I’m continuing my series of investigation into Islam as a mormon. I think before continuing, I should describe my understanding that Islam, like Christianity or Buddhism, is a big religion with a very large number of believers. As such, one particular person’s beliefs are not representative of any other persons, although many people might share similar beliefs within Islam.
A kind reader directed me to this document on the web: http://www.understanding-islam.org.uk/images/stories/pdf/islam_a_comprehensive_introduction.pdf It is entitled “Islam: A Comprehensive Introduction” and the author is Javed Ahmad Ghamidi. This is obviously a translation into English and the translator is Shehzad Saleem.
I should note that the intent I believe is honest and true. The author and the translator both admit to the possibility of human error on their part and others, and their intent to achieve understanding through critical examination. This is what I consider a pure motive and honorable in God’s eyes.
The first paragraph reads:
The second and subsequent sentences I find disagreeable and logically inconsistent. It seems Islam is predicated on believing that God has changed, that former prophets were imperfect or incomplete, but Muhammad was complete and perfect. Yes, if there is any hierarchy at all, there must be one above another, and one that judges them all, second only to God, but if God is to be an impartial God, he would not send prophets to ancient mankind and then decide never to send more.
Even Christians struggle with this idea. They suppose that Jesus was the last prophet, to borrow the terminology here, and that there can be none after. But here, the Bible clearly disagrees with that idea, teaching and showing that after Jesus there would be more prophets. Indeed, in Amos 3:7 it reads, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing but he revealeth his secrets unto his servants the prophets.” This echoes a sentiment found throughout the Bible of God not acting to destroy or bless a people without first sending prophets or messengers. For instance, God sent Jonah to warn Ninevah. He could not destroy them without first warning them, and having been warned, they repented. If God intends to destroy us, he must first send prophets to warn us, in our language, in our day.
Indeed, as the document begins, it mentions how imperfect our understanding of perfection is. Can a man describe God or his religion through intellect and study alone? Of course not. If we are to learn about these things, it must either be through God himself (making us a prophet) or through a prophet who communicates directly with Him.
Now, God cannot contradict Himself. Indeed, that would make Him a liar, which God cannot be. So we must know what God has already said on a subject through his prophets, and if any suppose they are a prophet, then we would expect that his words would conform. But here, too, we are prone to error. Wasn’t it the Jews who were blessed with God’s word but rejected the living prophets in their own day? Such a people would fain live in the age of dead prophets, but not in the age of living prophets. We are human like the Jews, and so we are prone to the same error. We can be just as stubborn as they were, at the same time imagining ourselves as paragons of virtue and humility.
What would a prophet teach? I think the first thing a prophet should teach, if all man is alike in the eyes of God, and we are all truly equal, is that others can be prophets too. The famous story of Moses saying “I would that all could be prophets” is relevant here. A prophet, having connected with God, should thus teach mankind how they can connect with God too. Indeed, isn’t that the purpose of prayer, to express your mind and will to God so that he can express his to you? If you connect to God, can you then not also hear the voice of God and be commanded to do right just as the prophet was? And wouldn’t those words be just as sacred as any other?
If Islam is defined by the religion that Muhammad taught, then it can be nothing else, and no prophet can ever change it, and indeed, Muhammad is the last (and really, only) prophet of that religion. What a limited religion that would be though, because it would demand ignoring all the other times that God has spoken, the times he will speak, and the words he is speaking today! Such a religion would be dead the moment Muhammad died, unchangeable until Muhammad rises from the dead and speaks again. I suppose some people believe that Islam or religion should be limited in this way, just like there are those who believe that once Christ died and was resurrected and ascended to heaven, he would never, ever have anything to say. To these people, though, Christ was not resurrected, anymore than a stone statue is alive. In essence, rather than worship a living, breathing, speaking God, they worship a God limited to the words in the Bible. Is this the religion that muslims truly believe in?
This idea of idolatry is more relevant today than most realize. Sure, we do not worship stone and wooden idols, considering them to have power to heal or to bless or curse and destroy. Our idols are not made of wood or stone. They are often made of words in a book. Rather than worship the living God, we worship the words in a book, setting them higher than the inspiration God gives to all mankind. We suppose that words in a book, dead and unchanging, are somehow capable of intelligence and life. It is foolish to think this. At best, those words can only represent ideas, and those ideas can be from a Divine source. Even those ideas, however, are not worthy of worship. An idea, expressed in wood or stone as a statue, or in a book as words, is just an idea. An idea is limited by the imagination of the thinker. God is not limited to anything, and his ideas far surpass our own. I think mistake number one most religious people make is to try and limit God, and this is a common way of doing that.
Since I cannot accept the teaching that Muhammad is the only prophet, or rather, the last prophet, I cannot be considered muslim or a follower of Islam if that is the prerequisite. However, just because I do not consider Muhammad the last prophet does not mean I must reject him as a prophet. Indeed, even if he weren’t a prophet, even a broken clock is right twice a day. I felt inspired to study Islam and so I shall continue. I expect to find more truth. In the words of the 13th Article of Faith, “If there is anything virtuous, lovely or of good report, we seek after those things” and I have already found Islam and the followers of Islam to contain virtue, loveliness, and to be of good report.