Throughout history religion has been abused and misunderstood. Some people use it as a means of exploitation and suppression, as a pretext for prejudice and persecution. Others use it as a source of power and domination over the elite and masses alike. In the name of religion unjustifiable wars have been launched, freedom of thought and expression has been oppressed, science has been persecuted, the right of the individual to maturity has been denied, and man’s dignity and honor have been flagrantly violated. And in the name of religion injustice has been inflicted upon humanity with the result that religion itself has suffered many losses.
These are historical facts that no one can deny. But is this the proper function of religion or the right approach to religion? Could this be the purpose of religion? The indisputable answer is an emphatic NO. There are many religions, and sects of religions, and each one claims to be the one and only true religion. Each religion is supposed to have come from the One God for the right guidance of mankind. But these claims contradict each other and have caused dissension among people and intense reactions to religion - instead of bonding mankind into one universal brotherhood under the One Universal Benevolent God. This situation makes any neutral observer confused and perhaps reluctant to all kinds of organized religion.
The Islamic concept of religion is unique in the broadest sense of the word. It is true that genuine religion must come from God for the right guidance of man. And it is equally true that human nature and major human needs are basically the same at all times. This concept leads to only one conclusion, and that is:
There is only one true religion revealed from the One and the Same God. This religion is ISLAM. Because Islam means to surrender to the Will of God, it should be kept in mind that Islam was not taught by Muhammad alone. On the contrary, all the prophets before Muhammad had taught humans to surrender to the Will of God. The true followers of Abraham, Moses, Jesus and the rest of the prophets were all called Muslims. So Islam has been and will continue to be, the true universal religion of God, because God is One and Changeless, and because human nature and major human needs are fundamentally the same, irrespective of time and place, of race and age, and of any other considerations.
Bearing this in mind, the Islamic concept maintains that religion is not only a spiritual and intellectual necessity, but also a social and universal need. It is not to confuse man but to guide him. It is not to humiliate man but to elevate his moral nature. It is not to deprive him of anything useful, or to burden him, or to oppress his quality, but to open for him inexhaustible treasures of sound thinking and right action. It is not to confine him to narrow limits, but to launch him into wide horizon of truth and goodness. It improves his knowledge of God - the Highest Truth in the universe - and of himself. It teaches him about the secrets of life, about good and evil, and about right and wrong. It purifies the soul from evil, clears the mind from doubts, strengthens the character and corrects the thinking and convictions of man. All this can be achieved only when man faithfully observes the spiritual duties and physical regulation introduced by religion.
True religion educates man and trains him in hope and patience, in truthfulness and honesty, in love for the right and good, in courage and endurance, all of which are required for the mastery of the great art of living. Moreover, true religion insures man against fear and spiritual losses, and assures him of God’s help and unbreakable alliance. It provides man with peace and security and makes his life meaningful.
That is what a true religion can do for humanity, and that is the concept of religion in Islam. Any religion that fails to bear these fruits is not Islam or, rather, is not a religion at all. And any man who fails to draw these benefits from religion is not devout or God-minded. God is absolutely Truthful when He says in the Holy Quran:
Surah 3, Ayah 19 "The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His Will)."
This is what Islam and the original Christianity and Judaism are all about. Islam is a solid religion based upon unshakable foundation. The critics of Islam present their own distorted version of Islam in the Western Media. Only the arrogant or the ignorant of Islam denies the fact that out of the desert came a revelation that inspired social, scientific, and economic achievements. The critics of Islam strive to publicize half the truth about all religions. Most of those who attack Islam never read anything about it from Islamic sources, or read one complete verse from the Quran for that matter. One frequent tactic by half the truth TV Evangelists is to present half a verse from the Quran, such as Surah 2 Ayah 191. The first half of this verse says "And slay them wherever ye catch them." This part of the verse is publicized to convince the audience with the violent nature of Islam. However, in the same verse the Quran says, "If they fight you, slay them." And this part is never mentioned. This whole verse is about self-defense and sacred rights of humans who were subjected to persecution and oppression.
