I am a cancer survivor who came to Islam through a search for universal truth and meaning. I explored many religions before converting to Islam. I was born to Christian and Buddhist parents and later in life took time to learn about other Eastern religions and Neo Paganism. After much searching, I found in Islam universal truth and simplicity.
The Quran states that prophets were sent around the globe to all mankind (10:47)(35:24).
Not only do I see a lot of similarities between Christianity and Islam, but I believe that the Quran was brought by the Prophet Mohammad to clear up misconceptions of the Scriptures (Old Testament and Gospels) and to “fulfill” the scriptures. Not to necessarily bring something new and radically different, but to safeguard and affirm the overall message of the past, while correcting what has been corrupted (like an update patch).
The key theme of the Quran is that there is no God but God, and partners should not be associated with God.
Not only does this mean that demi-gods or deities shouldn’t be associated with God, but the words of human beings (like scholars and clerics for example) should not be considered on par with God.
THE QURAN’S ROLE IN CORRECTING AND FULFILLING WHAT HAS COME BEFORE
“And believe in what I reveal, confirming the revelation which is with you.” (2:41)
“Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians – Any who believe in Allah And the Last Day, and work righteousness, Shall have their reward.” (2:62)
Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel – for he brings down the revelation to thy heart by Allah’s will, a confirmation of what went before. (2:97)
To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it and guarding it. In safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. (5:48)
WHAT DOES THE QURAN CORRECT?
There’s a lot to get into, but from what I can see, the Quran offers a simple, straightforward path to a pure monotheistic God that has no partners.
The Quran rejects the trinity of Christianity and the divinity of Jesus. It does not reject that Jesus (or the Prophet Isa) was a messenger of God.
The Quran encourages people to follow a simple way, rather than all the complications of the Old Testament.
WHAT DOES THE QURAN EXPECT OF BELIEVERS?
Over time people have added in all kinds of stuff to Islam to make it complicated and onerous. But it really is supposed to be a simple, straightforward religion.
“And they were commanded no more than this. To worship Allah, Offering him sincere devotion, being true (in faith), to establish regular prayer, and to practice regular charity; And that is the religion. Right and straight.” (Surah 98:5)
WHAT DOES THE QURAN SAY ABOUT JESUS (THE PROPHET ISA)?
Jesus and his Mother Mary are a symbol of God’s grace
And [as We exalted Moses, so, too,] We made the son of Mary and his mother a symbol [of Our grace], and provided for both an abode in a lofty place of lasting restfulness and unsullied springs. (23:50)
AND [remember] her who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit and caused her, together with her son, to become a symbol [of Our grace] unto all people. (21:91)
Therefore, Jesus and Mary (though not divine) can serve as archetypes for moral behavior for those wishing to reach God consciousness.
Jesus is a sign of Judgement Day (The Hour)
And indeed, Jesus will be [a sign for] knowledge of the Hour, so be not in doubt of it, and follow Me. This is a straight path. (43:61)
Jesus is near to God
Lo! The angels said: “O Mary! Behold, God sends thee the glad tiding, through a word from Him, [of a son] who shall become known as the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, of great honour in this world and in the life to come, and [shall be] of those who are drawn near unto God (3:45)
There is Guidance and Light in the Gospels
And We caused Jesus, the son of Mary, to follow in the footsteps of those [earlier prophets], confirming the truth of whatever there still remained of the Torah; and We vouchsafed unto him the Gospel, wherein there was guidance and light, confirming the truth of whatever there still remained of the Torah, and as a guidance and admonition unto the God-conscious. (5:46)
So the Gospels shouldn’t be thrown into the trash. While there are corruptions (which the Quran corrects), there is still some guidance and light. It is still worth reading, once you have a firm understanding of what the Quran corrects.
God does not make any distinction between his messengers. They all made important contributions and are worth study. But some are more gifted than others. And gifted in different ways.
Some of these apostles have We endowed more highly than others: among them were such as were spoken to by God [Himself], and some He has raised yet higher.’ And We vouchsafed unto Jesus, the son of Mary, all evidence of the truth, and strengthened him with holy inspiration. (2:253)
We should learn about and honor all the prophets (not just Mohammad alone). We should recognize that Jesus’s particular gift was that he was strengthened with the holy spirit, and that if we want to strengthen our holy spirit and inner light, we should study Jesus. Not just as he is described in the Quran (although that source is more reliable than the Gospels). But since there is guidance and light in the Gospels, it is worth reading Jesus’s teachings in the Gospels (as long as you read it acknowledging that he’s not a God, but an example of a perfect servant to God). And there are many other things the Quran corrects about the Gospels (which I’ll get into later), but they are still worth reading.
