Religions from an Islamic Perspective

No Comments | August 2008

Islam teaches that Allah is the Creator of this world Who has fulfilled the needs of all nations. To instruct and guide His Creation, He sent prophets and messengers, who through their teaching and personal example, guided mankind to God, and who through their ethical and spiritual education made mankind rightful heirs of Allah’s love and affection, enabling them to progress by reforming their morals.

Had God not arranged for the spiritual rectification of all nations, He would have deprived some of being able to partake of His love and Magnificence. Had only a particular nation been guided to the ‘right path’ other nations would have been deprived of His instruction and guidance. Such a God would only be the God of a certain nation but not the Creator of all the worlds.

Being the Creator of all the worlds demands that apart from providing for the physical needs of all the nations of the world, their spiritual needs should also be fulfilled.

We are told in the Holy Qur’an “all praise belongs to Allah alone, Lord of all the worlds”(Ch.1:V.2) and also that:

…there is no people to whom a Warner has not been sent. (Ch.35:V.25).

It instructs that no one can be called a Muslim unless he firmly believes that all the Messengers sent to all nations were honest, chosen men of God and that their teachings were not of their own manufacture but were truly the word of God and that the books they presented before their nations were Divinely revealed.

We are told:

This Messenger of Ours believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord and so do the believers: all of them believe in Allah, and His angels, and in His Books, and in His Messengers, saying, “We make no distinction between any of His Messengers… (Ch.2:V.286)

A man cannot enter Islam until he believes in the truth of the Holy Books given to all nations of the world and in all the Prophets commissioned to these nations.

The Qur’an refers to some of the names of the Divine scriptures and some Messengers who came to Arabia and its surroundings. We are also reminded that those messengers quoted in the Holy Qur’an are not the only Messengers sent to mankind.

And We did send Messengers before thee; of them are some whom We have mentioned to thee; and of them there are some We have not mentioned to thee… (Ch.40:V.79)

The meaning of this verse is that Allah has ordered that Muslims should have great respect for all Messengers found in every part of the world.  These Messengers who have firmly planted the love of God in the hearts of millions could not be liars and rogues, as God does not accept any deception in His chosen ones.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) said:

When God Almighty loves someone then He spreads his acceptance in the hearts of the people of earth.

Hence Islam instructs that followers of Islam accept such people whom nations and religions of the world esteem as a leader, as a Messenger of God and to respect them with love. The Holy Qur’an says:

And We did raise among every people a Messenger, preaching: ‘Worship Allah and shun the Evil One’. (Ch.16:V.37)

And We sent no Messenger before thee but we revealed to him, saying, ‘There is no God but I; so worship Me alone’. (Ch.21:V.26)

In both these verses the Holy Qur’an reminds us that all nations of the world were taught about the Oneness of God and how to worship Him and be adorned in His shades of virtue. For this reason the Holy Qur’an, while mentioning about the Prophets, says:

And We made them leaders who guided people by Our command, and We sent revelation to them enjoining the doing of good works, and the observing of Prayers, and the giving of alms. And they were worshippers of Us alone. (Ch.21:V.74)

And also :

And they were not commanded but to serve Allah being sincere to Him in obedience, and being upright, and to observe Prayer, and pay the Zakat. And that is the religion of the people of the right path. (Ch.98:V.6)

The Holy Qur’an declares that, not only were these Messengers truthful exemplars for the world but also that they were free from all sin.

..They are only honoured servants. They speak not before He speaks, and they act only by His command. He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they intercede not except for him whom He approves, and they act cautiously for fear of Him. (Ch.21:Vs.27-29)

The Qur’an further instructs its followers to adopt the lives and examples of those Messengers. Therefore while mentioning the Messengers coming to Arabia and to nations living in their surroundings the Qur’an says that:

And We exalted some of their fathers and their children and their brethren and We chose them and We guided them in the straight path. That is the guidance of Allah. He guides thereby those of His servants whom He pleases. And if they had worshipped aught beside Him, surely all they did would have been of no avail to them.

