THE CHRISTIAN KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Organisation of the Islamic Conference
In the recent turn of events happening on the world stage the ummah has again come under the criticism and the scrutiny of the world in general and the West in particular.
After the tragic attacks of the September 11, 2001 the President of the United States Mr George Bush gave a televised speech where he chose to address the Muslim world directly. There was no accusation made against the Muslims of the world but it was clear that Mr Bush did not address any other faith or religion in his address. Then the call to be "either with us or you are against us" was made which sounded more of a threat and again aimed at the ummah.
After the event of the September 11th, there has been a very resurgent interest in Islam and the Muslim ummah but unfortunately not in a positive manner. There is a great interest now among the West and the world at large to look at Islam with a view to pinpoint at what is wrong with the Muslims.
The recent comment by the American Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Lieutenant General William G Boykins that the Muslims are worshippers of idols and that Muslims are violent terrorists only highlights the real feelings and attitudes of the Christian West towards the ummah.
I would like to take this opportunity to address the West and the whole world directly and provide some explanation which may help to allay the fears of the West. The gist of my message is that the ummah of today shares a common heritage with the Western world. And when I say the Western world I mean that part of the world which derives its philosophy from the Christian religion and the teachings of the Bible and the Scriptures.
Though it may not be fashionable to associate religion with anything in the West today, nevertheless the idea of Christian values, Christian virtues and Christian civilization is not fully out of vogue yet in the West.
I have chosen to call this message 'A Common Heritage: The Christian Kingdom of Saudi Arabia'. I must insist that I mean no disrespect to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or to any one else whether Muslim or Christian but merely to show that many of our beliefs and accepted teachings are from a common heritage. There is more that connects the largely Christian West and the Muslim ummah together than sets us apart.
The ?Muslim ummah? is also practicing Christian beliefs but derived largely from the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. The Christians and the West need not worry about "reactionary" Islam or now the more in vogue "terrorist Islam".
The West can and should actually embrace their brethren in the Muslim ummah and welcome us as brothers in faith. The religion practiced as Islam today has evolved much from the time of the Prophet Mohamed and it has changed a lot along the way to reach the shape it is now. In the beginning there was a very simple Islam that was revealed to the Prophet which was sufficiently encapsulated in just one book which is the Quran. But due to the close and very congenial relations between the early Muslims and the old Christians many acceptable beliefs from Christianity have been added to Islam.
Today what is often considered as part of Islam like the covering of the head for women, which has become a point of much discussion in the West, is actually not found in the Muslim holy book the Quran. It is therefore not part of the original teachings of the Prophet Mohamed. Rather it is taken from the Christian Bible and incorporated into the religion because we considered it as an acceptable belief.
Similarly many of the beliefs that are considered Islamic are actually derived from the Jewish scriptures and Christian scriptures. This happened after the time of the Prophet Mohamed. This is simply because after the Prophet Mohamed many Muslim scholars were converts from Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Judaism. Religion was not used to divide but instead the scholars and doctors sought to seek common grounds between them. Hence they were allowed to incorporate their old beliefs from Christianity and Judaism into Islam. To such an extent that the practiced ?Islam? of today is often a verbatim manifestation of the Christian Bible and the Jewish scripture. None of these Biblical teachings were known to the Prophet Mohamed and they cannot be found in the Quran at all but I am happy to tell you that the scholars of Islam are unanimous in accepting these beliefs as part of our religion today.
Therefore our practices like the covering of the head for women should not be contentious at all. Other than the head covering for women, our other practices like ....
- circumcision of males
- punishment of stoning to death for adultery
- punishment of stoning to death for apostasy
- wearing of beards for men
- dietary prohibition of many types of food
- belief of displaying holy writings on the wall
- belief that woman is created from man
- collection of religious tithes or zakat
- injunction against graven images like statutes, sculptures, human and
animal life forms
- religious injunction that menstruating women are spiritually unclean
- ritualized blessing of "Amen" said in the mosques
- concept of "aqedah" as faith
- animal sacrifice "aqeqah" for the birth of children
- celebration of the festival of Eid at the end of Ramadan
.... are all derived from the Christian and Jewish scriptures. This list is only the beginning. It is not exhaustive. These beliefs are not found anywhere in the Quran which is in fact the earliest and only teaching of the Prophet Muhammad. But these teachings can be found in very exact detail in the Christian Bible and the Jewish scriptures.
