The Six Articles of Faith in Islam
With the final revelation to Prophet Muhammad completed, the basic belief system of Islam came to comprise five primary articles of faith:
1) Belief in that there is no god but Allah.
2) Belief in all the messengers and prophets of Allah.
3) Belief in all the scripture and revelations of Allah as they were delivered in their original form.
4) Belief in the angels of Allah, without in anyway attributing to the angels any partner ship or association with Allah.
5) Belief in life after death and in an ultimate Day of Judgment. These five articles of faith will be presented briefly in the pages that follow.
1. Belief in Allah
The first article of faith in Islam is belief in Allah, glorified and exalted is He. As the term ‘Allah’ implies, the belief in Allah is a stringent and strict monotheism. Allah is ‘the One God’. There is no other. As such, Allah is not the god of just one selected nation or ethnic group. Allah is the god of all mankind, of all forms of life, of all creations, and of all worlds. “Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds.”
Allah is not simply a nationalistic or ethnic god among a plurality of gods, as early Judaism appears to have maintained, and which at least one reading of the following Old Testament verse appears to imply. In that regard, it needs to be pointed out that the following verse, the first of the so-called Ten Commandments, does not deny the existence of other gods, but merely prioritizes which god is to be worshipped by the children of Israel, and establishes a preferred tribal deity, i.e., ‘the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’, peace be upon them.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.”
However, not only is Allah One without equal and without peer, He is also One in His unity. His unity admits and allows no partners or associates. His unity leaves no room for any triune conceptualization of the deity, which results in sectarian divisions and in endless theological squabbling about issues such as: is it three persons in one substance, or three persons of similar substance; how does one really define ‘person’ and ‘substance’; how does each of three ‘persons’ in one ‘substance’ keep its separate identity, which ‘person’ of the unified ‘substance’ preceded which other ‘persons’; which ‘person’ of the unified ‘substance’ begat which other ‘person’; if one ‘person’ begat another ‘person’, did not the first ‘person’ precede the second ‘person’, implying a time when the second ‘person’ did not exist; which ‘person’ of the unified ‘substance’ directed which other ‘person’ to do what, e.g., to create the world and universe, and does this not imply that one ‘person’ is subordinate to another ‘person’; are the three ‘persons’ of the unified ‘sub stance’ equal or unequal; do each of the three ‘persons’ of the unified ‘substance’ share in the being of the other ‘persons’, or are they rigidly separated; etc.
Issues such as the above have resulted in fruitless and repetitious debate, as well as multiple schisms, within Christianity for almost 2,000 years. Ritualistic and liturgical formulae and creeds, such as the statement that the Son proceeded from the Father and the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son, raise far more questions than they answer.
In Islam, Allah is One, i.e., One without peer, and One in absolute unity. He is not One among many, nor even One among others, but One in total uniqueness. His very uniqueness defies total comprehension by the limited intellect of mortal man. He is without beginning and without end, and there is nothing comparable to Him. Allah is the One God, besides Whom there is no other. The most perfect, beautiful, and sublime expression of this Oneness of Allah is to be found in the Quran chapter, The Purity of Faith:
“In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful. Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the eternal, absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; and there is none like unto Him.”
2. Belief in all the prophets and messengers
Muslims believe in all the messengers and prophets of Allah. Further, they believe that Allah has provided a messenger to every people. At one time or another, every people or nation of people has received revelation from Allah through its own messenger of Allah. There are many verses in the Quran, which attest to this basic truth. Perhaps, the following verses are among the most direct in this respect:
“Before thee We sent (messengers) to many nations, and We afflicted the nations with suffering and adversity, that they might learn humility.”
“Verily, We have sent thee in truth, as a bearer of glad tidings, and as a warner: and there never was a people, without a warner having lived among them (in the past).
“To every people (was sent) a messenger: when their messenger comes (before them), the matter will be judged between them with justice, and they will not be wronged.”
“For We assuredly sent amongst every people a messenger, (with the command), ‘Serve Allah, and eschew evil’: of the people were some whom Allah guided, and some on whom error became inevitably (established). So travel through the earth, and see what was the end of those who denied (the truth).”
Many of these messengers and prophets may no longer be to modem man. However, numerous prophets and messengers are directly mentioned in the Quran, including, among others, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Job, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Jonah, John the Baptist, Jesus, and Muhammad, peace be upon them all. There were many prophets and messengers, and a Muslim is not free to pick and choose among the prophets and messengers of Allah. A Muslim must acknowledge with equal respect all the prophets and messengers of Allah of whom he is aware, e.g., specifically those mentioned in the Quran.
“Those who deny Allah and His messengers, and (those who) wish to separate Allah from His messengers, saying: ‘We believe in some but reject others’: and (those who) wish to take a course midway-they are in truth (equally) unbelievers; and We have prepared for unbelievers a humiliating punishment.”
