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Understanding & Receiving the Gift of Life from Isa al Masih

We examined the final week of the prophet Isa al Masih PBUH.  The Injil records that he was crucified on Day 6 – Good Friday, and he was raised back to life the following Sunday.  This was foreseen both in the Taurat and the Psalms and Prophets.  But why did this happen and what does it mean for you and me today?   Here we seek to understand what is offered by the Prophet Isa al Masih, and how we can receive mercy and forgiveness.  This will help us even understand Surah al Fatihah (Surah 1 – The Opener) when it asks Allah to ‘show us the Straight Way’ as well as understanding why ‘Muslim’ means ‘one who submits’, and why religious observances like wudu, zakat and eating halal are good intentions but insufficient in themselves for the Day of Judgment.

Bad News – what the Prophets say of our relationship with Allah

The Taurat teaches that when Allah created mankind He

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)

“Image” is not meant in a physical sense, but rather that we were made to reflect Him in the way we functioned emotionally, mentally, socially and spiritually.  We were created to be in relationship with Him.  We can visualize this relationship in the slide below.  The Creator, as infinite ruler, is placed at the top while man and woman are placed at the bottom of the slide since we are finite creatures.  The relationship is shown by the connecting arrow.

Created in His image, people were made to be in relationship with the Creator
Created in His image, people were made to be in relationship with the Creator

Allah is perfect in character – He is Holy.  Because of this the Zabur says

For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness;
    with you, evil people are not welcome.
The arrogant cannot stand
    in your presence.
You hate all who do wrong (Psalm 5: 4-5)

Adam committed one act of disobedience – only one- and the Holiness of God required Him to judge.  The Taurat and Qur’an record that Allah made him mortal and expelled him His presence.  The same situation exists for us.  When we sin or disobey in any way we dishonor Allah since we do not act according to the image that we were made in.  Our relationship is broken.  This results in a barrier as solid as a rock wall that comes between us and our Creator.

Our sins create a barrier between us and Holy God
Our sins create a solid barrier between us and Holy God

Piercing Sin’s barrier by Religious Merit

Many of us try to pierce this barrier between us and Allah by religious deeds or works that earn enough merit to break the barrier.  Prayers, fasting, Hajj, going to mosque, zakat, alms to charity are the ways we seek to earn merit to pierce the barrier as illustrated next.  The hope is that religious merit will cancel out some sin.  If our many deeds earn enough merit we hope to cancel all our sins and receive mercy and forgiveness.

We try to pierce this barrier by doing good deeds to earn merit before Allah
We try to pierce this barrier by doing good deeds to earn merit before Allah

But how much merit do we need to cancel sin?  What is our assurance that our meritorious deeds will be sufficient to cancel the sin and pierce the barrier that has come between us and our Creator?  Do we know if our efforts for good intentions will be sufficient? We have no assurance and so we try to do as much as we can and hope it will be sufficient on Judgment Day.

Along with deeds to gain merit, efforts for good intentions, many of us work hard to stay clean.  We diligently perform wudu before prayers.  We work hard to stay away from people, objects and food that make us unclean.  But the prophet Isaiah revealed that:

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;
we all shrivel up like a leaf,
    and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

The prophet tells us that even if we avoid everything that make us unclean, our sins will make our ‘righteous acts’ as useless as ‘filthy rags’ in making us clean.  That is bad news.  But it gets worse.

Worse News: the power of Sin and Death

The Prophet Musa PBUH clearly set the standard in the Law that total obedience was required.  The law never said something like “attempt to follow most of the commands”.  In fact the Law stated time and again that the only work that assured payment for sin was death.   We saw in the time of Nouh PBUH and even with the wife of Lut PBUH that death resulted from sin.

The Injil summarizes this truth in the following way:

For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23)

“Death” literally means ‘separation’.  When our soul separates from our body we die physically.  Similarly we are even now separated from God spiritually and are dead and unclean in His sight.

This reveals the problem of our hope in earning merit to pay for sin.  The problem is that our hard efforts, merits, good intentions, and deeds, though not wrong, are insufficient because the payment required (the ‘wages’) for our sins is ‘death’.  Only death will pierce this wall because it satisfies God’s justice.  Our efforts to gain merit are like trying to cure cancer (which results in death) by eating halal food.  Eating halal is not bad, it is good – and one should eat halal – but it will not cure cancer.  For cancer you need a totally different treatment that puts the cancerous cells to death.

So even in our efforts and good intentions to generate religious merit we are actually dead and unclean as a corpse in the sight of our Creator

Our sin results in death - We are like unclean dead bodies before Allah
Our sin results in death – We are like unclean dead bodies before Allah

Ibrahim – showing the Straight Path

It was different with the Prophet Ibrahim PBUH.  He was ‘credited righteousness’, not because of his merit but because he believed and trusted the promise to him.  He trusted Allah to meet the payment required, rather than earning it himself.  We saw in his great sacrifice that death (the payment for sin) was paid, but not by his son but instead by a lamb provided by God.

