Humanity has been blessed with the instincts and intellect to rationally identify and believe in the existence of a Supreme Creator and Sustainer through the signs within and all around. The man endeavors to live the life within the desired parameters to achieve His pleasure, the objective of his creation. The relation of human being to the Supreme Creator and Sustainer (commonly known as God, Allah) that which they regard as holy, sacred, spiritual, or divine, is termed as ‘Religion’. The word ‘religion’ is derived form Latin ‘religio’ means ‘to bind’. Thus the religion is one of the ways of binding the people together through common deity worship and rituals. According to Encyclopedia Britannica; “Religion is commonly regarded as consisting of a person’s relation to God or to gods or spirits. Worship is probably the most basic element of religion, but moral conduct, right belief, and participation in religious institutions are generally also constituent elements of the religious life as practiced by believers and worshipers and as commanded by religious teachers, messengers and scriptures.” In Islam the worship, in its true sense is not only restricted to the rituals and dogmas, but it is the complete submission and obedience to the God, to live the life, in all aspects as desired by Him by rejecting evil temptations; a complete social system. All the religions basically have a common origin, the history of religion is summed up by Qur’an: “Mankind were one community, and Allah sent (unto them) Prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners, and revealed therewith the Scripture with the truth that it might judge between mankind concerning that wherein they differed. And only those unto whom (the Scripture) was given differed concerning it, after clear proofs had come unto them, through hatred one of another. And Allah by His will guided those who believe unto the truth of that concerning which they differed. Allah guides whom He will unto a Straight path.”(Qura’n;2:213).
With the passage of time the original message of guidance i.e. to worship and obey one God preached by messengers like Enoch (Idris), Noah (peace be upon them), and others got obscured. However it got revived during 18th century B.C, through Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), the forebear of the three great religions; Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Over the period, even the original faith of Abraham despite the efforts of messengers among his progeny (like Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Jesus, peace be upon them all) got obscured and corrupted, thus dividing them into sects and groups. The other major world religions like Hinduism also have monotheistic doctrines buried under the dust of polytheistic, idolatrous, mystic and other practices. The sacred Hindu scriptures, urge: “O friends, do not worship anybody but Him, the Divine One. Praise Him alone.”(Rigveda;8:1:1). Buddhism, is considered non committal on God, historical criticism has proved that the original teachings of Buddha can never be known, because his teachings and doctrines were written down 400 years, after his death. Moreover little attention was paid to its authenticity, genuineness and purity. However prophesies of advent of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Buddhist scriptures points towards some missing links. The religions differ in their set of principles or beliefs or the body of dogmas commonly called Faith; which is the theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will. Allah says: “In fact, your religion is one religion, and I am your only Lord: so fear Me Alone. Yet people have divided themselves into factions and each faction rejoices in its own doctrines”(Qur’an;23:52-53). This original religion was revived in its unique spirit of monotheism, fourteen hundred years ago in concordance with the light of reason; exclusive of mysterious doctrines to cast a shade of sentimental ignorance round the original truths rooted in the human intellect, representing the latest development of the religious faculties.
The ‘faith’, (Greek pistis, Latin fides, Hebrew ‘aman,’ Arabic ‘Ayman’) is the inner attitude, conviction, or trust relating man to a supreme God or ultimate salvation. In religious traditions stressing divine grace, it is the inner certainty or attitude of love granted by God himself. Some inner attitude has its part in all religious traditions, but it is not always of central significance. For example, words in ancient Egypt or ancient (Vedic) India that can be roughly rendered by the general term “religion” do not allow for “faith” as a translation but rather connote cultic duties and acts. In Hindu and Buddhist Yoga traditions, the recommended inner attitudes are, primarily attitudes of trust in the guru, or spiritual preceptor, and not, or not primarily, in God. Hindu and Buddhist concepts of devotion (Sanskrit bhakti) and love or compassion (Sanskrit karuna) are more comparable to the Christian notions of love (Greek agape, Latin caritas) than to faith. Devotional forms of Mahayana Buddhism and Vaisnavism show religious expressions not wholly dissimilar to faith in Christian and Jewish traditions. Notions of religious trust in India, China, and Japan are as a rule different from the notion of faith in Western religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). The “trust” (Pali saddha, Sanskrit shraddha) described in the Buddhist Eightfold Path is comparable to the confidence with which a sick person entrusts himself to a physician. The Chinese hsin (“confidence, trust, sincerity”) is considered to be one of the five principal virtues.
