”? This is very, very tricky. Indeed, a man could write something like this, but would Satan do this? Many people clearly illustrate that they cannot come to one conclusion on this subject. On one hand, they claim that Satan would not do such a thing and that even if he could, God would not allow him to; yet, on the other hand, they also believe that Satan is only that much less than God. In essence they allege that the Devil can probably do whatever God can do. And as a result, when they look at the Qur’an, even as surprised as they are as to how amazing it is, they still insist, “The Devil did this!” Thanks be to Allah, Muslims do not have that attitude. Although Satan may have some abilities, they are a long way separated from the abilities of Allah. And no Muslim is a Muslim unless he believes that. It is common knowledge even among non-Muslims that the Devil can easily make mistakes, and it would be expected that he would contradict himself if and when he wrote a book. For indeed, the Qur’an states:
“Do they not consider the Qur’an? Had it been from any other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.”
In conjunction with the excuses that non-Muslims advance in futile attempts to justify unexplainable verses in the Qur’an, there is another attack often rendered which seems to be a combination of the theories that Muhammad (SAWA) was crazy and a liar. Basically, these people propose that Muhammad was insane, and as a result of his delusion, he lied to and misled people. There is a name for this in psychology. It is referred to as mythomania. It means simply that one tells lies and then believes them. This is what the non-Muslims say Muhammad (SAWA) suffered from. But the only problem with this proposal is that one suffering from mythomania absolutely cannot deal with facts, and yet the whole Qur’an is based entirely upon facts. Everything contained in it can be researched and established as true. Since facts are such a problem for a mythomaniac, when a psychologist tries to treat one suffering from that condition, he continually confronts him with facts. For example, if one is mentally ill and claims, “I am the king of England,” a psychologist does not say to him “No you aren’t. You are crazy!” He just does not do that. Rather, he confronts him with facts and says, “O.K., you say you are the king of England. So tell me where the queen is today. And where is your prime minister? And where are your guards?” Now, when the man has trouble trying to deal with these questions, he tries to make excuses, saying Uh… the queen… she has gone to her mother’s. Uh… the prime minister… well he died.” And eventually he is cured because he cannot deal with the facts. If the psychologist continues confronting him with enough facts, finally he faces the reality and says, “I guess I am not the king of England.” The Qur’an approaches everyone who reads it in very much the same way a psychologist treats his mythomania patient. There is a verse in the Qur’an which states:
“Oh mankind, there has come to you an admonition [i.e., the Qur'an] from your Lord and a healing for what is in the hearts – and guidance and mercy for the believers.”
At first glance, this statement appears vague, but the meaning of this verse is clear when one views it in light of the aforementioned example. Basically, one is healed of his delusions by reading the Qur’an. In essence, it is therapy. It literally cures deluded people by confronting them with facts. A prevalent attitude throughout the Qur’an is one which says, “Oh mankind, you say such and such about this; but what about such and such? How can you say this when you know that?” And so forth. It forces one to consider what is relevant and what matters while simultaneously healing one of the delusions that the facts presented to mankind by Allah can easily be explained away with flimsy theories and excuses. It is this very sort of thing – confronting people with facts – that had captured the attention of many non-Muslims. In fact, there exists a very interesting reference concerning this subject in the New Catholic Encyclopedia.
As has already been mentioned, there is much information contained in the Qur’an whose source cannot be attributed to anyone other than Allah. For example, who told Muhammad about the wall of Dhul-Qarnayn – a place hundreds of miles to the north? Who told him about embryology? When people assemble facts such as these, if they are not willing to attribute their existence to a divine source, they automatically resort to the assumption someone brought Muhammad the information and that he used it to fool the people. However, this theory can easily be disproved with one simple question: “If Muhammad was a liar, where did he get his confidence? Why did he tell some people out right to their face what others could never say?” Such confidence depends completely upon being convinced that one has a true divine revelation. For example, the Prophet (SAWA) had an uncle by the name of Abu Lahab. This man hated Islam to such an extent that he used to follow the Prophet around in order to discredit him. If Abu Lahab saw the Prophet (SAWA) speaking to a stranger, he would wait until they parted and then would go to the stranger and ask him, “What did he tell you? Did he say, ‘Black.’? Well, it’s white. Did he say, ‘Morning.’? Well, it’s night.” He faithfully said the exact opposite of whatever he heard Muhammad (SAWA) and the Muslims say. However, about ten years before Abu Lahab died, a little chapter in the Qur’an was revealed to him. It distinctly stated that he would go to the Fire (i.e., Hell). In other words, it affirmed that he would never become a Muslim and would therefore be condemned forever. For ten years all Abu Lahab had to do was say, “I heard that it has been revealed to Muhammad that I will never change – that I will never become a Muslim and will enter the Hellfire. Well I want to become a Muslim now. How do you like that? What do you think of your divine revelation now?” But he never did that. And yet, that is exactly the kind of behavior one would have expected from him since he always sought to contradict Islam. In essence, Muhammad (SAWA) said, “You hate me and you want to finish me? Here, say these words, and I am finished. Come on, say them!” But Abu Lahab never said them. Ten years! And in all that time he never accepted Islam or even became sympathetic to the Islamic cause. How could Muhammad possibly have known for sure that Abu Lahab would fulfill the Qur’anic revelation if he (i.e., Muhammad) was not truly the messenger of Allah? How could he possibly have been so confident as to give someone 10 years to discredit his claim of Prophethood? The only answer is that he was Allah’s messenger; for in order to put forth suck a risky challenge, one has to be entirely convinced that he has a divine revelation.
