How to be free from Sin
By Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Founder of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community
The Islamic concept of salvation differs from that of other religions, and from Christianity in particular, because Islam rejects the concept of Original Sin and declares man to be responsible only for his own sins. He, therefore, needs to free himself from his own sins in order to attain salvation. In this article, the Promised Messiah, may peace be on him, answers the all-important question, why does man commits sin, and how can he free himself from it.
The Promised Messiah writes that man is by his very nature averse to things he believes to be harmful, and if he commits sin it is only because he does not truly believe in the existence of God and in the Day of Reckoning. Had he possessed the same certainty about the accountability of sin, as he does, for instance, about the harmfulness of a poison or a snake, he would never even think of transgressing Divine commandments.
The Promised Messiah also argues that a true religion must be judged by its ability to lead its followers to certainty about the existence of God. The holy author makes a detailed comparison between Islam and other major religions, and concludes that Islam alone can lead man to perfect awareness and, consequently, to freedom from sin. He writes:
In this article, I intend to show that the remarkable material progress of the current age has been more than counter-balanced by its deplorable spiritual decline, to the extent that the souls of men have lost their ability even to grasp obvious truths. It is apparent from a close study of humanity that a hidden and formidable force is pulling it downwards, and man is swiftly being dragged into a pit which is termed Asfalus Safilin [the lowest of the low]. Such a complete change has come over the intellects of men, which they have come to admire and praise things which are abhorrent and detestable to the spiritual eye. Every soul feels itself being dragged downwards by a force, which, through its devastating influence, has already caused a whole world to fall into decline. Pure truths are laughed at and ridiculed, and complete submission to God is looked upon as an absurdity. Every soul is drawn towards the world as if constrained by some hidden force. As I have often stated before, attraction forms the basis for everything that happens in the world, and the side which possesses greater conviction is able to attract others towards itself. There is every truth in the principle that a force can only be counteracted by another more powerful than itself. It is impossible for this world, which is being pulled downwards by the force of base attractions, to rise up again, unless an opposing force appears from heaven to reinforce people’s faith, and to show them that there is more substantial and lasting joy in submission to the commandments of God than in the fulfillment of carnal passions, and to convince them that transgression is worse than death. This heavenly light of conviction is granted to man through the ‘Sun’, i.e., the Imam of his age, and failure to recognize him amounts to dying a death of ignorance. The person who thinks he has no need of this true source of light is deluded, for he sets himself against the immutable laws of God. Human eyes, even though they possess a light of their own, cannot see without the sun. The sun is the source of the light which descends from heaven and illuminates the earth, and without it our eyes are as good as blind. He who attains conviction through this heavenly light is drawn towards piety, and it is natural for a struggle to ensue between the two attractions, one pulling him towards virtue and the other towards vice, one towards the East and the other towards the West. The clash is all the more ferocious when the two attractions are at their peak—as they are during times of tremendous material advancement.
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Friday sermon: Christianity and Beatification of Pope John Paul II
Delivered by Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad (ata) Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, on May 6, 2011:
It was God’s great favor on us that He sent the true and ardent devotee of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) so that he could guide us away from the deteriorated state of the teaching. He was the Hakm (Judge) and the Adl (Arbiter) of the age and as such in order to rid us of the infestation of shirk (associating partners with Allah), he guided us precisely in light of the teaching of the Quran, which had established the Oneness of God and which tells us about the true teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) as well as Islam’s superiority over other world religions.
Christianity claims that through the atoning death of Jesus (on whom be peace) his followers are ‘reconciled’ to God. Some saints are also thought to be means of intercession. It has been recently said about the previous Pope, John Paul II that owing to a miracle healing of a woman he had reached the station of intercession with God, while in Paradise. Hudhur said, these are their viewpoints, whereas the reality is that their teaching is contrary to the teaching of Jesus and is based on shirk.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) informs us:
‘Remember, it is wholly calumnious to ascribe divinity to Jesus (on whom be peace). He certainly did not make any such claim. Whatever he said as regards himself did not go beyond intercession. As such, who can deny the intercession of Prophets? Many times Israelites were saved from raging torment because of the intercession of Moses (on whom be peace) And I have experience of this myself. Many esteemed people of my Community know very well that due to my intercession some embroiled in problems and illnesses were relieved of their grief and they had been informed of this beforehand. For Jesus to be crucified for his followers and for the sins of his followers to be imputed to him is a meaningless creed that is far-removed from reason. It is beyond the Divine attributes of fairness and justice that the punishment of the sin of someone should be given to another. In short, this creed is a collection of errors.’
Explaining the requisites of intercession, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) wrote: ‘Firstly, it is essential that an intercessor has a perfect connection with God, so that he can attain beneficence from God. And [he] also has an intense connection with mankind so that he can take to mankind the beneficence and the good that he attains from God. Unless both these connections are not intense, one cannot be an intercessor…unless these two models are not to be seen, there can be no beneficial outcome’.
