Islam is not about any particular messenger

(Reason 15 of22 serious reasons shahada should contain no name except God’s’)

Islam is not about any particular messenger

Islam is not about any particular messenger

Islam is peace-seeking through submission to the Truth, i.e., submission to God’s will or messages manifested through His natural laws (2:131-133; 2:163-165; 3:2-7, 18-27, 52-53, 62-65, 79-83; 4:65, 125; 5:111; 6:14, 71-81; 7:172; 10:100-101; 33:7, 22, 44, 56; 40:65-66).

So, for Islam, or peace-seeking, we need to find the Truth by understanding the natural laws by acquiring knowledge and then to submit to it by acting accordingly by doing justice. Only a continuous journeying along the path of knowledge and justice – which the Quran calls the straight path or Islam – can free our mind from all idols and fallacies and lead us towards the desired Peace (salam).

The faith system of Islam is simple: shahada or witnessing to God’s absolute oneness (3:18, 3:81, 7:71, 12:40, 19:65, 39:45, 40:12, 72:18) and, for further cognizance, accepting the five truths that reflect humanity’s relationship with the Divine (the five articles of iman1: God, final judgment, controllers, all scriptures and the equality of all messengers of all times and places; 4:136, 2:177, 2:285).

The shahada, the core of Islam, is simply an enlightened state of mind of consciously witnessing the oneness of the Divine (3:18-19). It implies witnessing the Oneness of The Reality, and therefore the oneness of nature, and therefore the oneness of life, and therefore the oneness of humanity, and so forth. By definition, this can have no name in it except God’s. Clearly, the shahada, a state of awareness, was never meant to be a credo or religious formula as later misconstrued by the followers of the sectarian add-ons.

Because this awareness of Oneness is the sole basis of Islam, bearing it in mind is the only ideological requirement to be or become a Muslim – one who seeks peace through submission to the Truth of Oneness (2:111-112, 2:130-131, 3:18-20, 6:71, 18:110, 27:44, 40:66). So anyone from any religious/non-religious background – Hindu, Pantheist, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Confucian, Taoist, Shinto, Jain, Buddhist, Christian, Muhammadan, Sufi, Sikh, Bahai, Mormon, Agnostic, and so on – whoever bears in mind this awareness and acts accordingly, is a Muslim and qualifies for salvation (2:111-112, 41:30, 46:13). That is why the Quran designates all messengers from all times and places2 and all their true followers as Muslims (10:72; 2:128; 10:84; 27:31; 5:111; 72:14).

All the core messages of Islam are derivatives of and revolving around this one single message of oneness, incorporated in shahada, which demands knowledge and balance (6:115; cf. 3:18, 4:135, 5:8).

Hence, in line with its faith system that requires seeking knowledge, most of Islam is doing good work, the mainstay of which is birr, i.e., kindness and justice. Often translated as righteousness, as in the example below, the word actually includes all good works and has a rich plethora of meanings throughout the Quran, like goodness, kindness, compassion, mercy, justice, care, virtue, dutifulness, piety, righteousness etc (2:224, 2:189, 3:92, 3:193, 3:198, 5:2, 19:14, 19:32, 58:9, 60:8, 76:5, 80:16, 82:13, 83:18):

Righteousness is not to turn your faces towards the East or the West; but righteous is he who acknowledges God and the Last Day and the Controllers and the Book (scriptures of all religions, 2:285) and the prophets (of all times and places, 4:136); and spends out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the traveller and the seekers and sets necks free; and establishes social order; and contributes towards betterment; and they fulfil the contracts that are made; and are firm and patient in pain and adversity and in time of stress. It is they who are truthful, and it is they, they who are conscious. 2:177

Thus, true spirituality or piousness consists in higher human values and rational morality of compassion and justice (2:60, 3:104, 4:36, 4:135, 5:8, 16:90, 49:13) rather than in formal rituals or superficial aspects of traditional religions (2:142, 2:148, 2:177, 5:101-103).

