Who is a ‘Muslim’

Those who call themselves ‘Muslim’ seldom understand the meaning of this Arabic word. When translated into English, ‘Muslim’ literally means ‘Submission’. A ‘Muslim’ is a person whose ‘Submission’ to the edicts as revealed to Moses in the Torah, David in the Psalms, Jesus in the Gospels and Muhammad in the Quran, is an important article of his/her faith:
‘Say [O Muslims]: We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and to the offspring of the twelve sons of Jacob, and that which has been given to Moses and Jesus, and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted’ (Quran 2:136).

Being a ‘Muslim’ is not a privilege extended exclusively to the Arabs or Arabic speaking people. It’s the refuge of the pious; as already practiced by people of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths:
‘Verily, those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and does righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve’ (Quran 2:62).

All Abrahamic faiths proximate toward a similar structure in terms of their beliefs and practices. An observant ‘Muslim’ should, therefore, feel no antipathy toward any in the Abrahamic faiths:
‘And were it not for Allah restraining mankind through the act of some opposing others, pulled down would be monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques wherein the name of Allah is mentioned in great profusion’ (Quran 22:40).

Isn’t it time we Muslims studied the Quran and reflected upon its teachings so as not to rely entirely on what our ‘Mullahs’ preach to us.

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‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’ – A Revelation!

‘Verily, Allah has purchased from the believers their selves and wealth; for that, theirs shall be Paradise. They fight in the Cause of Allah, killing and being killed – a promise on His part in truth, in the Torah and the Gospel and the Quran.’ 9:111

It is my understanding that the edict to ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’ is specific to ‘Al-Ardh Al-Muqaddasah/The Sacred Land’ and ‘Al-Bait Al-Haram/The Sacred House’ and is sanctioned only in the presence of a Prophet:

‘And never will your Lord destroy the town until He sends to its Mother Town a Messenger reciting to them Our Verses. And never will We destroy the town unless its people are transgressors.’ 28:59

We are informed in the Quran that the destruction of the disbelievers at the time of Prophets Noah, Lot, Hud, Saleh and Shuaib was an act of divine retribution. We are also informed in the Quran that Prophets Noah, Abraham, Lot, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad were among those Prophets who were the recipients of Scripture. However, according to 9:111 the proclamation to ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’ is inscribed only in the Torah as revealed to Moses, the Gospel as revealed to Jesus and the Quran as revealed to Muhammad.
The transition from divine retribution to ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’ is evidenced at the time of Prophet Moses:

‘Like the habitude of the people of Pharaoh and those before them – they cried lies to the revelations of their Lord. Thus, We destroyed them for their sins and drowned the people of Pharaoh; they were all tyrants.’ 8:54

Pharaoh and his people having been drowned Prophet Moses chaperoned the Israelites to ‘The Sacred Land’ where he delivered a clarion call to ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’:

‘O my people! Enter the Sacred Land which Allah ordained for you and do not retreat’ ‘O Musa! Surely therein are a people of overwhelming power’ 5:21/22

It is my understanding that ‘Allah’, ‘Yod Heh Vav Heh’ or ‘One God’ authorised the Israelites to ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’ the heathen who occupied ‘The Sacred Land’ and claim what was rightfully theirs to inhabit and for posterity.
The following verse in the Quran which references ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’ at the time of Prophet Muhammad validates the transition from divine retribution:

‘And if Allah willed He could exact retribution on them; but in order to test some of you by others’ 47:4

The Quran delineates unambiguously the remit of Prophet Muhammad to ‘The Sacred House’:

‘And this is a blessed Book We have sent down confirming what came before it so that you may warn the Mother of Towns and those around it’ 6:92
‘Allah has made the Kabah, the Sacred House, a fulcrum for mankind’ 5:97

The situation that confronted Prophet Muhammad was quite similar to that of Prophet Samuel in that the Muslims like the Israelites were persecuted from their homes and were asked to ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’.