Ibrahim was revealed the Way - He simply trusted God's Promise and God Provided the payment
Ibrahim was shown the Straight Path- He simply trusted God’s Promise and God Provided the payment of death for sin

The Quran speaks of this in Surah As-Saffat where it says:

And we ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice. And we left (the blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times.  “Peace and salutation to Ibrahim” (Surah As-Saffat 37:107-109)

Allah ‘ransomed’ (paid the price) and Ibrahim received the blessing, mercy and forgiveness, which included ‘peace’.

Good News: The work of Isa al Masih on our behalf

The example of the prophet is there to show us the Straight Path in accordance with the request of Surah Al-Fatihah (Surah 1 – The Opening):

Sovereign of the Day of Recompense.
It is You we worship and You we ask for help.
Guide us to the straight path –
The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray. (Surah al-Fatihah 1:4-7)

The Injil explains that this was an illustration to show how Allah would pay for sin and provide a cure for death and uncleanness in a simple but powerful way.

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

Up until now, it has all been ‘bad news’.  But ‘injil’ literally means ‘good news’ and in declaring that the sacrifice of Isa’s death is sufficient to pierce this barrier between us and God we can see why it is good news as shown.

The sacrifice of Isa al Masih - the lamb of God - makes the payment for sin on our behalf
The sacrifice of Isa al Masih – the lamb of God – makes the payment by death for sin on our behalf just like Ibrahim’s lamb had done.

The prophet Isa al Masih was sacrificed and then rose from the dead as firstfruits so he now offers us his new life.  We need no longer remain prisoners of sin’s death.

The resurrection of Isa al Masih was 'firstfruits'. We are freed from death and receive the same resurrection life.
The resurrection of Isa al Masih was ‘firstfruits’. We can be freed from death and receive the same resurrection life.

In his sacrifice and resurrection Isa al Masih became the gate through the barrier of sin that separates us from God.  This is why the prophet said:

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:9-10)

Isa al Masih is thus a Gate that breaks through the barrier of sin and death
Isa al Masih is thus the Gate that breaks through the barrier of sin and death

Because of this gate, we now can re-gain the relationship we had with our Creator before our sin became a barrier and we can be assured of receiving mercy and the forgiveness of our sins.

With an open Gate we now are restored in Relationship with our Creator
With an open Gate we now are restored in Relationship with our Creator

As the Injil declares:

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.  (1 Timothy 2:5-6)

The Gift of God to you

The prophet ‘gave himself’ for ‘all people‘.  So this must include you as well as me.  Through his death and resurrection he has paid the price to be a ‘mediator’ and offers us life.  How is this life given?

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

Notice how it is given to us.  It is offered as a … ‘gift’.  Think about gifts.  No matter what the gift is, if it is really a gift it is something that you do not work for and do not earn by merit.  If you earned it the gift would no longer be a gift – it would be a wage!  In the same way you cannot merit or earn the sacrifice of Isa al Masih.  It is given to you as a gift.  It is that simple.

And what is the gift?  It is ‘eternal life’.  That means that the sin which brought you and me death is now paid up.  God loves you and me that much.  It is that powerful.

So how do you and I obtain eternal life?  Again, think of gifts.  If someone wants to give you a gift you must ‘receive’ it.  Anytime a gift is offered there are only two alternatives.  Either the gift is refused (“No thank you”) or it is received (“Thank you for your gift.  I will take it”).  So also this gift must be received.  It cannot just be mentally believed in, studied or understood.  To be of benefit, any gift offered to you must be ‘received’.

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

In fact, the Injil says of God that

God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved … (1 Timothy 2:3-4)

He is a Saviour and His desire is that ‘all people’ receive his gift and be saved from sin and death.  If this is His will, then to receive his gift would simply be submitting to His will – the very meaning of the word ‘Muslim’ – one who submits.
So how do we receive this gift?  The Injil says that

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10:12)

Notice that this promise is for ‘everyone’.  Since he rose from the dead Isa al Masih is alive even now.  So if you call on him he will hear and give his gift to you.  You call out to him and ask him.  Perhaps you have never done this.  Below is a guide that can help you. It is not a magic chant.  It is not the specific words that give power.  It is the trust like Ibrahim had that we place in Isa al Masih to give us this gift.  As we trust him He will hear us and answer.  The Injil is powerful, and yet also so simple.  Feel free to follow this guide if you find it helpful.

Dear Prophet and Lord Isa al Masih.  I understand that with my sins I am separated from Allah my Creator.  Though I can try hard, my efforts do not pierce this barrier.  But I understand that your death was a sacrifice to wash away all my sins and make me clean.  I know that you rose from the dead after your sacrifice so I believe that your sacrifice was sufficient and so I submit to you.  I ask you to please cleanse me from my sins and mediate with my Creator so I can have eternal life.  Thank you, Isa the Masih, for doing all this for me and would you even now continue to guide me in my life so I can follow you as my Lord.

In the name of Allah, Most Merciful

Do angels on Right & Left help on Judgment Day?

