In order for a religion to meet the needs of the people of all times and places, and to guide them to the Right Path, it is imperative that it enjoys some characteristics without which it fails to serve the purpose. In the following I shall share with you some of these characteristics:
1. The Word of God
The first characteristic of the universal and everlasting religion is that its teachings must be the actual words of God without any perversion or distortion. For it is only the Word of God which is perfect and timeless. We agree with our Christian brethren that “the Word of God endures for ever” [I Peter 1:25] The question, however, is which Scripture today is the Word of God alone.
Some Facts About the Bible
a) The Bible: The present Bible is a collection of writings which the Church of God has solemnly recognized as inspired. (Encarta)
b) The Original Bible: The original manuscripts of the Bible are lost and no living person has ever seen them. Thus, the Bible educators talk about ‘inspiration of scriptures'. That means the compilers of the Bible claim to have been inspired about the scriptures after the original texts have been lost.
c) The Language and the earliest Bible: To this date there is no confirmation about the actual language of the Bible and the earliest Bible. We have been told that the Bible was originally written in Greek and Hebrew. However, no one can actually prove that they were so written. The reason being that there is no original text of the Bible. The first five books could have been written in Egyptian, the language in which Moses was educated and the country wherein the Israelites had lived for many years. Conversations in the gospel were certainly not spoken in Greek even though the oldest manuscripts of the Bible are in Greek or Aramaic. There is an ongoing debate as to whether the earliest Gospels were written in Aramaic or Greek. Some scholars have proposed that they were written in Aramaic. But then again, no one has ever seen an Aramaic Gospel predating the fourth century which had to be translated from Greek to Aramaic. To this date scholars are still debating as to what language that Jesus spoke? For many years it was believed and still there are many adherers to that, that the language of Jesus was Aramaic. But recently, the majority of the scholars tend more to believe that it was Hebrew. However, the oldest texts of the Gospels available to us today are in Greek. Thus our Christian brethren do not even know the language in which their lord spoke.
The oldest Bible was compiled six years after the Council of Nicea in the year 331AD. Constantine the Great, a pagan solar worshipper who was the first Roman Emperor who converted to Christianity destroyed all earlier copies of the Gospels and the fifty copies of the Gospels they produced are the basis for all Christian belief today. Ironically these fifty copies are considered ‘originals'.
The Old Testament and most of its contents were gradually written within the nine centuries which is a long time after Prophet Moses. Thus the Bible both the Old and New Testaments is by no means a unified book in terms of authorship, date composition or literary type.
d) Different Versions of the Bible. The Bible of Judaism and the Bible of Christianity are different. The version of the Old Testament used by the Roman Catholic is the Bible of Judaism plus seven other books and additions to books. The version of the Old Testament however used by Protestants is limited to the 39 books of the Jewish Bible. Not to mention the various versions of the Bible, Jehovah Witness, Mormons and many, many others claim to be the original.
e) Fragmentary: The present Bible is fragmentary in its literature style, i.e. made up of the remains of a larger literature.
These and many other reasons will make the present Bible nothing more than a expired history book of the past legends. Unless you are a faithful Christian or Muslim, historically, up until the present time there is no concrete proof about the existence of Jesus son of Mary. Had the Quran not spoken and acknowledged Prophet Jesus son of Mary none other than faithful Christians would today believe in the existence of Prophet Jesus.
None of the abovementioned problems of the Bible exists in the holy Quran. The holy Quran is the actual verbatim word of God revealed word by word to Prophet Muhammad (saww) through the Arch Angel Gabriel. Let us take a closer look at the wordings of the Quran.
