Let’s look at the verse in section 2 of the Quran:
وَلَقَدْ ءَاتَيْنَا مُوسَى ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ وَقَفَّيْنَا مِنۢ بَعْدِهِۦ بِٱلرُّسُلِ وَءَاتَيْنَا عِيسَى ٱبْنَ مَرْيَمَ ٱلْبَيِّنَـٰتِ
وَأَيَّدْنَـٰهُ بِرُوحِ ٱلْقُدُسِ أَفَكُلَّمَا جَآءَكُمْ رَسُولٌۢ بِمَا لَا تَهْوَىٰٓ أَنفُسُكُمُ ٱسْتَكْبَرْتُمْ فَفَرِيقًا كَذَّبْتُمْ وَفَرِيقًا تَقْتُلُونَ
2:87 We gave Moses the book and he was followed by other messengers, and We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, all evidence of the truth, and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. Whenever a messenger comes to you with a message your ego does not like, you become arrogant, called some of them liars, and murdering some of them.
The line of messengers has been coming down from the very beginning for humankind. As long as human beings exist in this world, there should be a prophetic message for them. In fact, there would be no point in human beings to exist if it is not accompanied with the message from their Creator transferred to them by the messengers. Without the prophetic message, human beings would be unable to fulfill the purpose of why they exist in this world.
The verse indicates that just like the other prophets, Jesus is also one of the prophets given the message. There are two main verses in the Quran that point out that there is no difference in the prophets.
لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ
2L 285 “We make no distinction between any of His messengers…”
The word “Farraqa” is related to “Tafriqa” which means not going along with each other, contradicting, not compatible with one another. By using the word “Laa Nufarraqu”, the Quran is emphasizing that fundamentally the message is the same, no differentiation between the prophets as no contradicting messages are sent to them.
وَلَقَدْ فَضَّلْنَا بَعْضَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ عَلَىٰ بَعْضٍ
17:55 “… We did endow some of the prophets more highly than others …”
But We made some of them value-wise higher than the others. Some messages need to go into a deeper understanding of how human beings should fulfill the purpose of their existence according to the level of their understanding and available material to evaluate the content of the message they receive from their prophets. The Quran goes into the deep human feelings, in the heart and changes them from one state of feeling to another state of feeling.
Every prophet can be seen as bringing some level of understanding from the time of prophet Adam to prophet Muhammad. Analogous to the education system that is currently setup, Jesus can be seen as a Master degree level of teaching. Whereas, the Prophet Muhammad would be at the PhD level for example, as the last stage of education what human beings can be. We need to further our education afterwards by studying the Qur’an in various ways, especially its rhetoric and fine messages within its many layers. In the Quran, the language used, the rhetoric, the details are so finely tuned that people will develop as much as they specialize in it. Jesus’s message may not have as much deep quality of rhetoric as the Quran, but it should concentrate on the Belief system. Torah with its jurisprudence rulings may not need to be studied deeply, one can just apply the rules, be ethical, and associate all qualities to an Absolute being. How about my relationship to this Absolute being? What is my purpose of existence here? The spirit behind following the rules, why do I follow them? Prophet Jesus was given the revelation to complete the missing aspects within the already existing Torah of his time by going further and deeper into the spirit of following the rules. Similarly, the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was given the meaning behind prayers, fasting, etc. The essence of the teaching doesn’t change but the level of education is higher.
With respect to the concern of corruption of the scriptures – human treatment to the scriptures can result in corruption. The message of the Quran came towards the end in the lineage of prophets and the way it presents the message is such that each verse does not contradict the core teachings of the message from the previous prophets. Some scholars argue that the Quran is the last updated message that we receive as uncorrupted and preserved and not bound to be corrupted by using the Quranic verses as evidence. Although the verses in the Quran are limited, printed in a book, its teachings are practiced by many in the world, it is a complete comprehensive message regardless of their living conditions and level of understanding. The original text of the Quran does not look to be corrupted anymore but the various interpretations vary. Whatever interpretations that happen are human where none of them can be perfect. There are certain rules in interpreting the scriptures, that is, for example, one should be bound to the grammatical rules of the Quran itself. There is a trend that mentions that the Quran was revealed during the height of poetry and interprets the verses of the Quran according to the poetic vocabulary and meaning. The poets were like the scholars during the prophet’s (pbuh) time in Mecca. The words and their meanings that the poets used were used to the language of the verses in the Quran. The cultural meaning of the Arabic words were not injected into the message of the Quran. The Quranic vocabulary is conceptual and cannot be reduced to the meaning of the words used by the poets at the prophet’s (pbuh) era. Unfortunately, injecting the meaning of that time to the Quran is a very common trend.
