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MUHAMMAD IN THE CHRISTIAN CONTEXTConcentrating on the commonalities between the Abrahamic FaithsBy Moin AnsariA woman would throw garbage from the rooftop on the Prophet Muhammad everyday in Mecca. One day when he did not see any garbage, he went looking for her,asked about her and found out that she was sick. He prayed for her and gaveher solace and comfort. He was so impressed, that she converted to Islam.An older Christian woman Khatija hired the young Mohamed for trade. Heconducted her affairs so honestly that she asked him to marry her. He remainedfaithful to her 'till her death. She was one of the first converts to Islam.Muhammad was known as the honest one, before he became a prophet and evenafterwards, even by his worst pagan enemies.These are the stories I grew up with. This is my image of my prophet. This isthe image all Muslims think of when we think of our prophet.May God forgive me if I have transgressed and show me the right way.I have tried to define Islam in Christian and non-religious terms. MichaelBaigent, Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Bible and the Naag Hamdi texts notwithstanding, there is historical precedence in understand the message of Muhammad inthe Christian context. This commonality will help us understand the message andtherefore Islam and Muslims. UNDERSTANDING the genesis of the religion willhelp us understand each other and this will help us gain understanding of worldevents.Once we have understood Muhammad in the Christian context, then it is mucheasier to understand Jesus in the Muslim context. American Deists have alreadydone that in many waysThe hordes are not coming. They have always been here. There is nothing tofear from Muslims who are like Unitarians or like Jefferson or Madison.MUHAMMAD IN THE CHRISTIAN CONTEXTIslam is “Hetrodox Christianity”...John DamascusThe status of Muhammad has to be understood in the context of Christian Dogmaand Christian beliefs of “inerrancy”, "infallibility" “inspiration” and theliberal interpretation of the Gospels. The discussion of the status of JesusChrist has always been a topic of discussion between Christians. In many waysthe discussions of Jesus Christ and the theological differences between Islamand Christianity are essentially a discussion about the so called heresies ofArias and Eusebius of Caesarea that germinated in the city of Antioch. Thishas been prolifically elucidated by Thomas Jefferson in his “Jeffersen Bible”.Many churches have taken a liberal approach to the interpretation of the Bibleand consider is inspired or infallable.Historically, Arianism was a majority opinion among Christians, but thisbegan to change when Emperor Constantine intervened on behalf of and Trinitarians.The Council of Nicea in 325 headed by Emperor Constantine adopted the Niceanconcept of Trinity, Arias was exiled and his promulgation "anethmized".However that was not the end Arianism. Arianism survived until 381AD in the WesternRoman Empire and then thrived in the Easter Roman empire and other areasuntill the 7th century. After that Arianism went underground. Evangelists sent tothe Germanic peoples converted the Goths to Arianism. When the Germanic peopleentered the Roman empire they entered it as Arians and used this form ofChristianity to differentiate themselves from the Romans. The Germanic peoples wereArians. Arianism did not die even then. The flag of Arianism laws carried by “The Brethren of the Common Life”, who were a medieval lay group dedicated toBible study and education. They were persecuted, fled their native homelandsand were scattered all over Europe. They are by many account held responsiblefor the renaissance. Martin Luther’s schooling included the Latin school atMansfeld, a year at a school in Magdeburg (run by the Brethren at Eisenach). Inhis 15th year, Luther made valued older friends and was influenced by Arianideas. Luther’s ideas led to the Christian reformation. Here are some of thepositive things said by Martin Luther about Muhammad and Islam:From this book, accordingly, we see that the religion of the Turks or Muham-mad is far more splendid in ceremonies—and, I might almost say, in customs—than ours, even including that of the religious or all the clerics. The modestyand simplicity of their food, clothing, dwellings, and everything else, as well as thefasts, prayers, and common gatherings of the people that this book reveals are nowhereseen among us—or rather it is impossible for our people to be persuaded to them.Furthermore, which of our monks, …Martin LutherIn 1532 facing the threat of the Turkish invasion, the Emperor agreed to atruce with the Protestants in the Religious Peace of Nürnberg. Facing theTurksih invasion Luthers’s ideas changed. Bernard Shaw also had a lot of good thingsto say about Islam.