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Friday, January 22, 2016

A look at Abrahamic Religions — 1

I was brought up in a Sunni Muslim household, but my grandfather's second marriage (after my grandmother died) was to a (Twelver) Shia lady, so I had enough on my plate to see both sides of the view. My father, who was once a strong Atheist up to his late 40s, slowly became a very strong believer, later. However, he was an avid reader and allowed me to read all sorts of books, which included religious works as well as Freethinking authors.

At school I was very interested in the Bible … which was taught to us by a Catholic Priest, as we could not have a copy of the Bible. Why? Because it was among the books that were not allowed for people to have. Only Priests were allowed to have them, because there were things in it that "the people would have misunderstood the book", as my Vice Principal, Father Todd, said to me. Actually, in the 1229AD Council of Toulouse one of the items was this:
Canon 14. We prohibit also that the laity should be permitted to have the books of the Old or New Testament; unless anyone from motive of devotion should wish to have the Psalter or the Breviary for divine offices or the hours of the blessed Virgin; but we most strictly forbid their having any translation of these books.
The Church forbade Catholics from reading the Holy Bible by placing it on the index of Forbidden Books. The Bibles placed on the Index of Forbidden Books were also Protestant Bibles that lacked 7 books and/or were badly translated versions of the Bible. Soon after Pope John XXIII announced Vatican II in 1962, the Bible became something that Catholics could buy (but, preferably, not read without a Priest being present, as I was told by a Catholic friend).


Later on, after I went to sea in the Merchant Navy, I decided to read most religious books in a Chronological Order (as far as one could determine the dates). These and the works of Toynbee and Durant were remarkably good. As were Bertrand Russell's works. My time at Sea was absolutely amazing!

So here I am, trying to write down a few things that many people, including close family and  friends,  are unaware of or seem to misunderstand because of the various peculiar stories. I will also quote some parts from the Jewish and Christian Holy Books.

At later blogs I will also choose some of our own stories from the Qur'an … and some myths that have arisen within the Muslim subsects.

The Holy Qur'an

The majority of Muslims believe that there are Four Books that Allah sent:
  1. Züboor: Hazrat Daüd/David's book — a small part of which is in the Old Testament (OT). 
  2. Taoraét (Torah): the first 5 books of the OT, also known as the Pentateuch. The word Taoraét means 'Laws' — Generally accepted as the word Allah gave to Hazrat Müsa/Moses.
  3. Injeel: Which refers to the New Testament (NT). The word Injeel means 'Glad Tidings' (Evangelism comes from this) — Generally accepted as the word that Allah gave to Hazrat Isa/Jesus.
  4. The Holy Qur'an.
A smaller sect among Muslims believes that since this belief part is written in the Qur'an, there is no reason that it should name itself, since 'we know' that Qur'an is the word of Allah. The Four Books, according to them, are the ones that Qur'an mentions: Three first books mentioned above the Qur'an in my earlier para — and one that came before all of them — The Book/Scripture of Hazrat Ibrahim/Abraham, which is no longer available to us.

Quranic Verse Surah 87 Aayaas 17-19
But the Hereafter is better and more enduring.
And this is in the Books of the earliest (Revelation),
The Books of Abraham and Moses.

Quranic Verse Surah 53 Ayaa 37
And of Scripture of Abraham who fulfilled all that Allah ordered him.


The OT has many more books apart from the Pentateuch, of course. OT contains 39 (Protestant) or 46 (Catholic) or more (Orthodox and other) books, divided, very broadly, into the Pentateuch (Torah), the historical books, the "wisdom" books and the prophets.

One story, given further rise by Voltaire, was that the number of books in the Bible were decided in the Nicene Council in 325AD. Part of the idea was that many books were placed on top of each other and the ones that fell were discarded. This is untrue, though people still use this story without knowing the facts. It actually took many centuries when all this happened.

The Nicene Council, that gave rise to the Nicene Creed, was an ecumenical meeting that decided many things, of which the most important were these:

1. Jesus Christ is described as "God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God", proclaiming his Divinity. (# This means that he is not just God, but also the Son of God.)
(Note: The Council of Constantinople (now Istanbul) was convened by Emperor Theodosius in 381AD. It further affirmed the divinity of the Holy Spirit, which up to that point had never been clearly stated anywhere in the Scripture.)
2. The view that 'there was once that when he was not' was rejected to maintain the co-eternity of the Son with the Father.

3. Independence of the Jewish calendar and worldwide uniformity, were the only rules for Easter explicitly laid down by the Council.

There were many other orders, among which was a prohibition of Usury. This was different from Interest according to some documents. A loan may be considered usurious because of excessive or abusive interest rates. There may be other factors, too. In Pakistan and other Muslim countries Usury is taken to mean InterestUsury is prohibited in many Christian countries but many of them look at it differently from Interest.

Here's are two pieces from Wikipedia that show that it was permissible in lots of areas. 
Certain negative historical renditions of usury carry with them social connotations of perceived "unjust" or "discriminatory" lending practices. The historian Paul Johnson, comments:

Most early religious systems in the ancient Near East, and the secular codes arising from them, did not forbid usury. These societies regarded inanimate matter as alive, like plants, animals and people, and capable of reproducing itself. Hence if you lent 'food money', or monetary tokens of any kind, it was legitimate to charge interest. Food money in the shape of olives, dates, seeds or animals was lent out as early as c. 5000 BC, if not earlier. ...Among the MesopotamiansHittitesPhoenicians and Egyptians, interest was legal and often fixed by the state. But the Hebrew took a different view of the matter.
Jewish Laws allowed it with foreigners and not other Hebrews: 
The Hebrew Bible regulates interest taking. Interest can be charged to strangers but not between Hebrew.
Deuteronomy 23:19 Thou shalt not lend upon interest to thy brother: interest of money, interest of victuals, interest of any thing that is lent upon interest.
Deuteronomy 23:20 Unto a foreigner thou mayest lend upon interest; but unto thy brother thou shalt not lend upon interest; that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all that thou puttest thy hand unto, in the land whither thou goest in to possess it.

The Holy Bible has many versions that various sects of Christians follow, but let me stick to the one that I know well — The King James Version — when I quote from it. I will, of course, include the Pentateuch in it, so that my Jewish friends are included.


The books of OT obviously do not have Jesus in them and the Jews do not recognise him as a Prophet or God Incarnate. The OT & the NT has nothing about Islam's Prophet, so the Jews and the Christians do not accept him as a Prophet, either. The Qur'an, however, recognises many Prophets from the OT and accepts Jesus as a Prophet. The Muslims, however, do say that the OT/NT have been altered heavily and are not in their original form.

The current understanding by scholars is that OT was written over a long time — the rough dates are given here. This, of course, does not make OT the Word of God. However the Pentateuch (The books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) is supposed to be the Word of God according to Jews/Christians. It was written, according to researchers, in 1445BC to 1405BC, by Hazrat Musa/Moses. 

I find this rather odd, since God could not have ordered Moses to write the last lines of Deuteronomy.

Chapter 34
The Death of Moses
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah,across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land—from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the Lord said to him, “This is the land I promised on oathto Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it.”
And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him[a] in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moabthirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.
Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses. 
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt—to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.
An Important Note

Most Muslims sadly believe that, in Christianity, Jesus is the Son of God. Actually they are unaware of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity ("threefold"), which defines God as three consubstantial persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; that is "one God in three persons". 

Here is a popular figure from one of their school books.

Some of the most popular hymns talk of Hail Mary, Mother of God.


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