The Christian West should therefore credit it to the great tolerance and absorption of the early scholars and generations of the Muslim ummah, many of whom were converts from Christianity and Judaism, that they were able to bring with them a vast spectrum of Christian and Jewish beliefs which were accepted and are practiced by Muslims as part of Islam today. Therefore there is no need for the Christian West or the Judeo-Christian world to be apprehensive about Islam.
As the Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) I would like to take this opportunity to enlighten the Christian West and the Muslim ummah as well about our common heritage that should bind us together instead of dividing us.
I would like to begin with the issue of the wearing of the head covering for women. In light of the post September 11th events, this issue has been frequently highlighted in the Western media involving Muslim schoolgirls prohibited from wearing the head covering in France and elsewhere.
1. HEAD COVER FOR WOMEN ORIGINATES FROM THE BIBLE
As I mentioned before the wearing of the head covering for women is not part of the Prophet?s teachings and is not found in the Quran. It is a belief and a practice that was taken by the early Muslim scholars from the Christian Bible. Again this clearly shows the great tolerance and acceptance of the Muslim scholars and the Muslim ummah towards the teachings taken from the Christian Bible.
The wearing of the head covering for women is from the Bible, 1st Corinthians, chapter 11 :
Revised Standard Version
[1Cor 11:5] but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head- it is the same as if her head were shaven.
[1Cor 11:6] For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil.
[1Cor 11:10] That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels.
[1Cor 11:13] Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?
So the commandment for a woman to cover her head is in the Bible. This belief has seeped into the Muslim belief and has now become part and parcel of the practice of Islam today. The West has no problem with Catholicism putting its nuns in head cover. Surely Mother Theresa would not be considered a terrorist on account of her nun's habit. In Europe today Catholic schools still encourage young girls to take up the wearing of the Catholic head cover.
Unfortunately under the guise of modernity, a vast majority of Christians themselves today are not following the teachings of the Bible - the large majority of Christian women do not cover the head. Hence it is the Muslim ummah who are very good Christians because they still uphold these Bible teachings. As I have said the covering of the head for women is not found in the Quran.
2. CIRCUMCISION IS ALSO DERIVED FROM THE BIBLE
Sunni and Shia ?Muslims? believe that circumcision is a part of their belief and practice circumcision widely. The truth is God and the Prophet never asked the Muslims to circumcise anyone. God says that He made the human in a perfect shape:
[Koran : Chapter 40:64 ] "Allah it is Who appointed for you the earth for a dwelling-place and the sky for a canopy, and fashioned you and perfected your shapes, and hath provided you with good things. Such is Allah, your Lord. Then blessed be Allah, the Lord of the Worlds!"
Indeed God has made us perfect - including the foreskin on the male. There is no need for the human to improve on God's creation - even as an option or an exercise of freewill.
But where does the Muslim belief in circumcision come from ? Once again the answer lies in the Bible. The Covenant of Circumcision in the Bible states.
[Gen 17:14.13] Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."
[Gen 17:24.16] Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.
This is the Covenant of Circumcision. Later Muslims have found this belief acceptable and have incorporated it into their Muslim practises. Again this shows much similarity between Islam and Christianity and proves the tolerance of Islam in absorbing Christian teachings and values from the Bible.
It is the vogue now for the Christian West to raise the alarm about the so called 'Islamic State'. They should not really be afraid. Very often what these Islamic states are doing is implementing nothing more than what is already in the Christian Bible. Very often all the precepts and beliefs for the Islamic state particularly the Shariah Law is based almost entirely on the early Bible tecahings. They are not found in the Quran at all and therefore do not form part of the Prophet's teachings. An Islamic State under Shariah Law is an euphemism for a Biblical Theocracy. This reflects the tolerance of the Muslim faith in accepting and incorporating Biblical teachings into Islam.
Head cover for women, circumcision for converts and other beliefs are all ideas borrowed from the Christian Bible. What has happened is that over time the ideas from the Jewish and Christian theological texts has influenced the Muslim beliefs. In fact this event has also been foretold in the Quran :
[Al-Imran 3:100] O ye who believe! If ye obey a party of the people of the Book, they will make you disbelievers after your belief.
[Al-Imran 3:101] How can ye disbelieve, when it is ye unto whom Allah's revelations are recited, and His messenger is in your midst ? He who holdeth fast to Allah, he indeed is guided unto a right path.
God and the Prophet brought the Quran to the whole ummah. But it is a credit to the great tolerance and understanding of Islam that the Muslim ummah have picked up the Biblical teachings. The fervour to set up and Islamic State is nothing more than establishing the Biblical Theocracy. Let the Lord's Kingdom come.
