How should I fast?

When Ramadan comes and it is time to fast I have discussions with friends on how to best fast. For example, if Ramadan occurs in the May-to-July period, and we live in Northern countries with almost 18 or more hours between sunrise and sunset the question of whether it is permissible to use some other daylight standard (such as based on the sunrise to sunset interval in Mecca) is asked. My friends follow different rulings by different scholars on this and similar kinds of questions on what is permissible and what is not as we live in complicated situations.

Important as these discussions are, we almost always forget the equally important question of how we should live so our fasting pleases Allah. The prophets had much to say about this and their message about living for proper fasting is as important for us today as it was when they lived.

The Prophet Isaiah (PBUH) lived in a time (see historical timeline) when the believers practiced their religious obligations (like prayers and fasting) strictly, so they were religious,

Historical Timeline of Prophet Isaiah (PBUH) with some other prophets in Zabur
Historical Timeline of Prophet Isaiah (PBUH) with some other prophets in Zabur

but it was also a time of great corruption.   (See article introducing Zabur for overview of this period). The people were full of fighting, corruption and disputes. That sounds like us today does it not? So this message is important for us too.

True Fasting

58 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. (Isaiah 58: 1-12)

Do not these promises for true living with fasting sound wonderful?  But the people in that time did not listen to them and other messages warning them of judgment if they did not repent (see here on what the prophet Yahya PBUH taught about repenting). So they were judged as Prophet Musa (PBUH) had prophesied in Taurat (here).  This message remains as a sign and warning to us since how the prophet described the way they were living while fasting sounds like us today.

We each have to decide if we will obey this message and repent from how we are living and treating each other. But it will be of no use to fast, with whatever fasting rules our imams permit, and still fail to please Allah by living in a way that displeases him.

Should Christmas be 'Merry' for Muslims too?

Merry-Christmas

“Merry Christmas!”  This is the greeting that is commonly used at Christmas and I extend it to you.  May you have a Merry Christmas !

Many people know that Christmas is the holiday when the birth of Jesus Christ – Isa al Masih (PBUH) – is remembered.  But, even so, why is this day especially ‘Merry’ or joyful?  After all, there are many prophets born on other days and though we remember them as well, it is the birth of Isa (Jesus – PBUH) that is called Merry.  Why?  And for whom is this merry? Knowing the answer to these questions will make your Christmas change from being a holiday for others to a day when you marvel at the mercy and goodness of Allah – it will make even the other days in the year much more merry.

The birth of Isa al Masih, born of a virgin and announced by Jibril

Many know that what was unique among all the births in human history, including the births of all the prophets, was that Isa al Masih was born of a virgin.  This birth was so important that it was announced to Mary (Mariam) by the archangel Gabriel (Jibril) who, as we know, is only sent with the very most important messages.  The Injil records it like this:

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.  (Luke 1:26-38)

(You will see that in this announcement by Gabriel (Jibril) he uses the peculiar title ‘Son of God’  Please see here on what this term means … and does not mean)

The birth of Isa al Masih – prophesied hundreds of years before

The Injil (Gospel) records the birth of Isa al Masih (‘Masih’ means Messiah =’Christ’) but the story did not start there because 700 years before the birth of Isa al Masih the prophet Isaiah of the Zabur had given the unique prophecy (explained fully here) that

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14, ca 700 BC)

The birth of Isa al Masih – prophesied at the beginning of human history

So this birth from the virgin was deliberately planned and announced by Allah hundreds of year beforehand.  There must be an important reason!  If we look further into the Holy Books we find even that at the very beginning of human history (!) this birth from a virgin was planned.  The Taurat, though addressing the Beginning, was written with the End in view. This can be seen in the Paradise of the Garden, at the beginning of human history, when Shaytan (Iblis) has successfully seduced Adam & Eve.  At that time Allah confronted Shaytan and spoke to him in a riddle:

“… and I (Allah) will put enmity between you (Satan) and the woman and between your offspring and hers. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15)

This is a riddle – but it is understandable. Reading carefully you will see that there are five different characters mentioned AND that this is prophetic in that it is looking forward-in-time (seen by the repeated use of ‘will’ as in future tense). The characters are:

  1. God (or Allah)
  2. Shaytan (or Iblis)
  3. The woman
  4. The offspring of the woman
  5. The offspring of Satan

And the riddle maps out how these characters will relate to each other in the future. This is shown below:

The characters and their relationships in the Promise of Allah given in Paradise
The characters and their relationships in the Promise of Allah given in Paradise

Allah will arrange that both Shaytan and the woman have an ‘offspring’. There will be ‘enmity’ or hatred between these offspring and between the woman and Shaytan. Shaytan will ‘strike the heel’ of the offspring of the woman while the offspring of the woman will ‘crush the head’ of Shaytan.

Now let us think about this.  Because the ‘offspring’ of the woman is referred to as a ‘he’ and a ‘his’ we know that it is a single male human. This means that as a ‘he’ the offspring is not a ‘they’ (i.e. it is not plural). Thus the offspring is NOT a group of people whether that refers to a nation or those of a certain religion as in Jews, Christians or Muslims. As a ‘he’ the offspring is not an ‘it’ (the offspring is a person). This eliminates the interpretation that the offspring is a particular philosophy or teaching or religion. So the offspring is NOT (for example) Christianity or Islam because the offspring would then be referred to as an ‘it’.

Notice also what is NOT said. Allah does not promise the man an offspring like he promises the woman. This is quite extraordinary especially given the emphasis of sons coming through fathers through the Taurat, Zabur & Injil (the Bible or al kitab). But in this case it is different – there is no promise of an offspring (a ‘he’) coming from a man. It says only that there will be an offspring coming from the woman, without mentioning a man.

So here we see the first prophecy of the Books, in the form of a riddle to Shaytan, of the coming Virgin Birth because with that perspective, if you read the riddle it all falls into place. Jesus (Isa – PBUH) is the offspring from a woman who is born without the seed of a man – born of a virgin.  He will ‘crush the head’ of Shaytan.  But who is his enemy, the offspring of Satan? The later prophets speak of a ‘Son of Destruction’, ‘Son of Satan’ and other titles that predict a coming ruler who will oppose ‘the Christ’ (Masih). These prophets speak of a coming clash between this ‘Anti-Christ’ and the Christ (or Masih), resulting in the victory of the Masih.

Isa al Masih – save us from our sins

So great themes of the prophets begin here, and even more can be gleaned in this Sign of Adam, but why should this be Merry for you and me?  Since Isa al Masih (PBUH) was not conceived by a man, he was conceived by the power of Allah, and as the Injil records how Gabriel (Jibril) explained this to Joseph, the fiance of Mary (Mariam) when he learned she was pregnant.

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her (Mary) to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  (Matthew 1:19-21)

Isa al Masih (PBUH) has the power to save us from our sins!  We all sin, sometimes in small ways and sometimes in large ways.  And we know that there is a Judgment Day coming when we will all give an account.  Isa al Masih (PBUH) has the power to save you and me from our sins.  Understanding this will certainly make your Christmas, the day we remember his virgin birth, Merry.  And it will also make all the other days of your year Merry as well.