It is these to whom We gave the Book and dominion and prophethood. But if these people are ungrateful for them, it matters not, for We have now entrusted them to a people who are not ungrateful for them. These it is whom Allah guided aright, so follow thou, their guidance… (Ch.6:Vs.88-91)

The history of human society is one of constant progress. However, in its early stages of intellectual and social development, close contact between nations was absent. So humankind was given two kinds of instruction by the Messengers sent to them. One concerned lasting fundamentals and truth and the other, was teachings applicable to the specific situations of those nations. Thus, such teachings were temporary in status.

After the death of the Messengers, as fragmentation occurred in these nations, some declared that the message was merely a metaphor. Some, due to their lack of intelligence, collaborated and some due to their stubbornness and mischief engaged in raising issues to their Messengers. With the passage of time, their interpretations were declared as part of the teachings of the Messengers. As a result wrong edicts were spread about the Messengers and their teachings amongst the nations that followed. Hence mutual disagreements were born.

When mankind reached a state of maturity that allowed greater communication between nations, then Allah sent Hadhrat Muhammad(saw).The teaching he brought superseded that of all of the previous Messengers whose teachings and guidance had been  temporary and according to the needs of time. In their place he brought an eternal message acceptable to all nations of the world. In Islam, all aspects of human life and the eternal and everlasting truths brought by previous Messengers came together.

Islam tells us that Hadhrat Muhammad(saw) came as a Prophet for all nations and as a guide for all of humanity. We read in the Holy Qur’an:

And We have not sent down to thee the Book except that thou mayest explain to them that concerning which they differ, and as a guidance, and a mercy for a people who believe. (Ch.16:V.65)

The Holy Qur’an informs all nations of their depravities and invites them to get rid of these and to accept Islam. But alongside that it instructs that oppression towards any religion or its followers is forbidden.

There should be no compulsion in religion. Surely, right has become distinct from wrong… (Ch.2:V.257)

And say, It is the truth from your Lord; therefore let him who will, believe, and let him who will, disbelieve… (Ch.18:V.30)

In order to unite the followers of others faiths, Islam advises:

Call unto the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in a way that is best… (Ch.16:V.126)

Islam does not forcefully stop the followers of other religions from worshipping and practising their faith and even preaching it to others but instead gives them total freedom to do so.

When Allah made Hadhrat Muhammad Mustafa(saw) the ruler of Arabia, a delegation from Najran valley came to meet him. They stayed in Madinah for several days and presented arguments in support of the truth of their faith, the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. Although the Holy Prophet(saw) negated their views comprehensively, he did not stop them from providing evidence of the truth of their religious tenets. On the contrary, while in discussion with the Prophet(saw) one day, they said they were going outside the mosque. When he asked why, they replied:

‘It is the time for our worship and we want to worship outside.’ The Prophet(saw)told them that there was no need to go out of the mosque for the sake of worship. Instead, he said, ‘You can worship in your own way in our mosque.’

Thus the Christian priests of the Najran valley, performed their prayers while sitting in the mosque.

Islam orders the Muslims to take care of Mosques along with places of worship of other religions.

The Holy Qur’an reminds us:

…And if Allah did not repel some men by means of others, there would surely have been pulled down cloisters and churches and synagogues and mosques, wherein the name of Allah is oft commemorated… (Ch.22:V.41)

In this verse Allah announced to the world that it is not only the responsibility of the Muslims to protect their mosques from destruction but also all places of worship of other religions should also be saved from devastation and demolition.

For these reasons the Holy Prophet Muhammad(saw) in the 4th Hijra (4A.H) wrote the peace treaty for the monks and all the Christians of Saint Catherine near Mount Sinai

Muslims were to protect churches, houses of the monks and shrines of Christians from attack of their enemies and protect them from all harm. No Christian was to be forced to leave his religion nor any monk to be thrown out of his monastery, nor a pilgrim to be stopped from pilgrimage and neither were Christian churches to be demolished in order to make houses and mosques for the Muslims.

During the time of Caesar, the Muslim ruler, Harun-ur-Rasheed, complained to the chief Justice, Imam Abu Yusaf asking why the Christian churches were safe in Islamic era and queried who had given them permission to have processions carrying  the cross in the cities.