The nature of the message
Each prophet and messenger was granted inspiration and revelation from Allah. As time passed, because of the nature of the progressive revelation of Allah, earlier revelations were sometimes abrogated, modified, or expanded.
However, it must be stressed that Islam vehemently rejects the notion that Allah in any way evolved. The evolution under discussion is limited to the revelation that Allah has sent. In short, the revelation of Allah evolved, consistent with man's evolving readiness to receive that revelation. The following verses of the Quran serve to highlight and confirm this concept of progressive revelation:
“O people of the Book! There hath come to you Our messenger, revealing to you much that ye used to hide in the book, and passing over much (that is now unnecessary): There hath come to you from Allah a (new) light and a perspicuous book-wherewith Allah guideth all who seek His good pleasure to ways of peace and safety, and leadeth them out of darkness, by His will, unto the light-guideth them to a path that is straight.”
“None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things.”
“This Quran is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the book wherein there is no doubt-from the Lord of the worlds.”
We did send messengers before thee, and appointed for them wives and children: and it was never the part of a messenger to bring a sign except as Allah permitted (or commanded). For each period is a book (revealed). Allah doth blot out or confirm what He pleaseth: with Him is the mother of the book.”
However, consistent throughout all these revelations, which were given to different prophets at different times, the central theme was the Oneness of Allah. Only Allah is worthy of worship. Not withstanding the messenger, the setting, or the progressive character of the revelation, the fundamental truth of the Oneness of Allah was the pivotal point of the message provided by Allah. This fact is explicitly stated by Allah in the following verse from the Quran “Not a messenger did We send before thee without this inspiration by Us to him: that there is no god but I; therefore worship and serve Me.”
Make no distinctions among them
Not only are Muslims to believe in all of the prophets and messengers of Allah, but they are specifically commanded by Allah to make no hierarchical distinctions among His prophets and messengers, even though Allah may have bestowed certain gifts upon one prophet or messenger and He may have preferred one prophet or messenger to another. A Muslim has neither the religious freedom nor the knowledge to elevate one messenger above another. A Muslim is to honor all of Allah's messengers and prophets equally.
Unfortunately, some Muslims, in their zeal to honor Prophet Muhammad appear to lose sight of this Quranic injunction. However, the non-Muslim observer of such zealousness should not be misled by the behavior or statements of Muslims, which appear to contradict the non-discriminatory way in which all Muslims are to respect and honor all of Allah's prophets and messengers. The words of Allah, as recorded in the Quran, are quite clear:
“Say ye: ‘We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: we make no difference between one and another of them: and we bow to Allah (in Islam).”
“The messenger believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His messengers. ‘We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His messengers.’ And they say: ‘We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys.’”
“To those who believe in Allah and His messengers and make no distinction between any of the messengers, We shall soon give their (due) rewards: for Allah is offforgiving, most merciful.”
Furthermore, the words of Prophet Muhammad on this subject are equally clear and unambiguous. As narrated by both Abu Saeed AIKhudri and Abu Huraira, and as recorded by Al-Bukhari; Prophet Muhammad specifically instructed his companions to refrain from assigning to anyone prophet, including himself, superiority over any other of Allah's prophets.
The prophets and messengers are men
It needs to be emphasized here that in Islam, there is no room for any triune god, or any attempt to dress polytheism in the clothing of monotheism. The prophets and messengers of Allah are not in any way, shape, or form to be considered as ‘partners’ with Allah. Islam is the religion perfected by Allah, not by Prophet Muhammad, or by any other prophets or messengers of Allah. The prophets and messengers, while chosen by Allah, were merely instruments for the transmission of the revelation and were devoid of any divine or semi-divine character. In the words attributed to Jesus in the Bible:
“Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.”
The messengers and prophets of Allah were simply men upon whom Allah had conferred His inspiration. This was true of Prophet Muhammad and every prophet and messenger who preceded him:
“Before thee, also, the messengers We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration: if ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the message. Nor did We give them bodies that ate no food, nor were they exempt from death.”
In the case of Prophet Muhammad this is even more emphatically attested by the following verses of the Quran:
“Muhammad is no more than a messenger: Many were the messengers that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve him) with gratitude.”
“Say: ‘Glory to my Lord! Am I aught but a man a messenger. What kept men back from belief when guidance came to them, was nothing but this: they said ‘Has Allah sent a man (like us) to be (His) messenger.”
“Say: ‘I am but a man like yourselves, (but) the inspiration has come to me that your God is One God: whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and, in the worship of his Lord, admit no one as partner.”
