Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
I work in a Catholic hospital and every time I drive to my work, I have to pass by a newly constructed Emergency Room, which has a two story tall cross made on its front wall in a very prominent place. I invariably look at it.
It reminds me that Jesus, may peace be on him, was a Jewish prophet and was put on the cross.
During the first two centuries of Christianity, the cross may have been rare in Christian iconography, as it depicts a purposely painful and gruesome method of public execution and Christians were reluctant to use it.
The extensive adoption of the cross as Christian iconographic symbol arose from the 4th century.
But, now it has a become a tool for branding of Christianity and you see it every where from buildings to graves to decoration items to jewellery and especially as necklaces to indoctrinate the Christian women into the Christian dogma of vicarious atonement that Jesus died for their sins.
Whenever I see a cross, I am reminded of Jesus’ words recorded in the Gospel of Matthew, which is considered to be the most Jewish of the four canonical Gospels:
From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) [Mathew 27:45-46]
Since my youth, I have memorized the Aramaic words, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” These words not only help me remember the history of early Christianity but serve as a prologue for me every time I need to pray to Allah in a time of distress, mild or intense.
Jesus did not expect to die on the cross. He was not on a suicidal mission or else he would have lauded Judas as a hero and as an accomplice. Jesus expected that his earnest prayers that he offered to God the Father will be heard and he will be rescued.
His expression, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was not only an expression of dismay but also of surprise!
The Christians have misunderstood the early history and today crosses are used to brand for St. Paul’s understanding of Jesus’ message.
The origination of branding can be traced to ancient times, when specialists often put individual trademarks on hand-crafted goods. The branding of farm animals in Egypt in 2700 BC to avoid theft may be considered a form of trademarking. In 1266, English bakers were required by law to put a specific symbol on each product they sold. Branding became more widely used in the 19th century, through the industrial revolution and the development of new professional fields like marketing, manufacturing and business management.
Brand management aims to create an emotional connection between products, companies and their customers and constituents. Brand managers may try to control the image of the brand.
The millions if not billions of crosses all around us remind the Christians of their dogma, but, human psyche is fundamentally opposed to vicarious atonement, which means some one else suffering for the faults and sins of others.
We never see vicarious atonement in laws of nature or human judicial systems. This is why people in the West are revolting against the dogma of Christianity and increasing numbers of Generation X and Generation Y are becoming agnostics.
To an Ahmadi Muslim every cross reminds him or her that Islam is religion in keeping with human nature and psychology. It does not force belief in contradictory and unexplainable mysteries.
Every cross, small and big, on buildings or in jewelry reminds a true Muslim that Jesus had been praying earnestly the night before his crucial trial, with great passion and earnest, in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus, may peace be on him, prayed in earnest to God the Father, not once or twice, but three times, in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem, according to the Gospel of Matthew:
Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” (Matthew 26: 36-41)
He goes to pray alone a second time:
He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)
He goes a third time:
When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (Matthew 26: 43-44)
The Gospel of Luke paints even a more dramatic picture of his earnest prayers and tells us that his sweat in his anguish was like blood. This is not a picture of a man whose whole purpose in life was to die the death of a criminal on the cross, but of a Jewish prophet, who hopes and believes that his earnest prayers will be answered by the Almighty God:
Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22: 39-44)
The angel promised him a rescue, I believe and that is why he had the emotional state of dismay and surprise, as he felt his consciousness slipping away from him, as he hanged on the cross and cried out loud, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” Which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” A powerful reminder to every righteous believer that Allah never abandons his friends.
To an Ahmadi Muslim every cross powerfully jolts into his or her consciousness that just like Jesus, may peace be on him, rose to great success and grandeur from a position of extreme weakness, pinned on the cross, mission of every prophet, will reign supreme in the final analysis, in restoring justice, peace and universal brotherhood and sisterhood.
This will also not only be true for the best of all prophets, Muhammad, may peace be on him, but also for his subordinate and ardent devotee, the Muslim Messiah, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad Qadiani, the Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community.
He came in India 120 years ago to unite all religions and mankind by emphasizing religious freedom for everyone and the fact that the founders of all religions, Confucius, Buddha, Tao, Krishna, Ram, Moses and Jesus were prophets of God. He initiated renaissance of Islam in keeping with the prophecies of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him.
Allah has promised the final victory of his prophets countless times in the Holy Quran.
Allah has decreed: ‘Most surely I will prevail, I and My Messengers.’ Verily, Allah is Powerful, Mighty. (Al Quran 58:22)
He it is Who has sent His Messenger, with guidance and the Religion of truth, that He may make it prevail over all other religions. And sufficient is Allah as a Witness. (Al Quran 48:29)
Such is the law of Allah that has been in operation before; and thou shalt not find any change in the law of Allah. (Al Quran 48:24)