The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) also wrote that Jesus (on whom be peace) could not even reform his disciples. By contrast, through his perfect model, our Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) saved his followers from physical and spiritual chastisement and transformed their world. The intercession of Moses (on whom be peace) had similar outcome. However, after Jesus (on whom be peace) the condition of his followers deteriorated.
Hudhur said thus the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) illustrated the facts about Christianity. In his lifetime, Jesus could not reform his disciples, his death on the Cross was also considered accursed by the Jews, although we Ahmadi Muslims do not accept this concept and say that God saved His Prophet from all the accusations that the Jews wanted to ascribe to him. He lived a long life and was successful in the objective for which God had sent him. Hudhur explained that he had spoken regarding the Pope [John Paul II] because there is a lot of debate going on these days in schools about his ‘miracles’ and Hudhur wished to inform our youngsters about the facts. They listen to what is said out there and can at times be influenced by it. Always remember that the lofty station of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) is the real station of intercession. And his miracles have taken place from his lifetime to this day. People are being born among his followers who can show miracles. We Ahmadis, firmly believe that God continues to manifest His Powers through adherence to the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). We are also firm on the belief that there is no need for any saint or any recommendation; God is found by following the teachings of the Holy Quran and the commandments of the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). Whereas Christians are beatifying the Pope, after his death, for miracles the validity of which is disputed. A Polish newspaper has raised objections regarding this, stating it is possible that the team of doctors which ascertains the legitimacy of ‘miracles’ did not research the matter properly about the woman about whom it is said that she suffered from Parkinson’s disease. It is possible that she had some other illness which naturally is cured after a while.
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Book Review: ‘Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)’ by Prof. Bart Ehrman
Reviewed and Critiqued by Dr. Naseer Tahir
Prof. Bart Ehrman
Prof. Bart Ehrman Has written more than 20 books, latest one being, Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.
He wrote Jesus Interrupted in 2009. His outstanding research into the origin of the Bible is well recognized and it is a just and fair critique of the present day knowledge about the Bible as held by a common Christian.
In the preface of the book, the author mentions about his journey towards spirituality and then his moving away from it. The “born again” experience and passion for the knowledge about the Bible during high school period lead him to the Moody Bible Institute. In 1978 he went to Theological Seminary at Princeton for Doctorate in New Testament studies. Starting his studies as a Bible believing Christian, he finished with changed ideology. He wrote, ” It became clear to me over a long period of time that my former views of the Bible as the inerrant revelation from God were flat-out wrong.” ( P:xi) What changed his ideas is what this book is all about. What caused him to be an agnostic? He details his reasons in the final chapter of the book.
I found this book a scholarly work and one can use some of that in favor of the Holy Quran. Notwithstanding his hard work, I feel sorry for the author, all his struggle and efforts gone in vain. His hard and long journey was to lead him to be “born again,” but it resulted in the demise of his faith. If he had studied Islamic scripture with the same intention he would have had a different experience.
With his life time of study, expanding over decades, Bart Ehrman has discovered only part of the truth: ‘the present Bible is not the literal word of God.’ To complete his journey and reach the destination, I invite him to study the Quran. He will find the true and the original teachings of the Bible in the Holy Quran.
To read rest of the review by Dr. Naseer Tahir go to: click here
Christianity a journey from facts to fiction
By Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad
He examines the doctrines of Christianity in light of reason and logic. He puts his conclusion on the back cover of his book in the words of a Christian theologian, Søren Aabye Kierkegaard:
“It is not the business of any Christian writer or preacher to dilute Christianity to suit the general educated public. The doctrine of the incarnation was to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, and so will it always be, for the doctrine not only transcends reason; it the paradox par excellence; and it can be affirmed only by faith, with passionate inwardness and interest. The substitution of reason for faith means the death of Christianity.”
What Kierkegaard could not foresee is the information age with millions of websites. It will be hard to hide behind the veil of ‘faith’ and run away from reason and rationality. It is self evident that faith cannot be divorced from reason. If man needed faith alone, any cult would be as good as any religion and all human affairs will completely collapse.
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Book Review: ‘A History of the Corruptions of Christianity: Considerations in evidence that the apostolic and primitive church was Unitarian’ By Joseph Priestly
Reviewed by Dr. Amtul Qadoos Farhat
Dr Joseph Priestly
Dr Joseph Priestly (1733–1804), was a British Scientist, Natural Philosopher and Theologian who first discovered Oxygen gas. As a Unitarian Theologian, Dr Priestley wanted to return Christianity to its “primitive” or “pure” form by eliminating the “corruptions” which had accumulated over many centuries.
One of his major works the Institutes of Natural and Revealed Religions first published in 1771 shocked and appalled many readers, primarily because it challenged basic Christian orthodoxies such as the divinity of Christ. The History of Corruptions of Christianity was initially added as the fourth part of this book. It became so voluminous that he had to issue it separately. First published in 1782, Dr Priestley believed that The History of Corruptions of Christianity was “the most valuable” work he ever published.
