The Day: At-Tariq, Al-Adiyat & the Masih

Surah At-Tariq (Surah 86 – The Nightcomer) warns us of the coming Day of Judgment when

Surely (God) is able to bring him back (to life)!

The Day that (all) things secret will be tested,

(Man) will have no power, and no helper.

Surah At-Tariq 86:8-10

Surah At-Tariq tells us that Allah will examine all our secret and shameful thoughts and deeds with no one to help defend us from the test of His judgment.  Similarly Surah Al-Adiyat (Surah 100 – The Courser) describes that same Day when

Truly man is, to his Lord, ungrateful;

And to that (fact) he bears witness (by his deeds);

And violent is he in his love of wealth.

Does he not know,- when that which is in the graves is scattered abroad

And that which is (locked up) in (human) breasts is made manifest-

That their Lord had been Well-acquainted with them, (even to) that Day.?

Surah Al-Adiyat 100:6-11

Surah Al-Adiyat warns that even the shameful secrets known only inside our own chest will be made known since Allah is well acquainted with even these deeds of ours.

We can avoid thinking about this coming Day and just hope that it works out for us, but Surahs At-Tariq and Al-Adiyat have very clear warnings about the Day. 

Is it not better to be prepared?  But how? 

The Prophet Isa al Masih PBUH came for those of us who seek to be prepared for that Day.  He said in the Injil:

21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.

“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. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.

John 5:21-27

The Prophet Isa al Masih PBUH claims great authority – even to overseeing Judgment Day.  His authority was proved in how the Taurat of Prophet Musa prophesied his authority from the Creation of the world in six days.  The Zabur and succeeding prophets prophesied details of his coming proving he had been given this authority from Allah.  What did the prophet mean by “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned”?  We see here.

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The Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) does a ‘Hajj’

Surah al-Haj (Surah 22 – The Pilgrimage) tells us that different rites and ceremonies have been given at different times. But it is not the specific meat sacrifice, but what is inside of us that is most important.

To every people did We appoint rites (of sacrifice), that they might celebrate the name of God over the sustenance He gave them from animals. But your God is One God: submit then your wills to Him and give thou the good news to those who humble themselves,-

It is not their meat nor their blood, that reaches God: it is your piety that reaches Him: He has thus made them subject to you, that ye may glorify God for His Guidance to you and proclaim the good news to all who do right. (Surah al-Haj 22:34, 37)

Water is an important part of the rites and ceremonies of Hajj as pilgrims seek to drink the water of the Zam Zam well.  But Surah al-Mulk (Surah 67 – The Sovereignty) asks us an important question

“See ye?- If your stream be some morning lost,  who then can supply you with clear-flowing water?” (Surah al-Mulk 67:30)

The Prophet Isa al Masih PBUH addressed this question in a Jewish pilgrimage ordained by the Prophet Musa PBUH.  We take a look at this here through the lens of Hajj.

The Hajj pilgrimage is well-known.  What is less known is that the Sharia law of Musa (PBUH), received 3500 years ago, also required Jewish believers of that time to make sacred pilgrimages to Jerusalem (Al-Quds) every year.  One such pilgrimage was called the Feast of Tabernacles (or Sukkot).  This pilgrimage ordered by the prophet Musa (PBUH) has many similarities to that of the Hajj today.  For example, both of these pilgrimages were on a specific week of the calendar, both involved sacrifices of animals, both involved obtaining special water (like zamzam), both involved sleeping outdoors, and both involved marching around a sacred structure seven times.  In a sense, the Feast of Tabernacles was like a Hajj for Jews.  Today, in fact, Jews still celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles but do it a little differently since their Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

The Injil records how the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) did the pilgrimage for this Feast – his ‘Hajj’.  The account is recorded with some explanations when appropriate.

Jesus Goes to the Festival of Tabernacles (John 7)

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

Isa al Masih’s brothers were treating the prophet with sarcasm since they did not believe in him.  But something happened later which changed their minds because two of his brothers, James and Jude, later wrote letters (called James and Jude) that are part of the New Testament (Injil). What changed their minds? The resurrection of Isa al Masih.

Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.

10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”

12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”

Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.

Jesus Teaches at the Festival

14 Not until halfway through the festival did Jesus go up to the temple courts and begin to teach. 15 The Jews there were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having been taught?”

16 Jesus answered, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from the one who sent me. 17 Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.

18 Whoever speaks on their own does so to gain personal glory, but he who seeks the glory of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him. 19 Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law. Why are you trying to kill me?”

20 “You are demon-possessed,” the crowd answered. “Who is trying to kill you?”

21 Jesus said to them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. 22 Yet, because Moses gave you circumcision (though actually it did not come from Moses, but from the patriarchs), you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath. 23 Now if a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses may not be broken, why are you angry with me for healing a man’s whole body on the Sabbath? 24 Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

Division Over Who Jesus Is

25 At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, “Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? 26 Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? 27 But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.”

The debate in that time among the Jews was whether the Prophet Isa (PBUH) was the Masih (Messiah) or not.  The Jewish people believed that the place where the Masih would come from would be unknown.  Since they knew where Isa came from they thought that he could therefore not be the Masih.  So where did they get this belief that the origin of the Masih would not be known?  From Taurat?  Writings of Prophets?  Not at all!  The prophets had clearly stated where the Masih would come from.  The prophet Micah (PBUH) in 700 BC had written in Zabur that

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

This prophecy (see article here for more details on this) had stated that the ruler (= Masih) would come from Bethlehem.  We saw in the birth of the Masih that he was indeed born in Bethlehem as that prophecy had predicted 700 years before his birth.

It was simply religious tradition of the time that said that the place where the Masih came from would be unknown.  They made an error because they did not judge by what the prophets had written but instead judged by opinion on the street, the ideas of their day – even the ideas from religious scholars.  We need to be careful that we do not make the same mistake.

The account continues…

28 Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, 29 but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.”

30 At this they tried to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come. 31 Still, many in the crowd believed in him. They said, “When the Messiah comes, will he perform more signs than this man?”

32 The Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees sent temple guards to arrest him.

33 Jesus said, “I am with you for only a short time, and then I am going to the one who sent me. 34 You will look for me, but you will not find me; and where I am, you cannot come.”

35 The Jews said to one another, “Where does this man intend to go that we cannot find him? Will he go where our people live scattered among the Greeks, and teach the Greeks? 36 What did he mean when he said, ‘You will look for me, but you will not find me,’ and ‘Where I am, you cannot come’?”

37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

On this day of the Festival the Jews would take water from a special spring on the south of Jerusalem and enter into the city through the ‘water gate’ and take the water to the altar in the temple.  It was while they were doing this sacred water ceremony that the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) cried out, as he had said before, that he was the source of ‘Living Water’.  In saying this he was reminding them of the thirst in our hearts leading to sin that the prophets had written about, as well as the promise of the coming Spirit who would be given to those who believed in him to satisfy this thirst so that they need no longer be slaves to sin.

40 On hearing his words, some of the people said, “Surely this man is the Prophet.”

41 Others said, “He is the Messiah.”

Still others asked, “How can the Messiah come from Galilee? 42 Does not Scripture say that the Messiah will come from David’s descendants and from Bethlehem, the town where David lived?” 43 Thus the people were divided because of Jesus. 44 Some wanted to seize him, but no one laid a hand on him.

Back then, just like today, people were divided about the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH). As we saw above, the prophets had predicted the birth of the Masih to be in Bethlehem (where Isa was born).  But what about this question of the Masih not coming from Galilee?  Isaiah the prophet (PBUH) had written in 700 BC that

Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned. (Isaiah 9: 1-2)

So the prophets had predicted that the Masih would begin his teaching (a light has dawned) in ‘Galilee’ – the very place where Isa had indeed begun his teaching and did most of his miracles.  Again the people were mistaken because they had not carefully studied the prophets and instead only believed what was commonly taught by their teachers.

