Differing views on revelation in Christianity and Islam

September 2, 2015

Nasir Khan, September 2, 2015

My Facebook friend Professor Mushtaq Khan Kayani has asked in a comment if any ‘Muslim religious scholar can explain that Allah in the Quran says “We sent Injeel to Issa” (Jesus). But Jesus, in his short life never mentioned or acknowledged receiving the Injeel, neither the Injeel has been mentioned in any Christian literature. Is the Quran`s claim merely a bluff?’

Even though I have no pretensions to be a Muslim religious scholar, I had come across such a question while writing my book Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms. A Historical Survey (Solum Publishers, Oslo, 2006). Therefore, I will offer my following comment, knowing to do so on Facebook is more like stirring a hornets’ nest, which even the angels may think prudent to avoid!

In the Islamic theological tradition, the Qur’an is regarded as the word of God. That means it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. However, there are controversies on the issue whether the revelation contained exact words from God for which all the Prophet did was to report what he had been told to him or he was inspired by such a revelation where he used his own language to express what was put in his heart. Most Muslim believers accept the former position.

Now we move on to the question of revelation in Islam and Christianity. According to the Islamic tradition all messages and guidance from God were revealed through the prophets and all such revelations formed the holy books. In that sense, what the Jewish prophets received was the divine revelations and so was the case with Jesus. The revelations he received were contained in the Injeel.
But in the Christian tradition, God is said to have inspired and spoken to Jesus; however, any such communication from God did not form a revealed book. In fact, the Christian Bible we have is mostly a record of the events of the life and the mission of Jesus. If God revealed himself then his revelation was Jesus, his Son, not some book.

In short, for Christians, Jesus is the revelation of God in a human form while for Muslims the Qur’an is the revealed word of God in a book form. To avoid any confusion, we need to pay attention to this essential difference about the revelation in the theological traditions and beliefs of Muslims and Christians. The Qur’an is the word of God for Muslims but Jesus is the word of God for Christians.

The message of Jesus was good for the oppressed and the weak people

September 1, 2015

Nasir Khan, September 1, 2015

The message of Jesus of Nazareth (c. 7-2 BC – c. 30-33 AD) was viewed as a challenge to the Roman Empire and a threat to the Jewish religious establishment. He was a great teacher and revolutionary of those times. Even though our knowledge of this unique person is limited due to the lack of original sources but according to a critical analysis of the contents of the Christian Bible we see him to have been on the side of the poor, the sick and the marginalised people. For his activities he was branded as a criminal, a subversive rebel and then eradicated.

Even after the lapse of two thousand years, his message of hope and the possibility of creating a just and righteous world order (the Kingdom of Heaven) is still alive.

In my view that message will never die, no matter how difficult the problems confronting the human race. There will always be some courageous people to pick up the message and carry on the struggle against the exploitation of humans by humans, against oppression, ignorance, injustice and poverty.

The appeal of the message lies in the universality of human values for a worthy life. History has seen the oppressive religious rulers of the Middle Ages, the autocratic monarchs of the bygone ages, the great dictators of the twentieth century and the fall of great empires. The present global imperial world order headed by the US military-industrial complex will also come to an end in the future. But the message of hope and justice will live on.

Incidentally, I am not discussing any theological beliefs or views around Jesus on whose name a world-religion arose and now has over 2-billion followers. We know how the vast array of his followers in the world see him. However, many ignore the revolutionary content of his message.

It is important for us see the universal and revolutionary content of his message. Human values existed long before him and they still do. Moreover, history bears the testimony that some of the most gruesome crimes have been committed in his name and the name of Christianity. For all that, he bears no responsibility. Instead, I point to the positive side of his message for humanity in general.

The question of religious freedom in Pakistan

August 29, 2015

Nasir Khan, August 29, 2015

“You are free; you are free to go to your temples. You are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion, caste or creed—that has nothing to do with the business of the State.”

–Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the Founder of Pakistan (1876-1948)
————

No doubt, the ideas of Mr Jinnah in the above citation are admirable and meet the needs of the present times. But what happened in practice in Pakistan after his death, to his idea of a democratic state and to Pakistani citizens’ freedom to follow any faith or creed without state coercion and interference?

