In my last posting, I indicated that the basic difference between Islam on the one hand, and Judaism and Christianity on the other, is the belief in the last Prophet, Muhammad, upon him be peace.
The Jews did not believe in Jesus as well, for they regard him only as a historical figure. Yet, if they believe in Muhammad, then they would have to believe in Jesus as well, for it is inconceivable to believe in Muhammad without believing in Jesus the Christ. Hence, the belief in Muhammad, and he alone, that differentiates between Islam and these two other Abrahamic faiths.
Also indicated in the last posting, and essentially known to all Muslims, is that The Belief In The Prophets constitutes one of the six Articles of Faith. Now, at one look, it seems that the belief in the prophets is one of the six weighty things: important, but perhaps not all that critical. The belief in Allah, for instance, appears to be more important. Or even for that matter, the belief in the angels and the unseen.
But where do we owe our belief in Allah, in the angels, and in the unseen?
You see, one can believe in whatever God or gods he fancies. But where do we get the right notion about God? Godhood is such a broad concept and is often extremely complex. Even its number is a matter of dispute. The Muslims and the Jews, for instance, believe that God is one, and only one. The Christians also believe that God is one, but exists in three personas. You are not a Christian if you believe that God is more than one, but you are not a true Christians if you don’t believe that He exists in three personalities (at least for the majority of them, that is).
The Hindus? Well, they have many gods, which is why they are called the polytheists. Some of them even see gods in everything, or everything is a god so to speak, which is what pantheism is all about
Worse, even some of the atheists, those who supposedly do not believe in God, are often consumed by the notion of God. Albert Einstein, for instance, is known to be an atheist, or at most a Gnostic, but it was reported that he was intoxicated with the god of the Cosmos. Some say that the Communists, those who do not believe in God and consider religion as nothing but the opium to mankind, are said to have a god, and their god is materialism. Gandhi used to say that when people are hungry, food is god.
Years ago, an Indian friend of mine, holding a US Dollar note, asked me: “In which God do the Americans trust?”
Not knowing where he was heading, I simply said, “In the Christians’ God, I suppose.”
“No, not all Americans are Christians. And those who thought themselves Christians are only Christians in name. But all Americans trust this god.” He said, showing the line on the US Dollar note that says, “In God We Trust.”
He was being cheeky of course, but I thought that he had a point. God is often loosely defined as something sought after, and the US Dollar is pretty much a sought after thing. In that sense, a US Dollar is a god that not only the Americans, but the people the world over trust.
In Islam, the false gods are called idols. Nowadays we have American idols, Malaysian idols, Mexican idols, and so on. We idolize our idols who are all humans. We call our idols, celebrities, because we celebrate their status, pretty much the way we celebrate and sing praises to God.
Given the broad spectrum and the multiplicity of usage regarding the notion of God, the question to ask is this: who determines whether we have the correct notion about God? The answer, of course, is the Prophets. Philosophers, scientists, shamans, soothsayers, poets, etc., can talk about God or gods, but only the Prophets can tell us about the right God, the God we should believe.
Likewise with other beliefs. It is the Prophets who taught us the right belief.
Take the question about the world or the universe, and how it comes into being. There are many notions and theories as to how this world or the universe comes into being, but it is to the Prophets that we owe our understanding. The philosophers or the scientists talk volumes about this, but if their views are in contradiction to the views taught by the Prophets, we cannot take their views as correct.
Likewise is the view we have on ourselves. The evolutionists say that we descend from apes. They can say what they like, and present whatever scientific evidences they fancy, but if the Prophets say that we descend from Adam, that is the belief we must upheld. If the Prophets say that we are created instead of evolved from lower animals, then that is what we should believe.
Likewise is our belief about angels, about the unseen, about the divinely revealed books, or about the divine will (often inadequately translated as predestination). Everyone can talk about angels, about the world of the unseen, about the revealed books, about predestination, but the correct belief on these matters can only come from the prophets. If these come from the philosophers, scientists, or whoever, and if their notions contradict what the Prophets teach us, then these are not the correct beliefs.
For that reason, the belief in the Prophets is the cornerstone of Islamic faith. Not that the other five tenets which complete the articles of faith are not important. If we don’t believe in even one of them, our faith is flawed. The point is, even if we believe in all those fives, but not in accordance with what are being taught by the Prophets, then our belief is flawed. We have to believe them the way the Prophets taught us.
But there are many variations taught by different Prophets, one might say.
No, there are no variations actually, for these are only appearance, since all Prophets teach the same thing.
It happened that over the course of human history, given that the teachings of earlier prophets were taught mostly orally, their teachings got corrupted along the way. The Seal of the Prophets, Muhammad bin Abdullah, came to purify these corruptions, and it is the version taught by him, as in the Quran and his Sunnah, which we must believe.
Muhammad the Prophet, upon him be peace, was being humble when he said that he was only one of the stones in the structure of prophethood. In reality, he was the core, the pillar of that structure. Without him, the whole prophethood structure would crumble. This is the reason why the Muslims believe that the Jews and the Christians have erred.
The Jews and the Christians essentially believe in what the Muslims believe as well. All three religions revere similar prophets. But the Jews have erred because they reject Jesus and Muhammad, while the Christians have erred because they only accept Jesus but reject Muhammad.