, by PROF. U. MUHAMMAD IQBAL
Salvation lies in worshipping God who created us and our forefathers. (2:21) Scriptures brought this message. (98:5) Worship of God entails rejection of all those who arrogate to themselves God’s powers and rights and on whom such powers and rights are conferred without God’s authority. Down the ages people had been worshipping angels and jinns. (6:100, 125, 34:40, 41; 53:27) Angels were worshipped as goddesses. (37:58) Some people had been worshipping imaginary and mythical figures and given them names. The Qur’ān rejects this worship. “Do you dispute with me about mere names that you and your forefathers have concocted and for which Allah has sent down no sanction?” (7:71) The science of biology is unaware of such living entities.
The whole creation eulogises and glorifies Allah. Whatever is found in the framework of space and time is wholly subject and servile to God (10:66) and does not qualify for worship. No object of nature should therefore be worshipped. Prophet Solomon’s hoopoe describes disapprovingly how the people of Sheba worship the sun. “I found that she (the Queen) and her people prostrate themselves before the sun rather than Allah.” (27:24) The hoopoe was endowed with miraculous powers and could qualify for worship in the eyes of the polytheists. However, the Qur’ān shows that the hoopoe had nothing but contempt for those who placed the sun on a par with Allah.
Even human beings who captured social imagination with their exemplary conduct were deified. That was the trend in pre-Islamic Arabia. In the realm of religion this trend is still visible when great human beings have been idolised. That’s why, the Qur’ān gives an example.
“And imagine when thereafter Allah will say: Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to people : Take me and my mother for gods besides Allah?“ (51:115)
“Those whom they call upon are themselves seeking the means of access to their Lord, each trying to be nearer to Him. They crave for His mercy and dread His chastisement.” (17:57) Angels and Prophets are not to be worshipped. (3:80)
The angels foretold Mary about Jesus Christ in these words:
“He shall be highly honoured in this world and in the next, and shall be one of those near stationed to Allah.” (3:45) Muslims do not worship Allah’s Messengers, including Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s blessings and peace be to him).
Sometimes man-made objects like idols representing supernatural powers were and are selected for worship. Prophet Abraham pleaded with his father, “Why do you worship that which neither sees nor hears, and which can be of no avail to you? Father, a knowledge that has not reached you has come to me. So follow me that I may guide you to a straight way.” (19:42,43) Allah teaches us how to worship Him and idol worship is not his approved method of adoration. (6:74) In this matter Muslims do not depend upon the wisdom of the non-Muslim forefathers, as Prophet Abraham did not follow his father’s wisdom but God’s guidance. Idol worship will be of no avail on the Day of Judgement (29:25). Maitrey Upanishad, 2:26, says idol-worship will result in rebirth and worldly attachment. (Dr. A. Karickam, The Concept of Salvation, p.108) Swamy Bhoomananda Tirtha talks about the inadequacy of idol worship. (Essential Concepts in Bhagavad Gita, vol. iv, p.145)
Idol worship and the tendency to personify abstract objects may be inter-related. One of the prominent attributes of God is His mercy and it is personified into a goddess for the purpose of worship. Similarly, creativity and knowledge go together and so knowledge is personified as a goddess and paired with the Creator. Muslims suppress this tendency for the personification of God’s attributes and do not worship God’s attributes but they worship Allah with all His inseparable attributes.
Iyyaka N’abudu is thus a thorough rejection of the worship of false gods, angels, jinns, powerful and wise and saintly human beings, objects of Nature and Art and Mythology and even select and personified attributes of God.
Exclusive service to God is the right way of life in this world. Setting up partners to Him in this service is an unpardonable deviation from the right way (4:116). God is the Creator of all things and no one else has created anything in the way He has created (13:16). The Qur’ān asks, “Show me, then, what any others, apart from Allah, have created.” (31:11) He creates us, feeds us, causes us to die and resurrects us. No one else discharges these duties (30:40) Others do not feed us. (16:73)
The Qur’ān explains why those who are worshipped in addition to the true God should not be worshipped. Those whom people worship beside Allah have not created the heavens or any part of the earth (46:4) They cannot create anything and repeat the creation (10:34). They are powerless to respond to any call for help (13:14). They are afraid of God’s chastisement. (17:57) They have been created and they are not creators. (7:194) They are subject to death unlike Allah (28:88). They have no power to hurt or benefit even themselves, and no power over death or life or resurrection (25:3). They do not know when they will be resurrected (16:20, 21). They cannot guide anyone. (10:35) They cannot help themselves. (21:43) They will reject their devotees on the Day of Judgement. (10:28, 29; 19:82) They actually are eager to seek proximity to the true God by serving, worshipping and pleasing Him.