Another example of the confidence which Muhammad (SAWA) had in his own Prophethood and consequently in the divine protection of himself and his message is when he left Makkah and hid in a cave with Abu Bakr during their emigration to Madeenah. The two clearly saw people coming to kill them, and Abu Bakr was afraid. Certainly, if Muhammad (SAWA) was a liar, a forger and one who was trying to fool the people into believing that he was a prophet, one would have expected him to say in such a circumstance to his friend, “Hey, Abu Bakr, see if you can find a back way out of this cave.” Or “Squat down in that corner over there and keep quiet.” Yet, in fact, what he said to Abu Bakr clearly illustrated his confidence. He told him, “Relax! Allah is with us, and Allah will save us!”
Now, if one knows that he is fooling the people, where does one get this kind of attitude? In fact, such a frame of mind is not characteristic of a liar or a forger at all. So, as has been previously mentioned, the non-Muslims go around and around in a circle, searching for a way out – some way to explain the findings in the Qur’an without attributing them to their proper source. On one hand, they tell you on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, “The man was a liar,” and on the other hand, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday they tell you, “He was crazy.” What they refuse to accept is that one cannot have it both ways; yet they refuse to accept is that one cannot have it both ways; yet they need both excuses to explain the information in the Qur’an.
The real certainty about the truthfulness of the Qur’an is evident in the confidence which is prevalent throughout it; and this confidence comes from a different approach – “Exhausting the Alternatives.” In essence, the Qur’an states, “This book is a divine revelation; if you do not believe that, then what is it?” In other words, the reader is challenged to come up with some other explanation. Here is a book made of paper and ink. Where did it come from? It says it is a divine revelation; if it is not, then what is its source? The interesting fact is that no one has with an explanation that works. In fact, all alternatives have bee exhausted. As has been well established by non-Muslims, these alternatives basically are reduces to two mutually exclusive schools of thought, insisting on one or the other. On one hand, there exists a large group of people who have researched the Qur’an for hundreds of years and who claim, “One thing we know for sure – that man, Muhammad, thought he was a prophet. He was crazy!” They are convinced that Muhammad (SAWA) was fooled somehow. Then on the other hand, there is another group which alleges, “Because of this evidence, one thing we know for sure is that that man, Muhammad, was a liar!” Ironically, these two groups never seem to get together without contradicting. In fact, many references on Islam usually claim both theories. They start out by saying that Muhammad (SAWA) was crazy and then end by saying that he was a liar. They never seem to realize that he could not have been both!
For example, if one is deluded and really thinks that he is a prophet, then he does not sit up late at night planning, “How will I fool the people tomorrow so that they think I am a prophet?” He truly believes that he is a prophet, and he trusts that the answer will be given to him by revelation. As a matter of fact, a great deal of the Qur’an came in answer to questions. Someone would ask Muhammad (SAWA) a question, and the revelation would come with the answer to it. Certainly, if one is crazy and believes that an angel put words in his ear, then when someone asks him a question, he thinks that the angel will give him the answer. Because he is crazy, he really thinks that. He does not tell someone to wait a short while and then run to his friends and ask them, “Does anyone know the answer?” This type of behavior is characteristic of one who does not believe that he is a prophet. What the non-Muslims refuse to accept is that you cannot have it both ways. One can be deluded, or he can be a liar. He can be either one or neither, but he certainly cannot be both! The emphasis is on the fact that they are unquestionably mutually exclusive personal traits.
The following scenario is a good example of the kind of circle that non-Muslims go around in constantly. If you ask one of them, “What is the origin of the Qur’an?” He tells you that it originated from the mind of a man who was crazy. Then you ask him, “If it came from his head, then where did he get the information contained in it? Certainly the Qur’an mentions many things with which the Arabs were not familiar.” So in order to explain the fact which you bring him, he changes his position and says, “Well, maybe he was not crazy. Maybe some foreigner brought him the information. So he lied and told people that he was a prophet.” At this point then you have to ask him, “If Muhammad was a liar, then where did he get his confidence? Why did he behave as though he really thought he was a prophet?” Finally backed into a corner, like a cat he quickly lashes out with the first response that comes to his mind. Forgetting that he has already exhausted that possibility, he claims, “Well, maybe he wasn’t a liar. He was probably crazy and really thought that he was a prophet.” And thus he begins the futile circle again.