The two volume book has various sections tracing history of distortions and corruptions in all the major doctrines of Christianity such as Trinity, Atonement, Baptism, Grace, Original Sin, Veneration of saints, angles and relics, State of Dead and the Lord’s Supper to its origins. Dr Priestly retrieves the sequential details of history as to how the corruptions were gradually incorporated in to a monotheistic religion of Jesus; both unintentionally and intentionally. The work is original and the evidence has been taken either from New Testament or from the writings of scholars and theologians of the apostolic age and around 500 years after that. It contains more than 1800 original quotes regarding unity of God alone.
Just like his contributions in science his writings on religion are masterly and earned him the friendship and tutorship of President Thomas Jefferson. Priestley argued, for example, that the real “mystery” of the Trinity was that so many Christians believed it. For Jesus did not teach it, the Bible did not proclaim it, and Reason could not honor it. Jesus lived as a human being, claimed to be nothing more than the “son of man,” whose mission was to show all humankind how they should live and what God expected of them. The Old Testament honored monotheism, as did the New Testament, rightly read.
To read his entire book click here
To read the review by Dr. Amtul Qadoos Farhat click here
Breaking the Cross: Epoch making refutation of dogma of Christianity by the Promised Messiah
By Ataul Mujeeb Rashid
The author is the Senior Missionary, for Ahmadiyya Muslim Community in UK. He has written a very detailed and beautiful book exposing the dogma of Christianity. He has collected excerpts from the writings of Hadhrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the Promised Messiah, to refute Christianity. Rashid has written this book in Urdu and it would be very worthwhile, for the cause of humanity, if someone translates it into English for the benefit of those who do not know Urdu.
To read a more than a hundred page chapter in refutation of Trinity in Urdu click here
Sola Scriptura: A Fatal trap for Christianity
By Zia H Shah MD
Sola scriptura is the doctrine that the Bible contains all knowledge necessary for salvation and holiness. Consequently, sola scriptura demands that only those doctrines are to be admitted or confessed that are found directly within or indirectly by using valid logical deduction or valid deductive reasoning from scripture.
It is an essential doctrine of Protestant Christianity. Now, as we learn more and more about how the New Testament was compiled and interpolated, it is becoming clear to all, except the fundamentalists that the Bible is not the literal word of God and as a result is a habitat of several contradictions. Therefore, it cannot be a perfect guide to humanity.
As Christianity is losing its theological and logical basis it is time not to excel in Islamophobia but to consider Islam as a natural evolution of Christianity and consider Islam as panacea for different problems of the West and means to reintroduce spirituality in the West, Europe and North America.
The Encyclopedia Britannica has laid down the core of my argument as it describes, Christian fundamentalism:
“The issue of biblical authority was crucial to American Protestantism, which had inherited the fundamental doctrine of sola Scriptura (Latin: ‘Scripture alone’) as enunciated by Martin Luther (1483–1546) and other 16th-century Reformers. Thus, any challenge to scriptural integrity had the potential to undermine Christianity as they understood and practiced it. In response to this challenge, theologians at the Princeton Theological Seminary argued for the verbal (word-for-word) inspiration of Scripture and affirmed that the Bible was not only infallible (correct when it spoke on matters of faith and morals) but inerrant (correct when it spoke on any matters, including history and science).”
So, if the Bible is neither infallible nor inerrant, as we will show in this and related knols, then the whole of Protestant Christianity implodes into ruins of contradictory ideas!
If one were to genuinely believe in the biblical authority as proclaimed by the American Protestantism and explained by the Encyclopedia Britannica above, very dramatic events will begin to occur that will shock and awe any sensitive and learned person. For example, let the Bible define and explain labor pains:
“And the Lord God said unto the woman, what is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, the serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” (Genesis 3:13-16)
Now, this is not only unfair and inaccurate with respect to women but also with respect to the snakes. By isolating the snakes from the rest of the animal kingdom for condemnation, it gives a distorted view of evolution, biology and reptiles. It attributes the labor pains to consequences of the Original Sin and in so doing completely misrepresents humans and the mammals. These verses of Genesis suggest as if humans did not have labor pain before Eve committed the sin and as if other mammals do not have labor pain and they are not linked through evolution.
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The age of Reason
By Thomas Payne
Thomas Payne, one of the Founding Fathers of USA wrote in his epic making book the Age of Reason:
“From the time I was capable of conceiving an idea, and acting upon it by reflection, I either doubted the truth of the Christian system, or thought it to be a strange affair; I scarcely knew which it was: but I well remember, when about seven or eight years of age, hearing a sermon read by a relation of mine, who was a great devotee of the church, upon the subject of what is called Redemption by the death of the Son of God. After the sermon was ended, I went into the garden, and as I was going down the garden steps (for I perfectly recollect the spot) I revolted at the recollection of what I had heard, and thought to myself that it was making God Almighty act like a passionate man, that killed his son, when he could not revenge himself any other way; and as I was sure a man would be hanged that did such a thing, I could not see for what purpose they preached such sermons. This was not one of those kind of thoughts that had anything in it of childish levity; it was to me a serious reflection, arising from the idea I had that God was too good to do such an action, and also too almighty to be under any necessity of doing it. I believe in the same manner to this moment; and I moreover believe, that any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system.”
