In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful
Our God is One and the Same
[29:46] Do not argue with the people of the scripture (Jews, Christians, and Muslims) except in the nicest possible manner - unless they transgress - and say, "We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you, and our god and your god is one and the same; to Him we are submitters."
About a year ago I was thumbing through the New Testament when I decided to read the book of JAMES in its entirety. I do not recall ever reading it in quite this manner, but rather, in bits and pieces while referencing passages on a particular topic back when I was engaged in Bible study during my school days many years ago.
Since those days, I have gone through many spiritual changes. Born into a Christian family and raised as a Lutheran, Missouri Synod, I often wondered why there were so many religions, so many factions, so many sects, each claiming to be the true religion, and each one claiming God somewhere in the fine print. In my heart I recognized many truths in the religion of my upbringing, but remained confounded by the array of choices for anyone seeking to find God. Because I wanted to know which way was the best way, because I did not believe that a Merciful God would put us here on this earth without a road map, I asked God to show me the way to Him, the best way. The answer was not swift or immediate. It has been an ongoing process for over thirty years. All my youth I had been taught to accept a Trinity. Changing my mind about that was not a matter I could undertake casually or lightly. Since most Christians believe that their salvation hinges on belief in a Triune God, despite the belief that God is One, this was a very heavy decision for me to make. This was a decision that I believed would affect my position in the Hereafter and had to be made with all due consideration. Ironically, it was made with the use of the same Bible that I had used throughout my Christian upbringing. I was better versed in scripture than many teenagers at the time as I had attended Christian schools exclusively through graduation from high school, and completion of religious courses was part of the requirements for a high school diploma.
I became a Muslim as a young adult, having been introduced to Islam through Muslim friends who were able to provide me with literature. There was no translation of the Quran in English for me to access, although there were probably some copies at large elsewhere. With so many similarities between Christianity and Islam, the issue of a Trinity was the one major obstacle I had to overcome.
Finding the answer that I sought in the Bible helped me overcome that obstacle.
I never adopted the hejab, the female dress code which many women choose to wear. I never read anything during my introduction to Islam that even suggested that women should do so. My introduction to Islam was through a westerner’s eyes with a Christian foundation as strong as any. As there were no mosques to speak of in America twenty-five years ago, I could only imagine what practicing Islam might mean and the few Muslim friends that I knew looked like contemporary college students and business professionals that could fit in comfortably anywhere in the world.
When the opportunity to travel to a Muslim country presented itself, I rose to the challenge. I was not prepared for Islam as I found it being practiced by an entire nation. For over twenty years I remained skeptical about many practices of the faith, particularly those based on traditions not specifically mentioned in the Quran. Although I tried to remain open-minded, I continued searching for answers. In the meantime I had returned home and was trying to balance a western upbringing with the basic tenets of Islam which I felt somehow had to be compatible.
By now there were mosques in many metropolitan centers and I tried attending one in my area every weekend. At first I enjoyed going and listening to the sermons. However, there were many issues that bothered me. The people who practice Islam have many religious laws and guidelines that they claim are part of the religion. Well, they certainly are a part of "a" religion, but most are not the requirements for practicing true Islam, although most Muslims would strongly disagree with me.
As a Lutheran, I was taught that the Bible was "the" source for all religious guidance, and that if the Bible could not substantiate a practice of the faith, that practice could not be considered a part of the religion.
When I moved on to becoming a Muslim as a young adult, it was on the basis of the Quran being the final message from God to humanity, a completion of God’s word to mankind. Moses had been given the Ten Commandments; other Old Testament prophets and messengers subsequently followed to enlighten the believers until Jesus came; the Gospel or New Testament was written, not to replace the Old Testament but to substantiate it, and to give additional good news from God. The Quran was for me the final edition of His word. It was a final testament that supported previous scripture, that confirmed, consummated and superseded all previous scripture; that established precedent and as necessary, abrogated or corrected that which had been altered over time.
So when I saw firsthand the actual practices of Islam and the traditions associated with Islam, I thought about all the reforms that had taken place in the Christian church throughout the ages and saw an immediate parallel. Where did truth stop and fiction begin?
Two years ago, I finally found the answer. A newly written English translation of the Quran was in my hands at last and I was ready to read! It was superior to all the other translations I had attempted to read. All the cultural trappings that many associate with Islam were absent and all I had to do was ask God to lead the way. Because God has created each and every one of us specifically for the place in time that we occupy, consequently His word has to be applicable to everyone who is fortunate enough to access it, regardless of one’s position on the timeline.