Surah Qaf (Surah 50) describes a Day when the Trumpet of Allah is blown and the guardian angels on our right and left sides reveal the record of our deeds and merits.  These ayat read:

It was We Who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.

Behold, two (guardian angels) appointed to learn (his doings) learn (and noted them), one sitting on the right and one on the left.

Not a word does he utter but there is a sentinel by him, ready (to note it).

And the stupor of death will bring Truth (before his eyes): “This was the thing which thou wast trying to escape!”

And the Trumpet shall be blown:  that will be the Day whereof Warning (had been given).

And there will come forth every soul: with each will be an (angel) to drive, and an (angel) to bear witness.

(It will be said:) “Thou wast heedless of this; now have We removed thy veil, and sharp is thy sight this Day!”

And his Companion will say: “Here is (his Record) ready with me!” (Surah Qaf 50:16-23)

Ayah 20 says that the warning of the Trumpet had already been given (before the Qur’an was revealed).  When was this given?  It was given by Isa al Masih (PBUH) when he foretold in the Injil that his return to earth would be announced by the trumpet of Heaven:

And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:31)

What happens after this?  Surah Qaf describes an angel on our right and on our left, recording our deeds.  Since Allah is nearer to us than our jugular vein, the Injil tells us that these records of our deeds are so extensive that they are ‘books’.  This was described in a vision that John, a disciple of Isa al Masih PBUH, received and wrote in the final book of the Injil. As it is written:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

This declares that all will be judged ‘according to what they have done’ as recorded in the ‘books’.  So we greet the angels on our right and left after prayers, hoping to get some advantage in the recording of deeds.

The Book of Life

But notice there is another book, called the ‘Book of Life’, which is different than the good-bad merit record-keeping books.  It states that ‘anyone’ whose name is not found written in the Book of Life will be thrown into the Lake of Fire (another term for hell).  So, even if our list of good merits recorded by the angel on our right is very long, and the list of sins recorded by the angel on our left side is very short – even then – if our name is not in the ‘Book of Life’ we are still condemned to Hell.  What is this ‘book of life’ and how is our name recorded in this book?

Both the Taurat and Quran state that when Hazrat Adam sinned, Allah banished him from Paradise and made him mortal.  This meant that he (and we his children) was separated from the Source of Life.  This is the reason we are mortal and will die one day.  The Prophet Isa al Masih PBUH came to restore this Life to us so our names could be entered into the Book of Life.  As he declared

Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)

How the Prophet Ibrahim PBUH foresaw this gift of life, and why Isa al Masih can give us life is explained in detail here.  Surah Qaf warns us that

(The sentence will be:) “Throw, throw into Hell every contumacious Rejecter (of God) (Surah Qaf 50:24)

So if there is Eternal Life offered why not be informed about it?

Qur’an: No Variations! What say the hadiths?

“The Qur’an is the original scripture – same language, letters and recitation.  No place for human interpretation or corrupted translation …If you pick up a copy of a Qur’an from any home around the world I doubt you will even find a difference between them.”

A friend sent me this note.  He was  comparing the text of the Holy Qur’an with that of the Injil/Bible.  The Injil does have minor textual variations within the thousands of existing manuscripts.  The claim is often made, as above, that there has been no variation in the Qur’an.  This is seen as an indication of the Qur’an’s superiority over the Bible, and evidence of its miraculous protection.  But what do the hadiths tell us about the formation and compilation of the Qur’an?

Formation of Quran from Prophet to Caliphs

Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab.. I heard Hisham bin Hakim reciting Surat Al-Furqan during the lifetime of Allah’s Apostle and I … noticed that he recited in several different ways which Allah’s Apostle had not taught me. … I … said, “Who taught you this Sura which I heard you reciting?” He replied, “Allah’s Apostle taught it to me.” I said, “You have told a lie, for Allah’s Apostle has taught it to me in a different way from yours.” So I dragged him to Allah’s Apostle and said, “I heard this person reciting Surat Al-Furqan in a way which you haven’t taught me!” On that Allah’s Apostle said, “Release him, (O ‘Umar!) Recite, O Hisham!” Then he recited in the same way as I heard him reciting. Then Allah’s Apostle said, “It was revealed in this way,” and added, “Recite, O ‘Umar!” I recited it as he had taught me. Allah’s Apostle then said, “It was revealed in this way. This Qur’an has been revealed to be recited in seven different ways, so recite of it whichever (way) is easier for you.”  Bukhari Vol 6, Book 61, No. 514

Narrated Ibn Mas’ud: I heard a person reciting a (Quranic) Verse in a certain way, and I had heard the Prophet reciting the same Verse in a different way. So I took him to the Prophet and informed him of that but I noticed the sign of disapproval on his face, and then he said, “Both of you are correct, ….”  Bukhari Vol 4, Book 56, No 682

These two clearly tell us that during the Prophet Mohamed’s (PBUH) lifetime there were several variant versions of the Qur’an’s recitation that were used and approved by Mohamed (PBUH).  So what happened after his death?