In biblical, a tradition, the faith is basically based on trust. A thing is true, and therefore worthy of trust. It admits of many degrees up to full assurance of faith, in accordance with the evidence on which it rests: “And “Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keeps truth for ever:”(Psalms;146:6); “O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.” (Psalms;43:3) [Tabernacle: The portable sanctuary in which the Jews carried the Ark of the Covenant through the desert]. In other words, “faith” is principally juridical; it is the faithfulness or truthfulness with which persons adhere to a treaty or promise and with which God and Israel adhere to the Covenant between them; a legacy of Abraham: “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”(Genesis;15:6); “And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the father of a multitude of nations.”(Genisis;17:3-4); “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee and to thy seed after thee.”(Genisis;17:7);“Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as justice.”(Romans;4:3). The Jewish creed is monothisitic in faith: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy; 6:4). The nexus between faith and justice or justification was developed by Paul much later; after Prophet Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). The biblical traditions of the Old Testament maintained the demand of God of the covenant (Exodus;14:312, 19:9, Johua;24, Ishiaha;7:9). The faith is the pledge of salvation (Isiah;28:16, 30:15, Jermiah;17:5, Pslams;52:8-9). Some scholars think that Zoroastrianism, as well as Judaism, may have had some importance in the development of the notion of faith in Western religion. Zoroaster (628-551 B.C) is reported to have spoken of a new, conscious religious choice on the part of man for truth (asha).
In Christian theology, faith is considered to be, the divinely inspired human response to God’s historical revelation through Jesus Christ and consequently, is of crucial significance. In the New Testament, faith is above all, faith in Jesus and his mission as perceived by Paul, stated in Nicene Creed (325 C.E): against the original preaching of all previous messengers and Jesus himself.(Mathew;5:17-20, Deuteronomy;6:4, 5:7-9, 6:13-15 & Mark 12:29-30, John; 5:30). In short, the Christian Faith is based upon the belief in; “Trinity, (God, Son and Holy Sprit as One), Jesus as the Son of God, the Lord, Savior, who died at the cross to redeem the sins of humanity and resurrected on third day, ascended into heaven and is seated on the right hand of the Father and the resurrection of the dead”. The faith is interpreted as condition for salvation (Mathew;9:28, Mark;4:36-41, Luke;8:25). Hence in Christianity, the doctrine of ‘Justification by Grace, through Faith’ was developed. It is the belief that a person can achieve salvation only through faith and reliance on God’s grace, not through good deeds. The phrase is adapted from a sentence in the epistles of Paul in the Bible:” For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God (Ephesians;2:8 ); “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)”(Ephesians;2:5). ‘Justification’ is what sets a person fundamentally in friendship with God, and entitles the person to life with God in heaven after death. The passage of an individual from sin to a state of grace has been explained in different ways: Some theologians use the term to refer to the act of God in extending grace to the sinner, while others use it to define the change in the condition of a sinner who has received grace. St. Paul used the term to explain how people moved from sin to grace through the death and resurrection of Jesus and not through any human effort. St. Augustine saw it as an act of God that makes sinners righteous. Whether human beings can contribute to this justification, in addition to God’s grace, was one of the great points of division among Christians at the time of the Reformation in 16th century lead by Martin Luther (1483-1546 C.E), the German theologian. His opposition to the wealth and corruption of the papacy and his belief that salvation would be granted on the basis of faith alone rather than by works, was against the common teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that people’s good works, as well as their faith, helped to save them. Two of the slogans of Luther were “Grace Alone” and “Faith Alone.” Since the time of Luther, the differences between Protestant and Roman Catholic teachings on point have become hard to discern which caused excommunication of Luther from the Catholic Church in 1521 C.E. Luther confirmed the Augsburg Confession in 1530 C.E, effectively establishing the Lutheran Church. The Protestants as they are called, also believe in the acceptance of the Bible as the sole source of revelation and; the universal priesthood of all the believers. The doctrine of Justification by Grace, through Faith’ is in direct conflict to the Jewish position that justification is through good works, by perfectly fulfilling law and not the gracious and gratuitous gift of God only.