Unbelief of the Jewish Leaders

45 Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and the Pharisees, who asked them, “Why didn’t you bring him in?”

46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied.

47 “You mean he has deceived you also?” the Pharisees retorted. 48 “Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 No! But this mob that knows nothing of the law—there is a curse on them.”

50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, 51 “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?”

52 They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.”

We can see that the experts in the Law were completely wrong since Isaiah had prophesied that the enlightening would come from ‘Galilee’.

Two lessons come mind from this account.  First it is very easy to perform our religious activities with much zeal but with little knowledge.  As we approach Hajj we need to be careful that the following is not true of us

For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. (Romans 10:2)

We need to learn what the prophets have written so we are properly informed.

Second, we see here that the Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) makes an offer.  He said at their Hajj that

Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. (John 7: 37-38)

This offer is given to ‘anyone’ (thus not only to Jews, or Christians, etc.) who ‘is thirsty’.  Are you thirsty?  (See here for what the prophets meant by this).  It is good to drink from the zamzam well.  Why not also drink from the Masih who can satisfy our inner thirst?

Isa al Masih (PBUH) teaches – with Parables

We saw how Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught with unique authority. He also taught using stories that illustrated true principles. For example, we saw how he taught about the Kingdom of God using the story of a Great Banquet, and about forgiveness through the story of the Unmerciful Servant. These stories are called parables, and Isa al Masih (PBUH) is unique among prophets and teachers in how much he used parables to teach, and how striking his parables are.

Surah Al-‘Ankabut (Surah 29 – The Spider) tells us that Allah also uses parables.  It says

And such are the Parables We set forth for mankind, but only those understand them who have knowledge. (Surah Al-Ankabut 29: 43)

Surah Ibrahim (Surah 14) tell us us how Allah uses the parable of a tree to teach us.

Seest thou not how God sets forth a parable? – A goodly word like a goodly tree, whose root is firmly fixed, and its branches (reach) to the heavens,- of its Lord. So God sets forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition.

It brings forth its fruit at all times, by the leave of its Lord. So God sets forth parables for men, in order that they may receive admonition.

And the parable of an evil Word is that of an evil tree: It is torn up by the root from the surface of the earth: it has no stability. (Surah Ibrahim 14:24-26)

Isa al Masih’s parables

His disciples asked him on one occasion why he taught by using parables. The Injil records his explanation:

10 The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

11 He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” (Matthew 13:10-13)

His last sentence was a recitation of the prophet Isaiah (PBUH) who had warned against a hardening of our hearts. In other words, sometimes we do not understand something because we missed the explanation or it was too complex to comprehend. In such a situation a clear explanation dispels the confusion. But there are other times when we do not understand because deep down inside our hearts we do not want to. We may not admit this, so we keep asking questions as if a lack of mental comprehension is our block. But if the confusion is in our hearts and not in our minds then no explanation will be sufficient. The problem then is that we are unwilling to submit, not that we cannot mentally understand.

When the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught in parables, the effect on the crowd that he was teaching was dramatic. Those that could not understand with their minds would become curious from the story and inquire further, gaining understanding, while those who were unwilling to submit would treat the story with contempt and disinterest and they would get no further understanding. Using parables was a way for the master teacher to separate people as the farmer separates wheat from chaff by winnowing. Those who were willing to submit were separated from those who were not willing. Those people unwilling to submit would find the parable confusing since their hearts were unwilling to submit to its truth. Though seeing, they would not see the point.