Islam is not about Muhammad, although he was chosen to deliver God’s word, the final testament, the Quran. Islam or Submission is about God and our surrender to His will (2:208), and our acceptance of His message through all the messengers He has sent down to us. The purpose of the Quran is to support previous scripture (2:41,89,91,97, 2:144-146), to clarify that which has been altered or forgotten over the centuries (5:48), to repeat to us exactly what is required for our salvation (5:69), and to clearly distinguish between the way to Heaven and the way to Hell (39:23)!
The majority of Muslims today will tell you that you cannot follow Islam by following only the Quran. They will tell you that it is also essential for your salvation to follow the traditions and practices of Muhammad. These practices and traditions were not recorded during the prophet’s lifetime, but began appearing two centuries after his death. The integrity of these writings relied solely on the memory of people who were relying on the accuracy of information handed down to them from previous generations (a.k.a. hearsay). There is abundant evidence available to anyone who cares to examine the history of Islam that many splits occurred among the faithful as they disputed. Today we can see the remains of these disputes, most notably in the differences between Sunni and Shia Muslims, although there are other, smaller sects as well (3:105, 6:159). However, examining the many differences would carry us beyond the scope of this particular writing. Interestingly enough, they are united in one way, that being that salvation is dependent on following the traditions and acts that are attributed to the prophet.
They believe that the Quran is above the mental grasp of all but the most dedicated religious scholars, since it contains prophetic information that many could not understand and were unwilling to accept on faith that God would explain in due course (55:1-2). (As an example, try to explain the book of Revelations. Most Christians accept its contents on faith alone.) Consequently, the majority of traditional Muslims feel the need to rely on the sayings and the acts of the prophet in conjunction with the Quran in order to practice their religion. Is this not a partnership?
These Muslims fly in the face of God’s Word by openly defying the very commands that He has given in the Quran. The Quran states that God has no partners with Him (6:163), that the Quran is complete and fully detailed (6:38,114-115), that the word of God as revealed by all His prophets and messengers (2:136) is all anyone needs for salvation. But if one subscribes to the belief that the Quran is not complete or is beyond the scope of their understanding, and turns to what Muhammad did or did not do outside the scope of the Quran for guidance, then that person is looking for guidance from a source other than God (6:114-115). God consistently commanded the believers to obey the message His prophets and messengers were given during their lifetime within the scope of the revealed Word and to make no distinction between His messengers (2:285).
The Quran was written in Muhammad’s own handwriting, contrary to the belief prevalent among Muslims today that he was illiterate. Muhammad’s contemporaries accused him of copying the Quran from other sources (25:5) as a result of his contacts with Christians and Jews. Additionally, numbers as separate symbols were not in use during his lifetime, so letters of the alphabet were used to represent numbers, just as Roman numerals were used. Since the prophet was a successful merchant prior to being called by God to serve Him, he necessarily had to know how to read and write in order to make a living.
As a Christian or Jew reading this, one may say the foregoing information is irrelevant. There are many people of both faiths who do not consider Islam or Muhammad’s prophethood to be from God. However, there is too much evidence to the contrary within the Quran that disputes such claims. For anyone who is willing to be open-minded, we have much in common and much to share. For anyone who is a traditional Muslim reading this, consider this issue carefully before jumping to conclusions. We all claim belief in One God, but we differ over our approach to God. Why do we insist on arguing over our customs, our prophets and messengers, when we all claim that God is the One who created us and God is the One who will eventually judge us all and that only by worshiping God alone we can be saved?
[3:85] Anyone who accepts other than Submission as his religion, it will not be accepted from him, and in the Hereafter, he will be with the losers.
Islam is not at all what you see on the television, or in the newspapers. The current political ideologies of some Islamic nations is not Islam. The misguided souls who bring misery and suffering to others around them in the name of Islam do not have the foggiest notion of true Islam. Many commit the most horrendous atrocities in the name of God, and it is no wonder that they continue to suffer collectively. The same is true for people of other religious persuasions who fail to heed God’s commandments, and choose instead to follow the popular opinion of those around them.
