I wanted to share with you another excerpt from my fourth book, Islamic Law, Theology, and Practice. Many times we get a die-hard atheist in our class. These people have an ax to grind with all religions in general and Islam in particular. This particular exchange was really heated and intense, so I thought you might like to read how it started. . .
“Why is it claimed that Islam is the only true religion and that all other religions are false? If that is the case, how come Allah allows there to be more non-Muslims (Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, etc.) than Muslims in today’s world?”
In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful:
The first part of the question is why Islam claims it is the only true religion. The second part is why Muslims should be outnumbered by non-Muslims if Islam is the so-called “truth.”
To address the first part, we start with our own question: “Why should any religion claim to be the one and only way to God?” The tongue-in-cheek answer is that religions preach contradictory ideologies; therefore they cannot all be true. If they cannot all be true, then it cannot be true that all religions lead to God. Therefore, some, maybe even many, must by logical necessity be false. However, we will not settle for the tongue-in-cheek response and actually look at the deep philosophy behind Islam’s claim to absolute Truth and its understanding of what it means to be “God’s Religion.”
Muslims believe that the Last Prophet (Muhammad) and the Last Testament (the Qur’an) were sent to confirm, correct, and complete the Message of all previous Prophets and scriptures.
It is written in the Qur’an that God made a covenant with every people in every time. This covenant was “Islam” which means “surrender and obedience to God,” and a person who surrenders his will to God and obeys His commandments is called a “Muslim.”
Whenever a people broke their covenant with God (stopped obeying), or changed the teachings of the Prophet sent to them, God would send another Prophet to bring them back to the True Path, the path of submission and obedience to their Creator (in Arabic, this is called “Islam”). This is how we understand the many Prophets sent to the Children of Isreal. If a people were still on the correct teachings of a Prophet, there is no need for God to send another one. It is only when a people go astray (break their covenant) that God would send one who would guide them back to the Truth. This is also how we understand the many divergent religions of the world today. Many of them WERE originally inspired and sanctioned by God, but after that particular Prophet died or was ascended to Heaven, the generations after him forgot, neglected, or changed those pristine teachings for man-made assumptions and philosophies.
So the original followers of Abraham are considered Muslims by virtue of their obedience to God and the keeping of their Covenant with Him. And the original followers of Moses are considered Muslims by virtue of their obedience to God and the keeping of their Covenant with Him. And the original followers of Jesus are considered Muslims by virtue of their obedience to God and the keeping of their Covenant with Him.
By the time of Muhammad (peace be upon him), there were few, if any, who were still upon the original, pure teachings of any Prophet. So God sent Muhammad as the Final Messenger with the Final Revelation to guide the Arabs in particular and all of mankind in general to the correct path to their Lord and Creator. So the point is to not get hung up on the Arabic word “Islam” but rather understand what that Arabic word means: “submission and devotion to God.” Whoever does that, at any time and in any place will receive God’s Mercy.
This is why the final Prophet of Islam (pbuh) said: “Anyone who says ‘There is no god but God,’ and dies holding that (belief) will enter Paradise.” Islam teaches that whoever follows the original teachings of the authentic Prophets will find salvation, because all the Prophets preached that God is ONE, distinct and separate from His creation, and that all worship deserves, by right, to go to Him alone. Muslims believe that only Islam still has the unadulterated authentic and original teachings of a real genuine Prophet of God; this is Islam’s claim to Truth. Obviously, there are other faith traditions and other Truth-Claims, but that is for each human being to seek and decide for him- or herself.
“There is no compulsion in religion.” This is an oft quoted verse from the Qur’an to convince people of the tolerance in Islam to other religions. If this is true, why does Allah eternally torture and punish non-Muslims?
This question is asking how “no compulsion” is reconciled with eternal damnation in hellfire for disbelievers. We understand that ‘compulsion’ means somebody forcing you to do something. God does not want people to worship him unless that worship is sincere. There are many well-known Sayings of the Prophet warning that worship without sincerity will be rejected on the Day of Judgment. Even the testimony of faith, that statement that brings a person into Islam, is INVALID if it is coerced or forced.
Having said that, hell is the punishment for dying on disbelief ONLY AFTER clear signs and messengers have come. For those who did NOT receive clear signs or messengers, their test will be on the Day of Judgment. There is no contradiction. Just as there is a punishment for sin, a person still has the free will to sin or to be good. That is the whole point of this life: it is to test a person’s sincere faith.
If Islam stands for peace and co-existence with other religions, how can one justify Prophet Muhammad’s destroying of idols in the Kaaba? How is that different from the recent Taliban bombing of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan?
. . . End of Excerpt . . .
Read the rest of this conversation (and more like this) in Islamic Law, Theology and Practice: What Would a Muslim Say – Volume 4.
Get it HERE