Another Ayah that is frequently publicized is Surah 5 Ayah 51: "O ye who you believe, take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends." This Ayah is marketed to warn Jews and Christians against Muslims who are claimed to be hostile against non-Muslims. This is far away from the truth and that is not what the Quran advocates. The exact Arabic word of the above translation of friends is "Awliyaa." This Arabic word is repeated in the Quran over 70 times. The root of this word has a few meanings: guardian, protector, friend or one who holds public authority or religious authority. The singular of this Arabic word is "Wali," and this is one of the names of Allah who is the ultimate religious Authority. Therefore, the meaning of the above Ayah is: "O who you believe, take not the Jews and the Christians as an authority in religious matters." And this is what the Christians and Jews do. They do not consider followers of other religions as their religious authority. There are other Ayat in the Quran that command the Muslims to be fair to everyone and treat everyone with justice. History shows this fact. As a matter of fact, Jews and Christians thrive during the Islamic Caliphates. The Quran calls the Christians and Jews as "People of the Book" which is a very respected title.
Furthermore, half the truth Evangelists claim that Muhammad was a man of war in contrast to Moses or Jesus. They conveniently ignore history books and their Bible too. This is a part of their long history of unjustified anti-Islamic bias. But may be Muhammad and the Muslims are guilty in their eyes because Muslims do not follow their lead. Muslims respect Muhammad and do not accept any insult to their beloved Prophet, while some Christians insult Jesus in their books and movies. Muslims take their religion seriously even if they do not practice Islam, while some Christians treat Christianity as a big show business. Muslims respect their true monotheistic religion, while Christians promote Santa Claus as another god beside the trinity. In summary Muslims treat Islam as a religion, while TV Evangelists treat Christianity as a show business.
However, defense of Islam against this hatred always comes from many sources. The first and the most authoritative source is God Himself who promised to protect this religion until the end of time. This can be clearly seen by the thousands of non-Muslims that convert to Islam through their own rational approach and not by force. The Mongols who crushed the Islamic Caliphate in Baghdad converted to Islam in Turkstan and in Syria, and the name Khan became an Islamic name. This is the only case in history where the invaders followed the religion of the country that they defeated. Muhammad Ali, (1942-), the first boxer to become world heavyweight champion three times, originally named Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., converted to Islam and assumed an Islamic name. Cat Stevens, one of the top singers during the 1970’s, converted to Islam in 1977, and assumed the Islamic name of Yusuf Islam. He preaches Islam in Europe, the US, and the Middle East. This man who used to be glamorous singer, now projects an aura of humility and serenity. Another example is the French surgeon Maurice Bucaille who was struck by the existence of the Muslim piety, and the scientific revelation in the Quran that is impossible to be known from an unlettered Arab in the desert. His book, The Bible, The Quran and Science, was translated to English, Arabic, Turkish, and Indonesian. In this book, he mentioned that another source that came to the defense of Islam is the Vatican. The Office for the Non-Christian Affairs at the Vatican published a document under the title "Orientations for a Dialogue between Christians and Muslims." It is a very important document because it shows the new position of the Vatican towards Islam. In the third edition of this study (1970), this new position calls for "a revision of our attitude towards it (Islam) and a critical examination of our prejudices" ... "We should first set about progressively changing the way our Christian brothers see it. This is the most important of all" ... "We must clear the way the out-dated image inherited from the past, or distorted by prejudice and slander" ... "and recognize the past injustice towards the Muslims for which the west, with its Christian education, is to blame." The Vatican document is nearly 150 pages long. In the same document, the authors address the following suggestions to the Christians: "Here also, we must surrender to a deep purification of our attitude. In particular, what is meant by this are certain ‘set judgments’ that are all too often and too lightly made about Islam. It is essential not to cultivate in the secret of our hearts views such as these, too easily or arbitrarily arrived at, and which the Muslim finds confusing."