At the time of the Prophet there was a hypocrite who rendered so much harm to the believers that some of them summoned the others to ask the help of the Prophet against him. When the Prophet, peace be upon him, heard of it, he said: ‘No man may seek my help. Only the help of Allah is worthy of being sought’
'Umar reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, said: ‘Do not aggrandize me as the Christians aggrandized the son of Maryam. I am but a creature. Call me the creature of Allah, His servant and messenger.’
Various Ahadeeth also affirm the complete humanity of Prophet Muhammad, while denying any pretense of divinity. The following two examples are noteworthy in that respect.
Having stressed the point that the prophets and messengers were only men, it also needs to be acknowledged that the prophets were men of extraordinary character, piety, spirituality, and faith. This Islamic view of the prophets and messengers stands in sharp contrast to the JudeoChristian scriptures, in which the prophets are frequently portrayed as spiritual leaders with feet of clay, lusting and sinning as frequently as those to whom they preached. However, Allah, Himself, has assured mankind that no prophet could betray the revelation and inspiration given to him. “No prophet could (ever) be false to his trust.”
Does this mean that the prophets were perfect? Of course not, as nothing is perfect other than Allah. Does this mean that the prophets were never tempted? No, as Allah's own words indicate that they might be:
“Perchance thou mayest (feel the inclination) to give up a part of what is revealed unto thee, and thy heart feeleth straitened lest they say, ‘Why is not a treasure sent down unto him, or why does not an angel come down with him?’ But thou art there only to warn! It is Allah that arrangeth all affairs”
Does this mean that a prophet could never make a mistake? No, as clearly stated in the Quran with regard to: an example of rushing to judgment between two disputants by Prophet David; and an example of Prophet Muhammad ignoring the questioning of a blind man interested
in Islam, due to his preoccupation in attempting to persuade a person of substance and influence into Islam.
“(The Prophet) frowned and turned away, because there came to him the blind man (interrupting), but what could tell thee but that perchance he might grow (in spiritual understanding)? Or that he might receive admonition, and the teaching might profit him? As to one who regards himself as self-sufficient, to him dost thou attend; though it is no blame on thee if he grow not (in spiritual understanding). But as to him who came to thee striving earnestly and with fear (in his heart), of him wast thou unmindful. By no means (should it be so)! For it is indeed a message of instruction: therefore let whoso will keep it in remembrance.”
However, such mistakes were a far cry from the immorality frequently attributed to the prophets by the Bible, and do not imply that the prophets and messengers made mistakes when it came to points of religious doctrine and belief. Clearly, despite occasional minor mistakes, the prophets were exemplary individuals, and were excellent guides to follow. This very point is stated in the Quran, where Allah talks about the examples of Abraham and Muhammad:
“Abraham was indeed a model. Devoutly obedient to Allah, (and) true in faith, and he joined not gods with Allah. He showed his gratitude for the favors of Allah, Who chose him, and guided him to a straight way. And We gave him good in this world, and he will be, in the hereafter, in the ranks of the righteous. So We have taught thee the inspired (message), ‘Follow the ways of Abraham the true in faith, and he joined not gods with Allah.”
“We have indeed in the messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the final day, and who engages much in the praise of Allah.”
As such, Muslims do utilize the model, i.e. sayings and behavior (Hadeeth; plural is Ahadeeth), of Prophet Muhammad as an example that should be followed and as being religiously authoritative, without elevating such sayings or behavior to the status of having the same significance or importance as the literal words of Allah, i.e., the Quran.
The seal of the prophets
While Muslims are forbidden to differentiate among the prophets and messengers of Allah in any hierarchical manner, and while all such prophets and messengers are to be seen as only men, however virtuous, the Quran specifically states that Prophet Muhammad was the last of the prophets and messengers of Allah. In that respect, Allah refers to Prophet Muhammad as the ‘seal of the prophets’. This phrase is sometimes understood by non-Muslims and by Westerners to imply some sort of hierarchical significance to the prophethood of Muhammad.
However, such an understanding is erroneous. Just as the last thing to be placed on a formal document is the signatory seal, Prophet Muhammad is to be considered as ‘the seal of the prophets’, meaning that he is the last prophet and messenger of Allah. With the revelation given to Prophet Muhammad, the revelation of Allah has ended, earlier revelations have been modified or abrogated, and Islam has been perfected.
Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but (he is) the messenger of Allah, and the seal of the prophets: and Allah has full knowledge of all things.
3. Belief in all the scripture and revelations
Muslims believe in all of the Books of Allah. This includes both the Quran and the earlier Books revealed by-Allah to His various messengers. While all of Allah's prophets received divine inspiration and revelation, some of them were given an actual Book of revelation. Those, who were given such a Book, are frequently referred to as the messengers of Allah. The Quran notes five such Books of revelation:
the Book given to Abraham; the Book (Torah or Law) given to Moses; the Book Psalms given to David; the Book Gospel given to Jesus; and the Book Quran given to Muhammad. Muslims believe that all these Books, as they were delivered in their original form to the messengers who then imparted them to mankind, were the actual, literal words of Allah. However, the operative phrase is ‘as they were delivered in their original form’.