"True" Muslims do not attack unless attacked. "True" Muslims do not chant death wishes to an entire nation or issue death warrants over a novel. A Muslim is, by translation, a Submitter. A believer is one who has submitted to God’s will and has attained the position of having no doubts whatsoever about God and strives in His cause. God tells us that as believers we should tread the earth gently, ignore the insults of disbelievers, forgive those who wrong us, disassociate ourselves from those who try to harm us because of our beliefs, and when we speak to anyone, even disbelievers, we should speak in the best possible manner. If as believers we are forced to defend ourselves, then we should call on God for help and for victory. If the enemy withdraws, or asks for forgiveness, believers are not allowed to continue with aggression.
Islam means submission to God and Abraham is the founder of Islam. As both James and the Quran state, Abraham was a friend of God.
Who is better guided in his religion than one who submits totally to God, leads a righteous life, according to the creed of Abraham: monotheism? God has chosen Abraham as a beloved friend. [4:125]
Community of Submitters
There is a small but steady movement by a group of people known simply as Submitters to educate and enlighten anyone who is willing to learn more about true Islam. They come from all walks of life, and live both here and in other countries around the world. Many face persecution from within their families, as well as from the societies in which they live, because they oppose the traditional religious stance which is accepted by the majority that governs. As Americans, we are blessed in that we have the constitutional right to worship as we choose. It is the aim of all Submitters to seek universal unity and understanding with all believers, no matter by what name they may go, and to share God’s message with any who care to listen.
To make progress and move forward into the future, we must set aside that which separates us and seek out those ideas and beliefs that we have in common. Examples of some wonderful attempts to make progress include the Promise Keepers, and the people who participated in the Million Man March. Yes, there are questions that need answering about the man who initiated the march, but he too will be judged by God and held accountable in due course. The fact that so many people were touched in a positive way and joined together in spite of their differences cannot be ignored. Remember what Jesus said in the Bible, that he who is without sin cast the first stone.
When I read the book of JAMES in its entirety, I was struck by the message he was sending to the recipients of his letter! The Quran states that God has sent the same message down through many messengers and prophets, some known to us and some not known. For almost every verse written by James, a passage from the Quran would come to mind that conveyed the same message. Based on my belief in what the Quran says, James being a disciple of Jesus knew God’s message to us; he had been a follower of Jesus and according to the Quran, had born witness that he was a supporter of God and His messenger, Jesus, and was himself a submitter. This was further proof to me of the truth of the Quran’s claim that all scripture has been sent by God.
With the comparison that follows, I hope to highlight the common ground which we all stand upon as Jews, Christians, and Muslims. God willing, anyone who calls himself or herself God-fearing will identify with the following material. This attempt does not mean to exclude others who, as believers, may go by another name.
As our world grows "smaller," it is imperative that we find every righteous means to unite and resolve our differences and recognize the common ground that we share. Instead of focusing on what separates us, we need to reach out to one another to solve the problems that inevitably will come back to haunt all of us. We live in a global neighborhood. Our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers may be in Bosnia, Israel, Lebanon or Palestine; maybe they are keeping the peace, maybe they are struggling to escape persecution. Our neighbors in Mexico are crossing our borders trying to find a better life on our side of the fence. In Brazil for example, there are people still fighting slavery; in an attempt to get out of poverty, they are loaned money to get started in "promising" jobs, then hired to work and underpaid so that they actually owe more money to their employers than they earn. Look no further than our own interior*many Native Americans are still struggling to find themselves on reservations that seem to offer little or no opportunity. Look at the ghettoes of the inner cities where many people of black heritage are struggling against a system that clearly excludes many of them despite the gains that have been made since the Civil Rights movement.
People in Africa are struggling against civil wars, famine, political and religious oppression. Northern Ireland is a travesty—is it a political war or a holy war? Both sides claim God on their side, so what is the argument? Just mention the Middle East—again everybody claims God on their side but everyone is suffering. If everyone believes in God, why are they fighting? We cannot call ourselves believers when we turn our backs on the pain and suffering next door, or worse, if we are guilty of inflicting that pain on our neighbor. We cannot continue to give God lip service only and ignore the realities of why we are really here. If we truly believe in God, then we have to recognize the message He gave us through all the messengers and prophets He sent to us. First and foremost, we have to worship God and God alone. Then we have to ask God to guide us, and as James says, be prepared to follow the guidance.
God willing, we will attempt to build bridges, and continue to tear down walls. Perhaps if we listen more, and talk less, we can make this world a better place to prepare for the next world, which is ultimately, what this life is all about.
Peace to all and God’s blessings.