Since there are a vast number subjects discussed in the Qur’an, it would certainly require a large amount of time to exhaust each subject. It suffices for the purpose of this discussion to state that the Qur’an makes very clear and concise statements about various subjects while simultaneously advising the reader to verify the authenticity of these statements with research by scholars in those subjects. And as illustrated by the Qur’an has clearly emerged authentic. Undoubtedly, there is an attitude in the Qur’an which is not found anywhere else. It is interesting how when the Qur’an provides information, it often tells the reader, “You did not know this before.” Indeed, there is no scripture that exists which makes that claim. All of the other ancient writings and scriptures that people have, do give a lot of information, but they always state where the information came from.
For example, when the Bible discusses ancient history, it states that this king lived here, this one fought in a certain battle, another one had so may sons, etc. Yet it always stipulates that if you want more information, then you should read the book of so and so because that is where the information came from. In contrast to this concept, the Qur’an provides the reader with information and states that this information is something new. Of course, there always exists the advice to research the information provided and verify its authenticity. It is interesting that such a concept was never challenged by non-Muslims fourteen centuries ago. Indeed, the Makkans who hated the Muslims, and time and time again they heard such revelations claiming to bring new information; yet, they never spoke up and said, “This is not new. We know where Muhammad got this information. We learned this at school.”
They could never challenge its authenticity because it really was new! In concurrence with the advice given in the Qur’an to research information (even if it is new), when ‘Umar was caliph, he chose a group of men and sent them to find the wall of Dhul-Qarnayn. Before the Qur’anic revelation, the Arabs had never heard of such a wall, but because the Qur’an described it, they were able to discover it. As a matter of fact, it is now located in what is called Durbend in the Soviet Union. It must be stressed here that the Qur’an is accurate about many, many things, but accuracy does not necessarily mean that a book is a divine revelation. In fact, accuracy is only one of the criteria for divine revelations.
For instance, the telephone book is accurate, but that does not mean that it is divinely revealed. The real problem lies in that one must establish some proof of the source the Qur’an’s information. The emphasis is on the reader. One cannot simply deny the Qur’an’s authenticity without sufficient proof. If, indeed, one finds a mistake, then he has the right to disqualify it. This is exactly what the Qur’an encourages. Once a man came up to me after a lecture I delivered in South Africa. He was very angry about what I had said, and so he claimed, “I am going to go home tonight and find a mistake in the Qur’an.” Of course, I said, “Congratulations. That is the most intelligent thing that you have said.” Certainly, this is the approach Muslims need to take with those who doubt the Qur’an’s authenticity, because the Qur’an itself offers the same challenge. An inevitably, after accepting it’s challenge and discovering that it is true, these people will come to believe it because they could not disqualify it. In essence, the Qur’an earns their respect because they themselves have had to verify its authenticity. An essential fact that cannot be reiterated enough concerning the authenticity of the Qur’an is that one’s inability to explain a phenomenon himself does not require his acceptance of the phenomenon’s existence or another person’s explanation of it.
Specifically, just because one cannot explain something does not mean that one has to accept someone else’s explanation. However, the person’s refusal of other explanations reverts the burden of proof back on himself to find a feasible answer. This general theory applies to numerous concepts in life, but fits most wonderfully with the Qur’anic challenge, for it creates a difficulty for one who says, “I do not believe it.” At the onset of refusal one immediately has an obligation to find an explanation himself if he feels others’ answers are inadequate. In fact, in one particular Qur’anic verse which I have always seen mistranslated into English, Allah mentions a man who heard the truth explained to him. It states that he was derelict in his duty because after he heard the information, he left without checking the verity of what he had heard. In other words, one is guilty if he hears something and does not research it and check to see whether it is true. One is supposed to process all information and decide what is garbage to be thrown out and what is worthwhile information to be kept and benefited from at a later date. One cannot just let it rattle around in his head. It must be put in the proper categories and approached from that point of view. For example, if the information is still speculatory, then one must discern whether it’s closer to being true or false. But if all of the facts have been presented, then one must decide absolutely between these two options. And even if one is not positive about the authenticity of the information, he is still required to process all of the information and make the admission that he just does not know for sure. Although this last point appears to be futile, in actuality, it is beneficial to the arrival at a positive conclusion at a later time in that it forces the person to at least recognize, research and review the facts. This familiarity with the information will give the person “the edge” when future discoveries are made and additional information is presented. The important thing is that one deals with the facts and does not simply discard them out of empathy and disinterest.