Imam Abu Yusaf replied that during the time of Hadhrat ‘Umar, when Roman countries were conquered, Christians were firmly assured that their churches would remain safe and that they would be granted complete freedom to practise their faith and to hold processions marching with the cross. As a result of this guarantee no one could now repeal that order concerning their basic religious rights.

Indeed Islam has forbidden punishing even non-Muslim parents who are idolaters and who preach idolatry to their Muslim children. Rather it instructs

And if they contend with thee to make thee set up equals with Me concerning that of which thou hast no knowledge, obey them not, but be a kind companion to them in all worldly affairs; and in spiritual matters follow the way of him who turns to Me… (Ch.31:V.16)

To those who worship the idols of their forefathers or idols of any kind, the Qur’an says about them:

And revile not those whom they call upon beside Allah, lest they, out of spite, revile Allah in their ignorance. (Ch.6:V.109)

This is the excellent teaching that Islam gave. It has instructed that followers of other faiths must be respected even if one does not accept those aspects of their faith that are untrue.

Islam does not preach hatred towards other religions and their followers. However, to protect society from the wickedness of criminals, it instructs that a culprit must be punished for the sake of life, wealth and honour of the people, irrespective of whether the culprit is a Muslims or a non -Muslim. However, it does not treat the followers of other religions with hatred.

Thus, the Holy Prophet(saw) let the Jews, the Christians and the disbelievers sit in the Prophet’s Mosque, and talked to them inside the mosque and sometimes kept prisoners of war in the mosque. He would correct their beliefs on a factual basis and advised them to change any misconceptions they harboured. However, unlike the followers of other religions the Holy Prophet(saw) and his companions did not treat the non-Muslims with hatred; rather, they took them to their homes and entertained them, fed them from their own utensils and made them sleep in their beds.

Also if non-Muslims cook food, which according to Islamic laws is permitted, then Islam has allowed Muslims to eat such food. It is written:

…And the food of the people of the Book is lawful for you… (Ch.5:V.6)

When the Holy Prophet(saw) migrated from Makkah to Madinah and an Islamic state was established in Madinah, it was the first Islamic state in history.

In order to run the administration of Madinah the Holy Prophet(saw) made a pact with the citizens of Madinah known as Meethaaq-e-Madinah, according to which  Muslims, non-believers and persons of Jewish persuasion were given equal citizenship rights.

Islam declares all human beings equal in all worldly matters. Therefore, the Holy Prophet(saw) stated in his Farewell Sermon at the annual pilgrimage that all humans were equal and that no Arab was superior to a non-Arab nor was a white man superior to a black man and vice a versa.

Followers of religions will be of two types – noble and ignoble. Concerning both the Qur’an says:

Allah forbids you not, respecting those who have not fought against you on account of your religion, and who have not driven you forth from your homes, that you be kind to them and act equitably towards them; surely Allah loves those who are equitable.

Allah only forbids you, respecting those who have fought against you on account of your religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and have helped others in driving you out, that you make friends of them, and whosoever makes friend of them — it is these that are the transgressors (Ch.60:Vs.9-10)

In the light of this Qur’anic teaching, the Holy Prophet(saw) made friends with the noble Jews, who were living in Madinah. He traded with them, and visited them if they were sick to inquire about their health. If a non-Muslim died he stood up out of respect. Seeing this, his companions also stood respectfully for the funeral of a non-Muslim.

The Qur’an says:

And they feed, for love of Him, the poor, the orphan and the prisoner, saying, we feed you for Allah’s pleasure only. We desire neither reward nor thanks from you. (Ch.76:Vs.9-10)

According to the spirit of Islam only combatants who are caught during battle can be imprisoned. Non-Muslims who were taken prisoner during battle had often committed a multitude of offences against the Muslims. Islam commands that such prisoners should have their worldly needs satisfied. Hence in light of this verse, the Holy Prophet(saw) taught his companions to treat the war prisoners kindly and said that they were to be given the same food that the Muslims ate and dressed as the Muslims dressed. Indeed, the companions sometimes provided the non-Muslim prisoners of war with food while they themselves remained hungry.

Islam does not teach that all the followers of other religions are in error but instead gives parallel teachings concerning them. Where it refers to their imperfections, it also accepts their goodness.