…the 'Bull' of Pope Innocent III causing the massacre of 20,000 men, womenand children (Albigenses) in France and the nailing of Martin Luther's 95questions on the Church door in Germany, it stretches a long period in between. TheEuropean society passed through a massive reform during this time. The reformmovement of Peter Waldo of France, John Wycliffe of England, Jan Hus ofBohemia (Czech), Girolamo Savonarola of Italy, Michael Servetus of Spain, UlrichZwingli of Switzerland, William Tyndale of England and hundred others must haveinfluenced Bernard Shaw to lean heavily towards the fairness of early Islam -the Islam that Prophet Muhammad once preached.In addition to Suleriman, Charles was threatened by the pope, the king ofFrance, and even some of his own princes! Suleriman, in opposing Charles V,helped the Protestants militarily and financially. God thus used the Moslem nationto provide opportunity for the Reformation to grow in Germany and in the restof Europe.Rumis influences: For Mevlana, a human being is made up of REASON (knowledge, thought, conscience, maturity), LOVE ( emotions, poetry, music) and SPIRIT (life, motion, whirling). It is very unlikely to find the three clamped toeach other in theory and meaning in such a way in any other system. As a result,this approach created an ecolé, namely "Mevlana's Whirling Dervishes", and ithas had great influence on people for centuries. Desiderius ErasmusRoterodamus, one of the humanists of Renaissance in 16th century, Martin Luther andSebastian Frank, who translated some of Mevlana's poems, Rambrandt(artist-17thcentury), Beethoven (composer-18th century), Frederick Ruckert, Joseph vonHammer, Johann Volfgang von Goethe(writers- 19th century) , Prof R. Nicholson andProf Arbery of Cambridge University(20th century) and Heins Meinke (poet), ProfHelmuth Ritter and Anne Marie Schimmel of Bonn University (orientalists- 20thcentury) are some who were influenced by Mevlana's philosophy.ISLAM AS “HETRODOX CHRISTIANITY”: John of Damascus actually calls IslamHetrodox Christianity. John of Damascus is called the first apologetic of Islamand a detractor. In his book the "Heresies of Ishamail" he pretty much definesIslam in the light of Arianism and what he defines as Nestorianism. Nestorius(c.386-c.451) was a pupil of Theodore of Mopsuestia in Antioch and later becamethe Patriarch of Constantinople. He preached against the use of the titleMother of God (Theotokos) for the Virgin Mary and would only call her Mother ofChrist (Christotokos).John of Damascus in today's light would not be considered an apologetic ofIslam. I would consider him a proponent of Islam since he ties Islam to a kindof a Gnostic Gospel.Since the Quran and the teaching of the Quran are considered divine andcalling them divinely inspired, obviously is heresy in Islam since it reduces theprophet and Quran to external influences. However it is fascinating to see thelink between Islam and Christianity. If we read Arianism and Nestorianism, andUnitarianism in conjunction with what the Archbishop of Canterbury says, itpaints a picture of immense interaction between Islam and a much closerrelationship than generally accepted.Fletcher in his book “The Cross and the Crescent” lists a lot ofcommonalities between Islam and Christianity and informs us the Syriac Christian Churchesfelt liberated when the Muslim took over the Holy lands. In all Muslims landstaken over by Muslims from Christians, the number of churches built went upphenomenally. The Syriac and Coptic Christians were closer to "Unitarians" andthe heterodox Christian doctrine of Nestorianism. From a Christian perspectiveThese were all the "heresies" that eventually got purged by EmperorConstantine and got included into IslamMUHAMMAD THE REFORMER: Muhammad was a reformer in a sea of paganism. Hismessage was the purest form of monotheism that exists in