Yet in every age there have been Muslims who have followed the advice of the Qur’an and made surprising discoveries. If one looks to the works of Muslim scientists if many centuries ago, one will find them full of quotations from the Qur’an. These works state that they did research in such a place, looking for something. And they affirm that the reason they looked in such and such a place was that the Qur’an pointed them in that direction. For example, the Qur’an mentions man’s origin and then tells the reader, “Research it!” It gives the reader a hint where to look and then states that one should find out more about it. This is the kind of thing that Muslims today largely seem to overlook – but not always, as illustrated in the following example. A few years ago, a group of men in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia collected all if the verses in the Qur’an which discuss embryology – the growth of the human being in the womb. They said, “Here is what the Qur’an says. Is it the truth?” In essence, they took the advice of the Qur’an: “Ask the men who know.” They chose, as it happened, a non-Muslim who is a professor of embryology at the University of Toronto. His name is Keith Moore, and he is the author of textbooks on embryology – a world expert on the subject. They invited him to Riyadh and said, “This is what the Qur’an says about your subject. Is it true? What can you tell us?” While he was in Riyadh, they gave him all of the help that he needed in translation and all of the cooperation for which he asked. And he was so surprised at what he found that he changed his textbooks. In fact, in the second edition of one of his books, called Before we are born… in the second edition about the history of embryology, he included some material that was not in the first edition because of what he found in the Qur’an. Truly this illustrates that the Qur’an was ahead of its time and that those who believe in the Qur’an know what other people do not know.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Keith Moore for a television presentation, and we talked a great deal about this – it was illustrated by slides and so on. He mentioned that some of the things that the Qur’an states about the growth of the human being were not known until thirty years ago. In fact, he said that one item in particular – the Qur’an’s description of the human being as a “leech-like clot” (‘alaqah) at one stage – was new to him; but when he checked on it, he found that it was true, and so he added it to his book. He said, “I never thought of that before,” and he went to the zoology department and asked for a picture of a leech. When he found that it looked just like the human embryo, he decided to include both pictures in one of his textbooks. Dr. Moore also wrote a book on clinical embryology, and when he presented this information in Toronto, it caused quite a stir throughout Canada. It was on the front pages of some of the newspapers across Canada, and some of the headlines were quite funny. For instance, one headline read: “SURPRISING THING FOUND IN ANCIENT BOOK!”! It seems obvious from this example that people do not clearly understand what it is all about. As a matter of fact, one newspaper reporter asked Professor Moore, “Don’t you think That maybe the Arabs might have known about these things – the description of the embryo, its appearance and how it changes and grows? Maybe there were not scientists, but maybe they did something crude dissections on their own – carved up people and examined these things.”
The professor immediately pointed out to him that he [i.e., the reporter] had missed a very important point – all of the slides of the embryo that had been shown and had been projected in the film had come from pictures taken through a microscope. He said, “It does not matter if someone had tried to discover embryology fourteen centuries ago, they could not have seen it!”. All of the descriptions in the Qur’an of the appearance of the embryo are of the item when it is still too small to see with the eye; therefore, one needs a microscope to see it. Since such a device had only been around for little more than two hundred years, Dr. Moore taunted, “Maybe fourteen centuries ago someone secretly had a microscope and did this research, making no mistakes anywhere. Then he somehow taught Muhammad and convinced him to put this information in his book. Then he destroyed his equipment and kept it a secret forever. Do you believe that? You really should not unless you bring some proof because it is such a ridiculous theory.” In fact, when he was asked “How do you explain this information in the Qur’an?” Dr. Moore’s reply was, “It could only have been divinely revealed.”!
Although the aforementioned example of man researching information contained in the Qur’an deals with a non-Muslim, it is still valid because he is one of those who is knowledgeable in the subject being researched. Had some layman claimed that what the Qur’an says about embryology is true, then one would not necessarily have to accept his word. However, because of the high position, respect, and esteem man gives scholars, one naturally assumes that if they research a subject and arrive at a conclusion based on that research, then the conclusion is valid. One of Professor Moore’s colleagues, Marshall Johnson, deals extensively with geology at the University of Toronto. He became very interested in the fact that the Qur’an’s statements about embryology are accurate, and so he asked Muslims to collect everything contained in the Qur’an which deals with his specialty. Again people were very surprised at the findings.
A truly scientific approach to the Qur’an is possible because the Qur’an offers something that is not offered by other religious scriptures, in particular, and other religions, in general. It is what scientists demand. Today there are many people who have ideas and theories about how the universe works. These people are all over the place, but the scientific community does not even bother to listen to them. This is because within the last century the scientific community has demanded a test of falsification. They say, “If you have theory, do not bother us with it unless you bring with that theory a way for us to prove whether you are wrong or not.”