In Islam, it is the Faith (Ayman) which sets the believer apart from others, Allah says: “O you who have attained faith! Hold fast unto your belief in God and His Apostle (Muhammad, peace be upon him) and the Scripture which He hath revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime. Whoso disbelieves in God and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath wandered far astray.”(Qur’an;4:136). It is ascertained that faith is by the grace of God for those who use their reason, God says:” It is not possible for anyone to believe except by the permission of Allah, and He throws filth (of disbelief) on those who do not use their reason. Say: “Look at whatever exists in the heavens and the earth.” Signs and warnings do not benefit those people who do not believe.”(Qur’an;10:100-101). In Islam, the faith and good deeds both are required for salvation. Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful says: “Surely mankind is in loss, except those who attain Faith and do good deeds; exhort one another to the truth and exhort one another to patience.”(Qur’an;103:2-3); “Say: “Shall we Tell you of those who lose Most In of their deeds?-“Those whose efforts have been wasted In This while They thought that They were acquiring good by their works? “They are those who deny the Signs of their Lord the fact of their having to meet Him (in the Hereafter): vain will be their works nor shall We, on the Day of Judgment, give them any weight. That is their reward, Hell, because They rejected and took My Signs and My Messengers by way of jest. As to those who believe and work righteous deeds, have, for their entertainment, the Gardens of Paradise,”(Qur’an;18:103-107). Not any race, or people, or community, or group, should believe that they have exclusive possession of Allah’s Grace, or that they can influence its grant or its withholding. Allah’s Grace is free, and entirely controlled by Him, independently of any priests and privileged people. He dispenses it according to His own wise and holy Will and Plan; and to His Grace there is no limit. It is up to Him to bestow His Grace upon whom He likes, He says: “…the people of the Book may know that they do not have the sole right to the grace of Allah, and that His grace is entirely in His own hands, which He bestows on whomever He wills: and Allah is the Owner of mighty grace.”(Qur’an;57:29); “Now those who believe in Allah and hold fast to Him, Allah will soon cover them with His mercy and grace and will show them the Right Way to Himself.”(Qur’an;4:175); “He punishes whom He wills and shows mercy to whom He pleases, and to Him you shall be turned back.”(Qur’an;29:21). Mere oral statement of belief is only the first stage, the truthfulness of belief is tested, Allah says: “Do the people think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe,” and that they will not be tested? We did test those who have gone before them. Allah has to see (for the purpose of reward and punishment) who are the truthful and who are the liars”.(Qur’an;29:2-3). The Faith (ayman) is achieved through belief and practices, leading to piety (taqwa), Allah says: “Righteousness is not whether you turn your face towards East or West; but the righteousness is to believe in Allah, the Last Day, the Angels, the Books and the Prophets, and to spend wealth out of love for Him on relatives, orphans, helpless, needy travelers, those who ask for and on the redemption of captives; and to establish prayers (Salah), to pay alms (Zakah), to fulfill promises when made, to be steadfast in distress, in adversity, and at the time of war. These people are the truthful and these are the pious.(Qur’an;2:177). The 4th Caliph Ali (599-661 C.E) is attributed to have said; ‘Faith precedes good actions and good actions point towards faith. They compliment and reciprocate each other.’ The Qur’an is the final revelation in which Allah said: “ye are the best community (Ummah) brought forward to mankind.”(Qur’an;3:110). So in order to receive His Grace, one has to submit to the Will of God to join the best community of the people of Islam.
It is narrated in Bible at many places that, the messengers preached and submitted to the will of God; “..Thy will be done, in earth as it is in heaven.”(Matthew;6:10, Luke;11:2); “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.”(Genesis;6:22);“Thus Abraham “believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.” So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham.”(Glatians;3:6-7); “And the children of Israel went away, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses and Aaron, so did they ”(Exodus;12:28); “And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.”(Exodus;24:7); “I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.” (Psalms;119:106); “And they were both (Zechariah and his wife) righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”(Luke;1:6); “Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.”(Deuteronomy;13:4); “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.”(Hebrews;11:6); “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:”(Exodus;19:5); “But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.”(Jeremiah;7:23);“A blessing, if ye obey the commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day:”(Deuteronomy;11:27);“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”(Ecclesiastes;12:13). Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) specified adherence to the Will of God being the key for the entry to heaven (Mathew;7:21); he said: “I seek not my own will but the Will of Him who sent me.”(John:5:30). It is further mentioned in Bible: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”(Romans;13:1); “Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.”(Psalms;103:20); “Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”(Acts;5:29); “Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you.”(Jeremiah;26:13); “And it shall come to pass, if ye shall hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul,”(Deuteronomy;11:13); “As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.”(Psalms;18:44); “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:”(Isaiah;1:19); “And thou shall not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.”(Deuteronomy;28:14); “And a curse, if ye will not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known”(Deuteronomy;11:28). Those who do not submit to will of God will be subjected to Divine anger and punishment: “And that servant, which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.”(Luke;12:47).
Islam, also means ‘peace’; which has been frequently mentioned in Bible: “If it be possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all.”(Romans;12:18); “Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.”(2Corinthians;13:11, Romans;15:33); “LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us.”(Isaiah;26:12); “Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace: thereby good shall come unto thee.”(Job;22:21);“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”(Romans;8:6); “But the meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”(Psalms;37:11); “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”(Matthew;5:9). The advise of Prophet Jacob (peace be upon him) to his sons at the time of death to obey and worship One God, is mentioned in Talmud and Qur’an: “..when death came to Jacob, when he said unto his sons: What will ye worship after me? They said: We shall worship thy God, the God of thy fathers, Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac, One God, and unto Him we have surrendered”(Qur’an;2:133).