To Read his book with some annotations click here
A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom
By Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918)
Because the suppression of scientific thought by the medieval Church represents one of blackest periods of human history, many scholars have studied this period with great care. Worth special mention is a remarkable two-volume treatise by Andrew Dickson White entitled A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, published in 1896.
To read the whole text click here
Andrew Dickson White wrote:
“The doctrine of the spherical shape of the earth, and therefore the existence of the antipodes, was bitterly attacked by theologians who asked: ‘Is there anyone so senseless as to believe that crops and trees grow downwards? . . . that the rains and snow fall upwards?’ The great authority of St Augustine held the Church firmly against the idea of the antipodes and for a thousand years it was believed that there could not be human beings on the opposite side of the earth – even if the earth had opposite sides. In the sixth century, Procopius of Gaza brought powerful theological guns to bear on the issue: there could not be an opposite side, he declared, because for that Christ would have had to go there and suffer a second time. Also, there would have had to exist a duplicate Eden, Adam, Serpent, and Deluge. But that being clearly wrong, there could not be any antipodes. QED!”
The Intelligent Design movement, which wants to teach philosophy and metaphysics as science in USA schools, the Evolution wars in USA and efforts during the intrusive reign of President Zia ul Haq in Pakistan are prime examples of futile struggle between religion and science. There is a popular saying, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In that spirit it would be worthwhile to read this book.
To read more accounts click here
Limitations of oral traditions: Differences in the four Gospels
By Zia H Shah MD
At the time of Jesus only 5% of the population was literate, the four Gospels that decades or centuries later made into the canonical New Testament, served a theological purpose for the local illiterate population and could hold their awe, in an atmosphere of lack of literacy and medieval culture, as literal word of God, but in this age of information, when all of them are read side by side, with better interpretation, almost each and every line of the text is an epiphany for the rational, who is not invested in the text through indoctrination, a reminder, to seek a better scripture, which was more precisely recorded and genuinely preserved over time, namely the Holy Quran!
In this article let us go on a journey of the New Testament, through the eyes of different scholars of the New Testament, how from oral traditions, we came to have our New Testament. We have to imagine different cultural phenomena leading to oral traditions, at times people sitting around bonfire and sharing stories for decades before they were committed to pen and paper or their equivalent.
Prof. Mark W. Muesse is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee. A native of Waco, Texas, he completed his graduate work at Harvard University, where he received a Masters of Theological Studies from the Divinity School and the A.M. and Ph.D. in the Study of Religion from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. He has also been Visiting Professor of Theology at the Tamilnadu Theological Seminary in Madurai, India, traveling extensively throughout Asia. He has been a practitioner of meditation for over fifteen years and has studied the Buddhist discipline at the International Buddhist Meditation Centre, Wat Mahadhatu in Bangkok, Thailand and the Himalayan Yogic Institute in Kathmandu. He writes as he describes almost a fictional nature of the Gospel of John, in his lecture series, Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad:
“John’s gospel was written later than the synoptics, at the end of the Ist or beginning of the 2nd century; by that time, christological developments that had been in process for 60 or 70 years. As we’ve seen with the Buddha and Confucius, as time proceeds, the biographies of charismatic individuals tend to acquire greater legendary qualities.
Second, John neglects to mention most of the events and teachings contained in Mark, Matthew, and Luke. John contains no parables, no reports of exorcisms, and no discussions of the end-time. John only mentions the kingdom of god twice. It’s hard to account for these omissions if John had access to the same historical material that the synoptics used. There are other factors involved, of course, but the consensus among academic biblical specialists who apply the methods of modem historical study is that John contains little historical fact and few, if any, authentic sayings of Jesus. Accordingly, most critical scholars doubt that the historical Jesus actually identified himself as the Christ as the gospel of John describes.”
At another place, Mark W. Muesse writes about the contradictions in the different canonical Gospels as they describe the events after crucifixion:
“Within three days of his ignominious crucifixion, many of Jesus’ close followers became convinced that he had overcome death. Their conviction was both experienced and interpreted in a variety of ways. In the Gospel of Mark, the empty tomb appears to have been a sign from god that Jesus had transcended the bonds of the grave. But Mark’s gospel does not tell Us what exactly happened to him, simply that he was no longer in his tomb Matthew and Luke both report that some of Jesus’ disciples saw him in various settings. Matthew says that the women who went to the tomb to prepare his body for burial were the first to see him and that later the 11 remaining apostles saw him on a mountain in the Galilee. Luke indicates that the first persons to see Jesus were not the women or the 11 apostles, but two otherwise unknown followers who walked with him to a village called Emmaus and recognized him only after they began to share a meal with him. Luke also says that shortly afterwards, Jesus appeared to the 11 while they were gathered in Jerusalem, not the Galilee as Matthew tells it. At first, they ‘thought they were seeing a ghost,’ to quote Luke, until Jesus invited them to touch him and feel his flesh and bones.