Such a test was exactly why the scientific community listened to Einstein towards the beginning of the century. He came with a new theory and said, “I believe the universe works like this; and here are three ways to prove whether I am wrong!”. So the scientific community subjected his theory to the tests, and within six years it passed all three. Of course, this does not prove that he was great, but it proves that he deserved to be listened to because he said, “This is my idea; and if you want to try to prove me wrong, do this or try that.” This is exactly what the Qur’an has – falsification tests. Some are old (in that they have already been proven true), and some still exist today. Basically it states, “If this book is not what it claims to be, then all you have to do is this or this or this to prove that it is false.” Of course, in 1400 years no one has been able to do “This or this or this, ” and thus it is still considered true and authentic. I suggest to you that the next time you get into dispute with someone about Islam and he claims that he has the truth and that you are in darkness, you leave all other arguments at first and make this suggestion. Ask him, “Is there any falsification test in your religion? Is there anything in your religion that would prove you are wrong if I could prove to you that it exists – anything?” Well, I can promise right now that people will not have anything – no test, no proof, nothing! This is because they do not carry around the idea that they should not only present what they believe but should also offer others a chance to prove they’re wrong. However, Islam does that. A perfect example of how Islam provides man with a chance to verify it authenticity and “prove it wrong” occurs in the 4th chapter. And quiet honestly, I was surprised when I first discovered this challenge. It states:
“Do they not consider the Qur’an? Had it been from any other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.”
This is a clear challenge to the non-Muslim.Basically, it invites him to find a mistake. As a matter of fact, the seriousness and difficulty of the challenge aside, the actual presentation of such a challenge in the first place is not even in human nature and is inconsistent with man’s personality. One doesn’t take an exam in school after finishing the exam, write a note to the instructor at the end saying, “This exam is perfect. There are no mistakes in it. Find one if you can!”. One just doesn’t do that. The teacher would not sleep until he found a mistake! And yet this is the way the Qur’an approaches people. Another interesting attitude that exists in the Qur’an repeatedly deals with its advice to the reader. The Qur’an informs that reader about different facts and then gives the advice: “If you want to know more about this or that, or if you doubt what is said, then you should ask those who have knowledge.” This too is a surprising attitude. It is not usual to have a book that comes from someone without training in geography, botany, biology, etc., who discusses these subjects and then advises the reader to ask men of knowledge if he doubts anything.
If one assumes that the Qur’an is the product of a man’s mind, then one would expect it to reflect some of what was going on in the mind of the man who “composed” it. In fact, certain encyclopedias and various books clam that the Qur’an was the product of hallucinations that Muhammed underwent. If these claims are true – if it indeed originated from some psychological problems in Muhammed’s mind – then evidence of this would be apparent in the Qur’an. Is there such evidence? In order to determine whether or not there is, one must first identify what things would have been going on in his mind at that time and then search for these thoughts and reflections in the Qur’an.
It is common knowledge that Muhammad had a very difficult life. All of his daughters died before him except one, and he had a wife of several years who was dear and important to him, who not only proceeded him in death at a very critical period of his life. As a matter of fact, she must have been quite a woman because when the first revelation came to him, he ran home to her afraid. Certainly, even today one would have a hard time trying to find an Arab who would tell you, “I was so afraid that I ran home to my wife.” They just aren’t that way. Yet Muhammed felt comfortable enough with his wife to be able to do that. That’s how influential and strong woman she was. Although these examples are only a few of the subjects that would have been on Muhammed’s mind, they are sufficient in intensity to prove my point. The Qur’an does not mention any of these things – not the death of his children, not the death of his beloved companion and wife, not his fear of the initial revelations, which he so beautifully shared with his wife – nothing; yet, these topics must have hurt him, bothered him, and caused him pain and grief during periods of his psychological reflections, then these subjects, as well as others, would be prevalent or at least mentioned throughout.
Another example of what one might expect to find in an”old book” that touches upon the subject of health or medicine is outdated remedies or cures. Various historical sources state that the Prophet gave some advice about health and hygiene, yet most of these pieces of advice are not contained in the Qur’an. At first glance, to the non-Muslims this appears to be a negligent omission. They cannot understand why Allah would not “include” such helpful information in the Qur’an. Some Muslims attempt to explain this absence with the following argument: “Although the Prophet’s advice was sound and applicable to the time in which he lived, Allah, in His infinite wisdom, knew that there would come later medical and scientific advances which would make the Prophet’s advice appear outdated. When later discoveries occurred, people might say that such information contradicted that which the Prophet had given. Thus, since Allah would never allow any opportunity for the non-Muslims to claim that the Qur’an contradicts itself or the teachings of the Prophet, He only included in the Qur’an information and examples which could stand the test of time.”