Parable of the Sower and the Four Soils

When the disciples were asking the prophet Isa (PBUH) about his teaching in parables, he had been teaching a group of parables on the Kingdom of God and its effect on people. Here is the first:

Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)

So what did this parable mean? We do not have to guess, since those who had hearts willing to submit were intrigued by the parable and asked for its meaning, which he gave:

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13:18-23)

We can see that there are four responses to the message about the Kingdom of God. The first has no ‘understanding’ and so the devil (Iblis) takes the message away from their hearts. The remaining three responses are all initially very positive and they receive the message with joy. But this message must grow in our hearts through difficult times. It is not just to be acknowledged in our minds to then continue living our lives as we want. So two of these responses did not allow the message to grow in their heart. Only the fourth heart, who ‘hears the word and understands it’ would truly submit in the way that Allah was looking for.

One point of this parable is to make us ask the question; ‘which of these soils am I?’  Only those who truly ‘understand’ will become a good crop. One way to strengthen understanding is to clearly see what the previous prophets, beginning with Adam, revealed about the plan of God through the Taurat and Zabur. This is why we began with these first prophets. Important Signs in the Taurat come from the promise to Ibrahim (PBUH) and his sacrifice, Musa (PBUH), the Ten Commandments, Harun (PBUH). In the Zabur, understanding the origin of ‘Masih’, and the revelations of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Daniel and Malachi will also prepare us to understand the ‘message of the Kingdom of God’.

The Parable of the Weeds

After the explanation of this parable the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught the parable about weeds.

24 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.

27 “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

28 “‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

29 “‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’”

Here is the explanation he gave

36 Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

37 He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

40 “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42 They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear.

Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast

The prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) also taught some very brief parables.

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

33 He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.”

In other words, the Kingdom of God would start small and insignificant in this world but would then grow throughout the world like yeast working through the dough and like a small seed growing into a large plant. It does not happen by force, or all at once, its growth is invisible but everywhere and unstoppable.

Parables of the Hidden Treasure and Pearl of Great Value

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.

45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13: 44-46)

These parables focus on the value of the Kingdom of God. Think of a treasure which is hidden in a field. Since it is hidden everyone passing by the field thinks the field is of little value and thus they have no interest in it. But someone realizes there is a treasure there making the field very valuable – valuable enough to sell everything in order to buy it and get the treasure. So it is with the Kingdom of God – a value unnoticed by most, but the few that see its worth will gain great value.

The Parable of the Net

47 “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. 48 When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. 49 This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

The Kingdom of God will separate people. This separation will be fully revealed on the Day of Judgment – when hearts are laid bare.

We can see that the Kingdom of God grows mysteriously, like yeast in dough, that it has great value which is hidden from most, and that it causes different responses among people. It also separates people between those that understand and those that do not. After teaching these parables the prophet Isa al Masih then asked his listeners an important question.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” they replied.

What about you?

The Masih teaches on Inner Cleanliness

How important is it to be clean?  Surah An-Nisa (Surah 4 – The Women) states

O you who have believed, do not approach prayer while you are intoxicated until you know what you are saying or in a state of janabah, except those passing through [a place of prayer], until you have washed [your whole body]. And if you are ill or on a journey or one of you comes from the place of relieving himself or you have contacted women and find no water, then seek clean earth and wipe over your faces and your hands [with it]. Indeed, Allah is ever Pardoning and Forgiving. (Surah An-Nisa 4:43)

The command in Surah An-Nisa is to clean our face and hands with clean earth before prayers.  Outer cleanliness is important.

Surah Ash-Shams (Surah 91 – The Sun) also tells us that our Soul – our inner self is equally important.

By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it;

And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;-

Truly he succeeds that purifies it,

And he fails that corrupts it! (Surah Ash-Shams 91:7-10)

Surah Ash-Shams tells us that if our Soul, or inner self, is purified, then we have succeeded, whereas if our soul is corrupted then we have failed.  Isa al Masih PBUH also taught about inner and outer Cleanliness.