Merry Christmas – Allah’s gift for you

It is a tradition at Christmas that people give gifts to each other.  Why?  This was done in memory of what Isa al Masih (PBUH) did for us because the Injil declares that he will save us from our sins solely as a gift to us.  As the Injil declares.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

This saving from sin is a gift from God – all because of what happened that day when Isa al Masih (PBUH) was born.  But like any gift it must be received before it can benefit you.  Consider.  ‘Knowing’ about a gift, ‘believing’ in the existence of a gift, even ‘looking’ at a gift will not benefit you in any way unless you also receive it.  This is why the Injil also declares that:

Yet to all who did receive him (Isa al Masih), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. (John 1:12-13)

Merry Christmas to you

You probably have many good questions. What does ‘Masih’ mean? How does Isa save us from our sins? What does it mean to receive this gift? Is the Injil reliable? This website is my gift to you to help answer these and other worthwhile questions that you have. I hope you explore and understand more about the good news from the Taurat, Zabur and Injil.

My hope is that you, just as I discovered, may also experience a very Merry Christmas.

How are we to understand the title ’Son of God’?

Perhaps no part of the Injil (Gospel) arouses as much controversy and discussion as the title ‘Son of God’ which is used of the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) repeatedly through the Injil (Gospel).  The use of this term in the Injil (Gospel) is probably the main reason why many suspect that the Injil has been corrupted.   I look at the issue of the corruption of the Injil from the Qur’an (here), the sunnah (here), as well as scientific textual criticism (here).  The overwhelming conclusion from this evidence is that the Injil (Gospel) is not corrupted.  But then what do we make of this term ‘Son of God’ that appears in the Injil?

Sometimes just hearing a term, without trying to understand its meaning, can lead to an incorrect conclusion.  For example, many of my friends here in the West, react strongly and emotionally against the term ‘Jihad’ that appears so much in the media.  They have been led to believe this term means ‘a crazy fighter’, ‘killing innocent people’, or some similar idea.  In fact, those who take the time to understand the term will learn that it means ‘struggle’ or ‘effort’ and this can be a struggle against a wide variety of forces.  Jihad can be a personal struggle with sin and temptation.  However, its widespread use in the media focusing only on the one theme of ‘killing’ and ‘fighting’ has given rise to a distorted understanding.  It would be wiser for them to understand the range of meanings.  We should not fall into the same error with the term ‘Son of God’.  In this article we will look at this term, understanding where it comes from, what it means, and what it does not mean.  At the very least we will then be in an informed position with which to respond to this term and to the Injil (Gospel).

Where does ‘Son of God’ come from?

Many will be totally surprised to learn that the term ‘Son of God’ is a title and that it does not originate in the Injil (Gospel) at all.  The writers of the gospel did not invent or start the term.  Neither was it invented by Christians.  We know this because it was first used in the Zabur, long before the disciples of Isa al Masih (PBUH) or Christians were alive, in the part inspired by the prophet Dawud (David – PBUH) around 1000 BC.  Let us see where it first occurs.

The kings of the earth rise up
and the rulers band together
against the Lord and against his anointed (= Messiah = Christ), saying,
“Let us break their chains
and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king
on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
today I have become your father.
Ask me,
and I will make the nations your inheritance,
the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron;
you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

10 Therefore, you kings, be wise;
be warned, you rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear
and celebrate his rule with trembling.
12 Kiss his son, or he will be angry
and your way will lead to your destruction, (Psalm 2)

We see here that there is a discourse between ‘the LORD’ and ‘his anointed’.  In verse 7 we see that ‘the LORD’ (ie God/Allah) speaks and says to the Anointed that ‘… you are my Son; today I have become your father…’  This is repeated in verse 12 where it admonishes us to ‘Kiss his Son…’.   As you can see, since God is speaking and calling him ‘my son’ this is where the title ‘Son of God’ originated.  To whom is this title ‘Son’ given to?  It is to ‘his anointed’.  In other words, the title ‘Son’ is used interchangeably with the ‘anointed’ through the passage.  We saw that Anointed =Messiah = Masih= Christ, and this Psalm is also where the title ‘Messiah’ originated.  In other words the title ‘Son of God’ has its origins in the exact same passage where the term ‘Masih’ or ‘Christ’ has its origins – in the inspired writings of the Zabur written 1000 years before the arrival of the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH).

Knowing this, allows us to understand the charges laid against Isa at his trial. Below is how the Jewish leaders questioned him at his trial.

Jesus Titles: The Logical Alternatives

66 At dawn the elders of the people met together. These included the chief priests and the teachers of the law. Jesus was led to them. 67 If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.”

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me. 68 And if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70 They all asked, “Are you the Son of God then?

He replied, “You are right in saying that I am.”

71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more witnesses? We have heard it from his own lips.” (Luke 22:66-71)

You will notice that the leaders first ask Jesus if he is ‘the Christ’ (v. 67).  If I ask someone ‘Are you X?’ it means that I have the idea of X already in my mind.  I am just trying to connect X with the person I am talking to.  In the same way, the fact that the Jewish leaders say to Jesus ‘Are you the Christ?’ means that they had the concept of ‘Christ’ already in their mind.  Their question was about associating the title of ‘Christ’ (or Masih) with the person of Isa.  But then they re-phrase the question a few sentences later to ‘Are you the Son of God then?’  They are treating the titles ‘Christ’ and ‘Son of God’ as equivalent and interchangeable.  These titles were two sides of the same coin.  (Isa does reply in-between with ‘son of man’.  This is another title coming from a passage in the book of Daniel which we cannot deal with here since we are focused on ‘son of God’).  Where did the Jewish leaders get the idea of the equivalence of ‘Christ’ and ‘Son of God’?  They got it from reading Psalm 2 – inspired one thousand years prior to Jesus’ coming.  To put it another way, it was and is logically possible for Jesus to not be the ‘Son of God’ if he was also not the ‘Christ’.  This was the position that the Jewish leaders took as we see above.

It is also logically possible for Isa/Jesus to be both the ‘Christ and ‘the Son of God’.  We see this in how Peter, a leading disciple of Isa (PBUH) answers when asked.  It is written in the Gospel

13 [Jesus] asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17)

Peter combines the title “Messiah” with ‘Son of God’ naturally, because it was so established when both titles originated in the Psalms (Zabur).  Jesus accepts this as a revelation from God to Peter.  Jesus is ‘Messiah’ and therefore is also ‘Son of God’.

But it is impossible, self-contradictory even, for Jesus to be ‘the Christ’ but not be the ‘Son of God’ because the two terms have the same source and mean the same thing.  That would be the same as saying that a certain shape is a ‘circle’ but it is not ‘round’.  A shape can be a square and thus not be a circle nor be round.  But if something is a circle then it is also round.  Roundness is part of what it means to be a circle, and to say that a certain shape is a circle but is not round is to be incoherent, or to misunderstand what a ‘circle’ and ‘roundness’ mean.  It is the same with ‘Christ’ and ‘son of God’.  Jesus is both ‘Messiah’ and ‘Son of God’ (the assertion of Peter) or he is neither (the view of the Jewish leaders of that day); but he cannot be one and not the other.