Since God belongs to everyone and everywhere, it doesn’t really matter as such whether we turn ourselves towards Kaba or Jerusalem, or Varanasi or Brindavan, or whether we dwell in East or West or share a culture oriental or western (2:115, 2:177). So, if the ‘Qibla’ was really changed, the actual reason must have been quite simple: it was only to enlighten us that the ‘Qiblah’ itself means nothing as it doesn’t matter which way we turn our faces (2:142). This change was no more than a pragmatic response to the socio-political issues of the time; it was NOT to tell that the new direction was sacred or better than the old one (2:143). Likewise, accepting a non-Israelite messenger didn’t mean accepting the new messenger as greater than any of his predecessors. It only meant that what is truly important is the message itself rather than who bears it. Time and again, the Quran calls on us to break the traditional boundaries and see beyond the horizon (2:170, 4:97, 5:104-105, 7:70, 21:52-58,   26:70-77,   37:69-71, 43:22-24).

This is how Karen Armstrong describes the essence of Islam: “What is the Qur’an but a call to action? When the Qur’an talks of faith it doesn’t mean that we have to accept a whole lot of ideas, but it follows it up always with its performing the works of mercy, or the salihat, wherein the Qur’an asks people to do good and look after the poor and the vulnerable, to free slaves, and care for orphans and widows.”

This essence of Islam – submission to the Truth of one God alone, by turning-away from all that is false, and then mercy and justice to all of His creation – constitutes the deen or ‘one moral law’ for all people, inspired to all messengers (98:5). The Quran calls it the straight path, which is defined as the straight path of all messengers (1:6, 6:39, 6:87, 6:126, 6:153, 6:161, 22:54, 42:52, 43:43, 46:30) that consists of the same basic moral commandments found in the previous scriptures, including the Torah and the Gospel (6:150-153, 6:154-156, 17:22-39).

That is why the Quran insistently calls to regard all messengers as equal and to respect all inspired texts/ messages/ scriptures of all religions, while acknowledging unity of all revelations, accepting them as integral constituents of ‘one Book of God’ (‘al-kitab’, e.g., 2:113, 2:136, 3:19, 3:100, 3:119, 6:91-92, 6:154-157, 10:37, 21:7, 23:68, 39:18; cf. 18:27, 10:94).

Thus Islam is not the path of any particular messenger.

Muhammad is NOT central to Islamic faith system

Now, Muhammadur rasulullah (‘Muhammad is God’s messenger,’ 48:29) in the Quran is a phrase or statement of fact, which is a part of one of the ‘articles of iman’ – i.e., the truth about the equality of all messengers – but not a part of the shahada or bearing witness. Though an acknowledger (mumin) is asked to acknowledge and respect Muhammad as a messenger and the deliverer of the final testament (47:2, 33:40,10:47-48), s/he is also asked to similarly acknowledge and respect all messengers without making any distinction (2:136, 2:285, 3:84, 4:152, 21:92, 23:51-53, 33:40). As the Quran thus never designates Muhammad in superlative terms and never puts him in comparison or competition with others, it never describes him as the best messenger or the best human on Earth (2:136, 2:285, 3:144, 38:65, 46:9, 47:19).

The Quran further asserts that Muhammad, a mere mortal, doesn’t serve as any spiritual link with God (3:79-80, 3:144, 6:19, 6:50, 6:164, 16:51, 17:57, 18:110, 19:81-82, 38:65, 39:3, 40:12, 46:9, 46:28, 72:21-23, 79:42-44) and doesn’t serve as an additional guide apart from the Quran (10:35-36). While rejecting all intercessors and intermediaries between human and God (2:48, 2:254, 2:257, 6:51, 6:94, 6:164; 7:53, 19:95, 25:3, 39:43-45, 50:16, 66:10), the Quran puts full responsibility on every individual to use their own mind to personally know and act (10:100, 17:36, 5:104-105, 90:4-13) and to directly commune with their Sustainer without seeking a middleman (6:94, 6:161-164,  50:16, 2:257).