Though Judaism and Christianity affirm their roots to Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him) but, it is Islam alone, which can claim to be really adhering to the legacy of Abraham (peace be upon him). Allah says in Qur’an: “..He has chosen you (Muslims) and has not laid upon you any hardship in the observance of your faith – the faith of your father Abraham. He named you Muslims before in prior scriptures and in this (The Qur’an), so that His Apostle may testify against you and you yourselves may testify against rest of the mankind…”(Qur’an;22:78); “Jews and Christians say: “Be Jews or Christians, you shall then be rightly guided.” (O Muhammad), say: “By no means! We follow the faith of Abraham, the upright one; and he joined not gods with Allah.”(Qur’an;2:135, similarly;3:95 & 6:161); “Say ye: “We believe in Allah and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes and that given to Moses and Jesus and that given to (all) Prophets from their Lord we make no difference between one and another of them and we bow to Allah (in Islam).”(Qur’an;2:136); “And I have followed the religion of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. It never was for us to attribute aught as partner to Allah. This is of the bounty of Allah unto us and unto mankind; but most men give not thanks.”(Qur’an;12:38 & similarly at 16:123); “O people of the Book! Why do you argue with us about Abraham, as to whether he was a Jew or a Christian? You know, that the Torah and the Gospel were revealed long after him? Will you then not, then, use your reason? So far you have been arguing about things of which you had some knowledge! Must you now argue about that of which you know nothing at all? Allah knows while you do not. Abraham was neither a “Jew” nor a “Christian”, but was one who turned away from all that is false, having surrendered himself unto God, true in faith, and he was not of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside Him.”(Qur’an;3:65-67). Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the last messenger of God, said: “..you (Muslims) are an heir to the heritage of Abraham”(Sunan Abu Dawood;770).
Islam is not only confined to some beliefs, rituals and dogmas. Islam is a Din (complete way of life; social system). Din is the root of Arabic term used for ‘habit’, ‘way’, ‘account’, ‘obedience’, ‘judgment’ and ‘reward’. It implies that living in obedience to God is an obligation owed to Him, for which people will be taken in to account, judged and recompensed. Din can generally refer to any path that a human follows for their lives :(Qur’an;2:256, 16:9) or more specifically to Islam as the comprehensive way of life chosen by God for humanity’s temporal and eternal benefit. Din encompasses beliefs, thoughts, character, behavior and deeds. Thus if these aspects of life are derived from God’s guidance as originally taught by prophets, they comprise Islam. Islam has its own political, social, economic, legal (Shari’a) and other philosophies covering every sphere of spiritual and non-spiritual (secular) aspects of human life, with methodologies for their practical implementation. However if the way of life in a society is based upon human innovations in deviation from what the messengers of God taught, they are only generally considered as the different ways that groups or individuals have chosen for themselves. Din is also used in different contexts as; ‘faith’, ‘religious law’, ‘moral law’ or ‘way of life’. All previous messengers and scriptures were meant for specific people and for specific period; hence with due reverence to all of them, the Din for the humanity now is Islam, the legacy of Prophet Abraham (peace be upon him), as preached and practiced by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah says: “And afterward We inspired thee (Muhammad, saying): Follow the religion of Abraham, as one by nature upright. He was not of the idolaters.”(Qur’an;16:123); “It is He Who has sent His Apostle with Guidance and the Religion of Truth that he may proclaim it over all (false) religions even though the idolaters may detest it”(Qur’an;61:9); “The religion with God (is) The Surrender (to His will and guidance i.e. Islam). Those who (formerly) received the Scripture differed only after knowledge came unto them, through transgression among themselves. They should know that Allah is swift in calling to account those who deny His revelations.” (Qur’an;3:19). “If anyone is looking for a religion other than Islam, then let it be known that it will not be accepted from him; and in the Hereafter he will be among the losers.”(Qur’an;3:85). Therefore Islam or peaceful submission to God, in beliefs, rituals, character and sociopolitical and economic interaction is termed as “Way of the Truth” (din ul haqq) which is accepted by God. The sincere worship of none but ‘Him’ is the ‘straight path’ established for the mankind (ad-den al-qayyim). Islam is the ‘primordial religion’ (din-al-hanif), it seeks to return man to his original, true nature in which he is in harmony with creation, inspired to do good, and confirming the Oneness of God. Allah says: “Therefore, stand firm in your devotion to the upright faith – the nature made by Allah, the one on which mankind is created – and the laws of Nature ordained by Allah cannot be changed. That is the standard of true faith (ad-den al-qayyim), but most among mankind do not know”.(Qur’an;30:30 similarly 6:161 & 4:125). Narrated Tamim ad-Dari: The Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) observed: “Ad-Din is a name of sincerity and well-wishing. Upon this we said: For whom? He replied: for Allah, His Book, His Messenger and for the leaders and the common Muslims.”(Sahih Muslim Hadith:21).Keep reading >>>>