What does ‘Son of God’ mean?

So what does the title mean?   A clue appears in how the New Testament introduces the person of Joseph, one of the earliest disciples (not the Joseph of Pharaoh) and how it uses ‘son of…’.  It says

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. (Acts 4:36-37)

You will see that the nickname ‘Barnabas’ means ‘son of encouragement’.  Is the writer saying that his literal father’s name was ‘Encouragement’ and this is the reason he is called ‘son of encouragement’?  Of course not!  ‘Encouragement’ is an abstract concept  which is difficult to define but is easy to understand by seeing it lived out in an encouraging person.   In this case, by looking at the life and person of Joseph someone could ‘see’ encouragement in action and thus understand what ‘encouragement’ means.  In this way Joseph is the ‘son of encouragement’.  He represented ‘encouragement’ in a living way.

“No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18).  Therefore, it is hard for us to really understand the character and nature of God.  What we need is to see God represented in a living way, but that is impossible since ‘God is Spirit’ and thus cannot be seen.  The Gospel thus summarizes and explains the significance of the life and person of Jesus along this line of thinking by using both the title ‘Word of God’ and ‘Son of God’

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth…

16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, (John 1:14-18)

In other words, how do we know the grace and truth of God?  We see it lived out in the real flesh-and-blood life of Jesus (PBUH).  The disciples could understand the ‘grace and truth’ of God by seeing it in Jesus.  The Law, with its commands, could not give us that visual example.

The Son … coming directly from God

Another use of the term ‘son of God’ also helps us to understand better what it means in regard to Isa/Jesus (PBUH).  The Gospel of Luke lists the genealogy (father to son) of Jesus going right back to Adam.  We pick up the genealogy at the very end where it says

38 … the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God. (Luke 3:38)

We see here that Adam is called ‘the son of God’.  Why?  Because Adam had no human father; he came directly from God.  Jesus also had no human father; he was born of a virgin.  As it says above in the Gospel of John he directly ‘came from the Father’.

A ‘son of …’ example from the Qur’an

The Qur’an uses the expression ‘son of …’ in a similar way as the Injil.  Consider the following ayah

They ask thee what they should spend (In charity). Say: Whatever ye spend that is good, is for parents and kindred and orphans and those in want and for wayfarers. And whatever ye do that is good, -God knoweth it well. (Surat al-Baqarah 2:215)

The word ‘wayfarers’ (or ‘travellers’) is literally written as ‘sons of the road’ in the original arabic (‘ibni sabil’ or  ابن السبيل). Why?  Because interpreters and translators have understood that the phrase does not literally referring to ‘sons’ of the road, but that it is an expression to denote a travellers – those who are strongly connected to and dependent on the road.

What ‘Son of God’ does not mean

It is the same with the Bible when it uses the term ‘son of God’.  Nowhere in the Taurat, Zabur or Injil does the term ‘Son of God’ mean that God had sexual relations with a woman and had a literal and physical son as a result.  This understanding was common in ancient Greek polytheism where gods had ‘wives’.  But nowhere in the Bible (al kitab) is this even hinted at.  Certainly this would be impossible since it explicitly says in Isaiah and in the Gospel that Jesus was born of a virgin – thus no relations.

Summary

We saw here that the Prophet Isaiah around 750 BC had prophesied that one day in his future a Sign directly from the LORD would come

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14)

By definition a son from a virgin would have no human father.  We saw here that the angel Gabriel (Jibril) had declared to Mary that this would happen because ‘the power of the Most High will overshadow you (Mary)’.  This would not come about by unholy relations between God and Mary – that would indeed by blasphemy (shirk).  No, this son would be a ‘holy one’ in a very unique way, proceeding directly from God without human plan or effort.  He would proceed directly from God as words proceed directly from us.  In this sense the Messiah was the Son of God as well as the Word of God.

Where does ‘Masih’ of Isa & ‘Christ’ of Jesus come from?

The Qur’an refers to Isa (Jesus – PBUH) as ‘al Masih’.  What does this mean?  Where does it come from?  Why do Christians refer to him as ‘the Christ’?  Is ‘Masih’ the same as ‘Christ’ or is this some contradiction or corruption?  The Zabur (Psalms) provides the answers to these important questions.  However, to understand this article you need to first read the article on ‘How was the Bible translated?’ as this information will be used here.

The Origin of ‘Christ’

In the figure below I follow the translation process as explained in ‘How was the Bible translated?’, but specifically focusing on the word ‘Christ’ used in  the modern-day Injil or New Testament.

Translation flow of word 'Christ' from Hebrew to modern-day
Translation flow of word ‘Christ’ from Hebrew to modern-day

You can see that in the original Hebrew of the Zabur (in Quadrant #1) the term was ‘mashiyach’ which the Hebrew dictionary defines as an ‘anointed or consecrated’ person.  Certain passages of the Zabur (Psalms) spoke of a specific mashiyach (with a definite article ’the’) who was prophesied to come. When the Septuagint was developed in 250 BC (see How was the Bible translated), the scholars used a word in the Greek for the Hebrew mashiyach that had a similar meaning – Χριστός = Christos – which came from chrio, which meant to rub ceremonially with oil. Therefore the word Christos was translated by meaning (and not transliterated by sound) from the Hebrew ‘mashiyach’ into the Greek Septuagint to refer to this specific person. This is Quadrant #2.  The disciples of Isa (Jesus – PBUH) understood that he was this very person that was spoken of in the Septuagint so they continued to use the term Christos in the Injil (or New Testament). (again in Quadrant #2)

But with modern-day English (or other languages) ‘Christos’ was then transliterated from the Greek into English (and other modern languages) as ‘Christ’. This is the lower half of the figure labelled #3.  Thus the English ‘Christ’ is a very specific title from Psalms of Zabur, derived by translation from Hebrew to Greek, and then transliteration from Greek to English. The Hebrew Zabur is translated directly to modern languages and translators have used different words in rendering the original Hebrew ‘mashiyach’. Some  (like King James) transliterated the Hebrew ‘mashiyach’ to the English word Messiah by sound. Others (like New International) translated ‘mashiyach’ by its meaning and so have ‘Anointed One’ in these specific passages of the Psalms (or Zabur). In either case we do not often see the word ‘Christ’ in the English Psalms and therefore this connection to the Old Testament is not obvious. But from this analysis we know that in the Bible (or al kitab):

‘Christ’=’Messiah’=’Anointed One’

and that it was a specific title.

So where does ‘Masih’ come from in Qur’an?

We have seen how ‘Christ’=’Messiah’=’Anointed One’ which are equivalent titles that you find in different parts of the Bible (al kitab).  But what about how ‘Christ’ is referred to in Qur’an?  To answer I will extrapolate from the figure above which showed the flow of Mashiyach->Christ in the Bible (al kitab).

