By Naseer Ahmed, New Age Islam
26 April, 2015
Most definitely, the Quran is not a flat text. The Quran creates a tension and maintains it to steer people to the right path. At the same time, it makes allowances for the frailties of man and the door to mercy and forgiveness is kept open.
In this article, we will explore the position of Jews and Christians in the Quran since it is a much misunderstood subject and clear all apparent contradictions that confuse the people.
Although no verse of the Quran is abrogated, I have taken the verses in their chronological order so that those who believe in abrogation are comfortable with the conclusions.
There is a clear invitation to the Jews and the Christians to become followers of Muhammad (pbuh) in an early Meccan Surah,
(7:157) "Those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper."
At the same time, there is no compulsion and they are allowed to follow their own scriptures.
(2:62) Those who believe (in the Qur´an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
The parochialism of the Jews and the Christians is chided and they are disabused of all claims of exclusive or preferential treatment by God. This should hold good for the Muslims too.
(2:111) And they say: "None shall enter Paradise unless he be a Jew or a Christian." Those are their (vain) desires. Say: "Produce your proof if ye are truthful."
(112) Nay,-whoever submits His whole self to Allah and is a doer of good,- He will get his reward with his Lord; on such shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
(113) The Jews say: "The Christians have naught (to stand) upon; and the Christians say: "The Jews have naught (To stand) upon." Yet they (Profess to) study the (same) Book. Like unto their word is what those say who know not; but Allah will judge between them in their quarrel on the Day of Judgment.
The Jews and the Christians are people of the Scriptures and they are trying to pull the Muslims to their way.
(2:120) Never will the Jews or the Christians be satisfied with thee unless thou follow their form of religion. Say: "The Guidance of Allah,-that is the (only) Guidance." Wert thou to follow their desires after the knowledge which hath reached thee, then wouldst thou find neither Protector nor helper against Allah.
(135) They say: "Become Jews or Christians if ye would be guided (To salvation)." Say thou: "Nay! (I would rather) the Religion of Abraham the True, and he joined not gods with Allah."
(136) Say ye: "We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma´il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam)."
(137) So if they believe as ye believe, they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but Allah will suffice thee as against them, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.
They are allowed to take up an intermediate position and come to common terms with the Muslims:
(3:64) Say: "O People of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, Lords and patrons other than Allah." If then they turn back, say ye: "Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah´s Will).
And they are also reminded of the covenant of the prophets in their Books so that they at least support the Prophet:
(3:81) Behold! Allah took the covenant of the prophets, saying: "I give you a Book and Wisdom; then comes to you a messenger, confirming what is with you; do ye believe in him and render him help." Allah said: "Do ye agree, and take this my Covenant as binding on you?" They said: "We agree." He said: "Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses."
The subject in the verses from 4:44 to 4:58 and 4:160 to 170 are the Jews. The important verses are listed below:
(47) O ye People of the Book! believe in what We have (now) revealed, confirming what was (already) with you, before We change the face and fame of some (of you) beyond all recognition, and turn them hind-wards, or curse them as We cursed the Sabbath-breakers, for the decision of Allah Must be carried out.
(48) Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin Most heinous indeed.
(56) Those who reject our Signs, We shall soon cast into the Fire: as often as their skins are roasted through, We shall change them for fresh skins, that they may taste the penalty: for Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.
(57) But those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, We shall soon admit to Gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,- their eternal home: Therein shall they have companions pure and holy: We shall admit them to shades, cool and ever deepening.
(4:162) But those among them who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee: And (especially) those who establish regular prayer and practise regular charity and believe in Allah and in the Last Day: To them shall We soon give a great reward.
(167) Those who reject Faith and keep off (men) from the way of Allah, have verily strayed far, far away from the Path.
(168) Those who reject Faith and do wrong,- Allah will not forgive them nor guide them to any way-
(169) Except the way of Hell, to dwell therein forever. And this to Allah is easy.
(170) O Mankind! The Messenger hath come to you in truth from Allah: believe in him: It is best for you. But if ye reject Faith, to Allah belong all things in the heavens and on earth: And Allah is All-knowing, All-wise.
Verses from Surah Maida
This Surah is 112 in chronological order. Only Surah Taubah and a small Surah of 3 verses An-Nasr were revealed after this. For all practical purposes, this may be taken as the last Surah. Please make a note that verse 69 makes clear that the Jews, Christians and Sabians are free to follow their own scriptures. This is merely a confirmation of what was revealed earlier in Surah Baqarah (2:62) (lest people consider that verse as abrogated?!).
