To ‘St Paul’ something is now ‘a thing’ it seems.
الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله
All praise is due to ALLAH and peace and blessing upon His Messenger
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the Name of ALLAH, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
1. On Revelation
Jews, Christians and Muslims agree in the possibility of revelation – to that extent we are agreed. The secular-atheist will never accept the notion of revelation as he deals with only the material and so his conclusion is a belief that is restricted from the Ghaib or the Unseen (or the ‘Hidden-from-View’ realm). The People of the Book (Jews and Christians) and Muslims accept the reality of the Unseen because of our belief in the possibility of ALLAH (God). And whatever we learn of the Unseen has only been revealed by ALLAH (via revelation to a Prophet). However Muslims would insist that we ought to distrust anything that purports to be from ALLAH unless we can verify it being genuinely from Him because we are told by ALLAH (in the Qur’an) that there have been deviations created amongst previous scriptures via the works of man who have contaminated (directly or indirectly, consciously or not) the recorded words of ALLAH over time.
For instance, ALLAH, the Most Exalted, Says: “Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say:”This is from ALLAH,” to traffic with it for miserable price!- Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.” [Qur’an, 2:79]
The Muslim argument would be to insist that the only revelation-book that passes the validity test is the Qur’an (See The Challenge of the Qur’an) and so one ought to begin with the Qur’an (the Last Revelation to mankind) and use it as one’s Criterion (al-Furqan) to judge where all the other scriptures in the world are right and where they have gone wrong.
ALLAH, the Most Exalted, Says: “And We have sent down to you (O Muhammad (peace and blessings of ALLAH be upon him)) the Book (this Qur’an) in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it and Muhaymin (trustworthy in highness and a witness) over it (the old Scriptures).” [Qur’an, 5:48].
These former scriptures (the current Old Testament and New Testament) are respected insofar as there are still some things correct or right in them (that align with Islam) and therefore must be remnants of ALLAH’s originally revealed words, which is why the honourific, ‘the People of the Book’, is used to refer to the communities of these dispensations by the Islamic tradition.
2. Bid’ah: the Sin of St Paul
Now, back to St Paul. There is a semblance of unity in the perspectives of historians that have looked at the early Jewish Christian community and the Muslim account of what happened to the ‘Islam via Jesus’ as it developed into the ‘Christianity about Jesus’ (which are in fact two different but related religions). See for instance, ‘The Early Jerusalem Church Was More Islamic Than Christian.‘ The role played by St Paul has been pivotal in downplaying the former (i.e. the revealed words from ALLAH to Jesus to worship only ALLAH) and propagating the latter (i.e. the ‘revealed’ vision of Jesus to St Paul to worship Jesus – who is now presented as ‘son of God’). St Paul is recognised by historians and Muslims alike as the Innovator that altered the message of Jesus.
Muslims go further than historians and judge as a result of this fact by seeing any innovation to ALLAH’s word (regardless if it seems good – which is purely a man’s finite opinion) as always and necessarily bad. Why do they do that?
Bid’ah (religious innovation against the authentic words from ALLAH and His prophets) is a serious crime and sin in Islam.
ALLAH, Most High, Says:
“O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about ALLAH except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of ALLAH and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in ALLAH and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, ALLAH is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on earth. And sufficient is ALLAH as Disposer of affairs.” (Qur’an 4:171)
“Indeed, those who conceal what We sent down of clear proofs and guidance after We made it clear for the people in the Scripture – those are cursed by Allah and cursed by those who curse.” (Quran 2:159)
‘The Messenger of ALLAH, peace and blessings be upon him, would praise ALLAH in his sermon as He deserves to be praised and then he would say, “Whoever ALLAH guides, no one can lead him astray. Whoever ALLAH sends astray, no one can guide him. The truest word is the Book of ALLAH and the best guidance is the guidance of Muhammad. The most evil matters are those that are newly invented, for every newly invented matter is an innovation and every innovation is misguidance and every misguidance is in the Hellfire.“‘ (Narrated by Jabir ibn Abdullah. Source: Sunan An-Nasa’i, 1578.)