We saw how the words of Isa al Masih (PBUH) had power teach with authority, to heal people, and even to control nature.   He also taught to expose the condition of our hearts – to cause us to examine our inner person as well as the outer.  We are familiar with outer cleanliness, which is why wudu before prayers is performed and why eating halal meat is practiced.  The prophet Muhammad (PBUH), according to hadith said that

“Cleanliness is half of faith…” (Muslim Ch. 1 Book 002, Number 0432)

The Prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) also wanted us to think about the other half – that of our inner cleanliness.  This is important because though humans can see the outside cleanliness of other people, for Allah it is different – He also sees the inner.  When one of the kings of Judah who outwardly kept all the religious obligations, but did not keep his inner heart clean the prophet of that time came with this message:

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  (2 Chronicles 16:9 of Zabur)

As that message declared, inner cleanliness has to do with our ‘hearts’ – the ‘you’ that thinks, feels, decides, submits or disobeys, and controls the tongue.  The prophets of Zabur taught that it was the thirst of our hearts that was at the root of our sin.  Our hearts are so important that Isa al Masih (PBUH) emphasized this in his teaching by contrasting it with our outer cleanliness.  Here is how the Injil records the different times that he taught about inner cleanliness:

Clean the Inside as well as the Outside

(‘Pharisees’ are mentioned here.  They were the Jewish teachers in that day, similar to imams today.  Isa mentions giving a ‘tenth’ to God.  This was the required Jewish Zakat.)

37 When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and reclined at the table. 38 But the Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus did not first wash before the meal.

39 Then the Lord said to him, “Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. 40 You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But now as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.

42 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.

43 “Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and respectful greetings in the marketplaces.

44 “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which people walk over without knowing it.” (Luke 11: 37-44)

Touching a dead body made a Jew unclean according to the Law.  When Isa (PBUH) said that people walk over ‘unmarked graves’ he meant that they were unclean without them even ‘knowing it’ because they were neglecting inner cleanliness.  If we neglect this we could become as unclean as the unbeliever who has no regard for any cleanliness.

The heart defiles the religiously clean person

In the following teaching, Isa al Masih (PBUH) quotes from the prophet Isaiah (PBUH) who lived 750 BC.  ( here for information about Isaiah)

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus 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! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”

10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”…

15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.”

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”  (Matthew 15:1-20)

In this encounter, Isa al Masih (PBUH) pointed out that we are quick to build our religious obligations from ‘human traditions’ rather than from the message of God. At the time of the prophet, the Jewish leaders ignored their obligation before Allah to care for their aged parents by giving their money to religious causes instead of helping their parents.

Today we face the same problem of disregarding inner cleanliness.  But Allah is very concerned with the uncleanness coming from our hearts.  This uncleanness will result in our condemnation on the Day of Judgment if it is not cleaned.

Beautiful on the Outside but on the Inside full of wickedness

25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.  (Matthew 23: 25-28)

Isa al Masih (PBUH) is stating what we all have seen.  Following outward cleanliness can be quite common amongst believers in God, but many are still full of greed and indulgence on the inside – even those who are religiously important.  Obtaining inner cleanliness is necessary – but it is much harder.  Allah will judge our inner cleanliness very carefully.  So the issue raises itself:  How do we clean our hearts so that we can enter the Kingdom of God on the Day of Judgment?  We continue in the Injil for answers.

The Kingdom of God: Many are Invited but…

Surah As-Sajdah (Surah 32 – The Prostration) describes those who pray fervently in prostration and then says of their reward

Now no person knows what delights of the eye are kept hidden (in reserve) for them – as a reward for their (good) deeds. (Surah As-Sajdah 32:17)

Surah Ar-Rahman (Surah 55 – The Beneficient) for 31 times from ayahs 33 – 77 asks the question

Then which of the favours of your Lord will ye deny? (Surah Ar-Rahman 55:13 – 77)

If such delights are in store for the righteous, we would think that no one would deny such favors from the Lord.  That seems terribly foolish.  But the Prophet Isa al Masih PBUH taught a parable to teach us that we are in real danger of denying these favors of the Lord which have been stored away for us.  First a little review.