Abu Bakr and Qur’an

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit:  Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent for me when the people! of Yamama had been killed. (I went to him) and found ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab sitting with him. Abu Bakr then said (to me), “Umar has come to me and said: “Casualties were heavy among the Qurra’ of the! Qur’an (i.e. those who knew the Quran by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yalmama, and I am afraid that … a large part of the Qur’an may be lost. Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Qur’an be collected.” I said to ‘Umar, “How can you do something which Allah’s Apostle did not do?” ‘Umar said, “By Allah, that is a good project. “… Then Abu Bakr said (to me). “…. So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Qur’an and collect it in one book).” …Then I said to Abu Bakr, “How will you do something which Allah’s Apostle did not do?” Abu Bakr replied, “By Allah, it is a good project.” Abu Bakr kept on urging me to accept his idea until Allah opened my chest for what He had opened the chests of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. So I started looking for the Qur’an and collecting it from (what was written on) palmed stalks, thin white stones and also from the men who knew it by heart,. … Then the complete manuscripts (copy) of the Qur’an remained with Abu Bakr  ….  Bukhari Vol 6, Book 61, No 509

This comes from when Abu Bakr was caliph, directly succeeding Mohamed (PBUH).  It tells us that Mohamed (PBUH) had never collected the Qur’an into a standard text or given any indication that such a thing should be done.  With heavy battle casualties amongst those who knew the Qur’an by memory, Abu Bakr and Umar (he became the 2nd Caliph) persuaded Zaid to start to collect a Qur’an from diverse sources.  Zaid was initially reluctant because Mohamed (PBUH) had never indicated a need to standardize the text.  He had trusted several of his companions to teach the Qur’an to their followers as the following hadith tells us.

Narrated Masriq: ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr mentioned ‘Abdullah bin Masud and said, “I shall ever love that man, for I heard the Prophet saying, ‘Take (learn) the Qur’an from four: ‘Abdullah bin Masud, Salim, Mu’adh and Ubai bin Ka’b.’ ” Bukhari Vol 6, Book 61, No 521:

However, after the Prophet’s (PBUH) death disagreements arose between the companions because of these variant recitations.  The hadith below tells of a disagreement over Surah 92:1-3  (Al-Layl)

Narrated Ibrahim: The companions of ‘Abdullah (bin Mas’ud) came to Abu Darda’…. Then he asked them,: ‘Who among you can recite (Qur’an) as ‘Abdullah recites it?” …. “How did you hear ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud reciting Surat Al-Lail (The Night)?” Alqama recited:  ‘By the male and the female.’ Abu Ad-Darda said, “I testify that I heard me Prophet reciting it likewise, but these people want me to recite it:– ‘And by Him Who created male and female.’ but by Allah, I will not follow them.” Bukhari Vol 6, Book 60, No 468:

Today’s Qur’an has the 2nd reading for Surah 92:3.  Interestingly Abdullah, who is one of the four in the previous hadith especially singled out by the Prophet Mohamed (PBUH) as an authority on Qur’anic recitation, and Abu Ad-Darda used an alternate reading for this verse and were not willing to follow the others.

The following hadith shows that whole regions of the Islamic empire were following different recitations, to the extent that one could verify where someone came from by what recitation he used.  In the case below, the Iraqis of Kufa were following Abdullah bin Mas’ud’s recitation of Surah 92:1-3.

‘Alqama reported: I met Abu Darda’, and he said to me: To which country do you belong? I said: I am … of Iraq. He again said: To which city? I replied: “Kufa”. He again said: Do you recite according to the recitation of ‘Abdullah b. Mas’ud? I said: Yes. He said: Recite this verse (By the night when it covers) So I recited it: (By the night when it covers, and the day when it shines, and the creating of the male and the female). He laughed and said: I have heard the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) reciting like this.  Muslim Book 004, Number 1801:

 

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: ‘Umar said, Ubai was the best of us in the recitation (of the Qur’an) yet we leave some of what he recites.’ Ubai says, ‘I have taken it from the mouth of Allah’s Apostle and will not leave for anything whatever.” Volume 6, Book 61, Number 527:

Though Ubai was considered ‘the best’ in reciting the Qur’an (He was one of those noted previously by Mohamed-PBUH), others in the community left out some of what he recited.  There was disagreement over what was to be abrogated and what was not.  Disagreements on variant readings and abrogation were causing tensions.  We see in the hadith below how this problem was solved.

Caliph Uthman and Quran

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war …. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur’an, so he said to ‘Uthman, “O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before.” So ‘Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, “Send us the manuscripts of the Qur’an so that we may compile the Qur’anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you.” Hafsa sent it to ‘Uthman. ‘Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, ‘Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and ‘AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. … and when they had written many copies, ‘Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. ‘Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur’anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt.  Volume 6, Book 61, Number 510:

This is why there are no variant readings today.  It was not because the prophet Mohamed (PBUH) only received or used one recitation (he did not, he used seven), nor because he compiled an authoritative Qur’an.  He did not.  In fact, the whole of book 30 of Sunan Abu-Dawud hadiths is about the variant recitations of the Qur’an.  Today’s Qur’an is non-variant because Uthman (3rd caliph) took one of the readings, edited it, and burned all the other recitations.  The following hadiths show how this editing lives on in today’s Qur’an.

