Q&A with a Muslim about Our Differences and Similarities - Part 2
- Aaron D'Anthony Brown Contributing Author
- 2022 23 Nov
From Adam and Eve to the prophets of the Old Testament to Jesus Himself, the Quran says much more about historical figures that I know than I previously realized. Unsurprisingly, I was eager to learn more about what else Islam had in common with Christianity, and David Zia was eager to share.
Here’s a continuation of my Q&A with a Muslim about religious differences and similarities. If you want to read the beginning of this conversation, click here.
Views on the Devil and Angels
What does the Quran say about the Devil? What’s his name?
The Quran refers to the Devil as Iblis or Shaytan, Satan. He is a different form of creation that occupied earth before man and they are called Jins. Iblis was a close worshiper of God and was promoted to the rank of angels, and brought to the highest heaven to be closer to God.
Once God created Adam, Iblis recognized that God was giving man a special rank and disliked him for that. God almighty presented Adam to all the angels and asked them to prostrate to him. All obeyed, except for the cursed Iblis, hence he was banished and doomed to Hell.
He was given an opportunity to come down to Earth because of a prayer he made, asking God for a chance to live until the day of judgment and, in that time, be allowed to misguide mankind as a test. He was granted that wish, and the battle between him and his army of devils and mankind has persisted since the beginning and will persist until the end of our existence.
Is Mohammed ever tempted by the Devil?
No, since Muhammad was a prophet of God and one of the five noble messengers, he occupies a special rank, and was granted help by God. We, as Muslims, believe every human is assigned a devil at birth.
For having a uniquely important mission to convey the message of God to mankind, God allowed for Muhammad’s devil to convert to Islam. This doesn’t mean that Muhammad did not possess manly cravings for food and intercourse. He was, by all means, a human being and had to fight with his human urges.
What does the Quran say about angels? Are any angels named?
The Quran mentions clearly that angels are a creation of God, and that they are made out of light. Unlike man, they do not possess free will and are bound to obey God automatically. This doesn’t mean they don’t have free thought. They are described in the Quran and by the prophet Muhamamd who met many angels on his journey to the heavens as beautiful majestic creatures. In Islam, we believe in multiple heavens.
Many of the angels mentioned in the Bible are also mentioned in the Quran. The most prominent is the archangel, Gabriel. He is the noble messenger that visited all the prophets of God and anointed them to become God's servants.
Prophets Chosen By God
How was Mohammed chosen by God to become a prophet?
Muhammad lived a fairly modest life before prophethood, being a shepherd, and after his marriage to Khadeeja, his first wife, he became a trader. Amongst his people, he was known as Al Ameen, the trustworthy one.
He was extremely respected for having a noble lineage amongst the Arabs. At the age of forty, he was anointed to be a messenger and sent to meditate in the cave of Hira outside of Makkah. Suddenly, Gabriel appeared in front of him and grabbed a hold of him, and asked him to “read.” Muhammad, being illiterate, exclaimed, “I can’t read.” The noble angel repeated his question three times, after which he revealed the following verse from surah 96:1-8, “Read, O Prophet, in the Name of your Lord Who created— created humans from a clinging clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, Who taught by the pen— taught humanity what they knew not. Most certainly, one exceeds all bounds once they think they are self-sufficient. But surely to your Lord is the return of all.
After this revelation, Muhammad was released, and Gabriel left him. He rushed back to his home quickly and asked his wife to “cover me, cover me.” Khadeeja, the mother of believers, was the first wife of the prophet, and she asked him what was wrong. He did not speak as he was shaken up and pale. Later on, he relayed to her what occurred, and as they both had no idea what had happened to him, she took him to her cousin Warraqah who was a Christian monk that lived in Makkah.
After he relayed the story to him, Warraqah proclaimed that he was a messenger for that angel was Gabriel, the same messenger that spoke to Moses in Mount Sinai. Warraqah then accepted Islam becoming the second person in history to do so after Khadeeja, and subsequently died after his conversion.
Did God choose anyone else?
Yes, before Muhammad, there were many other prophets chosen by God. God states in surah 16 of the holy Quran verse 36: “We surely sent a messenger to every community, saying, ‘Worship Allah and shun false gods.’ But some of them were guided by Allah, while others were destined to stray. So travel throughout the land and see the fate of the deniers!”
From this, some scholars estimate that there were thousands of other prophets sent by God. A distinction in Muhammad is that he was not only a prophet but a messenger as well. Messengers hold a higher rank in Islam as they serve a greater role of guiding misguided nations. Also, the Quran makes another distinction by making Muhammad the final messenger and prophet.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Hussein Aziz
Views on Jesus
What does the Quran say about Jesus?