Concerning the believers of the Holy Bible, the Holy Qur’an says:

…Some of them are believers, but most of them are disobedient. (Ch.3:V.111)

However, it does not describe them as all being disobedient.

Then it says:

Among the people of the Book there is he who, if thou trust him with a treasure will return it to thee. (Ch.3:V.76)

Similarly it says:

They are not all alike, Among the people of the Book there is a party who stand firm by their covenant; they recite the word of Allah in the hours of night and prostate themselves before Him. They believe in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin what is good and forbid evil, and hasten, vying with one another, in good works. And these are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, they shall not be denied its due reward, and Allah well knows the God-fearing. (Ch.3:Vs.114-116)

Some commentators of the Qur’an have said that this verse is directed at those Jews or Christians who later accepted Islam. However, this explanation is not correct because whoever accepted Islam became one of the followers of the Qur’an and the people of Islam. The people being praised in these verses are referred to as ‘people of the Book,’ instead of being ‘people of the Qur’an’. Thus these verses are directed at such people ‘of the Book’ to whom the teachings of Islam have not yet reached or who could not understand Islam and were instead acting with sincere intentions according to the virtues of their own faith.

The Qur’an declares them to be God-fearing by saying:

…they are amongst the virtuous people. (Ch.3:Vs.114-116),

and that :

…and Allah knows well the righteous. (Ch.3:Vs.114-116),

and accepts them as deserving of God’s pleasures and virtuous deeds.

Hence Islam does not declare those virtuous non-Muslims who are living righteously according to the teachings of their religion, as being deprived of salvation but instead gives them a message of hope, saying :

Surely the Believers, and the Jews, and the Christians and the Sabians whichever party from among these truly believes in Allah and the Last Day and does good deeds – shall have their reward with their Lord, and no fear shall come upon them, nor shall they grieve. (Ch.2:V.63)

So Allah declares those followers of other religions to whom the teachings of Islam have not reached or who do not understand the truth of Islam for any reason but who are acting upon their religious teachings with sincere intentions as deserving of His mercy.

However,. of those to whom the message of Islam, has reached and who understand the truth of Islam yet refuse to accept it due to malice and prejudice, the Qur’an warns:

And whoso seeks a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the life to come he shall be among the losers. (Ch.3:V.86)

This verses clearly refer to such people who after understanding the truth of Islam, do not accept it out of stubbornness.

In order to gain higher spiritual ranks the Qur’an says:

Say ‘If you love Allah, follow me: then will Allah Love you and forgive you your faults. And Allah is Most Forgiving, Merciful. (Ch.3:V.32)

The Holy Qur’an also tells those Muslims who sincerely wish to become the beloved ones that there are four ranks of believers who obediently follow Islam

And whoso obeys Allah and this Messenger of His shall be among those on whoM Allah has bestowed His blessings, namely, the Prophets, the Truthful, the Martyrs, and the Righteous. And excellent companions are these. This grace is from Allah, and sufficient is Allah, the All Knowing. (Ch.4:Vs.70,71)

Referring to those Muslims who acquire these spiritual ranks it says:

…As for those who say, ‘Our Lord is Allah,’ and then remain steadfast, the angels descend on them, saying: Fear ye not, nor grieve, and rejoice in the Garden that you were promised. We are your friends in this life and in the Hereafter. Therein you will have all that your souls will desire, and therein you will have all that you will ask for an entertainment from the Most Forgiving, the Merciful. (Ch.41:Vs.31-33)

This verse tells us that blessings will be showered upon those who obtain these spiritual ranks by acting according to Islamic teachings. It is declared in this verse that God’s angels will come to such people and will talk to them.

Islamic history is a witness that in every age such people were born among the Muslims with whom God conversed. This door of God’s blessings is open. According to His promise, God Almighty sent the Promised Messiah(as) in this age and sent His angels upon him  and through revelations showered the rain of purified water on him. Revelation continues through His khalifas and His blessings will be showered on countless Ahmadis who will serve Him  until the day of resurrection.

‘God still makes whoever he likes a mediator. But He talks with the one He loves.’

(Translated by the daughter of Laiq Ahmed Abid)

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