The Pakistan State was transformed into a sole monopolist of Islam; and Islam was made an instrument to exploit the people of Pakistan. Consequently, the magical mixture of State and Religion (Sunni branch only!) was baptised as ‘the Islamic Republic of Pakistan’.

No great Caliph has appeared on the political horizon yet, even though the late dictator general Zia-ul-Haq left no doubt where he stood!

However, under the infamous blasphemy laws the minorities suffer. In fact, anyone can falsely accuse a member of any religious minority, mostly to settle personal vendetta or conflicts, as has happened on many occasions, and thus start the vicious litigation against innocent people that can result in incredible punishments.

Miracles in Our Times

August 27, 2015

Nasir Khan, August 27, 2015

“Is it more probable that nature should go out of her course or that a man should tell a lie? We have never seen, in our time, nature go out of her course. But we have good reason to believe that millions of lies have been told in the same time. It is therefore at least millions to one that the reporter of a miracle tells a lie. ”

― Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
———————-
The human mind has great capacity to create fantasies and incredible tales. But I have no time to speculate about the nature of miracles that are told in our old books and by our story-tellers.

However, I have witnessed some miracles in my life and without these I would have died four years ago or in case of my continued survival would have lost my eyesight. They were the miracles of medical science and its advanced surgery that saved my life, extended the duration of my life and saved my eyesight. No doubt, the same thing happens in the lives of many other people.

That means miracles still take place but we have to see where they happen! Not an easy thing to do by any means because the dead weight of accumulated traditional baggage stands in our way. But we have some clear options.

~Nasir Khan
————-
For a short life-sketch of Thomas Paine, see : http://www.ushistory.org/paine/

How the believers see their religions

August 27, 2015

Nasir Khan, August 27, 2015

“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons.”

― Anaïs Nin (1903-1977)
——————
One point about religion in Nin’s quotation above:

First, in the past ages there have been mass conversions from one religion to the other. But not any longer in this age.

In fact, most of us are born into a religious community; we inherit religions from our parents and our societies. As a result, the followers of a religion regard their religion true and the embodiment of all virtues that human beings need. They don’t say they are following their religion ‘blindly’. Never. They think they are rational human beings and what they believe in is true and the only right way.
Some may ‘tolerate’ the followers of other faiths; but that extends only to tolerating them, nothing more than that!

Secondly, in these times only a limited number of people change their religion for a new one. No mass conversions take place.

Thirdly, religious people do not accept any argument that goes against their religion and its dogmas. No rational exchange of views is possible with such people. They will justify what they believe in by appealing to some ‘Authority’ they can never question. Full stop.

~Nasir Khan, 26.08.2015

 —————————–

 Dr Rick Staggenborg, admin of SOLDIERS FOR PEACE INTERNATIONAL wrote in response to my post. I am posting his comment followed by my  reply. We both have somewhat different approaches towards the believers of religions that are evident in our exchanged comments.

• Rick Staggenborg: Sorry, Nasir but you lost me the minute you stopped talking about “most people” and began to make claims about all followers of religion. Like almost all statements about universal attributes of groups of humans, the assertions fail to hold up to objective scrutiny. Nin’s statement is true because it specifically refers to “those who BLINDLY adopt” a belief system of any type.

It is true that most of us adopt the religious beliefs of our family and/or community, but that means many different things to many different people. A Sufi can be very dedicated to Islam without accepting dogma that some Muslims consider defining, but only takfiris would deny that they are co-religionists.

We all construct a personal world view that is based on our experience and concepts we learn as children. It is only by challenging these assumptions and thinking for ourselves that we continue to grow and to develop a personal reality that is internally consistent and conforms to what is measurable (though is not necessarily limited to that).

The fact of the matter is that almost everyone reaches a point where they stop questioning their assumptions and accept anything they are told that corresponds to their prejudices. As a result, as such people get older they get more and more divorced from what is as close to objective reality as humans can approach.