… In John’s gospel, Jesus first appeared to Mary Magdalene, who mistook him for the caretaker of the garden where the tomb was located. Later in the day, Jesus appeared to the apostles, except for Thomas, who was not among them. A week later, Thomas saw Jesus and actually touched him, dispelling the skepticism that had earned him the title ‘Doubting Thomas.’ John continues to describe several other occasions on which Jesus’ followers saw and interacted with him.”
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Book review: ‘Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures’ by Pope Benedict XVI and Marcello Pera
Reviewed by Shazia Sohail
This was a lecture delivered by Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in 2005 at the School of Catholic Culture, in Italy. In it he aims at solving what he believes is the greatest immorality in the European culture: abortion. He makes the argument that the crisis of cultures does not comprise the clash between one religion and another, or one continent and another; rather it is the clash between religious and moral truths on the one hand and the secular or Enlightenment culture, based on a scientific attitude, on the other. He makes an elaborate case to prove the moral bankruptcy of the Enlightenment culture, the most obvious symptom being the ‘murder’ of the ‘weakest of the weak,’ the unborn child. He rejects agnosticism as a viable option and invites the audience to choose faith and God with the totality of their beings and sneaks in Christianity as the only option, without establishing her exclusive claim for a theistic paradigm.
In the foreword, titled “A Proposal That Should Be Accepted,” Marcello Pera admits that the cultural break from Christianity occurred due to acceptance of Galileo’s proposal that the spheres of science and religion should never be allowed to influence each other since the Bible clearly contradicted scientific truths; the resulting gap continued to widen to the point that morality came to be replaced by the universally accepted values of personal liberty and freedom of expression. In deference to Kant, no action was considered good or bad in itself; the consequences that ensued from it determined its value. At some point the statement in Genesis “man was made in the image of God” was transformed into human rights. But when other advances joined this one like scientific freedom, autonomy of technology, and women’s self-determination, it created difficult problems. Pera closes the introduction with a powerful appeal to accept the Pope’s opinion.
In the opinion of the Pope the greatest failure of the modern society pursuant to its break from Christianity is the recognition of a woman’s right to choose abortion for herself. He does not tell us why the unborn child, even if it is illegitimate and the result of rape or incest, must be born. Why are the rights of a potential person more valuable than those of a woman? How did he deduce from Genesis that a fetus, even in the earliest stages of its development, is a person? If something cannot exist or live on its own how can it be called a life and have rights? Why must the state enforce Christian values if the church has failed to teach it to its own followers? Why must non-Christians living in a Christian state be forced to practice the Christian doctrine of the ‘right to life?’ The author does not answer these questions but tries to convince us that if we just lived our lives as if God existed, even if we didn’t believe it, and imposed Christian values on ourselves we would come to believe that He does indeed exist.
The author describes Faith as being a fundamental human attitude; we exhibit it in everyday life in our use of technology and pharmaceuticals made by others. It is essential for human life to function. Although it is of lesser value than knowledge, it is still fundamental to human existence, for the very survival of society.
Throughout the book the author laments Europe’s lack of connection to its Christian roots and would like Europe to re-connect with its past values, but to what end? It is naïve on his part to assume that the sanctity of human life would be restored if people had Christian values. To an enlightened reader the author himself appears to be disconnected from Christianity’s past. Is the Pope not aware of the bloodshed in the name of Christianity? He also does not take into consideration that it was only after Europe distanced itself from Christianity that it began to make progress. Scientific progress became possible only after commitment to scientific truth came to be valued more than religion. Women attained liberty and equality after justice based on secular values characterized the function of the state.
In the Foreword by Marcello Pera, Galileo is quoted as saying “It is the intention of the Holy Spirit to teach us how to go to heaven, not how heaven goes.” It is the contention of the Holy Quran that a revealed scripture should be able to do both, and there can be no conflict between the Word of God and the Act of God (science). The Holy Quran challenges us to find such a contradiction in the following words, “Say, ‘Allah Who knows every secret that is in the heavens and the earth has revealed the Quran. Indeed, He is Most Forgiving, Merciful.’” (Al Surah Al-Furqan 25:7) And again, “No incongruity canst thou see in the creation of the Gracious God. Then look again: Seest thou any flaw? Aye, look again, and yet again, thy sight will only return unto thee confused and fatigued.” (Al Surah Al-Mulk 67:4-5)
We believe that in a trilateral discussion between the Christians, atheists or agnostics and the Ahmadi Muslims, we can find appropriate Faith and Reason and the right balance between the two. If Faith and Reason are based on good foundation, they do not have to be polar opposite. They can be synergistic, as Albert Einstein has said, “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
In the past several centuries in Europe, there have been only two parties to the debate for human civilization, Christianity and the Enlightenment scientific culture, with emphasis on agnosticism. Each party has denied the strengths of the other lest it self-annihilates herself. With the arrival of a third party in Europe, namely of Islam, as understood by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, an open, honest and rational discussion has begun. In this trilateral dialogue we can not only find solutions for the crisis of Europe, but also for Asia, Americas, Africa and Australia!