the three Abrahamicreligions. He had married a Christian woman by the name of Khadija. When Muhammadgot his message from God he was referred to Khadija’s unlce Waqaba who was aMonophysite Christian. Waqaba informed Muhammad that the voices he was hearingwas from God and there is prophecy in the Bible about someone like Muhammad.With the Arian Goths in decline, the land was hungry for the purest form ofmonotheism. He was taking Arabia and the world back to monotheism. He pointedout the excesses of the synagogue just like Jesus had done 600 years earlier.Muhammad also tried to reform the established church just like Martin Lutherdid a thousand years later. Muhammad was extremely successful because the pagansand the progeny of Arians accepted the new monotheist message. Islam spreadlike wildfire.Quran [5:82] ..And you will find that the closest people in friendship to the believers arethose who say, "We are Christian." This is because they have priests and monks amongthem, and they are not arrogant.[7:159] Among the followers of Moses there are those who guide in accordance withthe truth, and the truth renders them righteous.[5:46] Subsequent to them, we sent Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming theprevious scripture, the Torah. We gave him the Gospel, containing guidance andlight, and confirming the previous scriptures, the Torah, and augmenting itsguidance and light, and to enlighten the righteous.[5:47] The people of the Gospel shall rule in accordance with GOD'srevelations therein. Those who do not rule in accordance with GOD's revelations arethe wicked.[2:62 & 5:69] Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, theChristians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in theLast Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense fromtheir Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.CHRISTIANITY AT THE TIME OF MUHAMMAD: The "Christianity" and "Judaism"that existed at the time of Muhamamad was pre-reform Catholicism and Pre-Orthodoxtype of Judaism. It was very different than the Christianity and Judaism thatexists today. The Christianity was probably based on the he scriptures calledDiatesseron and the Catholic Epistles or Peshitta. Since the Qur'ân talks abouta Gospel, it would suggest Diatesseron more than Peshitta. Muslims considerthe Quran to the 3rd and Final Testament and also think of the Torah and theBible as Holy Books. The Quran is the word of God. The Hadith is the sayings ofthe prophet, so the Hadith is similar to the Bible. Christian Arab Kingdoms ofthe Ghassanids and Muntherits became the powers controlling the Arab Peninsulafrom Syria as far south as Yemen and Oman, and from Iraq as far south as theArab Sea. The other Christians near Muhammad were the Nabatians. The Nabateanswere settled in northern Arabia and by the 6th century BC, they moved to whatis now Jordan where they formed their state and kingdom. Petra, theircapital, was a trading center between Arabia and the Mediterranean Sea.ARIANISM IN MODERN TIMES: Today Arianism survives in the works of John Locke,Isaac Newton, Milton Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson.Archbishop Dmitri of the Orthodox Church in America has identified Islam asthe largest descendant of Arianism today. There is similarity in Islam'steaching that Jesus was a great prophet, but very distinct from God, although Islamsees Jesus as a human messenger of God without the divine properties thatArianism attributes to the Christ. Islam sees itself as a continuation of theJewish and Christian traditions and reveres many of the same prophets.Nontrinitarians claim the roots of their position go back further than thoseof their counterpart trinitarians. Some ancient sects, such as the Ebionites,said that Jesus was not a "Son of God" but rather an ordinary man who was aprophet, a view of Jesus shared by Islam. The doctrine of the Godhead, asmentioned by Jefferson according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,is similar to ArianismThomas Jeffersen was in touch with John Locke and heavily influenced by JohnLocke. In fact when Thomas Jeffersen wrote the “Jeffersen Bible” he mentionsthat he has been in touch with all major philosophers of religion in Europe.In 1700 Locke resigned from the Board of Trade and devoteri himself to Biblicalstudies and religious meditation. He had