3. SHARIAH LAWS TAKEN FROM THE BIBLE : PUNISHMENT FOR ADULTERY
The recent cases of stoning women to death for adultery in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria are laws that are not from the Quran. God and the Prophet never taught the Muslims to stone anyone to death as part of the Shariah Law. The words Shariah Law are not even mentioned in the Quran. The truth is the law for stoning to death as punishment for adultery is taken from the Bible. It cannot be found in the Quran and does not form part of the Prophet's early teachings.
The Bible states explicitly:
[Deut 22:20 - 21] But if the thing is true, that the tokens of virginity were not found in the young woman, then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has wrought folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father's house; so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you.
This is also the Shariah Law of the Muslims today.
[Deut 22:22] "If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall purge the
evil from Israel.
[Deut 22:23 - 24] "If there is a betrothed virgin, and a man meets her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city, and you shall stone them to death with stones, the young woman because she did not cry for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbor's wife; so you shall purge the evil from the midst of you.
Hence the law of stoning people to death is Biblical which has been accepted by the Muslims who came after the Prophet as evidence of a great tolerance in Islam for absorbing and upholding Biblical teachings. The Christian West should not hold the Muslim ummah in disgust for upholding Biblical laws.
[Lev 20:10] "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death.
This is Biblical too. The Shariah Laws of Islam come from the Bible. What does the Quran say ?
[an-Nur 24:2] The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of believers witness their punishment.
Indeed the Quran prescribes a punishment for adultery. But the punishment meted out is a scourge of 100 lashes. The Quran remains silent on the mode and intensity and leaves it to the good judgement of the future generations of mankind.
4. SHARIAH LAW FROM THE BIBLE - THE PUNISHMENT FOR APOSTASY
The United Nations Charter on Human Rights guarantees the freedom of religion. This right is also guaranteed in the Quran. God and the Prophet guarantee all humans that they have the right to believe or disbelieve as they choose. No man has the right to deny anyone his right to freedom of religion. But the human will be held accountable for whatever he chooses to believe.
The Biblical teachings however say that anyone who blasphemes or becomes an apostate from his faith must be punished with death. The following is clear from the Bible:
And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, [and] all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name [of the LORD], shall be put to death.
Included among those who must be put to death are those who bring teachings contrary to the accepted faith or who promote changing the religion. This would include the deviants. The Bible punishes them with death as follows:
And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn [you] away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.
If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which [is] as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;
[Namely], of the gods of the people which [are] round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the [one] end of the earth even unto the [other] end of the earth;
Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:
But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.
And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
Again it is the great tolerance and flexible nature of Islam today that these Biblical teachings have been absorbed and are practiced as part of the Islamic Shariah Law. In the Shariah Law of Islam, any Muslim who changes his religion, believes in other religions or even practises a faith different from the mainstream can be put to death. Under the Shariah Law anyone who changes his religion must be put to death. Although this is not part of the Prophet's teachings in the Quran, present day Muslims have absorbed such teachings from the Christian Bible to show their proximity to the Christian faith. Hence there should not be a cause for difference between Islam and the Christian West. We have much in common with each other.
The Prophet no doubt taught us in the Quran that anyone has the freedom to believe or disbelieve as they choose. The Quran is very clear.
[4.137] Surely (as for) those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, Allah will not forgive them nor guide them in the (right) path.
Belief followed by disbelief followed by belief and then again followed by disbelief and further disbelief is a question of choice. God will decide what best to do with the individual and his choice of belief. There is no earthly punishmnet prescribed in the Quran for those who belief or disbelief.
The list is very long. I will not belabour you and take up too much of your valuable time. Just to give you a concise picture I will list some other beliefs that the Muslims practise today which are not found in the Quran but which are taken from the Christian Bible. Unfortunately because of the ignorance of the general ummah as well as the ordinary Christian people, these beliefs are manipulated by some clever people as excuses to create a rift between the West and Islam.
5. THE TALIBAN'S DESTRUCTION OF STATUES IN BAMIYAN
We all recall the huge hue and cry when the Taliban destroyed priceless ancient treasures in Bamiyan. Under the guise of religion, the Taliban insisted correctly that the statues of the Buddha were idols and had to be destroyed. The Taliban based their actions on Islamic beliefs that have actually been absorbed from the Christian Bible. The Prophet never taught Muslims in the Quran that statues must be destroyed. But it is Biblical teaching that graven images must be destroyed.