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Book Review: ‘Jesus Died in Kashmir: Jesus, Moses and the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel’ by Andreas Faber-Kaiser
Reviewed by Amtul Mussawir Mansoor
A. Faber Kaiser, a philosopher and a scholar of comparative religions, heard of the ‘Kashmir Hypothesis’ and became interested when he discovered that there was a tomb in Kashmir that belonged to Jesus. He himself decided to go to Kashmir and investigate the hypothesis more thoroughly. In his book, he examines the evidence and presents historical and physical proofs, that Jesus Christ, in fact, survived the crucifixion, and travelled East, to find the “Children of Israel,” in order to complete his mission. The purpose of this book was to inform a large sector of the public about the possibility that Jesus did not die on the cross and did not ascend physically to heaven. This possibility is not widely known.
The accepted Christian dogma regarding Jesus is that he was crucified at noon on a Friday, and then on the same day before sunset, the body was taken down from the cross and his body was given to Joseph of Arimathaea and was laid to rest in his sepulcher. A large stone blocked the entrance of the tomb and on Sunday, the body was gone from the tomb. In this way, the Biblical prophecy was fulfilled and Jesus had risen from the dead. After visiting his disciples, he ascended to heaven to sit on the right hand of God. The author incidentally points out regarding this Biblical description that “there is no historical evidence that Jesus did die on the cross, and there is no record that anyone witnessed the resurrection.” He further says, “but there is considerable evidence that a man with the same ideas and philosophy as Jesus set out eastwards at precisely this time, leaving behind him a trail of proof of his life and acts. This man made his way to Kashmir, where he remained until death.” In addition, the author points out that “there is evidence that Jesus visited Kashmir during his youth, of which the Bible says virtually nothing more than that he visited Jerusalem when he was twelve.”
Tomb of Jesus in Srinagar
The four canonical gospels mention the events regarding the birth of Jesus but then jump ahead to when he was 30 years of age when he was baptized by John and began his ministry, except for a brief mention when he was at the tender age of 12 year old.
Andreas Faber-Kaiser has assembled an arresting body of evidence to throw new light on these questions. This evidence supports a completely new concept of Jesus. For Example, among a group of people living in Kashmir today calling themselves ‘Children of Israel,’ the author has found a living descendent of Jesus with a complete family tree tracing his descent over 2000 years.
Calmly and persuasively, this book examines revolutionary new findings and theories to reveal how Christ survived the ordeal of crucifixion, went East to find the ‘Children of Israel’ – and completed his mission on Earth.
To read Andreas Faber-Kaiser’s book click here
To read the review click here
The History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon
By Dr. Shahid Malik, Binghamton, NY
This article describes the compilation of the New Testament and will look into the basic facts as what books it contains, when were they written, who were their authors, how they were copied and transmitted down through the ages, and lastly how they were collected together into a canon of scripture.
The New Testament contains twenty-seven separate books arranged in four groups, according to genre. It begins with the gospels, including four accounts of the life, ministry, death and assumed resurrection of Jesus. Next is the book of Acts, a historical account of the life of the Christian Church and its missionary efforts after the resurrection of Jesus. The third group contains twenty-one Epistles, which are the actual letters written by Christian leaders, most prominently the apostle Paul to Christian communities and individuals, dealing with the problem of faith and church administration. The New Testament ends with an apocalyptic vision of the end of the world as we know it, the Revelation of John.
The New Testament consists of four gospels named after their alleged authors as Mark, Matthew, Luke and John. The first gospel written was the gospel of Mark in 65-70 AD probably written a decade after the Pauline letters, the next were the gospels of Mathew and Luke written 80-85 AD and lastly the gospel of John was written in 90-95 AD. Even though the gospels go under the name of authors mentioned above but in fact, they were written anonymously. These authors’ titles were included in the English bible in later additions and were not original to the gospels themselves. The gospel narrations are always written in the third person. The earliest gospels were written in Greek and the writers seems to be well educated, literate, Greek-speaking Christians, in contrast to the apostles of Jesus, who were uneducated, lower class, illiterate, Aramaic-speaking peasants. The bottom line is that we don’t know the identity of the real authors of the gospels and it seems probable that none of the gospels were actually written by any of Jesus’ closest followers.
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Book Review: ‘Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew’ by Prof. Bart Ehrman
Reviewed by Ijaz Ahmad, Rochester, NY
Millions of people worldwide consider the New Testament to be the true word of God. However, recorded history tells a somewhat different tale of forgeries, debates, and a countless exchange of derision. How exactly did this New Testament come about? Who wrote it and who put it together? Was the New Testament agreed upon by all Christians? Bart D. Ehrman illustrates the world of Christianity in the first three centuries after the death of Jesus Christ leading up to the formation of what we today know as the New Testament in his book “Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew.”
The book itself is conveniently organized to tell a story utilizing factual evidence (for the most part). The book is divided into three parts. The first part explores different written texts and works that didn’t make it into the New Testament. The second part focuses on the forms of Christianity that eventually disappeared and became “lost.” These forms were declared heretical by the ‘proto-orthodox’ Christians (those Christians whose beliefs became the mainstream beliefs of Christianity). The third part explores the rise of the ‘proto-orthodoxy’ and the eventual formation of the New Testament and Christianity.
