Comparing Sharia and The Gospel – An Excerpt from No God but One: Allah or Jesus?
In today's excerpt from No God but One: Allah or Jesus?, Nabeel Qureshi compares the Islamic worldview and the Christian worldview, helpfully explaining how both approach what is wrong with humankind and their given solution.
THE ISLAMIC WORLDVIEW
The word Islam means “submission,” and the plain message of Islam is exactly that: Humans should all submit to the sovereign will of God. Allah, having predestined the universe, made mankind with the express purpose of worshiping him (Quran 51.56). To guide humanity, Allah sent prophets to all people to lead them out of ignorance (Quran 4.163–165).
It is important to note here that the concept of prophet in Islam does not mean the same thing that it does in the Bible. Prophets in Islam have a higher status than all other people, being men chosen by God to lead mankind. The Quran uses the term to mean a divinely appointed leader, not necessarily one who prophesies. Adam is considered the first prophet, but also mentioned in the Quran are Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Job, Moses, Jonah, Aaron, Solomon, David, and of course, Jesus (e.g., Quran 4.163). Since these people all submitted to Allah, they practiced submission (i.e., Islam). Thus they are considered people who submit (i.e., Muslims).
All who followed these prophets in submitting to Allah are also considered Muslims, even if they were born ages before Muhammad…
Tragically, people did not faithfully follow the prophets that Allah sent to them. So in his mercy, Allah sent Muhammad and gave him the Quran. Thus, Allah gave mankind the final, perfected religion (Quran 5.3). Islam is therefore the culmination of Judaism, Christianity, and all other world religions, which started off in line with Islamic teaching. All people still following these religions after the arrival of Muhammad are either misled or rebellious, and no religion will be accepted from them on the day of judgment except Islam (Quran 3.81–85).
It is there, at the day of judgment, that one finds the major impetus to follow Islam. The Quran emphasizes that on that day, all people will be held accountable to Allah for their sins (Quran 6:164; 17:15; 35:18; 39:7; 53:38). This is an understanding firmly entrenched in the Muslim psyche: Though God may be merciful and absolve us of our sins, no one else can intercede. Muslims must live as good a life as they can to approach heaven, and hope for God’s merciful judgment to secure their salvation.
THE ISLAMIC SOLUTION: SHARIA
However, Islam teaches that the fundamental problem of mankind is ignorance, that man needs to be guided in order to live good lives. Once people learn what to believe, aqeeda, and how to live, sharia, they will earn the pleasure of Allah.
In regards to right belief, the emphasis is on the Islamic conception of monotheism: Allah is not a Father, and Allah is not a Son (Quran 112). He is an absolute unity, a monad. The other basic components of aqeeda have already been mentioned above: belief in the prophets, belief in divinely inspired books, belief in angels and the unseen, belief in the day of judgment, and belief in Allah’s predestining sovereignty. Together, these are called the Six Articles of Faith. There is much, much more to Islamic belief, but this is the core.
Right practice in Islam is learned through Islamic Law, called sharia, which is understood as “the way to water.” Especially for a desert people, the concept is powerful: Following sharia is the way to life itself. Sharia dictates virtually every aspect of a devout Muslim’s life, from what foods to eat, to proper forms of currency, to exact words to recite during prayers. Of all Islamic practices, five are paramount: proclaiming the Islamic motto, the shahada: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Messenger”; praying the five daily prayers; fasting during the month of Ramadan; giving alms; and undertaking a pilgrimage to Mecca. Together, these are called the Five Pillars of Islam.
Both aqeeda and sharia are ultimately grounded in the life and teachings of Muhammad. He is the embodiment of Islam, and this is why Muslims are expected to follow him as the perfect exemplar. His actions and his sayings in life are recorded in a vast body of literature, collectively called hadith literature. So important are the hadith that, after the Quran, they form the second rung of sharia.
Given the breadth of teachings in the Quran and the incredibly wide scope of hadith literature, discerning sharia is a task for the learned. Muslim jurists study the vast traditions and legal precedents before making official judgments, called fatawa (plural of fatwa). These men are technically called fuqaha, but they are often included under the umbrella term for a Muslim leader, imam. Collectively, the consensus of these scholars is called ijma and is understood to be the third major component of sharia.
Finally, we are at a place to understand the message of Islam. Sharia is more than just Islamic law. It is the answer to mankind’s ignorance and, if followed, will result in a life of peace with Allah and an abundance of his blessings. Sharia is derived from the Quran, exemplified in Muhammad’s life, and explained by imams. On the last day, if we have obeyed and done well, Allah may grant us mercy and allow us into heaven where we will have an eternal reward. So in sum, when it comes to salvation in Islam, sharia is literally “the way,” and submission to God’s will is our primary expression of worship.
THE CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW
In the beginning of the Christian worldview is the one God, Yahweh. He exists as three persons who love each other perfectly. Thus, the one God is love in his very essence. Out of this love, God created mankind in his image, that God might love man and man might love God.
It is important to note that this concept of love is often misunderstood by Muslims due to the various ways the word love is used in English. The specific concept of love we are discussing is often called agape love. It is not the kind of love we envision in a romantic relationship; it does not imply much emotion at all. The Bible gives a beautiful description of this love in 1 Corinthians 13, but it is essentially this: a selflessness that delights in others. That is who God is, almighty yet most humble, the center of the universe yet selfless. He created mankind so he could delight in us, and we in him, with selfless love. But in order for this love to be valuable, it must be voluntary, so God gave man the choice to love him or reject him. When man disobeys God, it is tantamount to rejecting God. In rejecting the Source of Life, we bring death upon ourselves. This bears repeating: The result of sin is death because it is a rejection of the Source of Life...
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