HOW TO FIND WHAT IS TRUE AND WHAT IS NOT TRUE?
“We cannot invent our own values, because we cannot merely impose what we believe on our souls. This was Carl Jung’s great discovery.” – Jordan Peterson
What is true and what is not true? Truth is what works. Truth is what has allowed human beings to survive and even thrive for thousands of years. Ultimately, truth is a set of laws that have stood the test of time.
Nature is a bastion of truth, because nature is a system that has lasted billions of years, it is a grim arbiter of life and death that punishes the weak and rewards the strong.
However, before people get too excited about such Nietzschean ethics, it is actually to peoples’ benefit to cooperate with one another and to see each other as members of a shared tribe. This is why religions such as Christianity and Islam have been so successful. There is a message about unity, the sanctity of human life and that all humans are brothers and sisters of a singular family.
In Christianity and Islam there is also a message about helping the lowest members of a society, which is necessary because if you do not help the lowest people, they will eventually get fed up and overthrow the system in pursuit of a better one.
This is pretty much what happened at the beginning of the twentieth century. Gilded Age Capitalism had become so extreme that ideas like Communism and National Socialism became attractive. People became willing to kill and commit cruel atrocities in pursuit of overthrowing what they saw as a criminal system. This did not work, because Communism and National Socialism ended up being even worse ideologies. However, does that mean the prevailing ideology of today is correct?
So what is the predominant ideology of today? If you look to the universities, the education system, and the media, which hold themselves up as the arbiter of knowledge and truth, you get post-modernism, an idea that is defined by an attitude of skepticism, irony, and a rejection and deconstruction of meta-narratives. From this comes the idea that there is no clear truth, that anything can be true, and that tolerance of all truths is the ultimate value (particularly those that are under-represented).
But if all things are true, and the mainstream values that have propped up Western Civilization are apparently questionable, this introduces a great deal of nihilism. When there is no clear, definable truth, life is chaos. It has no meaning. It has no point. So why keep going?
It has been the purpose of the great philosophies and religions throughout history to answer the question of ultimate meaning. Today’s values have very short term roots in history. And it is said that a tree with shallow roots will be blown away by the storm.
DOES MANKIND NEED RELIGION?
I’ll admit, I don’t think I have all the answers. And I think there are certainly people out there who have found ways to live meaningful lives without religion, or merely by following a philosophy.
But in my opinion, a religion is something that provides a path for people to conquer their lower self (their Id, their base animal instincts and desires) in pursuit of their higher self (their superego, their connection to the universe and each other, God consciousness). Religion also gives people a sense of meaning, which is vital to conquering the chaos and confusion that is the suffering of life.
In today’s Post-Modern age, it is believed that people can choose their own values. Or that everything is true and the tolerance of all ideas (particularly those that are under-represented) is the highest value. Yet when there is nothing that is objectively true or good, this leads to despair.
I think there are objective truths out there. I think these are the truths represented in the different religions and philosophies of the world. And I know these things are true because they helped humanity build civilizations that lasted hundreds if not thousands of years. For those who simply want to characterize the past as a patriarchal struggle for power, they do not appreciate the fact that life for our ancestors was rough. It was a brutal struggle for survival where our ancestors had to witness a large number of their children die, and were vulnerable to disease, war, famine and the harsh elements of the natural world. Systems of behavior and value were put into place to help people survive and even triumph over the harsh trials of life. In modern times with modern conveniences, it’s easy to judge our ancestors more harshly than they deserve.
However, I think there are also some aspects of how religion is practiced today that are no longer serving people, or are creating more problems than they’re solving. People have added onerous traditions and rituals onto the religion that are not necessary, and now these things are making people suffer.
Islam, with its message of following a straight and simple path of submission to an all powerful God by conquering the lower self (via fasting, prayer, charity and abstaining from worldly desire) in pursuit of the higher self does present a message with truth behind it. And it seeks to create a straight and simple path to God by getting rid of polytheism, false idols and unnecessary rituals.
Anyways. I plan to add on to this more later. This is what I have for now.