The figure below expands the process to include the Arabic Qur’an which was written after the Hebrew and Greek translations of the Bible (al kitab).  You can see that I have divided quadrant #1 into two parts.  Part 1a is the same as before dealing with the original ‘mashiyach’ in Hebrew Zabur as explained above.  Part 1b now follows this term into Arabic.  You can see that the term ‘mashiyac’h was transliterated (i.e. by similar sound) in the Qur’an (as مسيح).  Then, when Arabic-speaking readers of the Qur’an rendered the word into English they again transliterated it as ‘Masih’.

The translation process showing that ‘Anointed One’ = ‘Masih’ = ‘Messiah’ = ‘Christ’

With this background knowledge we can see that they are all the same title and all mean the same thing in the same way that “4= ‘four’ (English) = ‘quatre’ (French) = IV (Roman numbers) = 6-2 = 2+2.

The Christ anticipated in 1st Century

With this knowledge, let’s make some observations from the Gospel (the Injil). Below is the reaction of King Herod when the wise men from the East came looking for the king of the Jews, a well-known part of the story of the birth of Isa (Jesus – PBUH). Notice, ‘the’ precedes Christ, even though it is not referring specifically about Isa (Jesus – PBUH).

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. (Matthew 2:3-4)

You can see that the very idea of ‘the Christ’ was already commonly accepted between Herod and his religious advisors – even before Isa (Jesus – PBUH) was born – and it is used here without referring specifically to him. This is because, as explained above, ‘Christ’ comes from the Zabur (Psalms) written hundreds of years earlier by Prophet and King Dawud (David – PBUH), and it was commonly read by Jews of the 1st century (like Herod) in the Greek Septuagint. ‘Christ’ was (and still is) a title, not a name. From this we can dismiss right away the ridiculous notions that ‘Christ’ was a Christian invention or an invention by someone like the Roman Emperor Constantine of 300 AD popularized by movies like Da Vinci Code. The title was in existence hundreds of years before there were any Christians or before Constantine came to power.

Prophecies of ‘The Christ’ in Zabur

Let’s look at these first occurrences of the prophetic title ‘Christ’ in Zabur (the Psalms), written by Prophet Dawood (David – PBUH)  ca 1000 BC – far, far before the birth of Isa (Jesus – PBUH).

The kings of the earth take their stand … against the LORD and against his Anointed One … The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them… saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill….”. (Psalm 2:2-4)

Psalm 2 of Zabur in the Septuagint would read in the following way in the Greek Septuagint (I am putting it with a transliterated Christos so you can ‘see’ the Christ title like a reader of the Septuagint could)

The kings of the earth take their stand … against the LORD and against his Christ … The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them… saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill … (Psalm 2)

You can now ‘see’ Christ in this passage like a reader of the 1st century would have. And the following transliteration would have exactly the same meaning:

The kings of the earth take their stand … against the LORD and against his Masih … The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them… saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill … (Psalm 2 of Zabur)

But the Zabur (Psalms) continue with more references to this coming Christ or Masih. I put the standard passage side-by-side with a transliterated one with ‘Christ’ and with ‘Masih’  so you can see it.

Psalm 132- From Hebrew Psalm 132 – From Septuagint Psalm 132 of Zabur with Arabic transliteration
O Lord, …10 For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your anointed one.11 The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants
I will place on your throne—
17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my anointed one. ”
O Lord, …10 For the sake of David your servant, do not reject your Christ.11 The Lord swore an oath to David, a sure oath that he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants I will place on your throne— …17 “Here I will make a horn grow for David and set up a lamp for my Christ. ”
O Lord, … For the sake of  Dawud your servant, do not reject your Masih.11 The Lord swore an oath to Dawud, a sure oath that he will not revoke:
“One of your own descendants I will place on your throne— …17 “Here I will make a horn grow for Dawud and set up a lamp for my Masih. ”

You can see that Psalm 132 specifically speaks in the future tense (“…I will make a horn for David (or Dawud)…”), like so many passages throughout the Taurat and Zabur. This is important to remember when assessing the prophecies. It is clear that the Zabur makes future-looking claims and predictions – and this is without considering the Injil. Herod was aware that the Old Testament prophets made predictions about the coming ‘Christ’ – which was why he was ready for this announcement. He just needed his advisers to explain the specifics of these predictions because he did not know the Zabur very well. The Jews are known to be waiting for their Messiah (or Christ). The fact that they are waiting or looking for the coming of their Messiah has nothing to do with Isa (or Jesus – PBUH) in the Injil or New Testament (since they ignore that) but rather has everything to do with the explicitly future-looking prophecies in the Zabur.

The prophecies of Taurat & Zabur: like a lock of a lock-and-key system

The fact that the Taurat and Zabur specifically predict the future makes them like the lock of a door. A lock is designed in a certain shape so that only a specific ‘key’ that matches the shape can unlock it. In the same way the Old Testament is like a lock. We saw already in the posts on the Great Sacrifice of Ibrahim (PBUH), and the Passover of the Prophet Musa (PBUH) and the coming Sign of the Virgin’s Son (please review if they are not familiar) that there were specific prophecies of this coming person.  Psalm 132 of Zabur adds the rule that ‘the Christ’ would be from the line of Prophet and King Dawud (=David – PBUH).  So the ‘lock’ becomes more and more precise as we read the prophetic passages through the Old Testament. The Zabur does not end with these prophecies.  It tells us in much further detail what the Masih would be and do.  We continue through the zabur.

Who was the ‘Spirit of Truth’ that Isa (pbuh) promised in the Injil

Just before he was arrested and condemned, the prophet Isa al Masih (pbuh) held a long discourse with his disciples which is recorded in the Gospel of John. John was one of his 12 disciples and he was there at this discourse and was guided to include it in his Gospel. As part of his discourse, Isa (pbuh) promised his disciples that the ‘spirit of truth’ will come after he is gone. The question naturally arises – who is or was this ‘Spirit of truth’?

Controversy increased by Ahmed Deedat

This has stirred up some controversy because some high-profile apologists, such as Ahmed Deedat, have written, debated and Youtubed that this is none other than the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). I, like many of you, have heard this from him and from others  influenced by him. I think all of us need to come to our own conclusions on this question, but we should do so from an informed perspective, not simply because a well-known imam or Deedat teaches this.

To be informed we need to study how Isa (pbuh) described this ‘Spirit of Truth’ in this discourse recorded by John because that is the only data that all people, Deedat included, have. The complete discourse is available here for you to read, and it is worth doing so you completely understand the context. I will take highlights of the discourse that deal directly with the Spirit of Truth. How does Isa (pbuh) describe this coming ‘Spirit of Truth’?

