Sheikh Sultan M. As-Salameh, Al-Azhar, Cairo
[This essay from the Sheikh is acknowledged with thanks. His use of the “Tolerance in Islam” seems to be a gentle sarcasm for the unaware Muslims and Christians]
The “Muslim Ummah” is practicing much of the Judeo-Christian beliefs largely from the Old Testament. The ‘religion’ considered and practiced as Islam today has degenerated from the time of Prophet Muhammad (S). In the beginning there was a very simple Deen, Al-Islam revealed to the Prophet (S), which was fully encapsulated in just one Book, Al-Qur’an.
For example, the covering of the head for women which has become a point of much discussion in the West, is actually not found in the Qur’an. Therefore, it is not a part of the original teachings of the Prophet. It has been taken from the Christian Bible and incorporated into Islam.
Similarly many of the beliefs that are considered Islamic are actually derived from the Jewish and Christian scriptures. The early converts from Judaism and Christianity gradually incorporated their old beliefs into Islam to such an extent that the ‘Islam’ of today is often a verbatim manifestation of the Bible. None of these Biblical teachings were known to the Prophet and they cannot be found in the Qur’an at all. But the ‘scholars’ of Islam are unanimous in accepting these beliefs as part of Islam today.
Other than the head covering for women, our other practices like:
The circumcision of males
The stoning to death for adultery
The stoning to death for apostasy
The wearing of beards for men
The dietary prohibition of many types of food
The displaying of holy writings on the wall
The belief that woman is created from man
The collection of religious tithes or Zakaat
The injunction against graven images like statues, sculptures and other representations of human and animal life forms
The religious injunction that menstruating women are spiritually unclean
The ritualized blessing of “Amen”
The animal sacrifice (Aqeeqah) at the birth of children
All these things are derived from the Christian and Jewish Scriptures. This list is by no means exhaustive. These beliefs are NOT found anywhere in the Qur’an which is in fact the earliest and the only authentic teaching of Prophet Muhammad (S). Yet, these teachings can be found in very exact detail in the Christian Bible and the Jewish Scriptures. The Christian West should, therefore, credit it to the great tolerance and absorption of the early scholars and generations of the Muslim Ummah that they were able to bring with them a vast spectrum of Christian and Jewish beliefs which were accepted in that early era and are practiced by Muslims as part of Islam today. Therefore, there is no need for the Judeo-Christian world to be apprehensive about Islam. Our common heritage should bind us together instead of dividing us.
I would like to begin with the issue of the wearing of the head covering for women. In light of the post September 11, 2001 events, this issue has been frequently highlighted in the Western media. Muslim schoolgirls are prohibited from wearing the head-covering in France and elsewhere.
01. HEAD COVER FOR WOMEN ORIGINATES FROM THE BIBLE:
As I mentioned before the wearing of the head covering for women is not part of the Prophet’s teachings and is not found in the Qur’an. It is a belief and a practice that was taken by the early Muslim scholars from the Christian Bible. (1 Cor 11:5-13)
So the commandment for a woman to cover her head is in the Bible. This belief has seeped into the Muslim belief and has now become part and parcel of today’s Islam. The West has no problem with Catholicism putting its nuns in head cover. In Europe Catholic schools still encourage young girls to take up the wearing of the Catholic head-cover.
Unfortunately under the guise of modernity, a vast majority of Christians themselves are not following the teachings of the Bible - the large majority of Christian women do not cover the head. Hence, it is the Muslim Ummah who are very good Christians because they still uphold these Bible teachings.
02. CIRCUMCISION IS DERIVED FROM THE BIBLE:
The Sunni and Shi’a ‘Muslims’ believe male circumcision to be mandatory and they practice it universally. The truth is that God and the Prophet never asked the Muslims to circumcise anyone.
But where does the Muslim belief in circumcision come from? Once again the answer lies in the Bible. The Covenant of Circumcision is mandated in the Bible.
Genesis 17:14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
Later Muslims have found this belief acceptable and have incorporated it into their Muslim practices.
Note by Dr. Shabbir: Circumcision is a part of the Abrahamic tradition. The Qur’an neither ordains it nor forbids it. Allama Aslam Jairajpuri (d.1955) in his Tareekh-ul-Ummat states that Muhammad (S) was circumcised on the seventh day of his birth, according to the Arab tradition (Pg 48). Some historians have written that he was born circumcised. Medically speaking, one out of 1,000 males is born without a foreskin. In my humble opinion, Muslims should continue it for the benefits. For example, cancer is seldom encountered in a circumcised penis and the hygiene factor is obvious.
03. THE ISLAMIC STATE:
The Christian West raises alarm about the so-called ‘Islamic State’. They should not really be afraid. Very often all the precepts and beliefs for the Islamic State, particularly the Shari’ah Law, are based almost entirely on Biblical teachings. They are not found in the Qur’an at all and therefore do not form part of the Prophet’s teachings. An Islamic State under Shari’ah Law is nothing but Biblical Theocracy. This reflects the tolerance of the Muslim faith in accepting and incorporating Biblical teachings into Islam.
The Prophet brought the Qur’an to the entire humanity. But it is a credit to the great tolerance that the Muslim Ummah has picked up the Biblical teachings. The fervor to set up an Islamic State is nothing more than establishing the Biblical Theocracy. Let the Lord’s Kingdom come!
