The Oldest Religion
By AbdurRahman | Wednesday, July 23, 2003
The Arabic word Islam means “submission,” and it derived from the word Salaam meaning “peace.” In a religious context it means complete submission to the will of God. Allah is the Arabic name for God, which is used by Muslims and Arab Christians alike.
In our Holy Book, the Qur’an, the word of God as it was revealed to Muhammad, we read: Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).” (Al-Baqara 2:136)
Consequently, we believe that Islam is the original religion of Adam, Noah, and Abraham, essentially all the prophets who came before Muhammad, including Jesus. This is what we call “general Islam.” With the advent of revelations sent to Muhammad, we were given the “specific Islam.” God’s message was then reaffirmed and finalized through Prophet Muhammad. In the Qur’an we read: “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Al-Ma’idah 5:3) So, from a Muslim’s perspective, Islam is the oldest religion.
Jesus in Islam
Jesus is mentioned more times than Muhammad in the Qur’an. And we consider him to be the Messiah (which simply means “anointed” in either Hebrew or Arabic). In Surat-Aal Imran we read: Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah. (3:45)
One Hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad) tells us just how unique Jesus is.
The Prophet said, “When any human being is born. Satan touches him at both sides of the
body with his two fingers, except Jesus, the son of Mary, whom Satan tried to touch but
failed, for he touched the placenta-cover instead.”
Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 506
Muslims, like most Jews, do not believe that God can take on human form, despite God’s characteristic of being omnipotent. We believe that this would change his nature, reducing him to a frail creature like ourselves. For the Muslim, the Everlasting cannot die. The Creator cannot become the created. It would mean He would be in need of a creator. The concept of God in Islam is unique amongst all other religions. Islam is the only religion that never gives attributes of God’s might and glory to his creation, nor does it give the attributes of things created to the Creator. Allah is without any human needs like rest, sleep, hunger, etc. Likewise, prophets are not omnipotent, omniscient, or in anyway divine. They are simply the best examples of how to worship God in the way He has prescribed for us through their teachings.
To use modern scientific terms, if it is matter or energy, then it is part of our universe, thus it is part of creation, and therefore cannot be God, or part of God. In our faith, God resides on His throne high above (or beyond) this universe, (the creation), in a manner befitting His majesty. He is infinite, yet he is not omnipresent. He sees ever act we commit, yet He does not reside in everything around us. To think that Allah is physically in every single atom in every corner of the universe is to reduce him to that which he created. Such a belief is foreign to Islam since it would imply that He could be found in excrement or other unholy substances/places.
Islamic monotheism is centered around the worship of God and God alone, without any partners, be they saints, martyrs, dead pious men, etc. When we pray, we never ever pray to Muhammad. To do such a thing would be to commit the only sin, which Allah has told us he will never forgive. This would be a one-way ticket to the Hell-fire. To worship our Lord, we are in no need of a human intermediary.
Likewise, as mentioned above, our religion has been perfected by God Almighty. To allow a cleric or scholar of our religion to change it, or make innovations in our religion, would be considered an act of the unforgivable sin. By allowing such a thing, we would then be worshipping that person who made the innovation. It would be to acknowledge that the innovator has more knowledge and wisdom than Almighty God. Consequently, Islam represents the oldest, unchanged religion among humans today. Great effort is expended among Islamic scholars and clerics to avoid any form of worship that people might try to add out of ignorance, thus the significance of the Arabic word Sunnah, which means the way of the Prophet. Muslims today worship God in exactly the same way as they did over 1400 years ago.
Moses foretells the coming of the Prophet Muhammad
And the Lord said unto me, they have well spoken that which they have
spoken, I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like
unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto
them all that I shall command him.
- A Prophet From Among the Brethren of the Israelites
According to the Hebrew Dictionary of the Bible, Brethren is the: “Personification of a group of tribes who were regarded as near kinsmen of the Israelites.”
Jesus himself was an Israelite, therefore he was not of the “brethren” of the Israelites.
- A Prophet like Moses
Moses Muhammad Jesus Birth Natural Natural Miraculous Family Life Married w/ Children Married w/ Children No marriage, no children Death Natural Natural Unusual Career Prophet and Statesman Prophet and Statesman Prophet only Forced Emigration To Midian To Medina n/a Encounters
Hot pursuit Hot pursuit w/ battles n/a Revelations
in his lifetime
Torah Al Qur'an n/a Nature of
Legal and Spiritual Legal and Spiritual Spirtual only
- I will put my words in his mouth.
He (Muhammad) does not speak of his own desire, it is no less than a revelation sent down to him.
- Islam, the only religion God will accept
And it shall come to pass, that whoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
And whoever seeks a religion other than Islām, it will never be accepted of him, and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers.
These are the framework for Muslim life:
- The declaration of faith: “There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the
messenger of God.”
Narrated ‘Ubada: The Prophet said, “If anyone testifies that None has the right to be worshipped but Allah Alone Who has no partners, and that Muhammad is His Slave and His Apostle, and that Jesus is Allah's Slave and His Apostle and His Word which He bestowed on Mary and a Spirit created by Him, and that Paradise is true, and Hell is true, Allah will admit him into Paradise with the deeds which he had done even if those deeds were few.” (Junada, the sub-narrator said, “‘Ubada added, Such a person can enter Paradise through any of its eight gates he likes.’”)
Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 644
- Solaah: Is often translated as “prayer,” but it little in common with the Christian understanding of prayer. No Solaah is accepted by God without a number of specific requirements. 3 of the most important requirements for God to accept one of these 5 daily acts of worship are: 1) Having Ablution; to become ritually pure in body by washing of the head, forearms, and feet. 2) Facing the direction of the Qa`ba, the first House of God built by Abraham and his son Ishmael in Mecca. 3) Reciting the first chapter of the Qur’an in Arabic. There are many other prerequisites for Solaah to be accepted by our Creator, but a discussion of them would be too lengthy to mention in a lecture of this nature. The times for Solaah are during 5 prescribed periods of the day, starting before sunrise, with the last one being performed after dusk has passed and nighttime has begun. These 5 daily acts of worship are obligatory for all adult Muslims. Solaah is a direct link between the worshiper and God. Islam has no hierarchical authority or priesthood.
- Zakaah: One of the most important principles of Islam is that all things belong to God and that wealth is held in trust by human beings. Zakaah, or charitable giving, “purifies” wealth by setting aside a portion for those in need.
- Fasting: Every year in the Islamic lunar month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from about 1 1/2 hours before sunrise to sunset. The fast is another method of self-purification.
- Pilgrimage: A pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, or Hajj as it is called in Arabic, is an obligation for those who are physically and financially able to make the journey.
Who are the Muslims?
People who follow the Islamic faith come from all over the world. No more than 20% of Muslims live in the Arabic-speaking world. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia. Here in the U.S., the majority of Muslims come from the Indian subcontinent, from countries like Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. Consequently, our sermons are either delivered in English, or translated into English from Arabic, since only a minority of our community is from Arabic-speaking countries.
Terrorism and Violence
Obviously the Qur’an doesn’t condone terrorism, though Muhammed was the leader of a military force and therefore used violence. “In the West,” writes scholar Karen Armstrong in her book, Muhammad, “we often imagine Muhammad as a warlord, brandishing his sword in order to impose Islam on a reluctant world by force of arms. The reality was quite different. Muhammad and the first Muslims were fighting for their lives, and they had also undertaken a project in which violence was inevitable.”
It is true, she says, that unlike Christianity, Islam's leader was not a pacifist. “Islam fights tyranny and injustice. A Muslim may feel that he has a sacred duty to champion the weak and the oppressed,” she writes. “Fighting and warfare might sometimes be necessary, but it was only a minor part of the whole jihad or struggle. A well-known tradition (hadith) has Muhammad say on returning from a battle, ‘We return from the little jihad to the greater jihad,’ the more difficult and crucial effort to conquer the forces of evil in oneself and in one's own society in all the details of daily life.”
While there are passages in the Qur’an, like the Old Testament of the Bible, that celebrate military victory, the overall gestalt of the Qur’an promotes a more restrained view. Chapter 5, verse 32, for instance, states: “On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”
That passages places a great value on the sanctity of a single life. “If you kill one person it’s as if you kill all humanity,” says Imam Hendi.
Indeed, Hendi says, the Qur’an goes one step further in chapter 8, verse 61, “But if the enemy incline towards peace, do thou (also) incline towards peace, and trust in Allah.”
The Role of Women in Islam
First of all, lets look at the theological viewpoint of Judaism, since our discussion is about religion, not about secular humanism or the permissiveness of atheist cultures. Israeli author, Naomi Ragen, states in her article, “Wifebeating and the Halacha – Time for a Change”:
But only after reading Prof. Naomi Graetz’s compelling book: “Silence is Deadly, Judaism Confronts Wifebeating,” did I realize how valid. The case Prof. Graetz makes, based on sources in the Talmud, the Mishnah and centuries of responsa of rabbinic authorities, is that, indeed, many Halachic authorities have not only done nothing to punish wifebeaters, but have actually condoned wifebeating, spelling out conditions in which it is not only permissible, but a mitzvah. Moreover, in our own day, current Halachic thinking makes it extremely difficult for an abused wife to get out of her husband’s clutches if he persists in refusing her a divorce.
Christianity has long been known to view the role of women as being subservient to men. One need only look at the scriptures:
Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. (Genesis 3:16)
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. (1 Timothy 2:11-14)
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; (1 Peter 3:1)
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (Ephesians 5:22)
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18)
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. (1 Corinthians 11:3)
In Islam, God tells us to be kind to our women:
O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will, and you should not treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dowry you have given them, unless they commit open illegal sexual intercourse. And live with them honourably. If you dislike them, it may be that you dislike a thing and Allāh brings through it a great deal of good. (4. An-Nisā' 19)
And those who accuse chaste women, and produce not four witnesses, flog them with eighty stripes, and reject their testimony forever, they indeed are the Fāsiqūn (liars, rebellious, disobedient to Allāh). (24. An-Nūr 4)
Allah’s Apostle said, “Whenever I stand for prayer, I want to prolong it but on hearing the cries of a child, I would shorten it as I dislike to put its mother in trouble.” (Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 1, Book 12, Number 827)
One often hears about the the head-covering and attire of Muslim women as a sign of their oppresssion. Interestingly enough, the dress code for Muslim women is very similar to that of Catholic nuns, yet no one in the West seeks to help them out of their oppression! In fact, if you read the Bible, it seems that the majority of Christian women are not following their religion:
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. (1 Corinthians 11:5)
In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)
Last updated: Tuesday, December 28, 2010