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E-Group Letter #11

DR.PASHA | January 28, 2006 | Section: Articles | 810 reads


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What Is the Source of the Claim? Who Is the Author of the Assertion?

When discussing the matter of divine love and mercy, there are two important questions that we all need to ask ourselves:

(A) What exactly is the claim or assertion that is being made?

(B) Who really is the author or source of that claim or assertion?

That means what are the assertions we are making and who is making them?

And based on what?

What we really need to get at is how far and how high in the hierarchy of the belief system and of its holders and advocates and proponents does this notion of divine love go?

What is their real source?

A scholar? A pious person? A devotee? A leader? A religious organization or institution? A committee of experts?

Just who?

In Islam, It Is Not People Making a Claim of Love and Mercy on Behalf of God, But it Is God Himself Making the Claim in His Own Words

I am not talking here about someone else claiming “their” God to be this or that — forgiving or not forgiving.

Nor am I talking about someone putting across an argument as to why”their” God should or should not be considered one thing or the other — as a forgiving or unforgiving God.

I am talking, instead, about the simple fact of God Almighty himself describing who he really is and referring to himself as “The Most Forgiving One” — in the plainest and most straightforward terms — over and over again, using a wide range of words and expressions.

And then coupling all those statements with yet another statement that says in yet another way that God Almighty is even more so: Most Forgiving.

You figure out which is which and what is what. I haven’t a clue!

Comparing Apples and Oranges, As We Say it in America

I don’t mean any disrespect to anyone, but a good bit of what the proponents of a number of other belief systems and religions advance as the core teachings of their respective faiths often do not go any higher than some specially prominent adherents and followers of that faith.

For example, a good bit of Christian beliefs and practices are traceable to such prominent champions and interpreters of the Christian faith as Paul, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Francis, Luther and others, and to the Church as an institution, and to Church leadership as a whole.

And in all too many instances these beliefs and behaviours are not directly traceable to the Bible or to Hazrat Jesus, Alaihis Salaam.

The Bible: “Thou Shalt Have No Other Gods Before Me!”

In fact, some of the Christian teachings are in direct contravention of some of the most fundamental teachings of the Bible.

For example, the original First Commandment of Tauheed (monotheism or the uncompromising worship of one God) in the Bible has been replaced by the Christians with the later doctrine of Trinity — which has nothing to do with the teachings of Hazrat Jesus, Alaihis Salam, or the Bible.

People may interpret it how they want, but it is clear that to a nonpartisan onlooker, it is Islam and Muslims, rather than Christianity and the Christians, that would appear closer to the First Commandment — the true teaching of the Bible.

Read what the Bible says and then judge for yourself.

Here is what the Bible says about the First Commandment:

“I am the Lord thy God, … ,
Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus, Chapter XX).

How much clearer can it get?

Awwal Kalima-e TauheedLaa Ilaaha Illallah!

I don’t know how many Urdu speakers are reading this E-Letter. Does anyone remember, going back to their childhood days, being taught by their parents or teachers to say: Awwal Kalima-e Tauheed — Laa Ilaaha Illallah?

Well, this is what it is: an almost exact rendering of the First Commandment in the Bible.

The Bible: “Thou Shalt Not Make Unto Thee Any Graven Image!”

The Second Commandment in the Bible has been shelved and overridden by both Christians and Jews, as their practice is the complete opposite of what the Commandment teaches.

Here is what the Second Commandment has to say:

“Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them,
nor serve them…” (Exodus, Chapter XX).

Do you care to comment on this? I don’t.

How much clearer can it possibly get? And what can you possibly say that will help to further clarify what the Bible has already said with such amazing divine clarity?

As for me, I am going to leave it right there. For, I have neither the time nor the resources nor the inclination to pursue it any further.

Maybe some Muslims somewhere, who are blessed by God with abundance of all kinds, and who like to invest their bounties in erecting grand mosques and setting up other grandiose buildings and projects, should consider channelling some of their attention and resources to efforts of this kind — simple, no-frills efforts that get down to the brass tacks and deliver the goods.

In simple, understandable, common-sensical terms!

Where in the Bible Does it Exist?