However, when one examines the true realities of the Qur’an in terms of its existence as a divine revelation, the entire matter is quickly brought into its proper perspective, and the error in such argumentation becomes clear and understandable. It must be understood that the Qur’an is a divine revelation, and as such, all information in it is of divine origin. Allah revealed the Qur’an from Himself. It is the words of Allah, which existed before creation, and thus nothing can be added, subtracted or altered. In essence, the Qur’an existed and was complete before the creation of Prophet Muhammed, so it could not possibly contain any of the Prophet’s own words or advice. An inclusion of such information would clearly contradict the purpose for which the Qur’an exists, compromise its authority and render it inauthentic as a divine revelation.
Consequently, there was no “home remedies” in the Qur’an which one could claim to be outdated; nor does it contain any man’s view about what is beneficial to health, what food is best to eat, or what will cure this or that disease. In fact, the Qur’an only mentions one item dealing with medical treatment, and it is not in dispute by anyone. It states that in honey there is healing. And certainly, I do not think that there is anyone who will argue with that!
Transferring Islamic knowledge from Arabic to English has never been made easier.
Islamic media table at Rain Taxi book festival at the Fairgrounds 10/12/2013
Author: Joyce Slaughter
We can see that in some ways Qur’an can be compared to a Roman Catholic understanding of sacraments, especially the Eucharist. There are some ways in which the comparison falls short, however. Two key points come to mind: sacraments are meant to be communal celebrations and some sacraments are a means of initiation into the church, or Christian community.
Chauvet reminds us that the “agent of celebration (of the sacraments) is the church as understood in the primary meaning of the assembly.”1 It is Christ, in the person of the priest, who presides during the Eucharist. Since Christians are the “Body of Christ” they, too, are presiding“(T)he assembly is the active sacramental mediation of (Christ’s) his action”. In other words, according to many sacramental theologians, the entire community, priest and people, are necessary for sacramental action.
However, the believer does not need to read, recite, or meditate on the Qur’an communally for her to receive benefits. Some Islamic scholars teach that the Qur’an existed eternally with Allah. This eternal existence seems to preclude the requirement of the community being a necessity to the Qur’an’s existence.
Another difference is that sacraments, especially Baptism, are a means of initiation into the church, or Christian community. Even in infant baptism, the parents, godparents, as well as the entire community promise to nurture the child into adult faith. Chauvet claims sacraments are essential to Christian identity. “Every sacrament shows (Christians ) how to see and live what transforms our human existence into a properly Christian existence.”2
On the contrary, in Islam an infant does not need a rite to enter into the community of believers. Muslims believe everyone is born a Muslim. It is only our parents who change us into believers of another religion. The Quran says that Allah called forth all the souls of humanity from the loins of Adam to bear witness to Him and they all replied, “We bear witness.” It is the witness statement, or shahada, that is whispered into the ear of every newborn Muslim. It is this same statement that every convert to Islam proclaims to effect his conversion. All Muslims proclaim it in their daily prayers. “There is no god but God and Muhammad is his Messenger.” The Qur’an isn’t the port of entry into Islam.
In summary, Quran and sacraments are similar in that they both contain the divine presence, transform individuals and societies, and give new meaning to lives. Qur’an and sacraments are both signs of the sacred and they both have remembrance or memorial at their core.
I hope that you will be encouraged by this paper to engage in interfaith dialogue because I agree with Daniel Madigan of Georgetown University who says, “…one of the great values of our encounter with the other is to discover our particular identity.”3 To me this means that dialogues with “the other” will clarify and strengthen my own faith.
Author: Joyce Slaughter
Bernard Cooke attributes the transformation of humans, individually and communally to sacraments. Cooke explains that “God, dwelling with us, brings forth depths of personal growth that would not otherwise be possible… The reality of this relationship, as we increasingly accept it, provides a wisdom to guide us in the important decisions that shape our personhood and destiny… it leads to increasing personal relatedness to God and increasing personal transformation.” 1 It is logical to assume that as individuals are transformed their societies will be transformed as well.
Shah-Kazemi in writing of the sacred presence in the Qur’an says, “It is this element of presence which bestows upon all the other informative aspects of the text a dimension of transformative power. “ 2 Shaikh Muslim Bhanji in his book Towards a Better Understanding of the Qur’an, says the central theme of the Qur’an is the “training of the human being as a being conscious of his duties.”3… his duties towards Allah, his family, and society as a whole. The Qur’an in other words transforms the believer. Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib prays ““O Allah! Expand my breast with Qur’an, actuate my body with Qur’an, enlighten my sight with Qur’an, liberate my tongue by Qur’an, and help me to mould my life according to Qur’an, so long as You make me live”.4 The Imam prays that his whole being will be transformed by or even subsumed by the Qur’an. Al-Ghazali quotes Ali ibn Abi Talib on the importance of understanding and meditating on the Quran: “There is no good in a devotional act that is not understood, nor in Qur’an reading that is not pondered over.”5 While reciting the Qur’an will precipitate the descent of Allah upon the believers, understanding and pondering over it will help guide and transform their lives.
