30 April 2011

Do You Love Jesus?


"Muslim? You are Islam? You must be one confused child. How can you love Jesus when you are Islam?"

years ago, I was a young accountant struggling to complete my articleship in Perth, Australia. The pay wasn't much but adequate to allow me bus trips between home and office. Being an Asian in a white-dominant country, I was subject to many weird and interesting conversations surrounding ethnicity, nationality, culture and most apparently, religion. I get repeated questions such as: why I sometimes don't eat during lunch time (Ramadhan)?; why Coca Cola seems to be my favourite beverage when others are having champagne and wine?; why I disappear for 2 hours during lunch time on Fridays?; why my breakfast is croissant with cheese instead of with bacon?; and of course, my favourite "Do you love Jesus?"

Do I love Jesus? Wow! How do I answer that? A typical conservative Muslim would probably say 'No' straight away at the back of a perceived presumption that loving Jesus is loving Christianity. In the spirit of historical context, I must say that the most appropriate answer for a Muslim ought to be 'Yes'. Didn't Jesus appeared in the Quran as the chosen one to be God's messenger? He was referred to as Isa and of course Islam encourages Muslims to know at least 25 prophets sent by God (Allah) which includes Jesus. What is more interesting is that the Quran also mentioned, in a number of occasions, Mary (referred to as Maryam) mother of Jesus, who was endowed with the miracle of virgin pregnancy. I must say that to the Christians out there, it must be very confusing to comprehend the simple fact that there are a lot of similarities between Christian and Islam,... and Judaism to many extent, but yet differences do exist.

One night I was waiting for a bus to go home from work. A priest (unsure whether he was preaching Catholism or Protestant) approached me and asked "Sir, may I ask, do you love Jesus?". I replied "Errr... well I do". He went a step further in his probing "So you embrace Christianity?" and I said "Nope". With a shocking face, he asked "How is that possible? If you love Jesus but yet question the faith he has brought to us, you are living an incomplete life".

To make the conversation interesting, I threw the spanner in "Really? I am Muslim and I think that's pretty complete". With a more puzzled face, the poor priest went "Muslim? You are Islam? You must be one confused child. How can you love Jesus when you are Islam? Don't you know Christian crusaders fought Islamic conquerers for hundreds of years? Obviously that has to mean that you lot (Muslims) must have something against the teachings of Jesus? But yet you are Islam when you say you love him?". I smiled "Sorry Sir,... I must apologise. Do give me the chance to clear your confusion. It'll only do justice to Jesus himself if you allow me to."

"Let's not use the word love. Let's replace it with 'believe'. Not only do we (Muslims) believe in Jesus, we also believe in Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Jonah, Solomon, David, Moses and many more which may or may not appear in your sciptures (Old and New Testaments) or ours (Quran). We (Christians and Muslims) belong to the same root. Abraham is the father of Christians via Isaac and the father of Muslims via Ismael. Both names, Isaac and Ismael, appear in your Bible. In fact, most of the prophets I mentioned earlier are Hebrew expecially those from the decendants of Isaac which includes Jesus. For lack of better words, Jesus is, or was Jew, or rather, Hebrew. So you see, all three, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, came from the same root, the People of the Book!"

"What is different is that, the followers of Moses refused to follow Jesus unlike their fathers before them who continued their faith in believing in prophets that came to replace one after another from Isaac all the way to Moses. They remained as Jews. The followers of Jesus became Christians. History repeated itself when God Almighty sent Muhammad, peace be upon him ('pbuh'), from the Bedouin tribes of the decendants of Ismael. The Christians refused to accept an updated messenger. The followers of Muhammad, pbuh, are the Muslims. So you see, with all your (Christianity/Judaism) prophets being mentioned in our Quran, we Muslims believe in them and we believe that it is a natural progression that our religions eventually got perfected as Islam when Muhammad, pbuh, was sent."

There was a silent moment and the priest finally spoke "Hmmmm,.. interesting. Of course the bit on Jesus being Hebrew is quite apparent but Hebrew is generally used for Jews. The similarities of Islam with Christianity on the other hand, is something new to me. We learn new things everyday don't we?". As the bus approached the stop, I ended the conversation by reciting to him the English translation of a Quranic verse, Al-Kafirun, not perfectly, but sufficiently appropriate for the occasion "Sir, I believe in my own way not in the manner that you believe and neither do you vice versa. I will not follow your way of believes and neither do you vice versa. You with your own way and me with mine. So let us live together in peace and harmony". The priest said goodbye with dignity "Of course. No matter what, Jesus loves you". I smiled and went on board the bus.

"... At least two major monotheist religions, Christianity and Islam, mentioned the existence of archangel Gabriel in the garden of heavens."