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas  …. Allah sent Muhammad with the Truth and revealed the Holy Book to him, and among what Allah revealed, was the Verse of the Rajam (the stoning of married person (male & female) who commits illegal sexual intercourse, and we did recite this Verse and understood and memorized it. … I am afraid that after a long time has passed, somebody will say, ‘By Allah, we do not find the Verse of the Rajam in Allah’s Book,’  Bukhari: vol. 8,  book 82 No 817

Today there is no verse about stoning (Rajam) for adultery in the Qur’an.  It was thus edited out.

Narrated Ibn Az-Zubair: I said to ‘Uthman, “This Verse which is in Surat-al-Baqara:  “Those of you who die and leave widows behind…without turning them out.” has been abrogated by another Verse. Why then do you write it (in the Qur’an)?” ‘Uthman said. “Leave it (where it is), …, for I will not shift anything of it (i.e. the Quran) from its original position.” Bukhari Vol 6, Book 60, No 60:

Here we see a disagreement between Uthman and Ibn Az-Zubair over whether abrogation of a verse meant it should or should not be kept in the Qur’an.  Uthman had his way and so this verse is in the Qur’an today.  But there was controversy about it.

Uthman and the Heading for Surah 9 (At Tawbah)

Narrated Uthman ibn Affan:: Yazid al-Farisi said: I heard Ibn Abbas say: I asked Uthman ibn Affan: What moved you to put the (Surah) al-Bara’ah which belongs to the mi’in (surahs) … and the (Surah) al-Anfal which belongs to the mathani (Surahs) in the category of as-sab’u at-tiwal (the first long surah or chapters of the Qur’an), and you did not write “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful” between them?

Uthman replied: When the verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet (PBUH), he called someone to write them down for him and said to him: Put this verse in the surah in which such and such has been mentioned; and when one or two verses were revealed, he used to say similarly (regarding them). (Surah) al-Anfal [ie surah 8] is the first surah that was revealed at Medina, and (Surah) al-Bara’ah [ie surah 9] was revealed last in the Qur’an, and its contents were similar to those of al-Anfal. I, therefore, thought that it was a part of al-Anfal. Hence I put them in the category of as-sab’u at-tiwal (the seven lengthy surahs), and I did not write “In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful” between them.  Dawud Book 3, Number 0785:

Surah 9 (at Tawbah or Al Barah) is the only Surah in the Qur’an that does not begin with ‘In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful’.  The hadith explains why.  Uthman thought that Surah 9 was part of Surah 8 since the material was similar.  From the questioning we can see that this was controversial within the early Muslim community.  The next hadith shows the reaction of one of the Companions to Uthman’s Qur’an.

‘Abdullah (b. Mas’ud) reported that he (said to his companions to conceal their copies of the Qur’an) and further said: He who conceals anything he shall have to bring that which he had concealed on the Day of judgment, and then said: After whose mode of recitation you command me to recite? I in fact recited before AIlah’s Messenger (PBUH) more than seventy chapters of the Qur’an and the Companions of Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) know it that I have better understanding of the Book of Allah (than they do), …. Shaqiq said: I sat in the company of the Companions of Mubkmmad (PBUH) but I did not hear anyone having rejected that (that is, his recitation) or finding fault with it.  Muslim Book 031, No 6022:

 Several things stand out:

  1. Abdullah b. Masud tells his followers to hide their Qur’ans for some reason.
  2. He seems to have been commanded by someone to use a different recitation. This is best understood as referring to the time when Uthman standardized his version of the Qur’an.
  3. Ibn Mas’ud’s objection to changing the way he recited the Qur’an was that: I (Mas’ud) have better understanding of the Book
  4. Shaqiq said that the Companions of Muhammad did not disagree with Mas’ud.

Textual versions of Qur’an today

Following Uthman’s edition, however, variant readings still existed.  In fact, it seems that in 4th century after the Prophet [PBUH] there was a sanctioned return to different readings.  So though today the major Arab textual reading is the Hafs (or Hofs), there is also the Warsh, used mostly in North Africa, Al-Duri, used mostly in West Africa and still others.  The difference between these readings are mostly in spelling and some slight wording variations, usually without any affect on meaning, but with some differences that do have an affect on meaning only in the immediate context but not in wider thought.

So there is a choice as to what version of the Qur’an to use.