We have to take that into account when trying to persuade others. I encourage all Soldiers For Peace to never forget that our purpose is to unite, not to divide. To attribute undesirable qualities to every member of a group of people is not just fallacious, but harmful to our cause.

http://www.soldiersforpeaceinternational.org/…/changing
16 hrs · Edited · Unlike · 2

Nasir Khan: Dear Rick, your reply makes sense and I do appreciate your concerns for uniting people, not dividing them as you say in your last paragraph. However, I also find your views on religion very personal and subjective. Whereas what I said was to point to the difficulty of exchange of views with the followers of religions. I see no need to change my views on the matter.

We know fully well that Religion is a complex phenomenon; no attempt to summarise it in a few lines can be adequate. Therefore, I am not going to attempt to do that either. However, some people do not follow the familiar mould of beliefs and dogmas they had learnt in their younger age. To come out of that mould of thinking is difficult. Various social pressures all around us push us to conformity. That’s what happens with most of us. Indoctrination that had made inroads into our consciousness in childhood we cannot shake off. Apparently, the possibility to question one’s assumptions is there; but most often people will defend their assumptions on which their inherited beliefs are based than to question them!

You are right to point out how a Sufi can remain dedicated to Islam without accepting dogma. But this raises another question: Is there an Islam without dogma? If we can leave all dogmas aside than we have a pure form of universal humanism. I can’t see your propositions can stand the test of a close scrutiny in this matter. However, I respect your broadminded approach to such issues. By the way, in all world religions there are also mystics as  there are the Sufis in Islam. Orthodoxy has fought against and suppressed such ideas wherever possible. In many Islamic countries, the orthodoxy has taken over; liberal thought in matters of religion has been scuttled in the public life. That dangerous trend is spreading everywhere.

As I see it, our respective views on religion separate us. As long as I am around, I will continue to voice my concerns about the antihuman practices and ideas of indoctrinated people and the dangers they pose to us all. So, I think the best option for me is to thank you for allowing me to use Soldiers For Peace. In future, I will not post any articles or comments.

With my best regards – Nasir Khan

When Arabs were going to invade Persia in the 7th century

August 19, 2015

—Nasir Khan, August 19, 2015

Under Prophet Mohammad’s second successor, Caliph Omar (reigned: 634-644 AD), the great era of Arab expansion began. I reproduce below his letter to the King of Persia, followed by the king’s response. As compared to the civilised Persians, the Arabs were culturally low. But the Arabs were able to defeat the Persians and incorporate their vast country into their expanding empire.

What is interesting in the letters are the perceptions of the two rulers about their own religions and their countries. The Persians followed the Zoroastrian faith, based on belief in One God, unlike the pre-Islamic Arabs who had hundreds of gods and goddesses. The Muslim caliph misunderstood Persians as polytheists or fire worshippers. Fire for Zoroastrian had a symbolic meaning in the same way as the Black Stone in the Meccan shrine had a symbolic meaning for the Arabs even after the coming of Islam.
————-

Text of the ultimatum from Omar Ibn-Khat’tab, the Caliph of Islam, to the Persian King, Yazdgerd III:

In the name of Allah, the Benificent, the Merciful

To the Shah of the Fars

I do not foresee a good future for you and your nation save your acceptance of my terms and your submission to me. There was a time when your country ruled half the world, but see how now your sun has set. On all fronts your armies have been defeated and your nation is condemned to extinction. I point out to you the path whereby you might escape this fate. Namely, that you begin worshipping the one god, the unique deity, the only god who created all that is. I bring you his message. Order your nation to cease the false worship of fire and to join us, that they may join the truth.

Worship Allah the creator of the world. Worship Allah and accept Islam as the path of salvation. End now your polytheistic ways and become Muslims that you may accept Allah-u-Akbar as your savior. This is the only way of securing your own survival and the peace of your Persians. You will do this if you know what is good for you and for your Persians. Submission is your only option. Allah u Akbar.

The Caliph of Muslims
Omar Ibn-Khat’tab
—————–

Response of the Persian King:

In the name of Ahuramazda, the Creator of Life and Wisdom

From the Shahan-Shah of Iran, Yazdgerd, to Omar ibn Khat’tab, the Arab Caliph

In your letter you summon us Iranians to your god whom you call “Allah-u-Akbar” [Allah]; and because of your barbarity and ignorance, without knowing who we are and Whom we worship, you demand that we seek out your god and become worshippers of “Allah-u-Akbar [Allah]”.