When a teacher tells his student to read a particular paragraph it is not expected that the pupil will say: “Read this..” and then start reading the sentence! Nonetheless, as the holy Quran is composed of none other than the Words of Allah, then its style is different. According to the majority of narrators the first Ayaat revealed to the Prophet of Islam was in Chapter 96 ( Sura Al-alaq) in which the Almighty God addresses His messenger: “ Read in the name of your Lord Who created.” If the holy Quran were not the actual verbatim word of God the present format of the above Ayaah would have been ‘in the name of my Lord Who created'! Similarly, in many instances the Almighty God is addressing His messenger to say something. Interestingly even the word ‘SAY' is mentioned in the Quran such as: “Say: I seek refuge with the Lord of mankind.” [Chapter 114]
It is an indisputable fact that the Quran was revealed to the Prophet of Islam in Arabic. The Quran is the unique and original scripture of all Muslims of the world irrespective of the different sects amongst Muslims.
Reverend Bosworth Smith in Muhammad and Muhammadanism ( London 1874) writes about the Quran, “We have a book absolutely unique in its origin, in its preservation… under substantial authority of which no one has ever been able to cast a serious doubt.”
Therefore, we agree with our Christian brethren that ‘the Word of God endures forever'. But we add that there is no actual and original Scripture which contains only the word of God other than the holy Quran.
2. Rationality & Simplicity
The message of God to humanity shall not contradict the inbuilt common sense and the faculty of mind that the Almighty God, the Creator, has instilled within man. From the Islamic perspective the Almighty God has provided man with two types of proof and guidance. An internal one called common sense, and external ones being the messengers equipped with revelation.
The teachings of the everlasting religion must therefore be in accordance with one's common sense; profound, yet simple to comprehend. One should not require a degree to be able to understand the message of God as one should not find it contradictory to one's common sense. In 1793 the German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote his great book Religion Within the Bounds of Bare Reason. He intended it as a philosophical experiment to test whether or not Christianity could be adequately defended as the universal religion of mankind. According to Kant a true religion must have the qualification for universality. Meaning that religion should have validity for every human being or “community of insight”. Kant argued that the revealed ‘religion' must also be a ‘natural religion' (Fetrat as mentioned in the Quran). A religion may be classified as both natural and revealed as long as humans could and ought to have come to the religion through reason, even if not as easily or quickly as with a divine revelation, in which the revelation is, ‘wise and very advantageous'. [ Cambridge University Press 1998]
Far from irrationality of imported concepts of Trinity and Original Sin, reincarnation and the like, Islam remains the only religion of common sense in all its teachings. Unlike Christianity which advocates its followers ‘in terms of religion [that] one must stop reasoning' and when they are asked about Trinity they regard it supposedly as beyond logic!, Islam invites people to reflect and to start reasoning in exploring Islam. The Almighty God in many instances in the Quran invites the non-believers to the common humane platform of common sense and intellect to provide their logical and rational proofs if they are truthful. [2:111, 21:24, 16:64, 9:6]
The Prophet of Islam (saww) was profoundly rational and realistic in all different aspects. He never took advantage of the naivety and ignorance of people. When his beloved son Ibrahim died, and an eclipse occurred, rumours of God's personal condolence quickly spread. Whereupon Prophet Muhammad (saww) announced: “An eclipse is a phenomenon of nature. It is foolish to attribute such things to the death or birth of a human being.”
“Edward Montet, ‘La Propagande Chretienne et ses Adversaries Musulmans, ‘Paris 1890. (Also in T W Arnold in ‘The Preaching of Islam,' London 1913)
“Islam is a religion that is essentially rationalistic in the widest sense of this term considered etymologically and historically… A creed so precise, so strict of all theological complexities and consequently so accessible to the ordinary understanding might be expected to possess and does indeed possess a marvelous power of winning its way into the consciences of man.”
3. A Socio-Political Religion
A universal religion which allows its teachings to last forever without any alteration should be able to present the best lifestyle in socio-political and economic needs of people as well as the nearness to God and prosperity, and hereafter. Islam is the only religion that has successfully made reconciliation between the worldly affairs and spirituality. In Islam celibacy is not a means of spirituality and perfection, rather marriage and a healthy response to physical needs pave the way to gain more spirituality. In Islam, one can be a millionaire and yet very spiritual and pious in so far as his wealth does not make him heedless towards God. In the Bible we read, “It is easier for a camel to go though the eye of a needle[ii][ii] than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God .” [Matt. 19:24, Mark 10:25, Luke18:25] Compare this distorted version which condemns the mere wealth with the Quranic version in which the Almighty says, “Verily, those who belie Our Ayaat (evidences, signs) and treat them with arrogance, for them the gates of heaven will not be opened, and they will not enter paradise until the camel goes through the eye of the needle (which is impossible). Thus do We recompense the criminals.” 7:40
Therefore what is regarded impossible in the word of God is for criminals to enter paradise not the rich and you judge with your common sense.
