How Islam hangs together

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By Rob Lampard

Islam claims to be God’s final revelation to mankind, made known through the prophet Mohammad.  This revelation comes partly through Mohammad’s way of life, known as the Sunnah; partly through his sayings and teachings, known as the Hadith; and supremely through the book of Islam, the Quran.  This Quran was imparted, in a manner with similarities to direct dictation, to Mohammad by the angel Gabriel.[1]

 

The six pillars of faith in Islam (not to be confused with the five pillars of Islamic practice) are:

  • belief in God,
  • belief in angels,
  • belief prophets (those who convey God’s message to us),
  • belief in books (scripture revealed to us by the prophets and recorded so that its message might be preserved for future generations),
  • belief in judgment,
  • belief in the hereafter.[2]

In more detail, Islam holds that throughout history there have been two types of prophet: the nabi and the rasool.[3]  The latter term is often validly translated ‘messenger’ or ‘apostle’.  The difference between the two is this.  ‘A messenger is one who receives the revelation of a new law and a prophet (nabi) is one who is sent to confirm the message of the one sent before him.’[4]

 

In accordance with this definition, Jonah[5] is a clear example of a nabi.  He is sent by God to the people of Nineveh to warn them that God is about to bring judgment on them because their way of living does not conform to God’s previously revealed standards.  He brings no new revelation.  He simply calls people back to adherence to the message which previous prophets, especially Moses, had revealed.

 

On this basis an interesting exercise to ponder who in Judeo-Christian history was a rasool.  Islam itself holds that there have been 124,000 prophets, ‘among whom the messengers were three hundred and fifteen, a large number.’[6]  al-Ashqar goes on to list five whom he designates ‘messengers with firm determination’.  These are Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad.[7] In the author’s experience, these five are commonly named as rasool by present day Muslims.

 

The alert Bible student will note that the common defining characteristic of the ministries of Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus is this: they are all prophets with or through whom God made covenants.  On this basis, we would want to add Adam and David to the above list.  It also begs this question: what is the content of the covenant which God made through Mohammad and how does it exceed those made through Jesus?  Consideration of this question is beyond the scope of this document.

[1] It is interesting to note that the most obvious parallel to this mechanism in the Bible is the book of Revelation – see the introduction to that book (1:1-2).  On this basis, the equivalent messenger to Mohammad in Christianity is not Jesus, but the apostle John.

[2] See for example https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iman_(Islam), section: The Six Articles of Faith

[3] Both are mentioned in Surah 22:52.

[4] Dr. ‘Umar S. al-Ashqar, The Messengers and the Messages, International Islamis Publishing House, 2005,
p 37; quoting in turn Tafseer al-Aaloosi, 17/157.

[5] The book of Jonah is the fifth of the twelve minor prophets whose books finish the Old Testament.  He is mentioned in 4:163, 10:98 and 37:139 in the Quran and Surah Yunus (Surah 10) is named after him.

[6] Dr. ‘Umar S. al-Ashqar, ibid, p 41.

[7] Dr. ‘Umar S. al-Ashqar, ibid, p 47.

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