The corruption of earlier books
The Book of Abraham is no longer known to exist, and no trace of such a book has been left to modem man. However, the book of Jubilees, a Jewish religious writing of the third or second century BCE, seems to refer to that Book of Abraham, when it notes that, upon his death, Jacob left his books and the books of his fathers, i.e, Isaac and Abraham, to his son Levi.
As regards the Book of Moses, the ‘received Torah’, as found in the current Biblical books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, is a far cry from the original Torah, although traces and elements of the original Torah may continue to be found, scattered here and there in the ‘received Torah’. In fact, Biblical analysis by Christian scholars has clearly demonstrated that: these five books of the ‘received Torah’ did not reach their present form until late in the fifth century BCE, i.e. around 1,000 years after Moses; and that these books are compilations from earlier written sources, known as J, E, P, and D.
Likewise, the current Biblical book of Psalms is a poor resemblance of the original Psalms of David, although occasional chapters or verses in the ‘received Psalms’ may be part of the original Psalms. Interestingly, this Islamic belief finds significant support from Christian scholars and commentators on the Psalms.
Finally, it must be noted that the original Gospel of Jesus can nowhere be found in the corpus of the Bible, although various sayings attributed to Jesus in the Bible may represent preserved fragments from the original Gospel. The original Gospel of Jesus would have been a word-for-word repetition of the words of Allah to Jesus. In that regard, it may have been similar to Q (a lost collection of the sayings of Jesus utilized by Matthew, Luke, and Thomas) or to the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, both of which were books of the sayings of Jesus.
In contrast, the current canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are basically small biographies of Jesus. The canonical gospels are merely the writings about Jesus of anonymous authors, to whom the later Christian churches assigned the names of various disciples of Jesus or followers of the disciples of Jesus. They certainly are not books that claim to be the word-for-word rendition of Jesus wherein he quotes the words of Allah.
Numerous passages in the Quran refer to man's distortion and alteration of the previous Books of revelation from Allah.64 These passages consistently note that the received Books that are utilized by the People of the Book, i.e., by Jews and Christians, do not c6nfomi to the original revelations that were given. The following verses from the Quran are among the more direct in addressing this distortion of the prior Books of Allah:
“Can ye (O ye men of faith) entertain the hope that they will believe in you?-seeing that a party of them heard the word of Allah, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it... Then woe to those who write the book with their own hands, and then say: ‘This is from Allah,’ to traffic with it for a miserable price!-woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.”
“There is among them a section who distort the book with their tongues: (as they read) you would think it is a part of the book, but it is no part of the book; and they say, ‘That is from Allah,’ but it is not from Allah: it is they who tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it.”
“And remember Allah took a covenant from the People of the Book, to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it; but they threw it away behind their backs, and purchased with it some miserable gain! And vile was the bargain they made''
“But because of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard: they change the words from their (right) places and forget a good part of the message that was sent them, nor wilt thou cease to find them-barring a few-ever bent on (new) deceits: but forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds): for Allah loveth those who are kind. From those, too, who call them-selves Christians, We did take a covenant, but they forgot a good part of the message that was sent them: so We estranged them, with enmity and hatred between the one and the other, to the Day of Judgment. And soon will Allah show them what it is they have done.”
“No just estimate of Allah do they make when they say: ‘Nothing doth Allah send down to man (by way of revelation)’: say: ‘Who then sent down the book which Moses brought? a light and guidance to man: but ye make it into (separate) sheets for show, while ye conceal much (of its contents): there in were yet aught that which ye knew not neither ye nor your fathers.’ Say: ‘Allah (sent it down)’: then leave them to plunge in vain discourse and trifling.”
The inviolability of the Quran
In contrast to the prior Books of revelation, the incorruptibility of the Quran is guaranteed by Allah Himself. The revelation of Allah to Prophet Muhammad through a span of about 23 years is preserved without blemish in the Quran.
As such, the Quran remains a true and unadulterated recording of the literal words of Allah. As recorded in the Quran, Allah's own promise to Prophet Muhammad illustrates that the integrity of the Quran will remain inviolate for all time “And recite (and teach) what has been revealed to thee of the book of thy Lord: none can change His words, and none wilt thou find as a refuge other than Him.”
“Nay, this is a glorious Quran (inscribed) in a tablet preserved.” In closing this brief discussion of the Muslim's belief in the Books of Allah, it needs to be reemphasized that the Quran is a true and accurate recording of Prophet Muhammad quoting verbatim the words delivered to him from Allah.