One extremely important view is the attitude that leads people to repeatedly use the name Allah to mean the God of Muslims, as if the Muslims believe in a God who was different from the God of the Christians. The same document stresses this fundamental point in the following terms:
"It would seem pointless to maintain that Allah is not real God, as do certain people in the west!" The Conciliatory document has put the above assertion in its proper place. There is no better way of illustrating Islamic faith in God than by quoting the following extracts from Lumen Gentium, produced by the second Vatican Council (1962-1965):
"The Muslims profess the faith of Abraham and worship with us the sole merciful God, who is the future judge of men on the Day of Reckoning."
This book dealt with the most important issue of man's life, that is, the existence of God. One may think that this issue is not that important, but in reality it is the most crucial and the highest priority issue in man's life if true happiness is the objective of life. It is the most fundamental question and answer in this whole universe. Some people are blessed with faith in their hearts, and they do not need proof. This is the simple intuition of faith that everyone is born with. Others are polluted with the notion and slogan of "modern serious science" that seeing is believing, and they attempt to apply human approach to the spiritual world.
God does not show Himself to us because we are limited creatures and cannot comprehend the Unlimited Being. But, because of His mercy, He shows us His signs everywhere, if we care to look. He shows us what we need to see, and what we can comprehend.
We see His Greatness in the vast universe that we are trying to understand.
We see His Creation and Ingenuity in the perfection of the cell and its components.
We see the resurrection every spring when plants in dead land come to life.
We see sleeping as a foretaste of death.
We see spiritually different laws applied to everyone during sleeping and dreaming.
We see paradise as the ultimate dream of every human where true peace and happiness exist.
We see hell in the earthly fire.
We see His system of reward and punishment applies in many courts on earth.
Indeed, Praise be to Allah, we have all what we need to believe in Him. Thank you God, for showing us your way. And if one does not see that now, one will certainly be convinced at the Day of Judgment.
However, the real threat to monotheistic religions is the high tide of atheism that advocates the theory of evolution and unsubstantiated scientific theories. In USA, where freedom of speech and expression is protected by the constitution, some have concluded that their freedom should not have any limits. They can voice their atheistic views. Atheists claim that science, the Big Bang, the theory of relativity, and human evolution point to energy and not to Almighty Creator. They have no clues of who or how this energy started. They simply state their ignorance about the origin of this energy. These atheistic views contribute to the lack of serious understanding of the concept of faith. The USA is the country that has the most churches on earth. Simultaneously, it is the country that has the most violent crimes. It is also the country that has the largest number of prisons on earth.
So, God exists and his name is not father, son, Holy Ghost, Buddha, Yahweh, or Jehovah. His name in Arabic is Allah. This Name still exists in the Arabic Bibles, and was taken away from the non-Arabic Bibles.
For the Muslims:
God is adequate for guidance, happiness, and salvation.
There is no original sin. God forgave Adam’s mistake that drove him out of heavens. Adam achieved forgiveness by imploring God for few short words of repentance. Satan’s rebellion towards God, has established him as God’s eternal adversary.
The Quran is the authentic Word of God. It includes the Divine Standards that humans should follow, if they seek happiness in this world and in the hereafter.
All Prophets were Muslims. They all surrendered to the Will of God.
And for our Christian friends:
God alone is not enough for happiness and salvation.
He needed Jesus to die on the cross to save humanity from the original sin.
He needed the Holy Ghost to provide humanity with faith.
And for the atheists:
They reject the Christian concept of the original sin and the belief that humans were expelled from paradise!
They believe that God is in everything and everywhere. God is in the trees, in the cows, in the rocks, and in the computers!
They believe in many gods that may represent one deity, who may be male and female!
Modern scientific atheism refers all phenomena to energy!
As has been demonstrated, the whole Bible is full of contradictions, politics, tribal feud, and human perceptions. The Bible itself admits its own distortion by the lying pens of the scribes. Biblical theologians when confronted with the many problems in the Bible, their usual answer is that these contradictions are from the liberal mind, not the conservative one. This answer is usually followed by a request to just have faith in Jesus, and you will be saved. However, this faith has to be a validated faith. No one should accept Buddhism on the grounds of having faith in Buddha. No one should accept Hinduism with its many gods on the grounds of having faith. No one should accept atheism on the grounds of having faith in energy. Faith has to be validated and convincing.