Isa’s (pbuh) teaching on the Spirit of Truth

I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. (John 14:16-19)

Isa al Masih (pbuh) describes the ‘Spirit of Truth’ as:

  • an ‘advocate’. The Greek word here is παράκλητον (parakletos), which comes from ‘para’ (close-beside) and ‘kaleo’ (to make a call or judgment). Other words that can be used are: Comforter, Counsellor,
  • the world cannot see him or know him.
  • he will live ‘in’ the disciples

These descriptions certainly do not sound like they belong to a man with a physical body because anyone can see a physical body, but this Spirit of Truth would not be seen. Also, it would seem impossible for a human prophet with a physical body to live ‘in’ other people, including the disciples. But let us continue the discourse of Isa (pbuh).

“All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:25-26)

So this Spirit of Truth would teach the disciples and remind them of everything that Isa al Masih (pbuh) had taught.

“When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)

But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (John 16:7-15)

Here we see that the Spirit of Truth would be sent to the disciples and that he would guide the disciples in all the truth, even telling them what is ‘yet to come’ *ie in the future). You will remember from Taurat’s Sign of the Prophet that this ability was the sign that Musa (pbuh) gave so people would know if someone was a true prophet.

Is Deedat correct? Is the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) this promised Spirit of Truth?

With all these descriptions I cannot see this applying to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). After all, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had a physical body and thus was seen – even by those who did not accept him (ex. the Quresh or Quraysh in Mecca). The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) certainly did not live ‘in’ the disciples of Isa (pbuh), nor was the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) sent to the disciples, nor did he instruct them, guide them. In fact, since the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) came 600 years or so after the disciples of Isa (pbuh) he had nothing to do with them. Yet the ‘Spirit of Truth’ was promised to do all these things.

When I read and study carefully all the arguments that Deedat uses to convince us that the ‘Spirit of Truth’ is indeed the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) I find that they are half-truths and do not accurately represent the discourse of Isa (pbuh). As I have continued to study his writings, I have found that though he has great zeal, he often uses half-truth or distortions. You may think otherwise, and this is not the main issue of this article, but I have found him to be unreliable.

And certainly in the case of determining who the Spirit of Truth is, it seems to me from these points that it cannot be referring to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Great religious zeal will not overcome plain obvious facts.

Who is the Spirit of Truth?

But who then is the ‘Spirit of Truth’? If we read in the Book of Acts, which is a continuation of the Gospel of Luke and deals with the events of the companions of Isa (pbuh) immediately after the departure of Isa (pbuh) it becomes very clear. Here we read what Isa (pbuh) did and said just before he was taken up into heaven (The ‘he’ spoken of is Isa – pbuh, and the ‘John’ mentioned is the Prophet Yahya – pbuh).

On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. (Acts 1:4-9)

Here we see, just before his departure that again he talks about the coming ‘Holy Spirit’. Then in the next chapter, and just a few days after the departure of Isa (pbuh) into heaven we read that (the “they” are the companions of Isa after his departure and Pentecost is a festival that occurred 50 days after the Passover – see sign of Musa for more explanation)

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” (Acts 2:1-12)

So here we read that the ‘Spirit of God’ came on each of the disciples and they were able to miraculously speak other languages. As you continue to read Acts you will see that the disciples continued to be guided and led the Holy Spirit who indwelt them.

This explanation fits all the details that Isa (pbuh) described in his discourse for the Spirit of Truth. But it raises further implications and perhaps questions for us. Let us deal first with some implications.

The Spirit of Truth & the Writings of the Disciples of Prophet Isa al Masih (pbuh)

First of all, it says that the companions of Isa (pbuh) were from this point on ‘indwelt’ by the Holy Spirit. And you see this in their later actions and in what they wrote. For example:

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. (1 Timothy 4:1)

 

by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. (Romans 15:19)

 

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.” At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.” (Revelation 19:9-10)

These passages, taken from the writings of the companions of Isa (pbuh) in the New Testament, clearly show their authority and dependence on the Spirit of Truth. In the first passage above, the Spirit gives a prophecy to the writer about what will happen in the future (worldwide abandonment of good and following evil). In the second passage the writer relies on the miracles that he himself could do, by the Spirit, in his witness to the Gospel (Injil) of Jesus (or Isa – pbuh). In the third passage, the writer sees a mighty angel in a vision, and is tempted to worship the angel, but the angel tells him to only worship God and then says it is by the ‘Spirit of prophecy’ that the vision is taking place and it is about Isa (pbuh).

These were the very same indicators that Isa (pbuh) gave in his discourse about what the Spirit of Truth would do. This Spirit would indwell and guide the disciples of Isa so that they would be prophets, and that the message of the Spirit would point to Isa (pbuh).

This is one important reason why we need to take the writing of the disciples of Isa (pbuh) in the New Testament very seriously. Their writings were inspired by this Spirit of Truth and thus should be taken as seriously as we take the prophecies of Musa in Taurat. The direct promise that Isa (pbuh) gave in his discourse was that this Spirit would ‘remind them of everything I (Isa – pbuh) have said to you’. If this is the case, then the writings of these companions must be listened to.

The Spirit of Truth and all followers of Injil

A second implication of the coming of the Spirit of Truth is that not only did he inspire the companions of Isa (pbuh) but He indwells all who trust in the Injil. And this indwelling will change our lives. Notice what the following verses say about this.

And you also were included in Christ (ie Masih) when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, (Ephesians 1:13)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

The Promise of the Spirit was not only to inspire the Companions of Isa (pbuh) but also that all followers of the Injil would be sealed with the same Spirit of Truth so that our lives will be marked by the fruit of the Spirit as listed, instead of what usually rules our lives: discord, envy, greed, jealousy, rage, lust and lack of control. I can say from my own personal experience that the Spirit of Truth changed me from the inside, so that my outside actions changed as a result of my inside change. Truly, this is one of the great blessings of the Injil and one of the reasons it is ‘good news’.

The Spirit of Truth in the Beginning

And when we look for further insight to the Holy Spirit we find that He plays important roles even from the very beginning of the Taurat. We read in the creation of all things, in the first verses of Taurat that

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)

So the Spirit was there even in creation!

So this raises an important question. How do we understand this Spirit of God or Spirit of Truth? This is a great mystery, but perhaps the common understanding of the Qur’an will help us. Many understand the Qur’an to be the eternal Word of God from eternity past. It was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) but has always existed and was thus never created. Perhaps in some similar way the Spirit of God (which we know from Taurat above was present at the beginning of creation) is an eternal and uncreated essence that proceeds forth from Allah. But the Books do not explain this in detail so it could be one of these mysteries to which ‘God only knows’.

I, and probably you as well, know people who have worked hard to memorize the Qur’an so that this Word can be ‘in’ them.  If the Spirit of Truth is as inferred above, and He can also be ‘in’ us to change us so that our lives display the fruit marked by the Word of God – would that not be a great blessing?  One that is worth very much?  We should perhaps reflect on the significance of the ‘Spirit of Truth’ promised to come ‘in’ us, and what that could mean for us.

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History of the Israelites: Did the Curses of Musa (PBUH) come to pass?