How strange that you occupy the seat of the Arab Caliph but are as ignorant as any desert roaming Arab! You admonish me to become monotheistic [believer in one god] in faith. Ignorant man, for thousands of years we Aryaee have, in this land of culture and art, been monotheistic and five times a day have we offered prayers to God’s Throne of Oneness. While we laid the foundations of philanthropy and righteousness and kindness in this world and held high the ensign of “Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds”, you and your ancestors were desert wanderers who ate snakes and lizards and buried your innocent daughters alive.

You Arabs who have no regard for God’s creatures, who mercilessly put people to the sword, who mistreat your women and bury you daughters alive, who attack caravans and are highway robbers, who commit murder, who kidnap women and spouses; how dare you presume to teach us, who are above these evils, to worship God?

You tell me to cease the worship of fire and to worship God instead! To us Iranians the light of Fire is reminiscent of the Light of God. The radiance and the sun-like warmth of fire exuberates our hearts, and the pleasant warmth of it brings our hearts and spirits closer together, that we may be philanthropic, kind and considerate, that gentleness and forgiveness may become our way of life, and that thereby the Light of God may keep shining in our hearts.

Our God is the Great Ahuramazda. Strange is this that you too have now decided to give Him a name, and you call Him by the name of “Allah-u-Akbar [Allah]”.

But we are nothing like you. We, in the name of Ahuramazda, practice compassion and love and goodness and righteousness and forgiveness, and care for the dispossessed and the unfortunate; But you, in the name of your “Allah-u-Akbar [Allah]” commit murder, create misery and subject others to suffering! Tell me truly who is to blame for your misdeeds? Your god who orders genocide, plunder and destruction, or you who do these things in his name? Or both?

You, who have spent all your days in brutality and barbarity, have now come out of your desolate deserts resolved to teach, by the blade and by conquest, the worship of God to a people who have for thousands of years been civilized and have relied on culture and knowledge and art as mighty supports.

What have you, in the name of your “Allah-u-Akbar” [Allah], taught these armies of Islam besides destruction and pillage and murder that you now presume to summon others to your god?

Today, my people’s fortunes have changed. Their armies, who were subjects of Ahuramazada, have now been defeated by the Arab armies of “Allah-u-Akbar [Allah]”. And they are being forced, at the point of the sword, to convert to the god by the name of “Allah-u-Akbar [Allah]”. And are forced to offer him prayers five times a day but now in Arabic; since your “Allah-u-Akbar [Allah]” only understands Arabic.

I advise you to return to your lizard infested deserts. Do not let loose upon our cities your cruel barbarous Arabs who are like rabid animals. Refrain from the murder of my people. Refrain from pillaging my people. Refrain from kidnapping our daughters in the name of your “Allah-u-Akbar [Allah]”. Refrain from these crimes and evils.

We Aryaee are a forgiving people, a kind and well-meaning people. Wherever we go, we sow the seeds of goodness, amity and righteousness. And this is why we have the capacity to overlook the crimes and the misdeeds of your Arabs.

Stay in your desert with your “Allah-u-Akbar [Allah]”, and do not approach our cities; for horrid is your belief and brutish is your conduct.

Yazdgerd Saasaani

Education and Ignorance

August 12, 2015

Nasir Khan, August 12, 2015

“The purpose of education is not to validate ignorance but to overcome it”
― Lawrence M. Krauss (born: 1954)
————-

Ignorance overpowers us in many ways. Sometimes, some of us know it assailing us, but most of the time most of us do not know that we are in the grips of it. It has great power over the minds and hearts of the people.

One major form of ignorance is institutionalised ignorance, which the traditionalists perpetuate in the name of education and their hackneyed formulas. They practically lock out all critical thinking by constant brainwashing of the ordinary people, both young and old. If, you are in doubt, look at the old traditional societies and draw your own conclusions!

Any anti-human offence, ranging from the mutilation of female children’s genitals, marrying female children to adult males, subjecting one’s own body to unnecessary pain, to the practice of  ‘honour killings, etc., etc., can be justified by the harbingers of human misery and depravity because they can point to old traditions and social practices.