Therefore, the Quran does not contain the words of Muhammad, but of Allah. The Quran does not even consist of the words of Muhammad as inspired by Allah. Likewise, the Quran is not Muhammad's interpretation of the words or message of Allah? The Quran is simply the words of Allah.
4. Belief in the angels of Allah
Muslims believe in the angels of Allah, without attributing to them any partnership whatsoever with Allah. The angels are no more than creations of Allah. In that respect, the angels can be compared to the jinn and to man.
'A'isha reported that Allah's Messenger said: ‘The angels were born out of light and the Jinns were born out of the spark of fire and Adam was born as he has been defined (in the Quran) for you (i.e., he is fashioned out of clay).
Given the above Hadeeth and the confusion that typically exists among non-Muslims and Westerners about the Islamic view of these three classes of creation, as well as the differences between the Muslims and those of the Judeo-Christian persuasion on the role of Satan, it may be profitable to digress for a moment. This is appropriate, in order to consider briefly the similarities and differences found among these three classes of creations, i.e. the angels, the jinn, and mankind.
Of angels, jinn, and men
As the above Hadeeth reveals, the angels were created from light, the jinn from fire?’, and mankind, through Adam, from clay.
“We created man from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape; and the jinn race, We had created before, from the fire of a scorching wind.”
“He created man from sounding clay like unto pottery, and He created Jinns from fire free of smoke.”
These three classes of beings are part of the creations of Allah. While it may be true that the angels and the jinn have been granted certain powers by Allah, which have not been granted to man, the angels and jinn still remain no more than mere creatures of Allah. None of the three classes can claim any divinity, and none are to be considered associates or partners of Allah. Such a conceptualization would constitute a direct denial of the Oneness of Allah, and thus is expressly forbidden in Islam. Likewise, one may not pray to any of the creations of Allah, whether angel or other, not even to the extent of asking such a creature to make intercession between oneself and Allah. One prays directly to Allah, without intermediaries.
“How many so ever be the angels in the heavens, their inter cession will avail nothing except after Allah has given leave for whom He pleases and that he is acceptable to Him.”
Of these three classes of creation, Allah has endowed only the jinn and mankind with free will. Among both the jinn and mankind there were and are believers and non-believers, i.e., those who choose to submit to Allah and those who do not. This distinction between believers and non-believers cannot be said to exist among the angels. All angels are believers, because they are not free to choose otherwise. Therefore, with this in view, there can be no ‘fallen angels’ as portrayed in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
If there are no ‘fallen angels’, how does Islam account for Satan? According to the Quran, Satan, was a particularly powerful Jinn This identification of Satan with the Jinn can be made both directly and indirectly. The indirect identification is based upon those Quranic passages, in which Satan refers to himself as having been created from fire by Allah, which links the creation of Satan with the creation of the Jinn However, one does not have to rely upon this indirect identification. A direct identification of Satan as being one of the Jinn is specifically stated in the Quran:
“Behold! We said to the angels, ‘Bow down to Adam’: they bowed down except Satan. He was one of the Jinns, and he broke the command of his Lord.”
The story of the ‘fall’ of Satan is told in greater detail in other passages of the Quran.’ In summary, after creating Adam from clay, Allah ordered the angels to bow down to Adam. The angels did, but not so Satan. Satan, who happened to be in a company of angels at that time, refused to bow down, claiming that he was better than Adam. Adam had only been fashioned from clay, while Satan had been created from fire. As such, Satan believed that he was Adam's superior, and his own arrogance and pride resulted in his choosing to disobey Allah. Caught disobeying his Creator, and about to be punished for his disobedience, Satan begged that the punishment be postponed until the Day of Judgment.
Allah granted him his request, and Satan then vowed to spend his time between then and the Day of Judgment in attempting to lead astray mankind and the Jinn; away from true submission to Allah. However, it is a great mercy to mankind that Allah specifically stipulated that Satan would have no power over those who submit fully to their Creator:
“Behold! thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I am about to create man, from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape; when I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him.’ So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together; not so Satan: he refused to be among those who prostrated themselves. (Allah) said: ‘O Satan! What is your reason for not being among those who prostrated themselves?’ (Satan) said: ‘I am not one to prostrate myself to man, whom Thou didst create from sounding clay, from mud molded into shape.’ (Allah) said: ‘Then get thee out from here: for thou art rejected, accursed. And the curse shall be on thee till the Day of Judgment.’ (Satan) said: ‘O my Lord! give me then respite till the day the (dead) are raised.’ (Allah) said: ‘Respite is granted thee-till the day of the time appointed.’ (Satan) said: ‘O my Lord! because Thou hast put me in the wrong, I will make (wrong) fair-seeming to them on theearth, and I will put them all in the wrong-except Thy servants among them, sincere and purified (by Thy grace).’ (Allah) said: ‘This (way of my sincere servants) is indeed a way that leads straight to Me. For over My servants no authority shalt thou have, except such as put themselves in the wrong and follow thee.’ And verily, hell is the promised abode for them all!”
