By: Professor Maqsood Jafri
The Holy Qur'an expressly declares that the human race is one family. All of us are the children of Adam and Eve, whether our skin is white or black. At various places it says: “All human beings are a single nation” (2:213). “All human beings are naught but a single nation and yet they disagree” (10:19). “And verily this your nation (human beings) is a single nation” (21:92) and (23:52).
The differences in our physical features, colors, complexions, languages, dresses, customs and the ways of living arise due to different climates and geographical territories. Those who settled in hot tropical zones grew to be black, and those who settled in cold climates remained white in their complexion. The people living in hot climates are hot-headed and the people living in cold climate have cold temperament. The diet also affects the color and temperament. The Mongolians, the Semites, the Darvidians and the Saxons took pride in tribalism. The lust for property, power and pelf made one tribe the enemy of the other tribe and led to bloodshed and battles. Such savage and illiterate people fashioned idols with their hands and worshiped natural phenomenon such as the sun, fire, bodies of water and snakes and other elements and creatures which could harm them. They believed that they could obtain protection from such material objects, creatures and elements of nature the river, the snakes and other objects which could harm them. Hence out of fancy and fear they made their gods. But the prophets always guided them and instructed them to worship one God –
The prophets, the guides whom God sent to all people, instructed these people to worship the one God, Who is omniscient, omnipotent and all merciful. These individuals, who were ruled by fear and stuck in their beliefs, frequently tortured, teased and persecuted these divine reformers known as the prophets. God never left humankind without guidance through prophets.
Adam was the first man as well as the first prophet. He guided his wife and children. The Qur'an tells us, “every people had a prophet” (10:47) “And certainly we raised in every people a prophet” (16:36). And there is not a people but a Warner has gone among them” (35:24). “And we did not send any apostle but with the language of the people, so that he might explain to them” (14:4). The advent of the Holy prophet of Islam is described in the Qur'an: “Those who follow the Apostle, the Ummi, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and in the Bible” (7:157). The Holy Bible also mentions about the advent of our prophet. It says: “For Moses truly said unto the fathers, a prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me, unto him shall ye hearken in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.” (The New Testament Acts 3:22-24)
Moses is prophesying about a prophet who will give them law as he gave them divine law. Prophet Mohammad endorsed the Law of Moses and presented to him in the Qur'an. Hence no one else save Prophet Mohammad is the prophesized one by Moses in the Torah. About Hazrat Abraham the Quran says: “And when his Lord tried Abraham with certain words, and he fulfilled them, He (God) said, ‘I will make thee an Imam (a guide) for mankind . . . and of my offspring?’ then the Lord said “my (covenant) shall not reach the unjust.” (2:124)
About the eminence and guidance of Abraham the Bible says: “And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2-3). About Ishmael the Bible says: “And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee; Behold I have blessed him and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; Twelve princes shall he beget and I will make him a great nation” (Genesis 18:20)
Ishmael, Moses and Jesus Christ announced twelve successors. The Holy Prophet Mohammad also declared “Twelve Imams: after him and they are from Hazrat Ali to Hazrat Imam Mehdi. When Abraham left his wife Hagar and Ishmael at Mecca it was a barren and waterless desert. Hagar searched from water from hillock to hillock. Ishmael was thirsty and near to death. Through a miracle, a spring gushed out known as the well of zam zam. It is mentioned in the Bible and in the Qur'an. Abraham and Ishmael raised the House of God known as Kaaba. While raising the walls of the Holy House, Abraham prayed to God to accept this humble and sincere service. He said: “And when Abraham and Ishmael raised the foundations of the House (saying) our Lord! Accept from us; surely Thou art the knowing. Our Lord! And make us both submissive (Muslims) to Thee and (raise) from our offspring a nation submitting to Thee, and show us ways of devotion and turn to us (Merciful), surely Thou art the oft-returning (to mercy), the Merciful- Our Lord! And raise up them an Apostle from among them who shall recite to them Thy communications and purify them; surely thou art the mighty, the wise” (2:127-129)
God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice his beloved son Ishmael. He told about his vision to his son saying: “O, Son! I see in vision that I slay thee.” (37:102) Ishmael, an obedient and dutiful son replied: “O, Father! Act as thou hast been bidden (by the Lord) and thou wilt, if God willeth, find me of the patient one” (37:102). When Abraham laid down his son Ishmael and tied his hands and legs lest the boy should struggle while being slain and blindfolded himself with a piece of cloth, passed the knife across, cutting the throat. When he uncovered his eyes he found a lamb laid slain and Ishmael safe and sound standing nearby. Abraham got worried. He thought his sacrifice was not accepted by God. But God has substituted lamb for Ishmael. The Qur'an says: “O, Abraham! Of course thou hast faithfully fulfilled the dream, thou art of the truthful ones, but verily it is an open test, we have substituted it with a greater sacrifice. We have transferred it to later generations.” (37:105-108).
The Bible relates that it was Isaac who was offered as a sacrifice, whereas the Qur'an seems to relate that it was Ishmael who was offered as a sacrifice. Whichever son it was, the point is that Abraham was willing to do what God asked of him, even at supreme personal cost.
The Qur'an and other divine scriptures testify this verity that humanity is the core message of prophecy. Some non-believers maintain that religion is the apple of discord. But is it not the mind’s inability to understand and the selfish and greedy passions that cause the discord, not the Truth given by God through the prophets? The prophets rendered great sacrifices. John was beheaded with a saw. Jesus Christ was tortured and crucified. Muhammad was teased and attacked. The tyrants and tribal chiefs troubled him, but the prophets tolerated all trials, for God and humanity. Humanity is the message of all religions.
(The writer is an eminent speaker and scholar on comparative religions and a political activist. He can be reached at [email protected])