Ehrman explores various written works and Gospels that were never included into the canon (a collection of written works) of the New Testament. The Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas are just a few of the numerous other written works that some early forms of Christians believed in. The book presents an overview of what these early written works discussed and why they weren’t included in the canon of the New Testament.
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Book Review: ‘Letter to a Christian nation’ by Sam Harris
Reviewed by Atif Mir, Canada
In Letter to a Christian nation, Sam Harris makes a sneering, feeble and condescending attempt to demonstrate that religion is an imagination of human mind and the sooner humanity discards it, the better. The letter echoes ideas of his previous book, The End of Faith, in which he had said:
“There seems…to be a problem with some of our most cherished beliefs about the world: they are leading us inexorably ,to kill one another…It seems that if our species ever eradicates itself through war, it will not be because it was written in the stars but because it was written in our books.”
In response to his book, The End of Faith, Harris had received a very “hostile communication” from Christians. It is in response to this hostile communication, he wrote, Letter to a Christian Nation, to respond to many of the arguments that Christians put forward in defense of their religious beliefs. In the letter, however, Harris makes two flawed assumptions upon which he builds his intellectual edifice.
The two flawed assumptions he makes are:
1. All faiths are antithetical to western values. Islam due to its ideology of jihad is worse because it threatens freedom of people living in west.
2. The moral value of rational atheism can replace religious morality
This article will discuss that Christianity is more vulnerable to the attacks of Harris because its teachings, though divine, have become distorted with the passage of time. Harris holds Christianity responsible for corporal punishment, intolerance, and other moral shortcomings that apparently he can’t seem to find in Islam. That is why Harris invokes Jihad and Islam’s agenda of world conquest to prove that Islam, instead of being a more modern religion, is a greater threat to the West than Christianity. His argument to replace all religions with rational atheism is nothing but a vague assertion without any deep philosophical foundations and hence not comparable to Islamic moral system.
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Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
By Prof. Bart Ehrman
Here is a detailed lecture by Prof. Bart Ehrman, describing the compilation of the Bible, how copies of the copies were made in the medieval ages, introducing countless mistakes. Ehrman’s Book, “Misquoting Jesus” (1 of 5):
In this book he has written, “There are more differences among our manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.”
Once our Christian brethren and sisters fully grasp the limitations of the Holy Bible, some of them may be willing to trade it in for the Holy Quran. Let us see if you are one of them?
If you are already a Muslim then the good news for you is that the Holy Quran says, “Blessed is Allah, Who has sent down the Discrimination (the Quran) to His servant, that he may be a Warner to all the worlds.” (Al Surah Al-Furqan 25:2)
The All Knowing God has given the learned Muslims a yard stick or litmus test to distinguish and discriminate between truth and make belief. Some of them have an immediate ability to be a judge of scholarship of New Testament researchers like Ehrman, if they pick up the right yard stick from the Holy Quran.
For a review of the book click here
Book Review: ‘Who Wrote the Bible?’ by Richard Elliot Friedman
Reviewed by Dr. Niaz Ahmed, Binghamton, NY
Is the Bible authentic? Surely, it is one of, if not the most influential book in our modern time. It has, and currently is being studied in depth not only as sacred text, but also as literature, and history. Richard Elliot Friedman, a renowned biblical scholar, and author of, “Who Wrote the Bible?” is a Harvard graduate, and currently the professor of Jewish studies at the University of Georgia. In his book, he focuses primarily on the author (or authors, as you will see later) of the five books of Moses (IE. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). This compilation is known as the Pentateuch (from Greek, meaning “five scrolls”), or as you may well know, the Torah (from Hebrew, meaning “instruction”). From the long course of biblical analysis throughout history, to the formation of the Documentary Hypothesis of Julius Wellhausen, and finally to his own analysis, Friedman thoroughly explains the source of the texts of the Five books of Moses, as well as its influence on the next 6 books of the Old Testament. Using both historical and archeological evidence, tied with linguistic analysis of the Bible text, he systematically identifies the individual authors of the four main source documents (J, E, P, and D), while challenging certain aspects of the Documentary Hypothesis. In lieu of such analyses, any religious scholar would question the sanctity of such a book (considered to be a holy scripture), in being the word of God.
Friedman starts with the history of biblical studies and the analysis of the Bible’s foundation, which began with the long history of discriminatory action that even involved ex-communication of those who pursued such knowledge. Initial investigators had agreed with the old tradition of Moses as the original author, while still suggesting that a few lines may have been added here or there. Isaac ibn Yashush, a Jewish court Physician for a ruler during Muslim Spain, showed that a list of Edomite Kings in Genesis 36 actually named some kings who lived long after Moses, suggesting that this list was written by someone other than Moses (Friedman 18). He later became known as “Isaac the blunderer.” The man who gave him this label was Abraham ibn Ezra, a 12th-century Rabbi, who exclaimed, “His book deserves to be burned,” (referring to Isaac).
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Video Course Review: ‘Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad‘ by Prof. Mark Muesse
Reviewed by Rabia Mir, Canada
The Teaching Company vide course titled Confucius, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammad starts with the description of this book, The 100: A Ranking Of The Most Influential Persons In History.