Please note that, rather than describing Islam as ‘the way of Muhammad’, the Quran constantly describes it as ‘the way of Abraham’ (‘Millat Ibraheem’; 2:120, 2:130, 2:135, 3:95, 4:125, 6:161, 12:37, 12:38, 16:123, 22:78). So Muhammad, as a devoted adherent of Abrahamic system that he was inspired to diligently follow, was neither an introducer of Islam, nor he has brought anything fundamentally new in the system (4:125, 6:159-164, 22:78; cf. 16:123, 46:5-6, 9, 28). All that was revealed to him was previously revealed to his predecessors (Nothing is being said to you but what has been said to the messengers before you. 41:43; cf. 10:94, 23:66-68). His impact on Islam was not as a pioneer, since, as the Quran insists, he did not contribute to Islam by innovating or changing any of the principles or essentials as all those were already known through the earlier messengers (Say: I am no innovator among the messengers, nor know I what will be done with me or with you. 46:9; cf. 3:144, 38:65, 47:19).

Muhammad’s duty, according to the Quran, was nothing except as a messenger conveying to the humanity the divine message, the final testament (42:48, 5:99; cf. 5:92, 5:99, 13:40, 16:35, 16:82, 24:54, 29:18, 38:65, 42:48, 64:12; note the double negative used in ‘nothing … except’ for emphasis). Thus his actual contribution to Islam was the delivery of the Quran, through which the same eternal deen that had been inspired to all the previous messengers was authenticated and re-established (3:3, 3:81, 10:37, 35:31, 46:12), while the existing religion of the Arabs was perfected3 as their prevalent practices were brought back into the folds of Islam through simplification and purification (5:3, 7:157).

However, this doesn’t constitute any ground for associating Muhammad’s name with God’s name in shahada, because, like other messengers, he was also only kindly chosen by God for this duty of delivery (16:2-3, 16:35), a mercy which God could have withdrawn from him anytime if so willed (17:86).

Islam is NOT centred on the glorification of a human

Finally, it is important to remember that Islam, unlike traditional Christianity or Muhammadanism, is a not a faith system whose core formula is centred on the deification and glorification of a human. This explains why The Quran doesn’t authorize any added name in shahada.

Summary

Islam is not about any particular messenger

Islam is peace-seeking through submission to the Truth, i.e., submission to God’s will or messages manifested through His natural laws (2:131-133; 2:163-165; 3:2-7, 18-27, 52-53, 62-65, 79-83; 4:65, 125; 5:111; 6:14, 71-81; 7:172; 10:100-101; 33:7, 22, 44, 56; 40:65-66). Only a continuous journeying along the path of Islam – through acquiring knowledge (to find the Truth) and doing justice (to submit to the Truth) – can free our mind from all idols and fallacies and lead us towards the desired Peace (salam).

The faith system of Islam is simple: shahada or witnessing to God’s absolute oneness (3:18, 3:81, 7:71, 12:40, 19:65, 39:45, 40:12, 72:18) and, for further cognizance, accepting the five truths that reflect humanity’s relationship with the Divine (the five articles of iman: God, final judgment, controllers, all scriptures and the equality of all messengers of all times and places; 4:136, 2:177, 2:285).

The shahada, the core of Islam, is simply an enlightened state of mind of consciously witnessing the Oneness of the Divine with its related implications (3:18-19). Because this awareness of Oneness is the sole basis of Islam, anyone from any religious/non-religious background, whoever bears it in mind and acts accordingly, is a Muslim and qualifies for salvation (2:111-112, 41:30, 46:13). That is why the Quran designates all messengers from all times and places and all their true followers as Muslims (10:72; 2:128; 10:84; 27:31; 5:111; 72:14).