One should see that the Islamic world went under the Sultanate Authorities soon after the prophet (pbuh). The kings supported the scholars that they liked, they became influential and widely spread by the support of the authorities. The serious scholars were given a hard time. The unpolluted knowledge of the Islamic heritage was protected by the Imams (descendants of the heritage of the prophet starting from Imam Ali), but were always under surveillance, house arrest, and politically unfavored by the Sultans. As a result, the serious scholars’ understanding was suppressed. The Sunni side was deprived of the Shia scholarship and vice versa where the Shia scholarship was deprived of the serious Sunni teachings. The teachings are tainted with political elements and are not the pure teachings of the Imams.
Some orientalists mention that at the time of the Quranic revelation, people used to write with hands and so it was bound to have some human tainting by addition/subtraction of the missing words that the scribes realized in their second readings of their first writings. For example, when I take notes and revise them I may notice a word here and there that I missed and thus add it. This is the way they mislead shallow thinking folks by saying that the Quran was also changed by inserting some words in the main text.
These are some of the things we should understand as we are students that want to get closer to the Quran. The Arabic grammar is refreshed, reestablished and completed with the revelation of the Quran. Arabic grammar was not as strong until the Quran was revealed and the Qur’an settled the final shape of the Arabic grammar. An example of the style of rhetoric and grammar used: Two folks are driving a car and one sees a boy crossing the street, one would yell to the driver “the boy!” instead of “watch out! There is a boy!” The Arabic word changes with the accents “haraka” against the general grammar rule of the Quran. The slight changes such as “Walada, Waladu, Waladi” are done within the Quranic Arabic rules. Grammatically on its own, one version of the word may not make sense but makes sense according to the Arabic grammar of the Quran as established. When it comes to the Quran, as long as the interpretation is within the capacity of the Arabic grammar and general purpose of the Quran, is taken notice of then it is valid. Two things, the interpretation should not be against the Quranic grammar and second should not contradict the main teachings and purposes of the Quran. There are many interpretations of scholarship within their scope of understanding, 15 million interpretations are not enough. The nature of the Quran is an ocean to be discovered and interpreted, enough till human beings exist in this world. One has to study and see that the general principles are applied in understanding the Quran. Belief perspective is one of the scopes to look into. Benefit from other scholars and look into the points that are applicable to our day and age.
How do we benefit from the teachings of the Quran?
We cannot protect the generation by keeping it in a closed community life as this generation is connected to the Internet and has access to every kind of idea available. We have to prepare the next generation according to the trend invading the minds of people disguised under humanism, Buddhism. It’s not that we should not have community life but we should have a community life in order to educate the generation according to the tendencies spreading all over the world. Today’s trending attitude towards religion is indifference, humanism, in the Muslim world practicing humanistic activities, some leading to becoming agnostic as far as the belief is concerned.
An example of a real-life encounter where a person wants to practice Islam but is not sure on how to go about it. The belief in God is just general knowledge, same with the belief in prophets. Never investigated whether we need prophets and the significance of that institution in one’s life. Religious values are left behind in favor of fashion and global trends of identifying oneself.
Before understanding the prophets, we have to understand who God is, what kind of God is He? What does God have to do with me now? We know God as the Creator of the universe. Believing in “Ghaib” something not of the universe, not physically observable, experiential. For example, if I claim that I am the best carpenter, how would you know that I am. You would have to see my work of carpentry and then determine what kind of carpenter I claim to be. This is the way we get to know God, the creator of the universe by looking at His work in this universe. We usually just take belief for granted. Religion is presented nowadays in an irrational, unacceptable, non-confirmable way in society. We don’t know why we pray, fast but just do them. Human education starts at the age of two where children are growing up holding smartphones in their hands, global humanistic ideologies are accessible on the videos that they watch. We thus need to present religion according to the challenges and language of the generation.
Side note: The symbol of lifting two fingers as a “V” has a significance in Islam. In wars, by symbolically lifting two fingers, the Muslims were saying that one finger signifies that if I am killed, I win martyrdom, the other finger signifies that If I survive, I am the winner at the war. In both cases, no matter what happens, the Muslims identified themselves as Winners.
Tags: carpenter, God, Jesus, Prophetic Teaching, Prophets