At the time of Prophet Muhammad:
‘So those who emigrated and were expelled from their homes, and were persecuted in My Cause, and fought and were killed’ 3:195

At the time of Prophet Samuel:
They (Israelites) said: “And why we fight not in the Cause of Allah when certainly expelled are we from our homes and our children?” 2:246

It is my understanding that the edict to ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’ is applicable only in the presence of a Prophet. There appears to be a predilection in the people amongst whom a Prophet is appointed to split into two distinct groups:

‘Mankind was a single community then Allah sent Prophets with glad tidings and as warners; and He sent down with them the Book with truth to judge betwixt people in matters wherein they differed’ 2:213

It is imperative we acknowledge that it is the prerogative of the ‘One God’ only to sanction ‘Fight in the Cause of Allah’:

‘Verily, your Lord! He knows who strays from His path and He knows the rightly guided.’ 6:117
‘O Prophet! Urge the believers to the fight’ 8:65

However, the Quran does recognise the evolving disposition of man’s intellect and the consequent complexity of the communities he populates:

‘Then We bequeathed the Book to those We chose of Our servants. Of them some who wrong their own selves and of them some who adopt a middle course; and of them some who excel in good deeds by Allah’s permission’ 35:32
‘Allah is He Who has subjected to you what is in the heavens and what is on earth; gathered from Him. Verily, therein are signs for people who reflect.’ 45:13

There are verses in the Quran that are predicated on a specific location and/or to a specific Prophet and verses that can be interpreted in a contemporary context for general application. The Holy Scriptures as revealed to Moses in the Torah, David in the Psalms, Jesus in the Gospels and Muhammad in the Quran reflect and conform to the natural laws manifest in all of creation. Only an ‘Omniscient’ ‘One God’ could ensure that His revelations to the Prophets were relevant to the human condition in this given construct; not in some improbable utopia.

‘Verses of Violence’

The Noble Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad over a period of 23 years. The positioning of each revelation was by divine ‘dictatum’ but lacked chronology. Therefore, the context to each of the revelations cannot always be relevant to an interpretation. The Noble Quran is a mosaic of verses; it is imperative that we understand the linkages of these verses.
Post an analysis of the Quran the following are some of my observations:

1. Whenever a Prophet is appointed from amongst a people the criteria for adjudicating belief is established through revelations.
2. The pecuniary interest of those in authority is inextricably linked to an enterprise instituted in sacrilege and is the principal subject of the revelations.
3. The Prophet implores the people to repent and to atone but there is a concerted effort by vested interests to persecute him and to subvert the revelations.
4. Failure to comply with the revelations ultimately results in punitive action that is severe and resolute.

We are informed in the Quran:

‘And never will your Lord destroy the town until He sends to its Mother Town a Messenger reciting to them Our Verses. And never will We destroy the town unless its people are transgressors.’ 28:59

And:

‘That was the way of Allah with those from before who passed away. And you will not find any alteration in the way of Allah.’ 48:23

We are also informed in the Quran that Pharaoh was deified by his people:

‘O Chief’s! I know not that you have any god other than me’ 28:38
‘I am your lord, the most high’ 79:24

And this is what happened to the people of Pharaoh:

‘Like the habitude of the people of Pharaoh and those before them – they cried lies to the revelations of their Lord. Thus, We destroyed them for their sins and drowned the people of Pharaoh; they were all transgressors.’ 8:54

Henceforth, if the ‘Children of Israel’ transgress their covenant with ‘Allah’, ‘Yod Heh Vav Heh’ or ‘One God’ because of their veneration of idols and immoral self-indulgence they shall likewise be subject to retribution:

And when Moses said to his people: “O my people! Verily, you have wronged yourselves by worshiping the calf. So turn in repentance to your Creator and kill yourselves; that is better for you with your Creator.” 2:54
When he (Elijah) said to his people: “Will you not fear Allah?” “Will you invoke Ba’al and forsake the Best of Creators,” “Allah, your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers?” 37:124/126
‘And We decreed to the Children of Israel in the Book (Torah): You shall make mischief in the land twice and shall become tyrants and extremely arrogant’ ‘When the first of the two promises came to pass, We send against you servants of Ours possessing severe prowess; penetrating into your habitations’ ‘Then in turn, We made you prevail over them and reinforced you with wealth and children’ ‘When the second promise came to pass, it was for them to humiliate you and enter the mosque; destroy all that you held in esteem’ ‘Maybe your Lord will have mercy on you but if you regress, We will revert’ 17:4/8

The Quran delineates unambiguously the remit of Prophet Muhammad to ‘The Sacred House’:

‘And this is a blessed Book We have sent down confirming what came before it so that you may warn the Mother of Towns and those around it’ 6:92
‘I have been commanded to worship the Lord of this town (Makkah), Who has sanctified it and to Whom belongs everything’ 28:91
‘Allah has made the Kabah, the Sacred House, a fulcrum for mankind’ 5:97

Makkah and the neighbouring towns comprised mainly of the following groups of people:

1. Muslims
2. Hypocrites
3. People of the Scripture – Jews, Christians, Sabians etc.
4. Pagan Arabs

The hypocrites were those who called themselves Muslims but had already moved from a state of belief to disbelief:

When the hypocrites come to you, they say: “We testify that you indeed are the Messenger of Allah.” And Allah knows that you indeed are His Messenger; and Allah testifies that the hypocrites are liars indeed. 63:1
‘The hypocrites, men and women, are of one another; they enjoin the detestable and forbid the virtuous’ 9:67
Do you not see those who turn hypocrites say to their brethren from amongst the People of the Scripture who disbelieve: “If you are expelled, we too will go out with you and we will never obey any one against you; and if you are attacked, we will certainly help you.” But Allah testifies that they are liars indeed. 59:11

I believe that the instance of the appointment of a Prophet is mostly coincidental to a period where the target audience that is the subject of and subject to what is being revealed is unique in its characteristics and a literal application of the same to any contemporary and/or other audience is not the purpose of the revelations.
The following represent some further observations:

1. The presence of a Prophet in the midst of a people is essential to adjudicating by the edicts that are being revealed.
2. It is the generation that is witness to the revelations which is subjected to the penalties for non-compliance and which is inimitably characterised by its desire to indulge in the sacrilege and the immoral.
3. There are revelations that are applicable in a specific location and/or to a specific Prophet and revelations that can be interpreted in a contemporary context for general application.

We are informed in the Quran that there were those amongst the People of the Scripture who intentionally disregarded the revelations and made every effort to undermine Prophet Muhammad.
The obstinately rebellious would eventually be dealt with for their transgressions:

‘Many from amongst the People of the Scripture wish if they could turn you back to disbelief after you have believed, out of envy from their own selves and after the truth has become manifest to them. So forgive and forebear till Allah reveals His command.’ 2:109

Prophet Muhammad is asked to reaffirm the focal tenet of the monotheistic religion as had been practiced by Prophet Moses and Prophet Jesus:

Say: “O People of the Scripture! Come to an utterance equitable between us and you that we worship none but Allah, nor associate with Him anything nor some of us take others as lords.” Then if they turn away, say: “Bear witness that we are Muslims.” 3:64

However, there are those who refuse to listen to his repeated appeals:

‘They take their rabbis and their monks as lords besides Allah, and the Messiah – son of Maryam; and not commanded were they but to worship the One God. No god is there but He; Sacrosanct is He from what they associate as partners.’ 9:31

Prophet Muhammad is asked to enquire about their wilful misconduct:

Say: “O people of the Scripture! Why do you hinder from the path of Allah those who believe, seeking to pervert it while you are witnesses?” 3:99

We are made aware of the wilful misconduct of the priestly classes:

‘Many of the rabbis and the monks devour people’s wealth with deception and hinder them from the path of Allah’ 9:34

The People of the Scripture resident in Makkah and the neighbouring towns are witness to what is being revealed to the Prophet:

‘O People of the Scripture! Why do you disbelieve in the revelations of Allah while you bear witness?’ 3:70

As a consequence of their dogged refusal to alter their behaviour the obstinately rebellious amongst the People of the Scripture are manifestly in breach of their Mosaic covenant with the ‘One God’ and inevitably find themselves the recipients of punitive action:

‘Fight those who do not believe in Allah and the Last Day, and do not forbid that which Allah and His Messenger have forbidden; and do not adhere to the religion of truth from amongst the People of the Scripture, until they pay the tax – ready and willing, and they are humbled.’ 9:29

This verse most certainly does not sanction the indiscriminate killing of Jews and Christians within Makkah and its environs or anywhere else at any time. It is a qualified and a measured diktat against those from amongst the People of the Scripture who refused to:

1. Accept the sovereignty of the ‘One God’ as revealed in the Torah and the Gospel:

‘And our God and your God is One’ 29:46

2. Acknowledge as an article of faith the Day of Resurrection.
3. Prohibit that which has been prohibited by the ‘One God’ and the Prophet:

And say: “We believe in that which has been sent down to us and has been sent down to you.” 29:46
‘The food of those given the Scripture is lawful for you and your food is lawful for them; the chaste women from the believers and the chaste women from those given the Scripture before you’ 5:5

These verses make it patently clear that Prophet Muhammad would not have proscribed anything other than that already proscribed by Prophet Moses and Prophet Jesus.
4. ‘Adhere to the religion of truth’ – the religion of Prophet Muhammad and all of the Prophets from afore:

‘He has prescribed for you the religion what He enjoined on Noah, and that which We communicate to you is what We enjoined on Abraham and Moses and Jesus – that be upright with the religion and be not divided in it’ 42:13
Those to whom We gave the Scripture before it (Quran), they believe in it. And when it is recited to them, they say: “We believe in it. Verily, it is the truth from our Lord. Surely, we had been since before it – Muslims.” 28:52/53

Although the verse is an instruction to fight there are stringent qualifications that must be observed and there is even an opportunity to forfeit the punitive action by virtue of the payment of an appropriate tribute.
It is imperative that the text of the Quran especially those verses that are likely to provoke an emotional response are judiciously interpreted and not through the imposition of prejudice. Again, verse 9:29 is directed at a very specific section of the People of the Scripture:

Say: “O people of the Scripture! You have nothing valid till you are upright with the Torah and the Gospel, and what has been sent down to you from you Lord.” And it increases in many of them what has been sent down to you from your Lord – excesses and disbelief. 5:68
But when the truth has come to them from Us, they say: “Why is he not given the like of Moses?” “Did they not disbelieve in what was given before to Moses?” They say: “Two kinds of magic, each supporting the other!” And they say: “In each we indeed disbelieve.” 28:48

It is my understanding that the ‘One God’ had taken the decision to establish in Makkah and its environs the same monotheistic religion that had earlier been established in the Land of Canaan when Prophet Moses communicated what had been revealed to him to the ‘Children of Israel’:

‘O my people! Enter the Sacred Land which Allah ordained for you and do not retreat’ ‘O Musa! Surely therein are a people of overwhelming power’ 5:21/22

The following verses are unequivocal in their intent:

‘And why should not Allah punish them while they hinder from the Sacred Mosque, and not are they its guardians? Verily, its guardians are none but the righteous’ 8:34
‘O you who believe! Verily, the polytheists are immoral. So let them not come near the Sacred Mosque after this year of theirs’ 9:28

The pagan Arabs have repeatedly reneged and are persistent:

‘They are those with whom you made a covenant; then they violate their covenant each time’ 8:56
‘And they will not cease fighting you until they turn you back from your religion, if they are able to’ 2:217

Again, the appointment of a Prophet is indicative of a society that is not only intransigent but also in an acute state of constant immoral self-indulgence. The revelations that address such a society cannot be literally juxtaposed in order to adjudicate a contemporaneous and/or other society:
‘Whoever goes aright, goes aright for his own self; and whoever goes astray, goes astray against it. And not will bear a burdened one the burden of another; nor do We inflict punishment until We send a Messenger.’ 17:15
‘And no bearer of burden shall bear the burden of another; and if the one heavily burdened calls to his load, not lifted of it will be anything even if he be near of kin’ 35:38

The undermining of the authority of Prophet Muhammad and the reneging of treaties is reiterated:

‘Will you not fight a people that have violated their oaths and colluded to expel the Messenger, and it was them that attacked you in the first instance?’ 9:13

The following proclamation is not just in response to the shenanigans of the pagan Arabs but is also part of the decision to establish the same monotheistic religion that came into being with Prophet Adam:

‘Absolved of obligations are Allah and His Messenger from those of the polytheists with whom a treaty was made’ ‘So roam freely in the land for four months but be aware that you cannot frustrate Allah’ ‘And a pronouncement from Allah and His Messenger to mankind on the day of the Great Pilgrimage that Allah is absolved from the polytheists as is His Messenger’ ‘Except those of the polytheists with whom you did make a treaty and they did not in any way hinder you nor did they assist anyone against you. So fulfil towards them their treaty to the end of its term’ ‘So when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists where you find them; and seize them and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush. But if they repent and establish prayers, and purify their wealth then leave clear their way’ 9:1/5

Fighting is sanctioned expressly against the pagan Arabs in Makkah who are in breach of their treaty with Prophet Muhammad but only up to the point where they either accept the tenets of the monotheistic religion or quit this theatre of war:

‘And if anyone of the polytheists seeks your protection then give him shelter until he hears the word of Allah, then escort him to his place of safety’ 9:6

The Scriptures as revealed to Moses in the Torah, David in the Psalms, Jesus in the Gospels and Muhammad in the Quran reflect and conform to the natural laws manifest in all of creation. Only an ‘Omniscient’ ‘One God’ could ensure that His revelations to the Prophets were relevant to the human condition in this given construct; not in some improbable utopia.

The declaration of faith

I have often asked myself: What Shahadah did the Prophets and other ‘Muslims’ before Muhammad recite?