The Quran honorably mentions Jesus and his mother, Mary, numerous times. In Chapter 3, verse 45, God states, “Remember when the angels proclaimed, “O Mary! Allah gives you good news of a Word from Him, his name will be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; honored in this world and the Hereafter, and he will be one of those nearest to Allah.”
For this reason, Muslims hold Jesus and his mother in high esteem. A section of scholars believe that Mary is the only woman prophet in history. We proclaim Jesus as a messiah that was sent to the Jews in Israel. Sadly, he was rejected by many and taken to Heaven, and we believe he will return before the day of judgment to fight against the Antichrist.
Did Jesus die on the cross?
We Muslims believe that he was not killed. We believe instead that he was taken to Heaven and will return before the day of judgment. In chapter 4, verse 157, God states, “And for boasting, ‘We killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.’ But they neither killed nor crucified him—it was only made to appear so. Even those who argue for this crucifixion are in doubt. They have no knowledge whatsoever—only making assumptions. They certainly did not kill him.”
The exact nature of his ascension is disputed. Some scholars believe that a person took the shape of Jesus and that person was killed in his place. Others reject this and simply leave it ambiguous. God knows best.
Authenticity, Appointed Leaders, and Prayer
Why is the Quran only considered authentic when in Arabic?
We believe the Quran has been authentically preserved by God since it was revealed to Muhammad in Arabic as speech from God through Gabriel. It was later written down by the companions of Muhammad after his passing. The Quran is authentically preserved precisely because of the Arabic language. Due to the effort of Muslims throughout history.
Although translation is still accepted as a way to understand the Quran, it is highly encouraged to understand the Arabic language instead if one wished to really understand the Quran. Furthermore, if one wishes to become a scholar in Islam or teach Islamic knowledge, they must understand Arabic and recite the Quran in Arabic.
Who is allowed to speak publicly about the Quran? Anyone, or just the appointed religious leaders?
Anyone can speak about the Quran, however, due to the scrutinous measures taken to preserve the Quran, if a person intentionally or unintentionally makes mistakes about the Quran, they will be refuted by Muslims. It is highly encouraged to learn under an accredited teacher for better understanding of the Quran and Islam in general, but if one wishes to explore the Quran or an area of Islam, they can do so.
Muslims are encouraged to read and try to understand the Quran as much as possible, and those who memorized the Quran, “Hufaz” are held in high regard amongst Muslims.
What does the Quran say about prayer?
There is a distinction between the western understanding of Prayer and the Islamic understanding. In Islam, prayer or “Salah” is one of the five main rituals of worship, and it includes verbal, physical, and spiritual movements to complete. Muslims are commanded to pray at five distinct times during the day, and these prayers are called the “Faard Salah.”
Muslims are also encouraged to pray more outside of that if possible, and these prayers are called “Nawafil Salah.” The ritual for prayer has been precisely specified by scholars, following the method that Muhammad taught, and is performed by millions of Muslims every day around the world.
That being said, Muslims are encouraged to pray in the general sense of prayer called “Dua.” This act is one that a person can do at any time and in most places. This is one where a person tries to connect one’s heart to God and ask him for anything they desire.
Dua can also be done during certain stages of Salah and is specifically encouraged to be done when one is in the position of sujood (fully prostrated) on the ground in front of God.
Talk to me about Mecca. What is the tradition surrounding this holy site and how have you interacted with the city?
Mecca is the holiest sight in Islam. It is considered the main sacred place out of the three “Haramains'' along with Medinah and Jerusalem. Mecca contains the “Kaba'' believed to be the first house for worship of God and was first established by Ibraham and his son Ishmael. Muslims are ordained to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least one time in their lifetime in the fifth ritual of worship mandated called the “Hajj.” Historically Mecca has been in the domain of Muslims since its conquest by the prophet Muhammad.
Mohammed traveling to different cities around the Arabian Peninsula and preaching with his companions sounds similar to that of Jesus and His disciples. The Quran even acknowledges the works of Christ, but both religions differ about His divinity.
Nonetheless, I have been very surprised by this conversation. How about you?
There have been more similarities than I expected, and more than I would have ever known had we not conversed. Isn’t that true about all of us?
We tend to stick to people we know and thus rob ourselves of potential knowledge. How much can any of us really grow without stepping outside of the people and places that leave us comfortable?
The third and final installation of this series is coming soon.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Leolintang
Aaron D'Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He's an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”