Epigraph: “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)
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
I have often written what is critical of the Christian dogma, about Trinity, Resurrection, Eucharist, dual nature of Jesus, to name a few, so, it is only fair and compassionate that I also cover the positive and useful in the Bible.
I have written about the compassionate message in the Bible, in general terms before, for example in my article, Love thy Neighbor is a Christian Value, Hate and Stereotyping aren’t, but, today I want to be more specific.
I have also written about the compassionate message of the Holy Quran: Two Hundred Verses about Compassionate Living in the Quran.
The compassionate message of the Bible can be seen in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Ten Commandments that are quoted twice in the Old Testament are certainly about justice and mutual harmony. But, let me quote here something more specific and more compelling, for love and compassionate living, from the Old Testament:
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:15-17)
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus, may peace be on him, calls loving your neighbor, as the second most important teaching, second only to Monotheism:
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:28-33)
Jesus never failed to teach compassion towards the most vulnerable in the society. For example he says about orphans and young children:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. (Matthew 18:1-5)
The Sermon on the Mount, should be written in golden words like so many other pure teachings of Jesus. He says about the haven’ts:
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:1-10)
The moral and compassionate teachings of Christianity and Islam are very similar. Here is an example which illustrates this. First a quote from the Gospel of Matthew:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:34-45)
This detailed parable or metaphor, not only illustrates importance of compassion, but also that our works count and the Christian emphasis ‘on Faith alone,’ in Protestantism more than in Catholicism, may eventually have to be replaced with fullest emphasis on loving and harmonious actions.
There are numerous verses in the Holy Quran emphasizing kindness and the teaching of being service minded and the teachings are illustrated with different metaphors. Here I would like to reproduce a Hadith which is very similar to the presentation of the Gospel of Matthew:
Indeed, Allah will say to his servant when He will be taking account of him on the Day of Judgment, ‘O’ son of Adam, I was hungry and you did not feed me.’ He will answer: ‘How could I feed you? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so who is the son of so and so felt hunger, and you did not feed him. Alas, had you fed him you would have found that (i.e. reward) with Me.’ ‘O’ son of Adam, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink.’ He will reply: ‘How could I give You drink? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so, the son of so and so was thirsty and you did not give him drink. Alas, if you had given him, you would have found that (i.e. reward) with me.’ ‘O’ son of Adam, I became sick and you did not visit Me.’ He will answer: ‘How could I visit You? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so, the son of so and so became sick and you did not visit him. Alas, had you visited him, you would have found Me with him.’
This work is still in progress. I will request all Jews, Christians and Muslims to contribute to this collection by leaving comments in this post. May God be with you. With love and Peace!