To make the history of the Israelites easier to follow I am going to build a series of timelines describing their history.  We start the history of the Israelites by placing the most recognized prophets of the Bible to the time of Isa al Masih (PBUH) in a timeline.

The Most Recognized Prophets of the Bible

This timeline uses the Western calendar (and remember this is all BC or BCE dating).  The width of the bars shows how long that particular prophet lived.  Ibrahim and Musa (PBUT) are important for their Signs which we have looked at already.  Dawood (or David – PBUH) is recognized because he started the Zaboor and he was the first King of a dynasty that ruled from Jerusalem.  Isa al Masih (PBUH) is important because he is central to the Injil.

We see in the green period that the Israelites had been living as slaves in Egypt.

Living in Egypt as slaves of Pharoah

This period of time started when Yusuf (or Joseph) great-grandson of Ibrahim (PBUT) led his people to Egypt, but they became slaves there.  Musa (PBUH) led the Israelites out of Egypt with the Passover Sign.

So with Musa (PBUH) the history of Israelites changes and it is now shown in yellow.

Living in the Land – but no King in Jerusalem

They live in the land of Israel (or Palestine).  Musa (PBUH) pronounces the Blessings and Curses on them at the end of his life – when the timeline goes from green to yellow.  So for several hundred years the Israelites live in this land promised in Sign 1 of Ibrahim.  However they do not have a King, nor do they have a capital city of Jerusalem – it belonged to other people in this time period.

However, with the sending of Dawood (or David) about 1000 BC to the Israelites this changes.

Living with Kings from Dawood ruling from Jerusalem

Dawood (PBUH) conquers Jerusalem and makes it his capital city where the King’s palace was and he was anointed as King by the Prophet Samuel (PBUH).  And his son Suleiman (or Solomon), also famous for his wisdom, rules as his successor.  Suleiman builds a wonderful Temple to the LORD in Jerusalem.  The descendants of King Dawood continue to rule for about 400 years and this period is shown in light blue (1000 – 600 BC).  This was the glory period for the Israelites – they started to see the Blessings promised.  They were a world power, had an advanced society, had culture, a Temple and this was the period when many prophets had messages from Allah and they are recorded in the Zaboor that David started.  But the reason that there were many prophets sent was because the Israelites became more and more corrupt, worshiping idols, and disobeying the Ten Commandments.  So Allah sent them prophets to warn them and remind them that the Curses of Musa would come upon them.  But the Israelites did not listen.

So finally around 600 BC the Curses came true.  Nebuchadnezzar, a powerful King from Babylon came – and just like Musa had predicted in his Curse when he wrote

The Lord will bring a nation against you from far away … a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young.  …  They will besiege all the cities throughout the land. (Deuteronomy 28: 49-52)

Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, burned it, and destroyed the Temple that Suleiman had built.  He then took the Israelites and deported the majority across his vast Babylonian Empire.  Only the poor Israelites remained behind.  Thus was fulfilled the predictions of Musa that

You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.  Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. (Deuteronomy 28:63-64)

Conquered and exiled to Babylon

So for 70 years, the period shown in red, the Israelites lived as exiles outside the Promised Land.

After that, the Persian Emperor Cyrus conquered Babylon and Cyrus became the most powerful person in the world.  And he issued a decree that permitted the Israelites to return to their land.

Living in the Land as a part of Persian Empire

However they were no longer an independent country, they were now a province within the vast Persian Empire.  This continued for 200 years and is shown in pink in the timeline.  During this time the Temple was rebuilt (known as the 2nd Temple) and the last prophets of the Old Testament had their messages.

And then Alexander the Great conquered the Persian Empire and made the Israelites a province in his Empire which also continued for another 200 years.  This is shown in dark blue.

Living in the Land as part of Greek Empires

Then the Romans defeated the Greek Empires and they became the mighty Roman Empire.  The Israelites again became a province in this Empire and it is shown in light yellow.  The prophet Isa al Masih lived in Israel in this time.  This explains why there is a Roman Governor and Roman soldiers throughout the account of the Injil – because the Romans ruled the Jews in the Land during the life of Isa al Masih.

Living in the Land as part of Roman Empire

However, from the time of the Babylonians (600 BC) the Israelites (or Jews as they were called now) had never been independent again as they had been under the Kings of Dawood.  They were ruled by other governments of other people. They resented this and after the passing of Isa al Masih they revolted against Roman rule.  A war of independence started.  But the Jews lost this war.  In fact the Romans came and destroyed Jerusalem, burned down the 2ndTemple and deported the Jews as slaves across the Roman Empire.  Since this Empire was so vast the Jews were effectively dispersed across the whole world.

Jerusalem and Temple destroyed by Romans in 70 AD. Jews sent into world-wide exile

And this is how they lived for almost 2000 years: dispersed, fragmented, living in foreign lands and never accepted in these lands.  The words of Musa given in the Curse were fulfilled as it was written

… Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. (Deuteronomy 28:65)

So were the Curses of Musa fulfilled?  Yes they were, and to every detail.  The Curses against the Israelites were given to make us who are not Jews ask:

All the nations will ask: “Why has the Lord done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?”

And the answer will be: “ … the Lord uprooted them from their land and thrust them into another land…” (Deuteronomy 29:24-25)

This is an important Sign to us to take the Prophets’ Warnings very seriously – because there will be warnings for us as well.

Of course this historical survey only goes up to about 2000 years ago.  Click here to see how the blessings and curses of the prophet Musa (PBUH) concluded into our modern times.

The Gospel 'according to' … who?

Recently I got what I thought was an excellent question.  I reproduce it here.

Hi, can you clarify why there’s an according to Luke, according to John in Injil? As far as I understand the word according means an account inspired by that person based on his understanding.

Hence, I am interested in Gospel(s) according to Jesus pbuh but “not according” to Luke, John, etc. If you have a copy, I would be happy to get it from you.

I thought it was worthwhile to give an in-depth answer.  Let’s think about the question and even re-phrase it a little.

What does the word ‘Gospel’ mean?

There are four Gospel books in the New Testament of al Kitab: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  What does it mean that these are ‘according to’ these different writers?  Does it mean there are four different gospels (or injils)?  Are they different from the ‘Gospel of Jesus’?  Does it mean these are accounts ‘inspired by that person based on his understanding’?

It is so easy with questions like this to dismiss serious thinking because of our preconceived ideas. But to get a systematic answer, and one based on knowledge, we need to understand the word ‘Gospel’ (or ‘Injil’).  In the original Greek (this is the original language of the New Testament see here for details) the word for Gospel is εὐαγγελίου (pronounced euangeliou).  This word means a ‘message of good news’.  We know this by seeing how it was used in ancient history.  The Old Testament (Taurat & Zabur) were written in Hebrew (see here for details).  But about 200 BC – before the New Testament – because the world of that day was becoming very Greek-speaking, a translation of Old Testament from the Hebrew to Greek was made by Jewish scholars of that time.  This translation is called the Septuagint (see here for details on the Septuagint from my other website).  From the Septuagint we can understand how Greek words were used in that time (i.e. 200 BC).  So here is a passage from the Old Testament where εὐαγγελίου (‘good news’) was used in the Septuagint.