Names of the angels
Four angels are mentioned by name in the Quran. They are Gabriel, Michael, Haroot, and Maroot: Of these four, both Gabriel and Michael are mentioned in the Bible. Of linguistic interest, one notes that both Gabriel (Hebrew = Gabrael) and Michael (Hebrew = Myka'el) incorporate in Hebrew the Semitic root word ‘El’ at the end of their names. Thus, the name Gabriel can be translated as ‘man of God (Allah)’ or ‘God (Allah) has shown Himself strong’, while Michael can be translated as ‘who is like God (Allah), implying that there is none other than Allah, and thus emphasizing the Oneness of Allah.
The role of the angels
The Quran specifically mentions several different roles fulfilled by the angels of Allah. These roles include, but are not limited to: removing the souls from men after death; recording every deed of man, both good and bad, in order to provide a record, by which each man will be judged on the Day of Judgment:
Protecting men; running errands of mercy; praying for forgiveness from Allah for all of mankind; providing occasional trials to test mankind; praising and worshipping Allah; and serving as the transmitters of Allah's revelation to His prophets and messengers.
The Quran identifies Gabriel as being the messenger angel, who serves as the one who provides the words of Allah to His prophets and messengers “Say: whoever is an enemy to Gabriel-for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by Allah's will, a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe-whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and prophets, to Gabriel and Michael-Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject faith.”
It may be noted that this same role of being the bearer of Allah's revelation and inspiration is assigned to Gabriel in several passages in the Bible, including those from both the Old and New Testament
As such, the concept of Gabriel as the messenger angel, who brings Allah's revelation and inspiration to His prophets and messengers, is a concept that is common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Having established that the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all hold that it is Gabriel, who, among the angels, transmits Allah's divine revelation to His human messengers and prophets, one is now in a position to further identify Gabriel according to certain titles. These titles are occasionally used in the Quran in place of Gabriel's name, especially when discussing Gabriel's role as the transmitter of Allah's revelation. In several passages in the Quran, Gabriel is simply referred to by the title of ‘Al-Rooh’, which can be translated as ‘the spirit’. Somewhat more specifically, Gabriel is referred to as ‘Al-Rooh AlAmeen’.
“Verily this is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds: with it came down the Spirit of Faith and Truth”
In the above quotation from the meaning of the Quran, ‘AI-Rooh AIAmeen’ has been rendered as ‘Spirit of Faith and Truth’. A somewhat more literal translation might be ‘Spirit of Trustworthiness’. However, the most appropriate translation is perhaps simply ‘Spirit of Truth’.
Several Biblical passages in the gospel of John address the concept of the ‘Spirit of Truth’. Traditional Christian interpretation identifies this ‘Spirit of Truth’ with the Holy Spirit.
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who comes from the Father, he will testify on my behalf.”
“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.”
These Biblical passages clearly associate the Spirit of Truth with the bringing of Allah's revelation and inspiration, and it is noted that the Spirit of Truth ‘will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears’ from Allah. In other words, these verses from John:
Clearly imply that the Spirit of Truth, i.e. the Holy Spirit, is subordinate to Allah, and is not a partner with Him, in that the Spirit of Truth ‘will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears’ from Allah; and assign the same function, i.e. the bringing of revelation, to Gabriel and to the Spirit of Truth, i.e., the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is implied that Gabriel is the Spirit of Truth, and that the Spirit of Truth is the Holy Spirit. If Gabriel were the bearer of revelation, if the Spirit of Truth were the bearer of revelation, and if the Holy Spirit were the Spirit of Truth, then Gabriel is the Holy Spirit. The mathematical logic of this identification can be readily summarized as: G (Gabriel) = B (bearer of revelation); ST (Spirit of Truth) = B (bearer of revelation); HS (Holy Spirit) = ST (Spirit of Truth); therefore G (Gabriel) = HS (Holy Spirit).
This identification is seen quite clearly in the Quran, merely by contrasting two verses, each of which discusses the bearer of Allah's revelation to Prophet Muhammad.
- In the first verse, Gabriel is identified by name as being the bearer of revelation to Prophet Muhammad.
- In the second verse, Gabriel is identified by his title, i.e. the Holy Spirit, as being the bearer of revelation to Muhammad.
