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The Test of the Cross

The Middle Way

Though often portrayed as a religion of extremes and extremists, Islam actually embodies "the middle way." Issues such as divorce, marriage, food, prayer, fasting, and the position of Jesus (peace be upon him) illustrate this point quite beautifully.

Marriage, for example, being the foundation of the family unit, is instrumental to maintaining a healthy society. If thought of as lying on a spectrum, one extreme would consist of monks, nuns, and priests, as these individuals choose not to marry. At the other end live those individuals who are married but commit adultery, as well as those who do not marry, but have multiple partners. Islam represents the middle way, in that marriage is strongly encouraged and is viewed as the building block of society, never forsaking it nor sacrificing it.

Divorce is yet another example. At one end of the divorce spectrum we have systems and institutions which forbid divorce as an abomination, while at the other end we have people who experience multiple marriages and divorces. Islam, on the other hand, recognizes that there are times and circumstances which call for a marriage to end, thus divorce is viewed as permissible, but disliked. Again, a middle position.

Prayer: There are those who reject the earthly life to such a degree that they retreat into the mountains and live a life of constant prayer and meditation. This involves forsaking work, family life, and social interaction. Still, there are others who simply do not pray at all, or only pray when things are perceived to be going the wrong way. Islam demands its followers to pray, but also to live in this world; to work, to play, to raise children, to learn and to teach. In the midst of one’s worldly responsibilities, Islam commands the believer to also recognize one’s duty to God, Allah, via five daily obligatory prayers.

The Middle Position on Jesus (pbuh)

Islam is also the middle way regarding Jesus (peace be upon him), his position, and the manner in which he left the world. A bold statement, I know..... So what are the extremes? One end of the spectrum holds those who say that Jesus (peace be upon him) was the Son of God, that he (peace be upon him) occupies a Divine position or was God in the form of man. People at this extreme are usually referred to as Christians (an position I, myself, once espoused). It is important to note that this is a spectrum, thus some are closer to one extreme than others.

At the other extreme lie the Jews, who reject Jesus (peace be upon him) as a liar and the son of an adulteress. For the sake of discussion the non-Abrahamic faiths do not readily fall into this spectrum, as in many cases, the religions do not comment on Jesus (peace be upon him) at all. Their lack of opinion regarding Jesus (peace be upon him) is quite appropriate from a Muslim standpoint. Both the Qur’an and the New Testament are quite clear in asserting that Jesus (peace be upon him) was only sent to the children of Israel. (see the words attributed to Jesus in Matthew 15:24 & 1:21)

Islam says that Jesus was neither a liar nor God incarnate. He (peace be upon hm) was simply one of the mightiest of God’s messengers (peace be upon all of them). Islam states that he was born of a virgin (Mary, may God be pleased with her) and that he only spoke the truth. Interestingly enough, Muhammad was quite clear in asserting that Jesus (peace be upon both of them) would descend back to earth near the Day of Judgment. For a more detailed explanation of Jesus in Islam go to The Status of Jesus (peace be upon him) and Signs Before the Day of Judgment

The Test

Prior to discussing the "Test of the Cross", it is important to begin with the concept of God even testing us. Many people have difficulty grasping this concept, especially those who believe that they are already "saved," thinking we already accept Christ (peace be upon him) or we are already of the chosen people, why should we be tested? And since most Jews and Christians believe in and accept the Ten Commandments, I will select a verse which immediately follows them:

And Moses said to the people, "Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin." Exodus 20:20

Should I get flooded with emails or should more time be made available to me, I will add more Biblical and Qur’anic text citing the concept of being tested by God. Until then, it is important to note again, that this verse follows commands to action AND faith visa vis the Ten Commandments. Testing by God is not merely a matter of faith, but one of faith, action, and intention.

With that, let’s get to the cross. Jewish scholars have repeatedly cited Deuteronomy 21:22-23 in an attempt to disprove the claims that Jesus (peace be upon him) was sent by God, as is claimed by both Christians and Muslims.