carefully studied the Gospels inpreparing his “Reasonableness of Christianity.” In researching the Epistles ofSt Paul, he applied the spirit of the Essay and the ordinary rules of criticalinterpretation to a literature which he venerated as infallible. The work waspublished two years after. A tract on Miracles, written in 1702, alsoappeared posthumously. John Locke’s “The Reasonableness of Christianity” isdescribed by Samuel Bold.Subscription controversy—the doctrinal dispute aroused by the spread ofArianism. Under the commonwealth, Socinianism (represented by Paul Best and JohnBiddle), Sabellianism (by John Fry), Arianism (by John Knowles, Thomas Collierand Paul Hobson) and universalism (by Richard Coppin, John Reeve and LudowickeMuggleton), had been alike banned and persecuted. The intolerant attitude ofboth presbyterians and independents was continued after the restoration; and tothis was now added the rigour of the re-established English church. ToRichard Baxter, not less than to John Owen or to Stillingfleet, the Socinians wereon a par with Mohammedans, Turks, atheists and papists. But, in spite ofpersecution, the discrete strands of varying anti-Trinitarian thought remainedunbroken. Gilbert Clerke of Northamptonshire, a mathematician and, in a sense, ateacher of Whiston, Noval of Tydd St. Giles near Wisbech, Thomas Firmin(Sabellian), William Penn, Stephen Nye (Sabellian), William Freke (Arian), John Smith,the philomath, of St. Augustine’s, London (Socinian), Henry Hedworth, thedisciple of Biddle, and William Manning, minister of Peasenhall (1630–1711)(independent), form a direct and unbroken, though irregular, chain ofanti-Trinitarian thought, extending from the commonwealth days to those of tolerationnot to mention the more covert but still demonstrable anti-Trinitarianism of Miltonand Locke.With the passing of the Toleration act of 1689, the leaven of this long trainof anti-Trinitarian thought made itself strongly felt. It first appeared in the bosom of thechurch of England itself, in the so-called Socinian controversy. In 1690, Arthur Bury,a latitudinarian divine, was deprived of the rector ship of Lincoln college, Oxford, forpublishing his Naked Gospel. The proceedings gave rise to a stream of pamphletliterature on both sides. In the same year, 1690, John Wallis, Savilian professor ofmathematics at Oxford, was involved in a controversy with a succession of…anonymous Arian and Socinian writers (among them William Jones) by thepublication of his Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity briefly Explained.Simultaneously, Sherlock’s Vindication of the Holy and ever Blessed Trinity, althoughdirected against the same group of writers, called forth another outburst ofpamphleteering from quite another quarter, South leading the attack with hisAnimadversions upon Dr. Sherlock’s Vindication. The first portion of theanti-Trinitarian literature produced in this triangular contest is collected in The Faithof one God Who is only the Father (1691). In the ranks of dissent, the samecontroversy manifested itself in the disputes which wrecked the independent andpresbyterian “happy union” and, contemporaneously, it appeared in the baptistbody. In 1693, Matthew Caffyn, baptist minister at Horsham, Sussex, was for asecond time accused before the “Baptist General Assembly” of denying Christ’s divinity; and, when the assembly refused to vote his expulsion, a secessiontook place, and the rival “Baptist General Association” was formed. In thesame year, the anti-Trinitarians published a Second collection of tracts provingthe God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the only true God (1693). Thetenth, and last, tract in this volume was a reply to South’s Animadversions onSherlock’s Vindication. In the following year (1694), the presbyterian JohnHowe entered the field with his Calm and sober Inquiry directed against theabove tract, and, to make the fight triangular, Sherlock replied to South and Howetogether in A Defense of Dr. Sherlock’s notion of a Trinity in Unity. Theanti-Trinitarians’ Third collection of Tracts, which followed immediately, was areply at once to Howe, on the one hand, and to Sherlock, on the other.This first Trinitarian or so-called Socinian controversy, practically, cameto an end in 1708. It received its deathblow, in 1698, by the act for the moreeffectual