04. PUNISHMENT FOR ADULTERY:
The recent cases of stoning women to death for adultery in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeriaare laws that are not from the Qur’an. God and the Prophet never taught Muslims to stone anyone to death for any crime. The words Shariah Law are not even mentioned in the Qur’an.The law of stoning to death for adultery is taken from the Bible. See Deut 22:20-21.
Hence the law of stoning people to death is Biblical. It has been accepted by the Muslims who came after the Prophet and this is another evidence of a great tolerance in Islam for upholding Biblical teachings. Why should the Christian West hold the Muslim Ummah in disgust for upholding Biblical laws?
If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death (Lev 20:10). The Qur’an also prescribes a punishment for adultery, but it is a scourge of 100 lashes (24:2).
05. THE PUNISHMENT OF APOSTASY:
The United Nations Charter on Human Rights guarantees freedom of religion. This right was first guaranteed in the Qur’an.
2:256 There is absolutely no compulsion or coercion in Religion.
God and the Prophet guarantee all humans that they have the right to believe or disbelieve as they choose.
2:193 So, fight them (the aggressors) only until there is no more harassment and Religion may be adopted for the sake of God alone.
No one has the right to deny the right to freedom of religion. People will be held accountable for their choices in the life to come. God will decide what to do with people and their choice of belief. There is no earthly punishment prescribed in the Qur’an for those who believe or disbelieve. (4:137)
The Biblical teachings, however, say that anyone who blasphemes or becomes an apostate from his faith must be punished with death by stoning (Lev 24:16). Included among those who must be put to death by stoning are the deviants. (Deut 13:5-10)
Again it is the great tolerance and flexible nature of Islam today that these Biblical teachings have been absorbed and are practiced as part of the Islamic Shari’ah Law. The teachings from the Christian Bible show the Muslim proximity to the Christian faith. Hence, there should be no conflict between Islam and the Christian West about these laws. We have so much in common with each other.
The list is very long. Just a few of the many other beliefs are now given that the Muslims practice today. They are not found in the Qur’an but are taken from the Christian Bible. Unfortunately, because of the ignorance of the Muslim and Christian masses, these beliefs are manipulated by some clever people as excuses to create a rift between the West and Islam.
06. THE TALIBAN’S DESTRUCTION OF STATUES IN BAMIYAN:
We recall with dismay the huge hue and cry when Taliban destroyed the priceless ancient treasures in Bamiyan. Under the guise of religion, the Taliban insisted that the statues of the Buddha were idols and had to be destroyed. The Taliban based their actions on Islamic beliefs that have actually been absorbed from the Christian Bible. It is a Biblical teaching that graven images must not be made, and if made, they must be destroyed. (Deut 27:15, 4:16).
The Muslims have absorbed these Biblical teachings, and again this reflects the immense capacity of ‘Muslims’ to learn from the Christian Bible. The Qur’an does not say anywhere that statues or graven images are forbidden or that they must be destroyed. The Christian West has to take account of these truths and give due credit to Islam for giving fresh life to the Biblical teachings. Islam’s proximity to the Bible is much deeper than what the Christian West would like to acknowledge.
The Qur’an Does Not Forbid Pictures, Paintings And Sculptures For Décor:
34:13 They worked for him (Solomon) as he desired, making forts, statues, sculptures, paintings and images, pools, and boilers well-dug into the ground….” [Please note a Prophet of God decorating his kingdom with statues, sculptures, paintings and images. Muslim orthodoxy, unfortunately, declares all fine arts as Forbidden.]
07. THE WEARING OF BEARDS:
The Christian West has also been disturbed by the Islamic practice of men wearing beards. After the September 11 event, many Muslim men with beards have been the subject of suspicion and summary searches by police and other law enforcement agencies throughout the West. Keeping beard is again not the teachings of the Prophet or the Qur’an. Instead, the wearing of beards by men is taken from the Christian Bible. The Christian Bible makes it clear.
2 Samuel 10:5 When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet the men, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, “Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back.”
Hence, the Taliban were following the Bible when they insisted that men should wear beards. No doubt the Prophet and the Qur’an never commanded men to sport beards. It is Islam’s greatness as an evolving religion that it has absorbed much from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures.
The Muslims are told in the Qur’an that they should not follow the path of the Christians and the Jews. Despite such warning, the Muslim scholars, in the interests of preserving harmony and peace with their Christian brothers and sisters, decided that the Biblical teachings should be closely upheld by good Muslims. Therefore, the fear by the Christian West is misplaced and unfounded.
In conclusion, I would like to state that both Muslims and the Christian West should study and take cognizance of the vast area of similarity between the Muslim beliefs and Christian Biblical teachings.
In this age of high tensions, paranoia and fear of everything that is deemed Islamic, the Christian West should appreciate the fact that for one thousand years, the Muslim scholars have already shown a great tolerance towards Christianity by learning and absorbing many parts of the Christian Bible into their Islamic faith.
NOTE: The above list has been taken from the Christian Bible. Nothing of it can be found in the Qur’an.
In the light of the evident flexibility in Islam today, I hope that the Muslims all over the world will make the effort to show their Christian brothers and sisters that a great amount of our Islamic Shari’ah is drawn from the Christian Bible. At the same time I urge the Christians and Jews to give Muslims the due credit for being loyal to the Christian Bible and Jewish Scriptures. We have more in common between us than what divides us.
December 22nd, 2008