Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Allah — there is no God but He, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. Slumber seizes Him not, nor sleep. To Him belongs whatsoever is in the heavens and whatsoever is in the earth. Who is he that will intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is before them and what is behind them; and they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases. His knowledge extends over the heavens and the earth; and the care of them burdens Him not; and He is the High, the Great. (Al Quran 2:256)
This verse of the Holy Scripture is called the Crown verse and rightly so, as it helps the believers understand attributes of God and also tells what God is not. The attributes ‘the Living and Self-Subsisting’ would also imply that God is Eternal. Allah has always been and will always be! In another verse of the Holy Quran we read, “He is the First and the Last, and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He knows all things full well.” (Al Quran 57:4)
Now, let us turn to Jesus, who according to the Muslim tradition is a noble prophet of God and according to the Christian understanding is perfect man and fully divine. According to Nicene creed Jesus is co-eternal with God the Father. The Catholic and Protestant Christians have never advised mankind as to how could God the Father be existing, then has a literal son and yet both can be Eternal. It is logically not possible, but, then our Christian brethren and sisters insist that this is all a mystery! Ok, but, there is more to the story. Arius a fourth century, Christian thought leader and his community did think like a Muslim on this issue and unfortunately were marginalized, by being labeled as heretic. This I examined in a post yesterday in some detail, Arianism: Was that the Catholic or Genuine Christianity? I also found out yesterday that on this issue Jehovah witnesses are more of a Muslim than a Catholic or a Protestant.
This is all basic stuff for a Muslim, but, it may be complicated theology for some of our Christian brethren and sisters. But, here is something that anyone should be able to quickly grasp. Let us suppose that Jesus was Eternal to start with, never mind that he was a literal son to a literal Father and never mind that he was born to Mother Mary in 1-4 CE, but, all Christians do believe that he died for their sins, possibly for three days and three nights, so, even if he was Eternal before, he is not eternal now. Can it be easier than this? But, there is still a catch, some Christians may allege! Christian apologists at this point change the subject or talk about ‘faith.’ They would say things like, you cannot encapsulate God in your dry logic or God is All-Powerful, He could have done whatever He pleased. As a response, I tell my Christian brethren and sisters, well and good, take a sigh and put on your thinking hats. You say God can do anything, but, obviously you do not mean that He can lie or cheat and you do not mean that once He exists, He can create someone else, who is equally eternal. God cannot do what is morally reprehensible or logically impossible. For example, even if he liked Trinity, He cannot create a triangle with 5 sides, as that is called a pentagon! So, this is one of the ways, I argue or present a case of Unity of God according to Islam.
In recent decades, Christianity is losing its influence on the hearts and mind of people, at least in the West. A Christian apologist Paul Kokoski, recently wrote in the Muslim Times, in an article named, the Christian name:
For centuries the practice of naming one’s child after a saint was almost second nature. Typically, Catholics named their child after the saint on whose day he was born. Over the past few decades, however, the invasion of secularism and moral relativism has worked to undermine the family and religious faith threatening, in turn, this and other such Christian traditions. Swept away by the lack of stable cultural references and by the rapid transformation of society we see more and more Catholic parents naming their children whatever seems to suit their fancy.
Sir Bob Geldof, for example, has daughters named “Pixie” and “Peaches”. Victoria and David Beckham called their first son “Brooklyn”, after the district of New York. In 2008, a couple in Italy sought to name their son “Friday” after Robinson Crusoe’s manservant. Italy’s highest court rightly denied this request saying it was “ridiculous” and would expose the child to mockery from his classmates. Naming children after celebrities, perfumes, bicycles and countries, as is often the case today, puts limits on children’s potential. Children are not merchandise or commodities.
Recent records show that the name “Mary” – which in every year from 1910-1965 was either the first or the second most popular girls’ name – is no longer even in the top 100.
Large segments of the population in Europe are becoming agnostic or atheist. The numbers in Canada and USA are not as large, but are approaching 25 and 16%, respectively. The numbers of those who are losing faith in younger generations, generation X and Y, are much higher.
So, my dear Christian brothers and sisters, some day you will need your Muslim neighbors to restore faith in God, lest we are overcome by nihilism, as a result of God dying, amongst us. To demonstrate what I mean let me introduce Nietzsche, from Wikipedia, who will do the talking. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche ( /ˈniːtʃə/; German: [ˈfʁiːdʁɪç ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈniːt͡sʃə]; October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a German philosopher, poet, composer, cultural critic, and classical philologist. He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony, and aphorism. Nietzsche’s key ideas include the “death of God“, the Übermensch, the eternal recurrence, the Apollonian and Dionysian dichotomy, perspectivism, and the will to power. Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation”, which involves questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially prevalent and radical those views might be. His influence remains substantial within philosophy, notably in existentialism, post-modernism, and post-structuralism, as well as outside it. His radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth has been the focus of extensive commentary, especially in the continental tradition.
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market-place, and cried incessantly: “I am looking for God! I am looking for God!”
As many of those who did not believe in God were standing together there, he excited considerable laughter. Have you lost him, then? said one. Did he lose his way like a child? said another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? or emigrated? Thus they shouted and laughed. The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances.
Where has God gone?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us – for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.”
Here the madman fell silent and again regarded his listeners; and they too were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern to the ground, and it broke and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time has not come yet. The tremendous event is still on its way, still traveling – it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time, the light of the stars requires time, deeds require time even after they are done, before they can be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the distant stars – and yet they have done it themselves.
Jesus died on the cross for three days and nights according to the official Christian belief and is dying again, if you believe Friedrich Nietzsche and some of the statistics mentioned here. Some day the Christians may need Islam to revive faith, hope and may be civilization. So, hasten not to condemn or write off the Muslims too soon. May be if the moderates among Muslims, are empowered, the extremists with militant tendencies and a wishful obsession with the Sharia law can be marginalized into oblivion. The moderates could show the extremists that Islam does not represent what they stand for, just like the Jehovah witnesses can show the fellow Christians that Jesus is not Eternal, he never was and then he died for three days and three nights! The belief of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community about details surrounding crucifixion are different but that is for another day. Here, I want to conclude with a comedy program I saw a few years ago. To enjoy the joke prime yourself with the idea of slavery and racism against Afro-Americans for centuries in USA, which now seems to be abating.
A Caucasian woman was shopping in a Walmart in Florida, USA and needed to ask some question about some groceries from a salesperson or a fellow shopper. She asks several people, one after another and they all turn out to be Hispanics or Cubans and speak Spanish. She cannot find a person in a Walmart in USA, who will speak English and becomes a foreigner in her own country. Finally she spots an Afro-American lady and says to her, you must surely know English? The Afro-American lady says yes I do and then adds, “I knew, someday, something will bring our two races together, but, I did not know it will be language! Yes, some day, some how the Christians and the Muslims will be brought together and yes it will be the Eternal God the Father, Who also told the Muslims, “And thou shalt assuredly find those who say, ‘We are Christians,’ to be the nearest of them in love to the believers. That is because amongst them are savants and monks and because they are not proud.” (Al Quran 5:83)