suppression of blasphemy and profaneness, which remained on thestatute book till 1813. With the exception of John Smith’s Designed End to theSocinian Controversy (1695), the whole of the anti-Trinitarian contributions toit had been anonymous (both Locke and Sir Isaac Newton are supposed to havecontributed under the cover of this anonymity); and, with the exception of Howe,no representatives of the professed dissenting denominations had joined in thefray. It is therefore to be regarded, primarily, as a church of Englandcontroversy, in which the churchmen had weakened the Trinitarian cause by atriangular and virtually conflicting defence: Sherlock versus South versus Tillotsonand Burnet, and all four versus the enemy. The agitation which the controversyproduced among the dissenters was mainly reflex, and is apparent more intheir domestic quarrels, noted above, than in their published literature. But,disproportionately small as was the dissenting share of the combatants in merepoint of literature, the intellectual ferment which ensued in following yearsshowed itself more in the bosom of dissent than in the life and thought of thechurch of England. Thomas Emlyn, a presbyterian, who was tried at Dublin, in1693, for publishing his Humble Inquiry into the Scripture account of JesusChrist, attributed his own Arianism to Sherlock’s Vindication of the Doctrine ofthe Trinity.MY MUHAMMAD: We can either demonize the OTHER religion or work on commonground. As Westernized Muslims, we can and should discuss the infallibilities ofMuhammad the man. He was a man and not a God. My research of his entire lifeshows me a MAN OF COMPASSION, INCLUSIVELY and MAGNANIMITY. This opinionis based on his entire life and teachings. I have so many stories that it would takevolumes of paper to print. This image of Muhammad is also my core belief and myPERSONAL relationship with Muhammad the MAN. Muhammad's life spans manydecades. The religion was not based around his personality, but around the prophetsof the Bible. He even called it "Deen e Ibrahimi" or the religion of Abraham.A cult would have died out in a year or so. It has now been 1400 years andthe religion is growing. There must be something in the religion and the message.Muhammad and Islam have faced defamation from the first day the declarationof the "shahadah" (submission to the will of God) was made. Muhammad's entirelife has been defined by many authors. The definitive works on the life of theprophet were written centuries ago and new ideas are but summaries of thebooks:1) Ibn Ishaq wrote SIRAT RESUL ALLAH and2) IBM Kahtir wrote AL- SERA AL- SIRA NABAWIYYAA new PBS documentary on Muhammad created by Alexander Kronemer who regularlywrites on the interfaith site belief.com came out a couple of years ago. Itshould be available in the library and on PBS. Is based upon Karen's book.Karen Armstrong and Martin Lings are a few of the current authors that talk aboutMuhammad. I read Karen's book ten years ago when it first came out. Shethinks of it as a gift to Muslims. I need to contact her about Banyu Quaraza andthe latest researchREJECTING DOGMA IN THE SPIRIT OF ECUMENICAL HARMONY: .Dogma creates problems. If we move away from dogma we find the power ofecumenical harmony. Based on my research on the Church's adherence to "infallibility"and "inerrancy", we can surely find common ground in our beliefs. Our belief is similar totheChristian belief as researched by Pagels and discussed in the Da Vinci Code (NaagHamdi Texts and the Lost Gnostic Bibles). In the broad spectrum of today'sChristianity, Islam is closest to the Unitarians, the flag bearers of Arianism.We are also close to the Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and other liberalchurches who are willing to work with Muslims. The Pope has declared that Islam isan Abrahamic faith and that belief in Islam qualifies a soul to enter heaven, athought described by Moses Maimonides in his Epistle to the Yemenites in the12th century.There is a book that is a must read for all Da Vinci Code fans, and those whoare interested in real history. Michael Baegent of "Holy Blood and HolyGrail" fame, in his latest fact based historical book "The Jesus Papers", tracesthe roots of the violent Jewish (Sakari, Pharisee, and Zedoc) insurgency againstthe Romans and links the insurgency to Judas (Mathew 2:22, 2:23), and