Congress’ Test of Allegiance: US or Israel?

August 12, 2015
 –
Consortium News, August 12, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has instructed the U.S. Congress to reject an international agreement constraining Iran’s nuclear program and to humiliate the sitting U.S. president, thus testing where the primary allegiance of most members of Congress lies, with the U.S. or Israel, writes John V. Whitbeck.

By John V. Whitbeck

The choice facing members of the U.S. Congress in September’s “disapproval” votes could scarcely be clearer and has little to do with the merits of the international agreement reached on July 14 with respect to Iran’s nuclear program.

Whether one believes that there was a genuine risk of Iran attacking Israel with a nuclear weapon or, more sensibly, that there was a genuine risk of Israel attacking Iran with conventional or nuclear weapons (the real and only rational reason for the mobilization of the European Union, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany on this issue), the “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” reached in Vienna should vastly reduce the risk of a catastrophic war involving Iran and Israel.

Continues >>

Did God speak to the former US President G. W. Bush? Some reflections

August 8, 2015

Nasir Khan, August 8, 2015

“God speaks through me. Without that, I couldn’t do my job.”
— George W. Bush, quoted in Lancaster New Era, July 16, 2004

Such was the claim of the former US President. He said this after the US armed forces had invaded and occupied two large countries, Afghanistan and Iraq. At that time, he was the most powerful leader of the mighty militarist superpower as well as a ‘divinely’ elevated person because God communicated with him. To my knowledge, in modern history we do not find another instance when a mortal man and the immortal God joined forces for U.S. to unleash two destructive wars! However, the implications of his pronouncements had a direct bearing on his political stature and his policies. Even though, he made his policies and issued his executive orders with the help of his close neoconservative advisers and secretaries but in doing so he was doing God’s work. God was speaking through him; therefore, God mandated whatever he did. God had chosen the right man to do His work!

If we accept the claims of divine guidance, for the sake of argument, that he, in fact, made on many times, then we can point to the results he achieved by his genocidal wars. Under his leadership, the US armed forces invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq in the most brutal way. They killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and Afghans who had no quarrel with the people of the United States or posed any threat to the global U.S. hegemony and power. The destruction of Iraq was systematic. The Bush administration undertook the destruction of Iraqi state and its infrastructure as a necessary step to imposing the imperial diktat in the Middle East. It uprooted the social and administrative structure of Iraq and replaced it with sectarian puppet regimes that followed the orders of Washington and the Pentagon.

To make the imperial take-over easy and to neutralise any resistance to the new geopolitical order in this vast and oil-rich country, imperial masters used sectarian discord of the population as a convenient tool. How did it matter to Bush if Sunni and Shia turned against each other and started terrorist violence against their own people – the people of Iraq? Religious fanatics and miscreants were free to weaken Iraq while the occupiers could have an easy task to control the country and its resources. Thus, the US occupation could continue with greater ease while the country was drenched in bloodshed and mayhem that is still going on.

Through his destructive policies in the occupied Iraq, the Bush administration destabilised the whole region and played with the lives of millions of Iraqis by reducing them to destitution, poverty, homelessness and helplessness. The rampant killings in Iraq have claimed the lives of uncountable victims. In the first 7 years of US occupation, about 1.3 million Iraqi died. The main source of this incredible catastrophe that engulfed Iraq in 2003 was the US invasion. The ultimate responsibility of the present cycle of violence and bloodshed remains with Mr Bush.

Mr Bush’s military invasion and occupation of Afghanistan resulted in large-scale deaths of Afghans. The brutal treatment of the prisoners of war and the innocent victims in the process of occupying Afghanistan is a dark chapter in the history of twenty-first century. The occupying power violated the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war, international humanitarian conventions and all norms of international law. All this happened because God said to Bush to do so! In fact, this is a preposterous assertion that even Al Capone would not have resorted to! Let us take a common sense view of his claim and its consequences. What that means is that the former president is not responsible for the wars and war crimes but someone else is! In legal terms, he is implying that God is vicariously responsible for his wars and war crimes. In this way, he absolves himself of any responsibility for his actions and his policies as the head of US Government! A very convenient but cheap method to deceive the world, no doubt!