David answered Rekab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! (2 Samuel 4:9-10)

This is a passage when King David (Dawood) is speaking about how someone brought news of his enemy’s death thinking it would be good news to the king.  This word ‘good news’ is translated εὐαγγελίου in the 200 BC Greek Septuagint. So this means that εὐαγγελίου in the Greek means the ‘good news’.

But εὐαγγελίου also meant the historic book or document that contained the ‘good news’.  For example, Justin Martyr was an early follower of the Gospel (he would be exactly the same as a ‘successor’ to the companions of the Prophet (PBUH)) and an extensive writer. He used εὐαγγελίου in this way when he writes “… but also in the gospel it is written that He said…” (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 100).  Here the word ‘good news’ is used to denote a book.

In the titles ‘The Gospel according to…’ the word εὐαγγελίου (gospel) has the first meaning of the word, while also suggesting the second meaning.  The ‘Gospel according to Matthew’ means the Good News as recorded to a written account by Matthew.

‘Gospel’ compared to ‘News’

Now the word ‘news’ today has the same double meaning.  ‘News’ in its primary sense means dramatic events that are occurring such as a famine or a war.  However, it can also refer to the agencies like BBC, Al-Jazeera or CNN that report these ‘news’ items to us.  As I write this, the civil war in Syria is making a lot of news.  And it would be normal for me to say “I am going to listen to the BBC News on Syria”.  ‘News’ in this sentence refers primarily to the events but also the agency reporting the events. But the BBC does not make up the news, nor is the news about the BBC – it is about the dramatic event. A listener who wants to be informed of a news event may listen to several news reports from several agencies to get a more complete overall perspective – all about the same news event.

In the same way the Gospel is about Isa al Masih – Jesus (PBUH).  He is the object of the news focus and there is only one Gospel.  Notice how Mark starts his book

“The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ…” (Mark 1:1)

There is one gospel and it is about Jesus (Isa – PBUH) and he had one message, but this message was written down by Mark in a book, and this book is also called a Gospel.

The Gospels – like haddiths

You can also think of this like in terms of haddiths.  There are haddiths of the same event that come through different isnads or chain of narrators. The event is one thing but the chain of reporters can be different.  The event or saying of the haddith is not about the narrators – it is about something that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said or did.  The Gospels are exactly the same except that the isnad chain is only one link longIf you accept in principle that an isnad (after doing the proper checking that scholars like Bhukari and Muslim did) can accurately report the words and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), even if there can be different isnads through different narrators going back to the same event, why is it difficult to accept the one link or one narrator long ‘isnad’ of the gospel writers?  It is exactly the same principle but the isnad chain is much shorter and much more clearly established since it was written down very soon after the event, not a few generations years later like the scholars Bukhari and Muslim did when they reduced the oral isnads of their day to writing.

Gospel Writers were not inspired by themselves

And the writers of these gospels were promised by Isa al Masih (PBUH) that what they wrote would be inspired by Allah – the writing is not from their human inspiration.  It says so both in the gospels and the Qur’an

“All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:25-26)

And behold I inspired the Disciples to have faith in me and mine messenger (Isa): they said, “We have faith, and you bear witness that we bow to Allah as Muslims (Surat 5:111 – Table Spread)

So the written documents they produced – the gospels we have today – were not inspired by them.  They were inspired by Allah and thus deserve serious consideration.  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have always been (since they were written down in the first century) the gospel of Jesus – they were the reporters of it.  Read their writings to read the message of Jesus (Isa – PBUH) and understand the ‘Good News’ he was teaching.

How Much do we need to obey the Law?

Sometimes I am asked if Allah really expects and demands 100% obedience.  We can argue about this between humans but really this question will be answered by Allah, not by us, so instead I have simply picked out verses from Taurat that tell us to what extent obedience to the Law is required and expected.  They are below.  Notice how many verses and how clear they are.  The verses are full of phrases like ‘carefully follow’, ‘ALL commands’, “All your heart”, “commands always”, “everything”, “All decrees”, “fully obey”, “all the words”, “listen to all”.

This standard of 100% obedience never changes with the later prophets.  Isa al Masih (PBUH) in the Injil taught that:

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.(Matthew 5:17-19)

And the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in the haddith said

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar: ..A group of Jews came and invited the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) to Quff. …  They said: ‘AbulQasim, one of our men has committed fornication with a woman; so pronounce judgment upon them’. They placed a cushion for the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) who sat on it and said: “Bring the Torah”. It was then brought. He then withdrew the cushion from beneath him and placed the Torah on it saying: “I believed in thee and in Him Who revealed thee.”  Sunan Abu Dawud Book 38, No. 4434:

And this only makes sense.  Allah is preparing Paradise – and this is a perfect and holy place – where He is.  There will be no police, no armies, no locks – and all the other securities we have today to protect ourselves from the sins of each other.  That is why it will be paradise.  But for it to remain a perfect place, only perfect people can enter – those who follow ‘all’ commands ‘always’, ‘fully’, and ‘in everything’.

Here is what the Taurat says about the extent of obedience to the Law that is required.

Why are there so many Bible 'Versions'?

Recently I was in a mosque listening to the imam’s teaching.  He said something that was completely wrong and very misleading.  What he said I have heard many times before – from my good friends.  And perhaps you also have heard this and it has raised questions in your mind.  So let us consider it.

The imam said that there are so many different versions of the Bible (al kitab).  In the English language you can get (and he named them) the King James Version, the New International Version, the New American Standard Version, the New English Version and so on.  Then the imam said that since there are so many different versions, this shows that the Bible (al kitab) has been corrupted, or at least we cannot know the ‘true’ one.  Yes indeed there are these different versions – but this has nothing to do with the corruption of the Bible or whether these actually are different Bibles.  In fact there is only one Bible/Kitab.

When we speak of, for example, the New International Version, we are speaking of a certain translation from the original Greek (Injil) and Hebrew (Taurat & Zabur) into English.  The New American Standard Version is another translation into English but from the same Greek and Hebrew text.

The same situation exists with the Qur’an.  I usually use the Yusuf Ali translation but I also sometimes use the Pickthall translation.  Pickthall translated from the same arabic Qur’an that Yusuf Ali used, but his choice of English words in his translation is not always the same.  Thus they are different translations.  But no one – not a Christian, a Jew, or even an atheist says that because there are two different translations of the Qur’an into English (Pickthall’s and Yusuf Ali’s) that this shows that there are ‘different’ Qur’ans or that the Holy Qur’an is corrupted.  In the same way, there is a Greek text of the Injil (see it here) and there is a Hebrew text for the Taurat and Zabur (see it here).  But most people do not read these languages so various translations are available in English (and other languages) so that they can understand the message in their native language.

Since so many people today read English as their native language there are different versions – translations – so it can be better understood.  But what about the errors involved in translation?  Does the fact that there are different translations show that it is impossible to accurately translate what the original authors wrote? Due to the vast classical literature written in Greek it has become possible to precisely translate the original thoughts and words of the original authors. In fact the different modern versions show this.  For example, here is a verse from the New Testament, taken from 1 Timothy 2:5, in the original Greek.