also toJesus Christ. Schoenfeld's "Passover plot" also discusses this insurgencyagainst the Roman occupiers of Judea (later reamed Palestina) and how the JewishSakari used to use their daggers for assassinations. An overwhelming body ofevidence ties Jesus to the insurgency in Judea, and this may have been the mainreason to put him to death. The Roman backlash ended up with the Jews fleeingto Masaada and them committing mass suicide.As a result of the Jewish insurgency, in and around 70 AD, Jewish Jerusalemwas totally destroyed by the Romans and renamed Aelia de Capitolina. It was theRomans that would display the bodies of their enemies along Roman roads.Titus used Jews for entertainment.After the destruction of the 2nd temple around70 AD, the despised Roman emperor, Herrod killed thousands of Jews anddisplayed their bodies for everyone to see. The reverberations of this type of morbidactivity live to this day.The conflict between the Jews and Romans has left its mark on history andsome of our Middle Eastern problems still ooze of those historical events. Around130 AD, the Jewish zealot leader and Jewish insurgent leader Shimon binCockba was captured by the Romans. His body was displayed as a trophy. The Romanemperor Hedrian, after destroying Judea, renamed it Palestina. The creativity ofthe jailers were used to try every human trick in the book to try to getuseless and insignificant information about the zealot movement out of poor andinnocent Jews. Titus used his Jewish prisoners for routine torture and perversetactics, like throwing live Jews in front of animals.Martin Luther, the Protestant reformation and the Jewish reformation camecenturies later, and achieved the same type of reformation in destroying theunyielding/tyrannical power of the Pope/Rabbi/Vatican. The Luther reformation wasaimed at those who remained with the Church.FOUNDING FATHERS OF THE USASir Isaac Newton, Jefferson, Adam, Franklin and others used these Unitarianideas and are today called "Deists". The founding fathers of America wereDeists whose ideas very similar to those expounded by the Arians, Unitarians andIslam. John Locke (influenced by Ibn Tufail), James Madison and BenjaminFranklin (friends of the most famous Unitarian Joseph Priestly), Thomas Jefferson(who also owned a coy of the Quran), Isaac Newton (who wrote extensively indefense of "Arianism" "A Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions ofScripture"), Milton were all Unitarians in some form or another. These Deists had ideasabout Jesus which were FAR from the dogma and their ideas were very close tothose that we have in the Islamic faith. Jefferson actually wrote a Bible freeof "dogma".The USA is truly a conglomeration of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, andthose expounding a clash of civilizations are simply hate mongers. John Adams,Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin were too enlightened to be bogged down indogma. They gave u our glorious constitution, and Jefferson even gave us aBible. Using these documents there is a lot of hope ecumenical harmony in the USAwhich will surely reverberate back to South Asia and the Middle East.The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon) said: "On the Day of Resurrection Iwill intercede and say, 'O my Lord! Admit into Paradise (even) those whohave faith equal to a mustard seed in their hearts.'" Sahih Al-Bukhari,Volume 9, Hadith 600REFERENCES:The Reasonableness of Christianity as delivered in the Scriptures. 1695.French trans. 1740; Dutch trans. 1729; German trans. 1733.A Vindication of The Reasonableness of Christianity, … from Mr. Edwards’sReflections. 1695.A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity. 1697.A Letter to the Right Reverend Edward Ld. Bishop of Worcester, concerningSome Passages relating to Mr. Locke’s Essay of Humane Understanding: in a lateDiscourse of his Lordship’s in Vindication of the Trinity. 1697.Mr. Locke’s Reply to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Worcester’sAnswer to his Letter. 1697.Mr. Locke’s Reply to the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Worcester’sAnswer to his Second Letter. 1699.A Paraphrase and Notes on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, etc. 1705.Posthumous Works. 1706..Best Regards,Moin Ansari
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