The reasons enumerated above make it clear that God alone should be worshipped. However, the knowledge and the power displayed by Jesus Christ are of an extraordinary range. He was able to create. According to the Qur’ān, Jesus said, “I will make for you from clay the likeness of a bird and then I will breathe into it and by the leave of Allah it will become a bird” (3:49) This creative capacity of Jesus was a gift of God to him and so Muslims say that he was a Prophet of an exalted category and not God. Jesus describes himself as a gift of God. (St. John, 4:10)
According to St. John, Jesus claimed, “I am the bread of life,” (6:35, 48), “I am the light of the world,” (8:12, 9:5) “I am the gate,” (10:9) “I am the good shepherd,” (10:11) “I am the resurrection and the life,” (11:25) “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (14:6) Such statements metaphorical in nature are in keeping with what Jesus had said, “I have been speaking figuratively,”(16:25), and might be interpreted in the light of Jesus’ status as a Messenger and Prophet of God and not as God. This is the Muslim viewpoint. Such claims of Jesus were made after John who baptised him was martyred. Jesus was the only Prophet left among the Jews and so his claims were totally justified.
“I am the bread of life” should be read alongside the statement. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (St. Matthew, 4:4) “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” (St. John, 6:63) Jesus brought the message and the commands of God. Therefore, he was the bread of life, a source of guidance for a meaningful life in this world.
The light is the light of guidance. Even Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s blessings and peace be to him) is introduced in the Qur’ān as a bright shining lamp. (33:46) Jesus Christ was the light of the world as long as he lived in this world. (St. John, 9:5) The Gospel writer asserts that John was not the light, he came only as a witness to the light. (1:28) Jesus contradicts him by saying, “John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light.” (5:35) “For a time” in this extract is similar to “while I am in the world” in 9:5.
The Gospel writer wrote that Jesus was the true light that gives light to everyone. (1:9) Jesus makes a similar claim in 12:46. “No one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” In the Gospel, according to St. Matthew, Jesus informs his followers, “You are the light of the world. Let your light shine before man, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” (5:16)
Similarly he who believes in Prophet Muhammad (Allah’s blessings and peace be extended to him) does not stay in darkness because he has been sent to transport mankind from darkness to light. (Qur’ān 14:1)
Jesus gave light to his disciples in order that they may perform good deeds and bring praise not so much to himself as to God. Belief in God should invariably lead to good deeds.
According to the Qur’ān, Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth. Light upon light, and Allah guides to His Light whom He wills. (24:35) All Prophets receive light from Allah and His Light is eternal.
When a Messenger of God is a link or a liaison officer or a PRO between God and man, it is most befitting to describe him as the gate or the way to God. The messenger is not the destination; he only leads towards it under orders. He is a man of truth, every messenger of God is, for he works for God’s honour. (St. John, 7:18) The man of truth can be described as the spirit of truth. This may be what Jesus means when he says, “I am the truth”.
The statement, “I am the way,” should be read along with the statement addressed to Jesus, “You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” (St. Matt., 22:16; St. Mark, 12:14) The statement per se is correct even though the speaker may have evil intentions. ‘The way of God’ in the statement can be translated in Arabic as ‘Siratullah’. The Qur’ān uses the phrase thus, “The way of Allah, to whom belongs the dominion of all that is in the heavens, and the earth. Lo, it is to Allah that all things revert.” (42:53) Some Muslim scholars are of the opinion that Sirat-e-Mustaqeem – The Straight Way – refers to Prophet Muhammad (May Allah bless and greet him).
The statement, ‘I am the life’, should be read along with the following statements. I know that his command leads to eternal life. (St. John. 12:50) Now this is eternal life that they may know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (ibid, 17:3) By obeying God’s commands as revealed through the agency of His messengers, people can ensure eternal and blissful life in the hereafter. The word ‘life’ occurs after the word resurrection and so life here means life after the resurrection. (11:25)
“I am the resurrection.” Jesus not only revives dead persons (St. John, 11:43, 44; St. Luke,7:14,15) but also heralds spiritual awakening among his followers. The physical and spiritual resurrection of people is ensured through the ministry of Jesus backed by God’s authority. This statement of Jesus may be read along with St. Matthew 24:36 wherein he says that he does not know the hour. The Qur’ān confirms that nobody knows the hour of resurrection. (16:21)
When a Muslim says, Iyyaka N’abudu, he rejects the worship of all Prophets, including Jesus and Muhammad (peace be unto them).