Another unique aspect of Islam which has made it an everlasting religion is the fact that Islam is not only a ‘Friday-go to mosque' religion. Islam is a system of life and as such has economic and political doctrines. Unlike Christianity, in Islam religion and state are not separated. The prophet of Islam himself established the first Islamic state. He was a prophet and was simultaneously the head of a state.
The perverted version of the Bible narrates that when Pharisees asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay tax to the Caesar (government) or not? Jesus is claimed to have answered, “Render to Caesar what is Caesar's; to God what is God's.” [Matt.22:15-22]
It was due to this perverted teaching that in today's Christianity even the Pope has no voice in his own country; Italy, against the Italian government to oppose the occupation of Iraq by the allies! It is due to such distorted concepts that our Christian brethren ought to ‘learn to live with the problems of homosexuality, gambling, abortion, etc.'
Reverend Bosworth Smith in ‘Muhammad and Muhammadanism,' London , 1874.
“Head of the State as well as the Church, he was Caesar and Pope in one; but he was Pope without the Pope's pretensions, and Caesar without the legions of Caesar, without a standing army , without a bodyguard, without a police force, without a fixed revenue.”
Sir Bernard Shaw in ‘The Genuine Islam', vol. 1 no. 8, 1936.
“If any religion had the chance of ruling over England , nay Europe within the next 100 years, it could be Islam.”
Michael Hart in ‘The 100, A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, New York,1978:
“My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the secular and religious level…. It is this unparalleled combination of secular and religious influence which I feel entitles Muhammad to be considered the most influential single figure in human history.”
4. General Rules
The universal and timeless religion must have the capacity to cater for the needs of people of all times. Nonetheless, human society is always progressing. The man of our age is very different in his lifestyle than that of his ancestors 1400 years ago. Thus, the requirements of the man of our age are different than people even two centuries ago let alone 1400 years past. For instance, issues such as ‘insurance', ‘narcotic drugs', ‘smoking cigarettes', ‘AIDS' etc and many more to come did not apparently exist in the past. Thus, how possible would it thus be for the religion of Islam, the teachings of which being revealed 1400 years ago, to solve the ongoing problems of man throughout history?
The above problem would remain unsolved had the teachings of Islam referred only to the particular. However, the Almighty Knower of all the things has already set general rules which referring to, and conducting from, would solve the ongoing problems of man. In Islam there are specific jurisprudential rules and general rules. For instance, rules such as ‘the law of no harming the self or others'; ‘the law of fulfilling your contracts'; ‘the law of the necessity of safeguarding human society'; ‘the law of the authority of the jurist', has enabled Muslim jurists to deduct and apply the general laws to solving upcoming issues.
The holy Quran, for instance, considers the consummation of intoxicants an abomination. The term used in the Holy Quran is ‘al-Khamr' which literally means any substance which causes the malfunctioning of the human brain. In the past the only existing example of this was alcohol. Nevertheless, the term al-Khamr (intoxicants) is such a general term which fully includes all types of narcotic drugs. Moreover, by utilizing the general rule of ‘the law of no harming the self nor the others' a Muslim jurist is capable of deducting a rule that the unauthorized use of narcotic drugs is forbidden in Islam even if there is no specific Hadith (saying) from the Prophet of Islam about it.
Muslims whether living in a skyscraper in New York or in a desert of the Sahara when facing any jurisprudential issue with relates to their day to day living, simply contact an expert jurist or Mufti and he will have an answer for all their inquiries. Therefore, the nature of the Islamic law has given it the capacity to endure forever.