But before I sign off on this particular aspect of our conversation on the question of divine mercy and love, let me ask a more specific question: Where in the Bible, for example, did this concept of divine love originate?

I am not saying it is not there. I am not saying it is not even the dominant theme of the Bible. Not at all.

All I am saying is where exactly in the Old and the New Testaments does it exist?

Pope Benedict on Love

According to media reports — sometimes, that is all one has to go by, and we are all beginning to realize what a treacherous track that can be — the new Pope, Benedict XVI, has just issued an Encyclical — the highest form of papal writing.

The major theme of the new Encyclical is Love — at least that is the first major theme, which is then followed by the concept of Charity.

The Pope argues that in times such as ours, when such terrible things are being said and done in the name of “religion,” it is fitting and proper that his first statement of Christian policy and ideology as Pope — his first papal Encyclical — should be devoted to Love.

I wonder who are the people who, according to the Pope, may be saying and doing all kinds of terrible, terrible things in the name of “religion.”

I also wonder what “religion” that would be in whose name people are saying and doing such terrible, awful and atrocious things.

I would hate think the Pope is referring to Islam and Muslims that way.

Do you have any guesses as to who those people are? And what that”religion” may be?

But remember all I have to go by are some sketchy media reports skimmed in great hurry.

Pope’s Two Kinds of Love: Including One Outside Marriage?

According to some of these media reports, the Pope divides Love into two parts or aspects: Erotic Love between men and women, including marriage, and “agape,” a higher-level intellectual or spiritual Love.

I think it is wonderful, what the Pope says. Even though I need to understand better his comments on love between man and woman outside the bonds of marriage.

That is why you need to have the actual text of these things in front of you, and be able to digest it fully and carefully, before you can comment on them.

Then it largely becomes a question of time and resources, doesn’t it?

Spinoza, the Other Benedict: A 17th Century Philosopher-Scientist’s Intellectual Love of God

In a similar vein, some time ago, the 17th century philosopher Benedict de Spinoza also had talked — quite powerfully in fact — about what he called the Intellectual Love of God. He thought of it as the highest and most blissful state for a human being to attain — beyond the bondage of human passions and beyond the limitations of human reason.

Don’t ask me what intellectual traditions or antecedents may have influenced Spinoza’s thinking. Because then we will need a lot more time — and resources — to do that question any semblance of justice.

It is absolutely wonderful that people — philosophers and popes — should talk about love and love in relation to God in particular.

But what I am asking is how far up the hierarchy does it reach? Because, Pope or Philosopher or Scientist (Spinoza could be considered both), they are all human beings after all.

And their utterances and writings, no matter how inspired or otherwise, are all human and not divine speech.

At best, they approach the writings of some of the great writers, thinkers, saints and scholars of Islam, but not the Hadith, and certainly never the Qur’an.

But more about it some other time, should Allah’s mercy allow that to happen.

But when it comes to Allah, and his love and mercy and forgiveness for his creation, so far as Islam is concerned, it is not Muslims saying things and attributing what they say to Allah, but Almighty Allah himself saying these things, in his own words, in the loudest and clearest form possible — in the Qur’an.

I think there is a difference. A huge and glaring difference, in fact. And it is time people began to see that difference.

Love in the Bible: Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians

Offhand, I do, however, know one place in the Bible — the New Testament — where the concept of love is spelled out in a most powerful and tantalizing language. In literary beauty and excellence, very few writings would seem to excel it.

Here is a part of that beautiful writing from the New Testament — Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians:

“Love suffers long and is kind, 
love does not envy, 
love does not parade itself,
is not puffed up;

Does not behave rudely,
does not seek its own,
is not provoked, 
thinks no evil;

Does not rejoice in iniquity,
but rejoices in truth;” (Chapter 13, verses 4-6).

In fact, the entire chapter — Chapter 13 — is a beautiful read. But we are back to the same old question: Who is saying all this?

The answer is: Paul — in a letter he wrote to the Corinthians.

It is not Jesus, Alaihis Salam, or God Almighty, but Paul — in a letter he wrote to the Corinthians.

Besides, it is not about God’s love for his creation, but the kind of love that people should have among themselves.

Also, besides, is it really Love that Paul spoke about in his epistle — letter — to the Corinthians? Or is it something else?

 

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