εις γαρ θεος εις και μεσιτης θεου και ανθρωπων ανθρωπος χριστος ιησους (1 Timothy 2:5)

Here are some popular translations of this verse.

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, New International Version

 

For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; King James Version 

 

For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, New American Standard Version

As you can see for yourself they are very close in their translation – differing by only a couple of words. They say exactly the same thing with only slightly different word usage. This is because there is only one al Kitab/Bible and therefore the translations from it will be very similar.  There are not ‘different’ Bibles.  As I wrote at the start, it is completely wrong for anyone to say that because there are different versions means that there are different Bibles.

I urge everyone to select a version of al-kitab/Bible in their own native language to read.  It is well worth the effort.

 

Did Ibrahim (PBUH) sacrifice Ishmael or Isaac?

Most of my friends, when we discussed the sacrifice of the Prophet  Ibrahim’s (PBUH) son, have insisted that the son who was (almost) sacrificed was Hazrat Ishmael (also known as Ismail) – the elder son of the prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) by Hagar, and not Isaac, the younger son by Sarah.  Therefore, I was so surprised when I read the passage about this in the Qur’an.  When I showed it to these same friends they were also very surprised.  So what does it say?  In Sign 3 of Ibrahim I looked at this important event, and I quote the passage in full at From the Books: Sign 3 of Ibrahim.  I repeat the specific ayah again here

Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practicing Patience and Constancy!  (Al-Saffat 37:102)

You can see that the name of the son is not mentioned in this passage about the sacrifice of the son of Ibrahim (PBUH).  So the issue becomes confusing.  When something is confusing it is best to do a more thorough search and study.  If you search through the entire Qur’an for when prophet Ishmael (or Isma’il) is mentioned you will see his name occurs 12 times.  In two of these times he is the only one named along with Ibrahim his father (2:125, 2:127).  Five of these times he is mentioned with Ibrahim and with his brother Isaac (3:84, 4,163, 2:133, 2:136, 2:140).  The remaining five passages mentions him without his father Ibrahim, but rather he is in a list with other prophets (6:86, 14:39, 19:54, 21:85, 38:48).  In the two times he is mentioned alone with his father Ibrahim (PBUH) you can see that it is talking about other events on prayer – not sacrifice.

Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma’il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). (The Cow:125)

And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House (With this prayer): “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing. (The Cow: 127)

Therefore the Qur’an never specifies that it was Ishmael that was tested by sacrifice, it just says ‘the son’. So why is it believed that it was Ishmael who was tested by sacrifice?

Commentary on the Sacrifice of the Son of Ibrahim

Yusuf Ali (whose translation of the Qur’an is the one I am using) is a respected commentator of the Qur’an as well as a translator.  His commentary footnotes are available at http://al-quran.info

These footnotes on the passage of the sacrifice (from al-Saffat which we used in Sign 3 of Ibrahim) you will find the following two footnotes on the son being sacrificed.

 4071  This was in the fertile land of Syria and Palestine. The boy thus born was, according to Muslim tradition, the first-born son of Abraham, viz., Ismail. The name itself is from the root Sami’a, to hear, because God had heard Abraham’s prayer (verse 100). Abraham’s age when Ismail was born was 86 (Gen. 16:16).

4076 Our version may be compared with the Jewish-Christian version of the present Old Testament. The Jewish tradition, in order to glorify the younger branch of the family, descended from Isaac, ancestor of the Jews, as against the elder branch, descended from Isma’il, ancestor of the Arabs, refers this sacrifice to Isaac (Gen. 22:1-18). Now Isaac was born when Abraham was 100 years old (Gen. 21:5), while Isma’il was born to Abraham when Abraham was 86 years old (Gen. 16:16). Isma’il was therefore 14 years older than Isaac. During his first 14 years Isma’il was the only son of Abraham; at no time was Isaac the only son of Abraham. Yet, in speaking of the sacrifice, the Old Testament says (Gen. 22:2): ‘And He said, Take now thy son, thine only son Issac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah : and offer him there for a burnt offering…”

Yusuf Ali’s only reason for the view that it is Ishmael and not Isaac being sacrificed is ‘Muslim tradition’.  He makes no reference to holy scripture.  In his second footnote he argues that since the Taurat says ‘take your son, your only son…(Genesis 22:2) and Ishmael was 14 years older, then only Ishmael could be offered for sacrifice as an ‘only son’.  But he is ignoring the fact that just previously, in Genesis 21, Ibrahim (PBUH) sent Ishmael and Hagar away due to the tensions in the family.  Thus, in Genesis 22 Isaac is actually his ‘only son’ since Ishmael had been banished.  This is covered in more detail in my post on this.

Ibrahim’s son sacrificed: Testimony of the Taurat

So the Qur’an does not specify which son, but the Taurat is very clear.  As you can see in the Books that the passage in Genesis 22 mentions Isaac by name six different times (in 22:2, 3, 6, 7 (2 times), 9).

The Taurat supported by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)

That the Taurat as we have it today was supported by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is very clear from haddiths.  My post on this mentions several haddith, one of which states that

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar: ..A group of Jews came and invited the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) to Quff. …  They said: ‘AbulQasim, one of our men has committed fornication with a woman; so pronounce judgment upon them’. They placed a cushion for the Apostle of Allah (PBUH) who sat on it and said: “Bring the Torah”. It was then brought. He then withdrew the cushion from beneath him and placed the Torah on it saying: “I believed in thee and in Him Who revealed thee.”  Sunan Abu Dawud Book 38, No. 4434:

The Taurat supported by the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH)

The prophet Isa al-Masih (PBUH) also supported the Taurat as it is today as we saw in my post on how he affirmed that the first books were the most important for us.  One quote from him in that article says that

18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law (i.e. Taurat) until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:18-19)

The Warning: Never Tradition over Taurat

So it would not be wise to lightly dismiss the Books of Moses (Musa) for the sake of any tradition.  In fact, the Prophet Isa al-Masih heavily criticized the Jews of his day precisely because they put their ‘traditions’ ahead of the Law.  We see that in his disputes with the Jewish leaders that he says to them:

Jesus (i.e. Isa) replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! (Matthew 15:3-7)

The warning by the prophet is very clear to never nullify the Message for the sake of ‘tradition’.

The Testimony of Today’s Taurat supported by Dead Sea Scrolls

The following diagram shows that the dates of the earliest existing manuscripts of the Taurat, (which is one of the main principles used in textual criticism – the science of determining the reliability of a book – see my post on it here), the Dead Sea Scrolls date to 200 B.C.  This means that the Taurat that both the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) were referring to is exactly the same as we use today.

This is the value for us all to go back to the Books.  Then we can build a foundation from knowing what the Prophets have said rather than remaining confused in speculations

Manuscript copies of Taurat through time
Manuscript copies of Taurat through time