We have learned that there are variant Arabic readings of the Qur’an today, and it went through an editing and selection process after the death of the prophet Mohamed (PBUH).  The reason that there is such little variation in the Qur’anic text today is because all other text variants were burned at that time.  The Quran has no alternate reading footnotes, not because it had no alternate readings, but because they were destroyed.  Uthman probably produced a good recitation of the Qur’an, but it was not the only one, and it was not made without controversy.   Thus the widely accepted idea of the Qur’an being  “original scripture – same language, letters and recitation.  No place for human interpretation” is incorrect.  Though the Bible and Qur’an both have variant readings, they also both have strong manuscript evidence indicating that the text as it is today is close to the original.  Both can give us a trustworthy representation of the original.  Many are distracted from seeking to understand the message of the Books by having an undue veneration for the mode of preservation of the Qur’an and an undue disdain for the mode of preservation of the Bible.  We would be better off focusing on understanding the Books.  That was the reason they were given in the first place.  A good place to start is with Adam.

Pentecost – the Helper comes to give Power & Guidance

The Prophet Isa al Masih PBUH had been crucified on Passover but then rose from the dead on the following Sunday.  With this victory over death he now offers the gift of life to any who will receive it.  After being with his disciples for 40 days, so they would be assured of his resurrection, he then ascended to heaven. But before he ascended he gave these instructions:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

He promised to be with them always, yet he left them shortly afterwards when he ascended to heaven.  How could he still be with them (and also with us) after he ascended?

The answer comes in what happened a little later.  At the supper just before his arrest he had promised the coming of the Helper.  Fifty days after his resurrection (and 10 days after his ascension) this promise was fulfilled.  This day is called the Day of Pentecost or Pentecost Sunday.  It celebrates a remarkable day, but it is not only what happened that day but when and why it happened that reveals the sign of Allah, and a powerful gift for you.

What happened on Pentecost

The complete events are recorded in the Book of Acts chapter 2 of the Bible.  On that day, the Holy Spirit of God descended on the first followers of Isa al Masih PBUH and they started speaking loudly in languages from around the world.  It created such a commotion that thousands who were in Jerusalem at the time came out to see what was happening.  In front of the gathered crowd, Peter spoke the first gospel message and ‘three thousand were added to their number that day’ (Acts 2:41). The number of followers of the gospel has been growing ever since that Pentecost Sunday.

This summary of Pentecost is not complete.  Because, just like the other events of the Prophet, Pentecost happened on the same day as a Festival that had begun with the Taurat in the time of the Prophet Musa PBUH.

Pentecost from the Taurat of Musa

Musa PBUH (1500 BC) had established several festivals to be celebrated through the year. Passover was the first festival of the Jewish year.  Isa had been crucified on the Passover day festival. The exact timing of his death to the sacrifices of the Passover lambs is a sign for us.

The second festival was the feast of Firstfruits, and we saw how the Prophet had been raised on the day of this festival.  Since his resurrection happened on ‘Firstfruits’, it was a Promise that our resurrection would follow for all those who trust him.  His resurrection is a ‘firstfruits’, just as the festival name prophesied.

Precisely 50 days after the ‘Firstfruits’ Sunday the Taurat required the Jews to celebrate Pentecost (‘Pente’ for 50).  It was first called Feast of Weeks since it was counted by seven weeks.  Jews had been celebrating the Feast of Weeks for 1500 years by the time of the Prophet Isa al Masih PBUH.  The reason that there were people from all over the world to hear Peter’s message that day the Holy Spirit descended in Jerusalem was precisely because they were there to celebrate the Pentecost of the Taurat.  Today Jews continue to celebrate Pentecost but call it Shavuot.

We read in the Taurat how the Feast of Weeks was to be celebrated:

Count off fifty days up to the day after the seventh Sabbath, and then present an offering of new grain to the LORD. From wherever you live, bring two loaves made of two-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour, baked with yeast, as a wave offering of firstfruits to the LORD. (Leviticus 23:16-17)

Precision of Pentecost: Sign from Allah

There is a precise timing of the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on people since it occurred on the same day as the Feast of Weeks (or Pentecost) of the Taurat.  The crucifixion of Isa al Masih occurring on the Passover Festival, his resurrection occurring on the FirstFruits Festival, and this coming of the Holy Spirit on the Feast of Weeks, are clear signs to us from Allah.  With so many days in a year why should the crucifixion, resurrection, and then the coming of the Holy Spirit happen precisely on each day of the three spring festivals of the Taurat, except if this was to show us His plan?

Events of the Injil occurred precisely on the three Spring Festivals of the Taurat
Events of the Injil occurred precisely on the three Spring Festivals of the Taurat

Pentecost: The Helper gives New Power

In explaining the signs of the coming of the Holy Spirit, Peter pointed to a prophecy from the prophet Joel predicting that one day the Spirit of God would pour out on all peoples.  The events of that Pentecost day fulfilled the prophecy.

We have seen how the prophets had revealed to us the nature of our spiritual thirst that leads us to sin.  The prophets also foresaw the coming of a New Covenant where the Law would be written inside our hearts, not just on tablets of stone or in books.  Only with the Law written in our hearts would we have the power and ability to follow the law.  The coming of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost Day to dwell in believers is the fulfillment of this Promise.