Islam recognizes Jesus as one of the great prophets of God and as the Messiah. Outside the Christian Church, no other religious community has given Jesus so much honor, respect, esteem and love as Muslims have. Thousands of Muslims are proud and believe that they are blessed to have the name "Eesa" or "Maryam" which are the Arabic names for Jesus and Mary. Islam recognizes the miraculous birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary. However, Muslims and Christians do interpret this birth differently. Christians see it as an incarnation of God on earth of the son of god. Muslims see it as a special miracle. Every prophet has a special miracle that suits the needs and the challenges of his time. Since Jesus contemporaries used to deny the existence of spirit, they were shown the presence and the power of the divine spirit by this miraculous birth. The message of Jesus was basically the same as the message of all the prophets of God. He was sent to invite people to the worship of One God, to do the righteous deeds and to be kind and loving to others. He reminded his people to pay attention not only to the letter of the laws but also to the spirit of the laws.
The Quran states that Jesus was mistreated, denied and rejected by his people just as other prophets were also mistreated. Some of his contemporaries opposed him and tried to crucify him. Jesus, however, prayed to God to save him from them, and to "take this cup (death) away" from him, Luke 22:42. God accepted his prayer, and saved him from crucifixion. The generally accepted Muslim view is that Jesus was lifted up to heaven, and he still lives in his body in heaven:
Surah 4, Ayah 157-158: "That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah; - but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not: - Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise."
Jesus has yet to fulfill his Messianic role. Muslims, like Christians, believe that Jesus is the Messiah and that he will come back to earth before the end of time and restore peace and order, fight the Anti-Christ and demonic forces, and bring victory for truth and righteousness. The true followers of Jesus will prevail over those who deny him and refuse to surrender to the Will of God.
It is obvious that our present time systems, with its contradicting human standards, have failed in most important aspects that affect the necessities of human life on earth:
Failure in the global economic systems, whether it is a socialist or capitalist system.
Failure in the fields of freedom, security, and peace for most people on earth.
Failure in the moral and spiritual levels that lead to an increase in crimes.
Failure in the political systems, where corruption is the norm and not the exception.
Failure in the education systems that exclude God and constraint the thinking process.
Failure in the legal systems that ignore the rights of both the victims and suspects.
Failure in basic human relationships, especially those at the family level.
All these failures can only be attributed to one basic phenomenon: the conflicting human standards to reach the ultimate human goals for happiness and peace. The solution is provided in the only authentic User’s Manual for the individual and the society: the Quran, where the Divine standard is clearly and simply presented. It has been shown throughout the history of humanity:
Humans are happy when they adhere to the true guidance of the Creator.
Humans are miserable when they forget the true guidance of the Creator.
Therefore, Islam and the Quran are the only solutions to all human illnesses. As for the Muslims, they need to have strong faith, and not just an elementary knowledge of this glorious religion. They need to go back to the basics of Islam and quit chasing the fake western image of success. They need to regard the authentic Word of God as their guidance in life. They need to "feel", and not just "know" the following Ayah:
Surah 21, Ayah 92 "Verily, this Ummah of yours is a single Ummah, and I am your Lord and Cherisher, therefore, Serve me (and no other)."
The meaning of the above Aya is repeated in the following Ayah:
Surah 23, Ayah 52 "And verily, this Ummah of yours is a single Ummah, and I am your Lord and Cherisher, therefore, Fear me (and no other)."
In the above short Ayat, Allah states that the Islamic nation is one nation, with Him as the Lord, and the Muslims are given a command to worship and serve Him. Any conscientious Muslim should take these Ayat very seriously. Allah states a fact, followed by a command to worship and serve Him. And when Muslims are given a command from the Almighty, should anyone ignore it? Or should they treat this command with the proper respect it deserves? The response of the Muslims to the above Ayat should be "we hear, we obey." Muslims are responsible for reestablishing the Word of Allah. They are entrusted by the most significant sentence in this Universe: "No God but Allah." Muslims should exert much effort to establish one nation, worshipping One God, following one Book, following one last Messenger, praying towards one Kaabah for the true peace on earth.