One of the salient features of the Ministry of Buddhism and Confucius is that there is no mention of Trinity, Original Sin or other dogma of Christianity, but the Monotheism of Judaism and Islam can be traced into these teachings that have gone through changes over time. Additionally the insightful Prof. Mark Muesse describes Paul to be the founder of Christianity rather than Jesus himself. The shear act of putting the four sages in one bracket serves to raise the reader above many contemporary Western prejudices.
As religion comes to occupy the forefront of the socio-political stage, the academic arena, which has always been enamored with religious discourse, has now begun to dissect the purpose of religion: What each faith has to offer and what religion offers, on the whole, to humanity. Professor Mark W. Muesse in his set of lectures entitled Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad does precisely this. He considers the teachings of each of these men in light of their historical context and personal circumstances, and tries to redefine each man’s character based on his intent and action, rather than the persona imposed upon him by his followers. He acknowledges that western media’s portrayal of Prophet Muhammad has been unfair particularly his teachings regarding women’s rights and warfare.
Professor Mark W. Muesse proves himself to be a fine scholar who aims to understand what these four men had to offer to their followers, and thus how they acquired the great following that they did, and what their teachings can offer to humanity as a whole. He strives to understand their socio/political endeavors in light of their historical contexts and personal circumstance. His work is a rare glimpse into the actual struggle of these men to rise up out of their personal obstacles and redress the social issues of their times. Muesse’s perspective is secular, refreshingly unbiased, honest and foremost, as stated, contextual. His work is a phenomenal breakthrough in the study of religion, as he lays out the teachings of these men, not as their followers understood them, but as these four men intended them to be understood. Muesse has done what few scholars have managed to do: set aside his contextual time period and re-enter the time period of the great personalities he studies. As the world sees the re-emergence of religion, and witnesses a rising fundamentalism within every faith, and academics and scholars struggle to understand this re-emergence that has occurred despite the prevailing scientific order, Muesse offers his readers a profound window into humanity’s need and struggle to follow a path of nobility, as embodied particularly in the historical characters of these four sages.
To read Rabia Mir’s complete review click here
The description of the course on the Teaching Company website is:
Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad—four extraordinary sages who influenced world civilization more deeply than any other human beings in history.
As just one measure of their importance, current rankings of the most influential people in history consistently put Confucius, the Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad at or near the top of the list. Four centuries after the rise of the scientific worldview, their influence in human affairs continues to be fundamental, underscoring issues ranging from questions of ethics and justice to religious and political conflicts to other issues that dominate today’s headlines.
In the 21st century, much of humanity still looks to the lives, teachings, and actions of these four sages for guidance on how to live, for their conceptions of morality, and for understanding the most crucial human values.
Never merely historical figures, as models of human living they remain dynamically alive for countless millions of people around the world, exemplifying the moral and spiritual precepts our civilizations are built on. Taken together, their influence extends over most of the human population, from Asia to the Middle East and from Europe to the New World.
No understanding of human life, individual or collective, could be complete without factoring in the role and contribution of these history-shaping teachers.
Now, in Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad, award-winning Professor Mark W. Muesse of Rhodes College takes you deep into the life stories and legacies of these four iconic figures, revealing the core, original teachings, and thoughts of each, and shedding light on the historical processes that underlie their phenomenal, enduring impact.”
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The Teaching Company course: History of the Bible: The Making of the New Testament Canon
By Professor Bart D. Ehrman, M.Div., Ph.D., Princeton Theological Seminary, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The New Testament stands unchallenged, in the words of Professor Bart D. Ehrman, not only as the “‘bestseller’ of all time,” but also as the most important “book—or collection of books—in the history of Western civilization.”
Yet how many of us, Christian or otherwise, are as knowledgeable about the New Testament as we would like to be? Even many who consider themselves Christian find themselves asking some—perhaps even all—of the questions so often posed by those who are not.
What different kinds of books are in the New Testament? When, how, and why were they written? What do they teach? Who actually wrote them? How were they passed forward through history? And, perhaps most important of all, why and how did some books, and not others, come to be collected into what Christians came to consider the canon of Scripture that would define their belief for all time?
Professor Ehrman offers a fast-moving yet thorough introduction to these and other key issues in the development of Christianity.
Drawing on the award-winning teaching skills and style that have made him one of our most popular lecturers—respectful yet provocative, scholarly without sacrificing wit—Professor Ehrman has crafted a course designed to deepen the understanding of both Christians and non-Christians alike.
“The New Testament is appreciated and respected far more than it’s known, and that’s not just true among religious people who consider themselves Christian. …
“This set of lectures is designed to provide an introduction to the New Testament for people who recognize or appreciate its cultural importance, or who have religious commitments to it, but who have not yet had a chance to get to know where it came from, what it contains, and how it was transmitted down to us today.
“The focus in this course will be historical, rather than theological. The course does not either presuppose faith or deny faith. It’s based neither on faith nor skepticism. … It’s simply taught from the perspective of history.”
To order the DVD course click here