We saw the prophet Isa al Masih’s (PBUH) Word of Authority such that diseases and even nature obeyed his command.  He also taught about the Kingdom of God.  Several of the prophets of Zabur had written about a coming Kingdom of God.  Isa built on this to teach that the Kingdom was ‘near’.

He first taught the Sermon on the Mount, showing how citizens of the Kingdom of God were to love each other.  Think of the misery, death, injustice and horror we experience today (just listen to the news) because we do not listen to his teaching about love.  If living in the Kingdom of God is to be different than the sometimes hellish life in this world then we need to treat each other differently – with love.

Parable of the Great Party

Since so few live in the way that Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught you would think that very few would be invited into the Kingdom of God.  But this is not so.  Isa al Masih (PBUH) taught about a great banquet (a party) to illustrate how wide and far the invitation to the Kingdom reaches.  But there are twists.  Those we think are the most likely to be invited, religious leaders like imams, and other good people miss the party.  The Injil recounts:

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”  (Luke 14:15-24)

Our accepted understandings are turned upside down – many times – in this story.  First, we might assume that Allah will not invite many into His Kingdom (which is the Banquet in the House) because he does not find many worthy people, but that is  wrong.  The invitation to come to the Banquet goes to many, many people.  The Master (Allah in this parable) wants the Banquet to be full.  That is encouraging.

But there is an unexpected twist.  Very few of the guests actually want to come, instead they made excuses so they would not have to!  And think how unreasonable the excuses are.  Who would buy oxen without first having tried them out before he bought them?  Who would buy a field without first already looking it over?  No, these excuses revealed the true intentions of the hearts of the guests – they were not interested in the Kingdom of God but had other interests instead.

Just when we think that perhaps the Master will be frustrated with none or few attending the banquet there is yet another twist.  Now the ‘unlikely’ people, those who we all dismiss in our minds as being unworthy of being invited to a great celebration, those who are in “streets and alleys” and far-away “roads and country lanes”, who are “poor, crippled, blind and lame” – those we often stay away from – they get invitations to the banquet.   The invitations to this banquet go much further, and cover more people than you and I would have thought possible.  The Master of the Banquet wants people there and will even invite those we ourselves would not invite into our house.

And these people come!  They have no other competing interests like fields or oxen to distract their love so they come to the banquet.  The Kingdom of God is full and the Master’s will is accomplished!

The prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) told this parable to get us to ask a question: “Would I accept an invitation to the Kingdom of God if I got one?”  Or would a competing interest or love cause you to make an excuse and decline the invitation?  The truth is that you are invited to this Kingdom Banquet, but the sober reality is that most of us will decline the invitation for one reason or another.  We would never say ‘no’ directly so we offer excuses to hide our rejection. Deep down inside we have other ‘loves’ that are at the roots of our rejection.  In this parable the root of the rejection was love of other things.  Those who were first invited loved the things of this world (represented by the ‘field’, ‘oxen’ and ‘marriage’) more than the Kingdom of God.

Parable of the Unjustified Religious Imam

Some of us love things in this world more than the Kingdom of God and so we will refuse this invitation.  Others of us love or trust our own righteous merit.  The prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) also taught about this in another story using a religious leader similar to an imam as an example:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18: 9-14)

Here is a Pharisee (a religious teacher like an imam) who seemed to be perfect in his religious effort and merit.  His fasting and zakat was even more than required.  But this imam placed his confidence in his own righteousness.  This was not what the prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) had shown so long before when he received righteousness simply by humble trust in the promise of Allah.  In fact the tax collector (an immoral profession at that time) humbly asked for mercy, and trusting that he had been given mercy he went home ‘justified’ – right with God – while the Pharisee (imam), who we assume is ‘right with God’ has his sins still counted against him.

So the prophet Isa al Masih (PBUH) asks you and me if we really desire the Kingdom of God, or if it is just an interest among lots of other interests.  He also asks us what we are trusting in – our merit or God’s mercy.

It is important to honestly ask ourselves these questions because otherwise we will not recognize his next teaching – that we need Inner Cleanliness.