There is no need for us to enter into any lengthy theological discourse on God and his attributes. It is common knowledge that most believers see God as a kind, merciful and loving power. For having such attributes, believers hold Him in high respect and praise Him. It is hard to think that the Heavenly Father, as Christians call God, could have asked or encouraged Mr Bush to start major wars of aggression and commit the most heinous crimes against other weaker nations in this century. In brief, to impute such designs to God or because of fulfilling a mission from God is a reprehensible act on the part of Mr Bush. In the eyes of any sincere believers, he is maligning God in a vicious way if he believes in Him as he seemingly professes to do.

Alternatively, what if he really believed in what he asserted about God? That is something, which we can look at cursorily from a legal point of view. In criminal law, the actions of the alleged offenders are primarily judged for the mens rea – that is, their state of mind and intentions when they committed some indictable offence. In some cases, they are entitled to the defence of diminished responsibility or diminished capacity if their mental condition was impaired in such a way that they did not fully understand what they did. If such a defence is successful, the accused are given mitigated sentences or sent for medical treatment, depending on the gravity of offences involved. In an old case of acute insanity, one person beheaded a sleeping man just to see what he would do when woke up in the morning but didn’t find his head!

There are many cases when people hear sounds or messages from some unknown sources exhorting them to do something that may amount to a criminal offence. A hallucination is a perception that is not based on objective reality. It is very much a subjective condition of mind and in this condition, people may see or visualise things that having nothing to do with reality. In this age, we come across cases when some people say they have heard God or God has given them some message. If Mr Bush is sincere in his claims about God speaking to him, then that is something for which only the professional psychologists can offer their expert views.

In case  a judicial miracle (which I don’t see taking place!) takes place and the world sees the former US president, G.W. Bush, being prosecuted for his wars and the alleged war crimes in a court of law then the question of hallucinations would certainly be an issue in any legal process. However, facts point to a different direction: That he acted with deliberation and premeditation in pursuing his policies and his destructive wars.

Believers can become a force for common good

August 5, 2015

Nasir Khan, August 5, 2015

Among my friends are both believers and non-religious people. My believing friends include Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Bahais, etc., who follow different traditional theologies of their respective religions. Through my interaction with vast number of people, I have come to realise that they can be a  great force for the common good if they acknowledge the rights of others to follow their religions and religious traditions as long as these do not constitute a threat to society or violate acceptable social norms.

As a small step to peaceful relations between people and advance the cause of social understanding , I ask all my Facebook friends, who are believers, to be generous to each other and to all others, and say that all of them are right to believe in their versions of god! If there is only one god, called by different names in different religions and cultures, as many believers believe, then all old and new controversies and disagreements about Him become baseless. An apple remains an apple even though different languages have a different word for it.

Consequently, we can safely assume that the believers of one religion have no real problem with the believers of other religions. Their historical feuds and conflicts have been caused more by misunderstandings and misperceptions than anything else. In other words, there is no real problem among the believers. They are all members of one big human family, worshipping and praising the same god.

The message of tolerance and concern for the interests of all, irrespective of their religions and creeds, is old; many sages and thinking people have proclaimed it in all ages and epochs. One great example of such a noble thought is found in the edicts of the Indian Emperor Asoka the Great (r. 273-232 B.C.). His Twelfth Edict says:

“His Sacred Majesty honors both ascetics and the householders of all religions, and he honors them with gifts and honors of various kinds. But [he] does not value gifts as much as he values this – that there should be growth in the essentials of all religions. Growth in essentials can be done in different ways, but all of them have as their root restraint in speech, that is, not praising one’s own religion, or condemning the religion of others without good cause. And if there is cause for criticism, it should be done in a mild way. But it is better to honor other religions for this reason. By so doing, one’s own religion benefits, and so do other religions, while doing otherwise harms one’s own religion and the religions of others. Whoever praises his own religion, due to excessive devotion, and condemns others with the thought ‘Let me glorify my own religion,’ only harms his own religion. Therefore contact (between religions) is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by others. The Sacred Majesty desires that all should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions.”

In this edict there is much food for thought for the believers of all religions.


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