- In that second verse, ‘Rooh Al-Qudus’ is translated quite literally as ‘Holy Spirit’ “Say: whoever is an enemy to Gabriel-for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by Allah's will, a confirmation of what went before. And guidance and glad tidings for those who believe.”
“Say, the Holy Spirit has brought the revelation from thy Lord in truth, in order to strengthen those who believe, and as a guide and glad tidings to Muslims.”
- In summary, Gabriel is none other than the Holy Spirit. While traditional Christianity has elevated Gabriel, under his title of Holy Spirit, to a partnership with his creator, i.e., Allah, in a triune godhead, Islam reaffirms the Oneness of Allah, vigorously resisting any polytheistic ideology, and continues to see Gabriel as merely an angel of Allah who transmits His messages to mankind.
5. Belief in the Day of Judgment
As is the case in Judaism and Christianity, belief in an eventual Day of Judgment is a central article of belief in Islam. While there are certain similarities among the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic conceptions of the Day of Judgment, there are also distinct differences. An in-depth analysis of the Day of Judgment from the Islamic perspective, not to mention from the vantage of comparative religions, is outside the scope and framework of this essay. As such, only a few issues concerning the. Islamic belief in the Day of Judgment will be covered.
As repeatedly stated in the Quran, the timing of the Day of Judgment is knowledge that rests solely with Allah. No man, no Jinn, no angel, and no prophet or messenger has the least knowledge about its precise timing. During his ministry, Prophet Muhammad was asked repeatedly about the timing of the Day of Judgment. In response to such questioning, Allah provided the following revelations to Prophet Muhammad through the angel Gabriel.
“They ask thee about the (final) Hour-when will be its appointed time? Say: ‘The knowledge thereof is with my Lord (alone): none but He can reveal as to when it will occur. Heavy were its burden through the heavens and the earth. Only, all of a sudden will it come to you.’ They ask thee as if thou wert eager in search thereof: say: ‘The knowledge thereof is with Allah (alone), but most men know not.”
“They ask thee about the Hour -’When will be its appointed time?’ Wherein art thou (concerned) with the declaration thereof? With thy Lord is the limit fixed therefor. Thou art but a warner for such as fear it.”
Men ask thee concerning the Hour: say, ‘The knowledge thereof is with Allah (alone)’: and what will make thee understand?-perchance the hour is nigh!”
“Say: ‘As to the knowledge of the time, it is with Allah alone: I am (sent) only to warn plainly in public.”
As a brief digression, it is instructive to note the similarity between the wording of these revelations to Prophet Muhammad and the Biblical report of the words of Jesus on the same issue:
“But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
Even with the inappropriate capitalization of the word ‘son’ by the Bible translators, the Biblical statement is remarkably similar in conceptual content to those recorded in the Quran.
Notwithstanding the fact that no one knows the timing of the Day of Judgment except Allah, the coming of the Day of Judgment is inevitable “The Hour will certainly come: therein is no doubt: yet most men believe not.”
“Verily, the Doom of thy Lord will indeed come to pass; There is none can avert it; On the Day when the firmament will be in dreadful commotion. And the mountains will fly hither and thither.”
“The Unbelievers think that they will not be raised up (for Judgment). Say: "Yea, By my Lord, Ye shall surely be raised up: then shall ye be told (the truth) of all that ye did. And that is easy for Allah.”
In the Jewish tradition, the Final Judgment is based upon one's acts and deeds. The issue of faith or belief does not really figure in the equation. In the Christian tradition, the Final Judgment is based upon one's faith. While lip service is sometimes paid to the issue of the righteousness and piety of one's life on earth, the bottom line remains that if one has sufficient faith, one ‘passes’ if not, one ‘fails’. Unfortunately, this doctrine is often used by Christians for rationalizing the commission of sinful or questionable behavior, ‘No matter what my behavior is in this instance, my faith will still save me.’
The Islamic view of the Final Judgment stands in sharp contrast to that of both Judaism and Christianity. In Islam, belief is a necessary condition for final reward and salvation, but it is not a sufficient condition, in and of itself. If belief were present during earthly life, judgment then devolves on the merits and demerits of the individual to be judged. At this point, the individual's book of deeds in life, as previously listed by the recording angels, firmly enters into the equation. Given human nature, it is to the extreme good fortune of mankind, that this analysis of one's merits and demerits is tempered by the abundant mercy of Allah. However, unbelief is a sufficient condition, in and of itself, for punishment and damnation.