Bernard Cooke also discusses sacrament as a vehicle that delivers new meaning to life. He says our lives are interpreted through our experiences. Our key experiences, such as the death of a loved one, surviving a life threatening illness, or falling truly in love, are life-changing experiences. Cooke says “Sacrament is that which effects something by its significance. Sacrament, in other words, it that which gives a new meaning to things.” 6 Jesus’ life gave new meaning to Christians. He instituted the sacraments in part to allow them to experience this new life while living on earth.
Qur’an operated similarly in the life of the Prophet Mohammed. Ira Lepedius, Professor Emeritus of History at Berkley states in his book A History of Islamic Societies, “We see the Prophet as a man to whom the revelation has given a new direction in life. “ 7 The Qur’an changed a successful businessman, a trader in spices and other goods, into the dynamic leader of the new religion revealed by Allah. It led the Prophet to preach against the Quraysh, the tribe who controlled Mecca, the economic capital of Arabia. Their quest for wealth led them to neglect the tribal ethic of pre Islamic Arabia: care for the widows, orphans, and the poor. The Qur’an’s emphasis on the goodness and mercy of Allah lead the Prophet to challenge the Quraysh power structure.
The Qur’an not only gave new meaning to the life of the Prophet but to his followers as well. The Qur’an told believers to abandon the barbarous practices that had become endemic in their society and return to practicing justice towards all members of their society.
Let’s turn now to some of the other ways sacrament and Quran are similar: Qur’an and sacrament as sacred signs and as remembrance. We will then examine several significant ways in which they differ.
Sacraments are often defined as outward signs of an inward grace. In the 1950’s the Catholic catechism defined sacraments as “visible signs …(that) produce and increase grace in our souls.” 8 The Council of Trent defined a sacrament as a “symbol of something sacred, a visible form of invisible grace, having the power of sanctifying “ 9 Chauvet tells us that “the first characteristic of a sacrament is to be a ‘sacred sign’ or as Augustine said, ‘a sign of sacred reality.’ “ 10
You will recall that pondering over Chauvet’s definition of sacrament as a sacred sign opened up to me the possibility of comparing the Qur’an and sacraments. The “verses” in the Qur’an are called ayat or signs. One of the names by which the Qur’an is known is Al-Huda or The Guidance. Just as road signs guide us to our destination, Al-Huda guides the Muslim to her ultimate destination, heaven. Sign and signs are mentioned 135 times in the Qur’an. These signs can range from the punishment of an act of wickedness being a warning for believers 11 to the efficacy of honey produced by bees.12 Signs offer proofs of the Qur’an’s authenticity 13 and the power of Allah to save those who obey him. 14 The verses of the Qur’an contain the “signs of sacred reality”. It tells of the past history of Allah’s working in the lives of previous prophets such as Abraham, Noah, Joseph, and Jesus. It tells them how they are to worship Allah and that Allah is the only sacred reality in their lives.
In his Book From Age to Age: How Christians Have Celebrated the Eucharist, Edward Foley enumerates some key concepts to aid us in understanding the beginnings of Eucharistic theology emerging in the New Testament and how these concepts continue to inform Roman Catholic sacramental theology even today. One of these concepts is that of Covenant Memorial. The writers of the Hebrew Testament frequently reminded their readers of the special covenant God had made with the Israelites. They are enjoined to remember how He saved them from slavery in Egypt by celebrating a memorial meal during Passover. The actions of Jesus during this same Passover meal are considered to be His institution of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. Foley says, “the followers of Jesus entered a ritual meal that invited them to collectively shape a living memory… (a) dynamic remembrance so that the new covenant would be proclaimed in their lives.”15
The Roman Catholic scholar, Alfons Teipen, tells us “ The Qur’an is not the dead text of dusty books…but rather a living memory.”16 The Qur’an itself tells Muslims to “remember” forty-two times. They are to remember their past when Allah helped them. Allah tells the Muslims “Remember the day when you were few and He increased your numbers.”17 Allah includes both men and women in His rewards for remembering him. He says “…those men and women who remember God a great deal, for them God has forgiveness and a great reward.” 18 Allah tells the Muslims they should “hasten to remember God, putting aside your business.“19 As Jesus instituted the Eucharist for the remembrance of him, Allah tells Muslims “I am God, and there is no god but I, so serve Me, and observe acts of prayer to remember me.”20
If there is any doubt that “memory” is important in the Qur’an we need only take note that its derivative words such as “remind” and “remembrance” appear 156 times. Compare this to the 130 times “prayer” and its derivative words appear. Salat (ritual prayer) of course, is a wajib or required act of all Muslims. This is by no means saying that the “remembrance” of Allah is separate from or superior to salat, but as the Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life21 the remembrance of God is the summit of prayer.” 22 The Qur’an even calls itself “dhikru ‘Llah” which means the “remembrance of God”. 23 Ali ibn Abi Talib, tells us why this remembrance is so important: “Truly God has made the remembrance (al-dhikr) a polish for the hearts, by which they hear after being deaf, and see after being blind, and yield after being resistant.”24 What Muslims hear, see, and yield to is their own primordial nature, their fitra, which is fashioned after God’s own divine nature.