"If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God" Deuteronomy 21:22-23

Jews and Christians allege that Jesus was hanged on a cross, thereby making him accursed, as is stated in the verse above, and thus rejected by the Jews. In addition, the New Testament, itself, is a reason for Jewish rejection of Jesus (peace be upon him) simply because the later portions of it make blasphemous statements regarding Jesus being the Son of God. Furthermore, the Torah, the Books of the Prophets, the New Testament, and the Qur’an are quite clear in their charge against many Jewish scholars of the day for their tradition of rejecting, persecuting, and, in some cases, murdering the prophets (peace be upon them all). This mighty Prophet named Jesus (peace be upon him) was no exception, and in this way served, and continues to serve, as a test for the Jews.

Christians, too, are tested by the allegation that Jesus (peace be upon him) died on the cross. Their test, however, lies at the other end of the spectrum. Christians, obviously, do not reject Jesus. Instead, they elevate him to a position which belongs to God, Alone. To do such a thing is actually a violation of the first and most important commandment.

"You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image - any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth."

In Islam, the phrase Laa illaha il-Allah (There is nothing worthy of worship except God) is a phrase on which there can be no compromise. God is Alone, Unique, and there is nothing like Him. In their elevation of Jesus (peace be upon him), Christians attribute to Jesus things which belong to God, Alone. The ability to hear one's prayers and supplications, to perform miracles of his own will, to give life and give death, etc. We, Muslims, agree that Jesus (peace be upon him) performed miracles, but he did not do this of his own power. But rather he did it because God had willed it. Even the act of raising Lazarus is an example...what did Jesus (peace be upon him) do prior to raising Lazarus from the dead according to the Biblical account. He prayed. He made supplication. Why? Because his miracles were not of his own making.

With regards to the cross, Christians believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) died on the cross and that on the third day he was resurrected. Leaving the internal inconsistencies in the Biblical account aside, the point here is the doctrine derived from this alleged event. Jesus (peace be upon him), it is said, conquered death. And his being raised to Heaven after the alleged sacrifice is a cleansing of the sins for those who follow him. This event is used in the Christian claim to divinity for Jesus, that he was God in the flesh, God incarnate. Of course, this is nothing but a reinstitution of pagan belief - in triune gods and in God-becoming-man.

In saying that God, the Creator, can become creation, then are you saying that God urinated? that God defecated? that God had desires? This is preposterous and blasphemous.

Islam teaches that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not die yet. He was raised to Heaven, yes - but he did not die yet. And while this concept may be shocking for some simply because we have been bombarded with the crucifixion most of our lives, a few moments of pondering on it will reveal how the differences between Jews and Christians can be reconciled. The Jews say Jesus (peace be upon him) was a liar and accursed, partially because he died on the cross. The Christians say that he (peace be upon him) was God, partially because he died on the cross. One says accursed, one says God. Which is it? Well, it's neither. He was neither God nor was he a liar. He did not claim divinity, so the Jews cannot charge him with blasphemy, and he did not die on the cross so they cannot charge him with being accursed. Likewise, he did not claim divinity so the Christians must stop worshipping him, and he did not die on the cross, so he is not the savior of mankind.

Instead, sin is still addressed as it was at the times of the earlier prophets (peace be upon them all) - namely, you sin, you feel regret, you ask for forgiveness from God, and you change your ways. Whether or not God forgives you is up to Him and His Mercy. The key to salvation is submission. In Arabic the word for submission is Islam. And submission entails not just belief alone...it entails belief (in One God), actions, AND intentions. These three should not be divorced.

One Way - An article by Abu Aasiya

Related Sites:

  • The Middle Path (1) by Sheikh Ibn al-'Uthaymeen
  • The Middle Path (2) by Sheikh Ibn al-'Uthaymeen
  • The Middle Path (3) by Sheikh Ibn al-'Uthaymeen
  • The Middle Path (4) by Sheikh Ibn al-'Uthaymeen
  • The Middle Path (5) by Sheikh Ibn al-'Uthaymeen
  • The Middle Path (6) by Sheikh Ibn al-'Uthaymeen
  • The Middle Way: by Imam Ali Ibn Abi al `Izz al Hanafi


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