(5:66) If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil.
(67) O Messenger! proclaim the (message) which hath been sent to thee from thy Lord. If thou didst not, thou wouldst not have fulfilled and proclaimed His mission. And Allah will defend thee from men (who mean mischief). For Allah guideth not those who reject Faith.
(68) Say: "O People of the Book! ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord." It is the revelation that cometh to thee from thy Lord, that increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. But sorrow thou not over (these) people without Faith.
(69) Those who believe (in the Qur´an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness,- on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
(72) They do blaspheme (Kafara) who say: "Allah is Christ the son of Mary." But said Christ: "O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord." Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help.
(73) They do blaspheme (Kafara) who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.
(74) Why turn they not to Allah, and seek His forgiveness? For Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
(75) Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!
(76) Say: "Will ye worship, besides Allah, something which hath no power either to harm or benefit you? But Allah,- He it is that heareth and knoweth all things."
(77) Say: "O people of the Book! exceed not in your religion the bounds (of what is proper), trespassing beyond the truth, nor follow the vain desires of people who went wrong in times gone by,- who misled many, and strayed (themselves) from the even way. The good Christians
(82) Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, "We are Christians": because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant.
(83) And when they listen to the revelation received by the Messenger, thou wilt see their eyes overflowing with tears, for they recognise the truth: they pray: "Our Lord! we believe; write us down among the witnesses.
(84) "What cause can we have not to believe in Allah and the truth which has come to us, seeing that we long for our Lord to admit us to the company of the righteous?"
(85) And for this their prayer hath Allah rewarded them with gardens, with rivers flowing underneath,- their eternal home. Such is the recompense of those who do good.
The Final Judgment in Surah Maida
112 (5:109) One day will Allah gather the messengers together, and ask: "What was the response ye received (from men to your teaching)?" They will say: "We have no knowledge: it is Thou Who knowest in full all that is hidden."
(110) Then will Allah say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount Myfavour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! Thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! Thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: ´This is nothing but evident magic.´…..
(116) And behold! Allah will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah´?" He will say: "Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.
(117) "Never said I to them aught except what Thou didst command me to say, to wit, ´worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord´; and I was a witness over them whilst I dwelt amongst them; when Thou didst take me up Thou wast the Watcher over them, and Thou art a witness to all things.
(118) "If Thou dost punish them, they are Thy servant: If Thou dost forgive them, Thou art the Exalted in power, the Wise."
(119) Allah will say: "This is a day on which the truthful will profit from their truth: theirs are gardens, with rivers flowing beneath,- their eternal Home: Allah well-pleased with them, and they with Allah: That is the great salvation, (the fulfilment of all desires).
(120) To Allah doth belong the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is therein, and it is He Who hath power over all things.
This is the limit of intercession by Jesus (pbuh) for his followers. And how beautiful are the words! This must rank among the most beautiful verses in the Quran. "If Thou dost punish them, they are Thy servant: If Thou dost forgive them, Thou art the Exalted in power, the Wise." If these words that Jesus is going to speak are in the Quran, then clearly these are the words that Allah will inspire Jesus to speak while interceding for his people. Has Allah rejected the plea? No, He hasn’t. What does the next verse say? "This is a day on which the truthful will profit from their truth”. Clearly some will be forgiven and some will not. Those to whom the “truth” had become manifest but continued to “blaspheme” from arrogance are guilty of “Kufr” and may not be forgiven but those who acted from ignorance can hope for forgiveness. Also, please note that the verses that talk about the “Kufr” and “shirk” of the Christians do not mention any punishment because Allah did not wish to make punishment incumbent upon Himself for those things.
Islam is such a logical religion and yet does not force anything on anyone. It creates enough tension to drive people to the right path without closing the door on mercy and forgiveness. It is this great quality that drives people of other religions to bring about religious reformation and get as close to the common terms in 3:64 as possible. Is there any doubt that the message of the Quran and Islam has influenced other religions? The concept of Trinity and Jesus as son of God has weakened. The Christians pray to God and not to Jesus. Other religions also have sects with monotheistic beliefs and without idol worship. The Muslims, by misrepresenting their Book are only preventing others from benefiting from the message of the Quran. They are doing a great disservice to God.
Naseer Ahmed is an Engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur and is an independent IT consultant after having served in both the Public and Private sector in responsible positions for over three decades. He is a frequent contributor to NewAgeIslam.com.