In line with its faith system that demands seeking knowledge (3:18), most of Islam is doing good work, the mainstay of which is birr, i.e., kindness and justice (2:177; cf. 2:224, 3:92, 5:2, 19:14, 58:9, 76:5, 83:18). Thus, true spirituality or piousness consists in higher human values and rational morality of compassion and justice (2:60, 3:104, 4:36, 4:135, 5:8, 16:90, 49:13) rather than in formal rituals or superficial aspects of traditional religions (2:142, 2:148, 2:177, 5:101-103). This essence of Islam – submission to the Truth of one God alone, by turning-away from all that is false, and then mercy and justice to all of His creation – constitutes the deen or ‘one moral law’ for all people, inspired to all messengers (98:5). Hence the Quran insistently calls to regard all messengers as equal and to acknowledge unity of all religions, accepting all revelations as integral constituents of ‘one Book of God’ (‘al-kitab’).

Thus, Islam is not the path of any particular messenger, including Muhammad. Though an acknowledger (mumin) is asked to acknowledge and respect Muhammad as a messenger and the deliverer of the final testament (47:2, 33:40,10:47-48), s/he is also asked to similarly acknowledge and respect all messengers without making any distinction (2:136, 2:285, 3:84, 4:152, 21:92, 23:51-53, 33:40). The Quran also asserts that Muhammad, a mere mortal, doesn’t serve as any spiritual link with God and doesn’t serve as an additional guide apart from the Quran (6:50, 6:164, 10:35-36). While rejecting all intercessors and intermediaries between human and God (2:48), the Quran puts full responsibility on every individual to use their own mind to personally know and act (10:100, 17:36, 5:104-105, 90:4-13) and to directly commune with their Sustainer without seeking a middleman (6:94, 6:161-164,  50:16, 2:257).

Muhammad, as a devoted adherent of Abrahamic system, Millat Ibraheem (2:130, 2:135, 3:95), was neither an introducer of Islam nor he has brought anything fundamentally new in the system (4:125, 6:159-164, 22:78; cf. 16:123, 46:5-6, 9, 28). His duty, according to the Quran, was nothing except delivering the divine message, the final testament (42:48, 5:99), through which the same eternal deen of all the previous messengers was authenticated and re-established (3:3, 3:81, 10:37, 35:31, 46:12), while the existing religion of the Arabs was brought back into the folds of Islam through simplification and purification (5:3, 7:157).

However, this doesn’t constitute any ground for associating Muhammad’s name with God’s name in shahada. It is important to remember that Islam, unlike traditional Christianity or Muhammadanism, is a not a faith system whose core formula is centred on the highlighting or glorification of a human. This explains why The Quran doesn’t authorize any added name in shahada.

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Note 1

The Quran makes a clear distinction (3:52-53, 5:111-113) between shahada (3:18) and the articles of iman (4:136, 2:177, 2:285). Through shahada, or witnessing God’s oneness, one becomes Muslim, while by acknowledging the articles of iman, or the five truths reflecting humanity’s relationship with God, one becomes mumin. The full status of mumin is higher than the basic status of Muslim: a Muslim needs to strive in order to attain the status of mumin (49:14-17). The basics of iman are acknowledgement of God and akhirat (End, Whole, Ultimate, ‘holistic’; 2:62, 3:113-114, 5:69), which, accompanied with good work, are declared sufficient for human salvation (2:8, 2:62, 2:111-112, 2:126, 3:113-115, 5:69, 95:6, 20:112). In addition, a mumin also accepts human’s perceived links with God and her constant striving to connect with Him via revelation: i.e., controllers, all scriptures and the equality of all messengers of all times and places.

Note 2

Messengers, i.e., sages and visionaries as the finest representatives of human minds, have been reflecting throughout the ages the light of ‘one universal truth’ (‘heavenly rain’), which is shattered by their specific space-times into a spectrum of diverse colours in the form of a splendid variety of philosophical and socio-cultural concepts and spiritual experiences, thus endlessly widening the range of human’s perceptions of the truth.

Note 3

Please note that it was not Islam but the existing religion of the Arabs that was perfected and completed after the advent of Prophet Muhammad (5:3). As the same eternal system that was recurrently delivered by all messengers, Islam was always perfect and complete, and needed no further improvement with any particular messenger.