One reason that the Gospel is ‘good news’ is that it provides power to live life better. Life is now a union between Allah and people.  This union takes place through the indwelling of the Spirit of God – which began on the Pentecost Sunday of Acts 2.  It is Good News that life can now be lived on a different level, in a relationship with God through His Spirit.  The Holy Spirit gives us a true inner guidance – guidance from God.  The Bible explains it like this:

And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people. He did this so we would praise and glorify him. (Ephesians 1:13-14)

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11)

Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:23)

The indwelling Spirit of God is a second firstfruits, because the Spirit is a foretaste – a guarantee – of completing our transformation into ‘children of God’.

The gospel offers a new life not by trying-but-failing to keep the Law.  Nor is it an abundant life through possessions, status, wealth and all the other passing pleasures in this world, which Suleiman had found so empty.  Instead, the Injil offers a new and abundant life by the indwelling of the Spirit of God in our hearts.  If Allah offers to indwell, empower and guide us – that has to be Good News!  The Pentecost of Taurat, with the celebration of fine bread baked with yeast pictured this coming abundant life.  The precision between the Old and New Pentecosts is a clear sign that this is the plan of Allah for us to have an abundant life.

How did the Psalms and Prophets prophesy of Isa al Masih?

The Taurat of Prophet Musa PBUH revealed foreknowledge of Isa al Masih PBUH through Signs which were patterned to the coming of the Prophet.  The Prophets which followed Musa showed Allah’s plan with oracles.  Dawud PBUH, inspired by God, first prophesied of the coming ‘Masih’ in Psalm 2 about 1000 BC.  Then in Psalm 22 he wrote an oracle about someone whose hands and feet are ‘pierced’ in tortures, then ‘laid in the dust of death’ but afterwards achieving a great victory that would impact all ‘the families of earth’.  Was this a prophecy of the coming crucifixion and resurrection of Isa al Masih?  We take a look here, including what Surah Saba (Surah 34) and Surah An-Naml (Surah 27) tell us about how Allah inspired David in the Zabur (i.e. Psalm 22).

Prophecy of Psalm 22

You can read the entire Psalm 22 here. Below is a table with Psalm 22 side-by-side with the description of the crucifixion of Isa al Masih as witnessed by his disciples (companions) in the Injil.  The texts are color matched so the similarities are easily noted.

Crucifixion details from the Injil Psalm 22 – written 1000 BC
(Matthew 27: 31-48) ..Then they led him (Jesus) away to crucify him…. 39 Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads 40 and saying, “… save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” 41 In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him42 “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! He’s the king of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him,…About the ninth hour Jesus cried…“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” …48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink.Mark 15: 16-2016 The soldiers led Jesus away… They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. 18 And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” 19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. 20 And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him…37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.(JOHN 19:34) they did not break his legs..., pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.…they crucified him… (JOHN 20:25) [Thomas] unless I see the nail marks in his hands ,…”…JOHN 20:23-24 When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining…Let’s not tear it”, they said,”Let’s decide by lot who gets it” My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest…All who see me mock me;
they hurl insultsshaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
“let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
since he delights in him.”Yet you brought me out of the womb;
you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
from my mother’s womb you have been my God.11 Do not be far from me,
for trouble is near
and there is no one to help.12 Many bulls surround me;
strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
you lay me in the dust of death.16 Dogs surround me,
a pack of villains encircles me;
they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
and cast lots for my garment.

The Injil is written from the perspective of eye-witnesses who watched the crucifixion.  But Psalm 22 is written from the perspective of someone experiencing it.  How to explain this similarity between Psalm 22 and the crucifixion of Isa al Masih? Is it coincidence that the details match so exactly as to include that the clothes would both be divided (seamed clothes were split along the seams and passed among the soldiers) AND have cast lots (the seamless garment would be ruined if torn apart so they threw dice for it).  Psalm 22 was written before crucifixion was invented but it describes its specific details (piercing of hands and feet, bones being out of joint – by being stretched as the victim hangs). In addition, the Gospel of John states that blood and water flowed out when the spear was thrust in Jesus’ side, indicating a fluid buildup in the cavity of the heart.  Isa al Masih thus died of a heart attack.  This matches the Psalm 22 description of ‘my heart has turned to wax’. The Hebrew word in Psalm 22 which is translated ‘pierced’ literally means ‘like a lion’. In other words, the hands and feet were mutilated and mauled as by a lion when they were pierced.

Unbelievers reply that the similarity of Psalm 22 with the eye-witness recording in the Injil is perhaps because the disciples of Isa made up the events to ‘fit’ the prophecy.  Could that explain the similarity?

Psalm 22 and the legacy of Isa al Masih

But Psalm 22 does not end with verse 18 in the table above – it continues on. Note here how triumphant it is at the end –after the death!

26 The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the LORD will praise him— may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations will bow down before him,

28 for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive.

30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.