“And the Earth will shine with the Glory of its Lord: the Record (of Deeds) will be placed (open); the prophets and the witnesses will be brought forward and a just decision pronounced between them; and they will not be wronged (in the least). And to every soul will be paid in full (the fruit) of its Deeds; and (Allah) knoweth best all that they do. The Unbelievers will be led to Hell in crowd: until, when they arrive, there, its gates will be opened. And its keepers will say, "Did not messengers come to you from among yourselves, rehearsing to you the Signs of your Lord, and warning you of the Meeting of This Day of yours?" The answer will be: "True: but the Decree of Punishment has been proved true against the Unbelievers!" (To them) will be said: "Enter ye the gates of Hell, to dwell therein: and evil is (this) Abode of the Arrogant!" And those who feared their Lord will be led to the Garden in crowds: until behold, they arrive there; its gates will be opened; and its keepers will say: "Peace be upon you! well have ye done! enter ye here, to dwell therein." They will say: "Praise be to Allah, Who has truly fulfilled His Promise to us, and has given us (this) land in heritage: We can dwell in the Garden as we will: how excellent a reward for those who work (righteousness)!"
Further, one notes that each person is judged on his own merits and demerits. Unlike the Christian concept of Final Judgment, there is no salvation through the sacrifice of another, and there is no ‘atonement in the blood’. Each person must stand on his/her own before Allah to answer for his/her own conduct and belief.
“On that Day shall no intercession avail except for those for whom permission has been granted by (Allah) Most Gracious and whose word is acceptable to Him.”
“Again, what will explain to thee what the Day of Judgment is? (It will be) the Day when no soul shall have power (to do) aught for another: For the command, that Day, will be (wholly) with Allah.”
Reward and punishment
The traditional Christian perspective of the judgment of Allah is that it is a ‘pass-fail’ test. One either passes, i.e. receives heaven, or one fails, i.e., enters hell. The Islamic view is rather more sophisticated and complex, and emphasizes a level of fairness beyond that seen in the Christian perspective.
In that regard, it is first noted that some individuals may first be punished in hell for a while, before Allah's mercy allows them to enter heaven. Second, in the Islamic belief system, heaven is multi-leveled, as is hell. While the gulf between ‘passing’ and ‘failing’ is enormous, and the consequences of that gulf are beyond the actual comprehension of the human mind, there are different degrees of reward in heaven, and different degrees of punishment in hell.
“Such in truth are the believers: they have grades of dignity with their Lord, and forgiveness, and generous sustenance”
“In this way, each person ‘gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns.”
The rewards of heaven and the punishment of hell are both physical and spiritual. With regard to the bliss of heaven, one notes the following passages from the Quran.
“Verily the companions of the garden shall that day have joy in all that they do; they and their associates will be in groves of (cool) shade, reclining on thrones (of dignity); (every) fruit (enjoyment) will be there for them; they shall have whatever they call for; ‘Peace!’-a word (of salutation) from a Lord most merciful.”
“And he will be in a life of bliss, in a garden on high, the fruits whereof (will hang in bunches) low and near. ‘Eat ye and drink ye, with full satisfaction; because of the (good) that ye sent before you, in the days that are gone!”
“Verily for the righteous there will be a fulfillment of (the heart's) desires; gardens enclosed, and grapevines; companions of equal age; and a cup full (to the brim).”
“The righteous (will be) amid gardens and fountains (of clear-flowing water). (Their greeting will be): ‘Enter ye here in peace and security.’ And We shall remove from their hearts any lurking sense of injury: (they will be) brothers (joyfully) facing each other on thrones (of dignity). There no sense of fatigue shall touch them, nor shall they (ever) be asked to leave.”
“But the sincere (and devoted) servants of Allah-for them is a sustenance determined, fruits (delights); and they (shall enjoy) honor and dignity, in gardens of felicity, facing each other on thrones (of dignity): round will be passed to them a cup from a clear-flowing fountain, crystal-white, of a taste delicious to those who drink (thereof), free from headiness; nor will they suffer intoxication therefrom. And besides them will be chaste women; restraining their glances, with big eyes (of wonder and beauty). As if they were (delicate) eggs closely guarded.”
The Quran describes the curse and punishment of hell in even more graphic terms, as witnessed in the following verses:
“(The stern command will say): ‘Seize ye him and bind ye him, and burn ye him in the blazing fire. Further, make him march in a chain, where of the length is seventy cubits! This was he that would not believe in Allah most high, and would not encourage the feeding of the indigent! So no friend hath he here this day. Nor hath he any food except the corruption from the washing of wounds, which none do eat but those in sin.” 69:30-37)
“Truly hell is as a place of ambush-for the transgressors a place of destination: they will dwell therein for ages. Nothing cool shall they taste therein, nor any drink, save a boiling fluid and a fluid, dark, murky, intensely cold-a fitting recompense for them... for no increase shall We grant you, except in punishment.”
“In front of such a one is hell, and he is given for drink, boiling fetid water. In gulps will he sip it, but never will he be near swallowing it down his throat: death will come to him from every quarter, yet will he not die: and in front of him will be a chastisement unrelenting.”
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