‘Allah testifies: La ilaha illa Huwa, and the angels, and those having knowledge – truthfully, equitably. La ilaha illa Huwa, the All-Mighty, the All-Wise’ (3:18).
‘And We did not send any Messenger before you [O Muhammad] but We revealed to him: La ilaha illa ana, so worship Me’ (21:25).
‘He has ordained for you the same religion which He ordained for Noah, and that which We have revealed to you [O Muhammad], and that which We ordained for Abraham, Moses and Jesus – saying you should establish religion and make no divisions in it’ (42:13).
‘The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. [They say:] We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers, and they say – We hear and we obey’ (2:285).
‘Muhammad is no more than a Messenger, and indeed Messengers have passed away before him’ (3:144).

The unity of the Godhead is at the core of that which was revealed to all of the Prophets. We believe that it is this God that revealed the Torah to Moses, the Psalms to David, the Gospel to Jesus and the Quran to Muhammad. Therefore, articles of faith as prescribed in these scriptures cannot contain contradictions. It would be inconsistent for each of the Prophets to have told their respective congregation to recite a different Shahadah.

‘When the hypocrites come to you [O Muhammad], they say: We bear witness that you are indeed the Messenger of Allah. Allah knows that you are indeed His Messenger, and Allah bears witness that the hypocrites are liars indeed’. ‘They have made their oaths a screen [for their hypocrisy]. Thus they hinder [men] from the Path of Allah. Verily, evil is what they used to do’ (63:1/2). ‘Have you [O Muhammad] not seen those [hypocrites] who take as friends a people upon whom is the Wrath of Allah? They are neither of you nor of them, and they swear to a lie while they know’. ‘Allah has prepared for them a severe torment. Evil indeed is that which they used to do’. ‘They have made their oaths a screen [for their evil action]. Thus they hinder [men] from the Path of Allah, so they shall have a humiliating torment’ (58:14/16).
The hypocrites do not bear witness that La ilaha illa Huwa, only that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. God acknowledges [does not bear witness] that Muhammad is His Messenger. Only then does He proceed to bear witness that the hypocrites are liars. An examination of the wording and sequencing of the statements in the verse allows for a better understanding.

Was only our Prophet ‘Special’

I often hear Muslims say that our beloved Prophet is ‘Special’ – enjoys a rank higher than all the other Prophets. ‘And We have sent you [O Muhammad] not but as a mercy for Al Alamin’ (21:107). Does Prophet Muhammad really enjoy a ‘Special’ status; a rank above the other Prophets?

‘Say [O Muslims]: We believe in Allah and that which has been sent down to us and that which has been sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and that which has been given to Moses and Jesus, and that which has been given to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we have submitted’ (2:136). ‘The Messenger believes in what has been sent down from his Lord, and [so do] the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. [They Say:] We make no distinction between one another of His Messengers’ (2:285).
The Almighty says in the Quran that those who are ‘Muslim’ do not make any distinction between the Prophets.

‘Those Messengers! We preferred some of them to others; to some of them Allah spoke [directly]; others He raised to degrees [of honour]; and to Jesus, the son of Maryam, We gave evidences and supported him with the Holy Spirit’ (2:253). ‘And indeed, We have preferred some of the Prophets above others; and to David We gave the Psalms’ (17:55). ‘And We raised him [Enoch] to a high station’ (19:57). ‘Who can be better in religion than one who submits his whole self to Allah, does good, and follows the way of Abraham – a man of pure faith? And Allah did take Abraham as a Khalil’ (4:125).
God states in the Quran that He is discerning of the Prophets; He endows them with distinct abilities. This is God’s prerogative; in all such exemplifications there is no mention of Prophet Muhammad.

I don’t know if you’ve heard about the ‘Miracle’ that was performed on our beloved Prophet. Gabriel is said to have made an incision in the chest in order to cleanse the Prophet’s heart. Its validity is supposedly based on (94:1) ‘Have We not opened your breast for you [O Muhammad]’. Nashrah literally translates to ‘cut to slice’; implicit that the chest was cut open.
You had alluded to (20:14) in our discussion about As-Salah; (20:25) ‘[Moses] said: O my Lord! Ashrah for me my breast’. I just stumbled onto it whilst glancing through the other verses on the page. This ‘Miracle’ is said to have made Muhammad ‘Masoom’ [Pure and Sinless]; a rank above all the other Prophets. That just can’t be the case if Moses too has experienced the same ‘Miracle’. And further (48:2), ‘That Allah may forgive you [O Muhammad] your sins of the past and the future, and complete His favour on you and guide you on a Straight Path’.
I believe the Almighty inspired courage – broadened the chest, in order that the Prophets may fulfil the arduous task of Prophethood.