Lesson to be learnt from this event is that in a modern society, it is important to respect each other and comparative religion is certainly a healthy topic to make the world we live in a condusive one if we are to live with each other. After all, there is only one Earth that we know of, so far. If a study is done comprehensively between the three monotheist religions, there are abundance of similarities to be uncovered which will be the catalyst to bridge the gaps that exist between those three religions. Simple things like the existence of archangel Gabriel can be soothing: At least two major monotheist religions, Christianity and Islam, mentioned the existence of archangel Gabriel in the garden of heavens. I, myself, have done some research but not in depth. Mine was merely comparing names that appear in the scriptures of those three religions, some of which, I am sharing below (Islamic names in brackets to match the Judeo-Christo version):

1. God/Yahweh/El-Sadei/Elohim (Allah), God Almighty
2. Gabriel (Jibrail), the Archangel
3. Michael (Mikail), the angel of sustenance
4. Adam (Adam) pbuh, the 1st man
5. Eve (Hawa), the 1st woman
6. Cain/Kane (Kabil), the 1st son of Adam and the 1st murderer
7. Abel (Habil), the 2nd son of Adam and the 1st to be murdered
8. Noah (Nuh) pbuh, the saviour of creation with his ark
9. Abraham (Ibrahim) pbuh, the founder of devine truth
10. Job (Ayyub) pbuh, Abraham's nephew
11. Lot (Lut) pbuh, Abraham's nephew who went against homosexuality
12. Sarah (Siti Sarah), the 1st wife of Abraham
13. Hagar (Siti Hajar), the 2nd wife of Abraham
14. Ishmael (Ismail) pbuh, the son of Hagar
15. Isaac (Ishak) pbuh, the son of Sarah
16. Jacob/Israel (Yaakub) pbuh, the leader of the wandering hebrews
17. Joseph (Yusuf) pbuh, the Prime Minister of Pharoah
18. Jonah (Yunus) pbuh, who sought protection in the belly of a whale
19. Samson (Sameon), with strength in his hair
20. Delilah (Dalila), the lover of Samson
21. Daniel (Danial), who fights the lions
22. Priest of Median (Shuaib) pbuh, the father-in-law of Moses
23. Moses (Musa) pbuh, the hebrew deliverer
24. Aaron (Harun) pbuh, the brother of Moses
25. Pharoah (Firaun), Ramses the namesis of Moses
26. David (Daud) pbuh, who defeated Goliath
27. Solomon (Sulaiman) pbuh, the controller of beasts and demons
28. Queen of Sheba (Balkish), the wife of Solomon
29. Elijah (Elyas) pbuh
30. Zachariah (Zakaria) pbuh
31. Alexander the Great (Iskandar Dhul-Qarnayn), the Macedonian king
32. Mary (Maryam), the virgin mother of Jesus
33. John the Baptist (Yahya) pbuh, the cousin of Jesus
34. Jesus (Isa) pbuh, the carpenter
35. Gog and Magog (Yakjuj and Makjuj), the army of the Beast 666
36. The Beast 666 (Dajjal)
37. Lucifer/Satan (Iblis/Syaitan/Azazil), the adversary
38. Psalms (Zabur), the scriptures given to David
39. Torah (Taurat), the scriptures given to Moses
40. Gospel (Injil), the scriptures given to Jesus

Each name carries its own biblical/miracle stories that are almost similar between versions appearing in the different scriptures of the three religions. I must also share a web site that tells these stories in detail - Wikipedia: Biblical narratives and the Quran. This site also noted the below paragraphs that should be taken into account when assessing historical/biblical information:

The Quran and Bible have over 50 people in common, typically in the same narratives. The Quran identifies Enoch and Ishmael as prophets, but they are never given a story. In the Bible, all these men are identified as righteous people but not prophets — except Ishmael who is not written of favorably.

There is also one person mentioned in the Quran, Dhul-Qarnayn, who is not mentioned in the Bible by that name but whose story is similar to stories about Alexander the Great as mentioned in other Jewish and Christian writings. However Dhul-Qarnayn may also be Cyrus the Great who is mentioned in the Bible.

The basic concept common across all three religions is that we all came from God Almighty and that all humans must be kind to each other (as well as to all other creation). A more schematic similarities would be that all three believe in the same (some, not all) angels, prophets, miracles and even demons. In the end (or even the beginning?), all three believe in God, though it gets tricky when you start talking about the Trinity concept. The irony of it all is that - wars between these three groups of religions, with the common historical and biblical background, still continue to destruct our very lives.

"Sir, I believe in my own way not in the manner that you believe and neither do you vice versa. I will not follow your way of believes and neither do you vice versa. You with your own way and me with mine. So let us live together in peace and harmony" the essence of the verse Al-Kafirun of the Quran

* kopihangtuah

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