15 "Cursed is the man who carves an image or casts an idol-a thing detestable to the LORD , the work of the craftsman's hands-and sets it up in secret."
16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, 17 or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, 18 or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below.
The Muslims have absorbed these Biblical teachings which forbid the making of graven images from stone carvings and other forms. Again this reflects the immense capacity of Islam to tolerate and learn from the Christian Bible. The Quran does not say anywhere that statues or graven images are forbidden or that they must be destroyed. The Christian West has to take account of these truths and give the due credit to Islam for giving fresh life to the Biblical teachings. Islam's proximity to the Bible is much deeper than what the Christian West would like to acknowledge.
6. THE WEARING OF BEARDS FOR MEN
The Christian West has also been disturbed by the Islamic practise where men wear beards. After the event of the September 11th, many Muslim men with beards have been the subject of suspicion and summary searches by police and other law enforcement agencies throughout the West.
These are again not the teachings of the Prophet or the Quran. Instead the wearing of beards for men is taken again from the Christian Bible. Islam has deemed it fit that Muslim men should uphold this religious practise from the Bible. The Christian Bible makes it clear.
27 " 'Do not cut the hair at the sides of your head or clip off the edges of your beard.
5 " 'Priests must not shave their heads or shave off the edges of their beards or cut their bodies.
2 Samuel 10
5 When David was told about this, he sent messengers to meet the men, for they were greatly humiliated. The king said, "Stay at Jericho till your beards have grown, and then come back."
Hence the Taliban is not creating anything new when they insisted that men should wear beards. Such teachings are found in the Christian Bible. No doubt the Prophet and the Quran make no mention about the wearing of beards for men but it is the evolution of Islam after the Prophet that attests to Islam's greatness as a religion that has absorbed much from its neighbours, particularly the Christian Bible and the Jewish scriptures.
Muslim scholars over time have themselves debated if the Muslims should continue to uphold these Biblical teachings which are not found in the own Quran. Indeed they are bound by the restrictions in the Quran which are equally clear:
[Quran 2.120] And the Jews will not be pleased with you, nor the Christians until you follow their religion. Say: Surely Allah's guidance, that is the (true) guidance. And if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have no guardian from Allah, nor any helper.
The Muslims are told in the Quran that they should not follow the path of the Christians and the Jews. Despite such warning, it is to their great risk and adventurous tolerance that the Muslim scholars have decided to still accept and practise the teachings of the Christian Bible.
The Quran is explicit that the Muslims should not obey the Christians or the Jews:
[3.100] O you who believe! if you obey a party from among those who have been given the Book, they will turn you back as unbelievers after you have believed.
[3.101] But how can you disbelieve while it is you to whom the communications of Allah are
The risk in following the Christian Bible is compounded in the following teaching of the Quran:
[Quran 3.69] A party of the followers of the Book desire that they should lead you astray, and they lead not astray but themselves, and they do not perceive.
[Quran 3.70] O followers of the Book! Why do you disbelieve in the communications of Allah while you witness (them)?
[Quran 3.71] O followers of the Book! Why do you confound the truth with the falsehood and hide the truth while you know?
Despite such warnings, the Muslim scholars, in the interests of preserving harmony and peace with their Christian brothers and sisters have decided that the Biblical teachings are acceptable and should be closely upheld by good Muslims. Therefore the fear by the Christian West is misplaced and unfounded.
In conclusion and as the Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference which represents all the Muslim nations in the world, I would like to state that both Muslims and the Christian West should study and take cognisance of the vast area of similarity between the Muslim beliefs and Christian Biblical teachings.
In this age of high tensions, paranoia and fear of everything that is deemed Islamic, the Christian West should appreciate the fact that since a thousand years ago, the Muslim scholars have already shown a great tolerance towards Christianity by learning and absorbing many parts of the Christian Bible into their Islamic faith.
All the things that I have listed above that are taken from the Christian Bible cannot be found in the Muslim's own Quran. Even though the Quran has explicitly forbidden the Muslims from following anything in the Christian Bible the reality of everyday living and practical contacts with the Christians and the Jews have necessitated that Islam be flexible towards Biblical teachings.
This flexibility is evident in Islam until today. In this light I hope that all the Muslims all over the world will make the effort to show their Christian brothers the great amount of our Islamic faith that is drawn from the Christian Bible. At the same time I urge the Christian West too as well as the Jews to give Islam the due credit for basing much of its practical faith in their Christian Bible and Jewish scriptures. We have more that is common between us than actually divides us.