Author: Joyce Slaughter
In writing the historic Vatican II document, Nostra Aetate, the Roman Catholic Church acknowledged that truth exists in other faith traditions and began to encourage interfaith dialogue. In their search for dialogue points, Christian and Muslim theologians have often compared the Qur’an, the actual words of Allah (God), to Jesus, the Word of God. This comparison is certainly helpful to the theological understanding of these two concepts. However, to the everyday Muslim associating Qur’an with Jesus presents a problem. Jesus, for Christians, is the divine Son of God, a co-equal as the second person of the Trinity. Some Muslims who see the Trinity as shirk, or polytheism, might hesitate to compare Jesus to Qur’an.
In his book, The Sacraments: the Word of God at the Mercy of the Body, Roman Catholic theologian, Louis-Marie Chauvet argues that sacraments are “first of all sacred signs. “ My first thought on reading this statement was that the verses of the Qur’an are called ayat, which means signs. Since Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the word of Allah, I concluded that the Qur’an might also be thought of as “sacred sign” and so could possibly be considered as sacrament especially from a Roman Catholic perspective. In this paper, therefore, I propose to focus on Qur’an as sacrament in light of the work of several Christian sacramental theologians, some of which are involved in interfaith dialogue. I will highlight both similarities as well as differences between Qur’an and sacraments. It is my hope that this comparison might facilitate a better understanding of Qur’an among Christians and sacrament among Muslims, thus smoothing the path for the type of interfaith dialogue that occurs among neighbors, colleagues, and grass roots interfaith groups.
In proposing that Qur’an be understood as a sacrament, the first question that comes to mind is “Is it even possible to compare the two?” Michael Kirwan, a Jesuit priest teaching at Heythrop College at the University of London, reminds us “sacramentality is not a monopoly of Christianity, but rather is basic to all human experience.”1 Leonardo Boff, the Brazilian theologian, says “Every religion, be it Christian or pagan, has a sacramental structure.” and that “all things, not just some things, can be transformed into sacraments.”2 Daniel Madigan, an Australian Jesuit teaching at Georgetown University, states “the place of (Qur’anic) scriptural recitation in the Muslim tradition could be considered analogous to the role of the Eucharist in the Christian tradition.”3 Reza Shah-Kazemi, of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, says the Names of Allah, which are found in the Qur’an, are sacramental prolongations of the Named, charged with divine presence.4 Clearly, the groundwork of comparing Quran to sacrament has been laid.
Now that we have seen the it is possible to compare Qur’an and sacraments, I propose that the following concepts apply to both of them.
• They both contain the divine presence.
• They both transform humans individually and communally.
• They both give new meaning to life.
• They are both signs of the sacred.
• They are both emphasize remembrance.
Our first point of similarity is that both the sacraments and the Qur’an are special articulations of the Divine Presence. Jesus Christ, the divine second person of the Christian Trinity both instituted and is present in the sacraments. Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., the theologian who served the Dutch Bishops at the Second Vatican Council, says, “The Eucharist is the focal point of Christ’s real presence among us.” The catechism of the Catholic Church says that “the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained” in the Eucharist. Roman Catholic Christianity undoubtedly believes in the divine presence in the sacraments.
Muslims believe the Qur’an contains Allah’s divine presence as well. William A. Graham, of Harvard University, says that through recitation, memorization, and reverent study of the Qur’an Muslims experience the Divine.5 Shah-Kazemi explains that the Qur’an “is deemed to be both revealed truth, explicitly articulated through words, and sacred presence, mysteriously conveyed by the divine Word. Bukhari, a compiler of Prophetic Hadiths, or sayings, relates the story of one of the Companions who was reciting the Qur’an. When one of his animals tried to run away he was puzzled and asked the Prophet who told him “that was the power of the Divine Presence that descended with the reciting” that startled the animal. Even animals were aware that something was different. This Divine Presence is called “al-Sakina” and is said to descend when a believer recites Qur’an.
1 Catholic and Shia in Dialogue pg 176.
2 Boff, Leonardo. Sacraments of Life, Life of the Sacraments
3 Liturgy in a Postmodern World pg 170
4 Shah-Kazemi . pg 132
5 Graham, Islamic and Comparative Religious Studies 182