31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it. (Psalm 22:26-31)

This is not talking about details of this person’s death. That was dealt with in the beginning of the Psalm. The prophet Dawud PBUH is now looking further into the future and addressing the impact of this person’s death on ‘posterity’ and ‘future generations’ (v.30). That is us living 2000 years after Isa al Masih.  Dawud tells us that ‘posterity’ which follows this man with ‘pierced hands and feet’, who died such a horrible death will ‘serve’ him and be ‘told about him’.  Verse 27 foretells the extent – it will go to the ‘ends of the earth’ and among ‘all families of nations’ and cause them to ‘turn to the LORD’. Verse 29 indicates how ‘those who cannot keep themselves alive’ (all of us) will one day kneel before him. The righteousness of this man will be proclaimed to people who were not yet alive (the ‘yet unborn’) at the time of his death.

This ending has nothing to do with whether the Injil was made up to fit Psalm 22 because it is now dealing with much later events – those of our time. The writers of the Injil, in the 1st century, could not make up the impact of the death of Isa al Masih into our time.  The rationalizing of the unbelievers does not explain the long-term, world-wide legacy of Isa al Masih that Psalm 22 correctly predicted 3000 years ago.

Quran – David’s foreknowledge given by Allah

This victorious praise at the end of Psalm 22 is exactly what Surahs Saba and An-Naml (Sheba 34 & The Ant 27) of Quran means when it says of David’s inspired Psalms that:

We bestowed Grace aforetime on David from ourselves: “O ye Mountains! Sing ye back the Praises of Allah with him! and ye birds (also)! And We made the iron soft for him (Surah Saba 34:10)

We gave (in the past) knowledge to David and Solomon: And they both said: “Praise be to Allah, Who has favoured us above many of his servants who believe!” (Surah An-Naml 27:15)

As it says, Allah gave David the knowledge and grace to foresee the future and with that knowledge he sang the praises recorded in Psalm 22.

One could not make a better prediction of the effect of the crucifixion of Isa al Masih than Psalm 22 does.  Who else in world history can claim that details of his death as well as the legacy of his life into the distant future would be predicted 1000 years before he lived?  Since no human can predict the far future in such detail this is evidence that Isa al Masih’s sacrifice was by “God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge“.

The other Prophets foretell the sacrifice of Isa al Masih

Just as the Taurat began with a mirror image of the events of the last days of Isa al Masih and then made the image clearer with further details, the prophets that followed Dawud clarified further details of the death and resurrection of Isa al Masih.  The table below summarizes some of those we have looked at.

The Prophets Speak  How it revealed the plan of the coming Masih 
The Sign of the Virgin Birth  ‘A son will be born from a virgin’ predicted the Prophet Isaiah in 700 BC and he will live perfectly without sin.  Only a perfect life could be offered in sacrifice for another.  Isa al Masih, born in fulfillment of that prophecy, lived that perfect life 
The coming ‘Branch’ prophesied the name of Isa and the removal of our sin  The prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Zechariah gave a series of prophecies of a coming one whom Zechariah correctly named as Isa – 500 years before Isa lived.  Zechariah prophesied that in ‘one day’ the sins of the people would be removed.  Isa offered himself as the sacrifice and so in exactly ‘one day’ sins were atoned for, fulfilling all these prophecies.  
The Prophet Daniel and the time of coming of the Masih  Daniel prophesied an exact 480-year timetable for the coming of the Masih.  Isa arrived exactly according to the schedule of the prophecy.
The Prophet Daniel prophesied the Masih will be ‘cut off’  After the arrival of the Masih, the prophet Daniel wrote that he would be ‘cut off and have nothing’.  This was a prophecy of the coming death of Isa al Masih as he was ‘cut off’ from life. 
The Prophet Isaiah predicts the death & resurrection of the coming Servant  The Prophet Isaiah predicted in great detail how the Masih would be ‘cut off from the land of the living’ including torture, being rejected, ‘pierced’ for our sins, led like a lamb to the slaughter, his life being an offering for sin, but afterwards he would again see ‘life’ and be victorious.  All these detailed predictions were fulfilled when Isa al Masih was crucified and then rose from death.  That such details could be predicted 700 years beforehand is a great Sign that this was Allah’s plan. 
The Prophet Yunus and the death of Isa al Masih  The Prophet Yunus experienced the grave when inside the great fish.  This was a picture that Isa al Masih used to explain that in a similar way he also would experience death. 
The Prophet Zechariah & the freeing of the prisoners of death  Isa al Masih refers to a prophecy of Zechariah that he would free ‘prisoners of death’ (those already dead).  His mission to enter death and free those trapped there was foretold by the prophets. 

With these many prophecies, from prophets who themselves were separated by hundreds of years, living in diverse countries, having different backgrounds, yet all focused on predicting some part of the great victory of Isa al Masih through his death and resurrection – this is evidence that this was according to Allah’s plan.  For this reason, Peter, the leader of the disciples of Isa al Masih, said to his listeners:

But God was fulfilling what all the prophets had foretold about the Messiah—that he must suffer these things.  (Acts 3:18)

Right after Peter said this, he then declared:

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.  (Acts 3: 19)

There is a promise of blessing for us that we can have our sins ‘wiped away’.  We look at what this means here.