And so, bid’ah is dangerous because through it people believe they are doing good deeds. Why? Because they think it is from ALLAH when it is not. Bid’ah is worse than sin because with a sin you may ultimately ask for forgiveness when you feel guilty because you know you had done something wrong. Using St Paul’s bid’ah as an example, his struggle to tell people to pray to Jesus (the ‘Son’) for Salvation from God was not ‘Isa’s original message (peace be upon him), who explicitly told ‘the lost sheep of Israel’ (Mathew 15:24) to ‘please’ the Father [read, ALLAH] and ‘not [him]self [i.e. Jesus]’ (John 5: 30) ‘for the Father is greater than I.’ (John 14:28). And we know ALLAH Curses those who say what He did not Say (Qur’an 2:159, as above). With bid’ah, because you believe it comes from ALLAH, Most High – or in this case, the Father – there will never be any thought of repentence because you (as a Christian) would be thinking this action of praying to the ‘Son’ is a holy act and actually you’re likely to do it more, because of this reason, and encourage others too; in this way it also aquires a public dimension and thereby the sin magnifies.
DO NOT CHANGE ALLAH’s WORDS!
This is the import of the Qur’anic commentary – and a warning – reminding us about what happened as a result of the errors that crept into the other religions.
ALLAH, Most Exalted, Says: “And be not as those who divided and differed among themselves after the clear proofs had come to them. It is they for whom there is an awful torment.” (Qur’an, 3:105)
And what is ironic, is how in the New Testament, some remnant of this notion remains:
Jesus warned the people against believing in doctrines made up by men (Matthew 15:9).
“‘But in vain they do worship [ALLAH], teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’ This verse, Matthew 15:9, is further supported by these words of the Quran:
“And (remember) when ALLAH will say (on the Day of Resurrection): “O Jesus, son of Mary! Did you say unto men: “Worship me and my mother as two gods besides ALLAH?” He will say: “Glory be to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, You would surely have known it. You know what is in my inner-self though I do not know what is in Yours, truly, You, only You, are the All-Knower o fall that is hidden and unseen.
Never did I say to them aught except what You (ALLAH) did command me to say: ‘Worship ALLAH, my Lord and your Lord.’ And I was a witness over them while I dwelt amongst them, but when You took me up, You were a Witness to all things. (This is a great admonition and warning to the Christians of the whole world).” (Qur’an, Al-Ma’idah 5:116-117).” (Excerpt taken from ‘The Bible led me to Islam‘)
3. A Person of Opinion
And so, Muslims can’t help but feel a type of frustration or disgust with St Paul specifically – with his arguments against James the Just and the Early Jerusalem Church (who were following Jesus’ revelation from ALLAH after all) and with his entire enterprise to spread the message of Jesus based on his own (‘clever!’) opinions and not on the revealed words of ALLAH, Most High, to Jesus himself (peace be upon him). This heated exchange between Paul and James is recounted briefly in ‘The Early Jerusalem Chruch Was More Islamic Than Christian.‘
[Also see HERE to understand ‘What exactly is a Person of Opinion‘.]
For Muslims, St Paul has become the Great Innovator-Extraordinare!
4. The Cult of Modernity and the Proliferation of Opinionated Religions
And when we consider how in our midst, we now have some Muslims talking about making Islam up-to-date, as though somehow Islam’s message is not able to stand the test of time – is laughable. ALLAH, Most Exalted, Himself said He will protect the Qur’an and so its message is timeless.
ALLAH, Most High, Says:
“Absolutely, we have revealed the reminder, and, absolutely, we will preserve it.” (Qur’an, 15:9)
“This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favour upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.” (Qur’an, Al-Ma’idah 5:3)
The Cult of the New and the Cult of the Now is doomed. They are and will always be false religions. But because we trace our deen back to the Prophet’s own words (via hadith) or to the Qur’an itself – that is, we possess the very words, it is incumbant on us to see the references and verify the sources when discussing in order to understand that the true religion did indeed come from ALLAh, Most High; and this, in order to avoid what happened with St Paul and his differing opinions.
“O you who have believed, if there comes to you a wicked person with information, verify it, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful.” (Qur’an, 49: 6)
And if a ‘Modern’ Muslim tries to tell you their opinion of Islam is this or that – ask them for the evidences – that they must state their sources (so you are free to double-check them with a scholar). And if they insist not to – or give proofs unconnected to Qur’an and Sunnah (especially if it is to do with deen issues), warn them that they are following in the footsteps of St Paul:
“The Messenger has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in ALLAH and His angels and His books and His messengers, [saying], “We make no distinction between any of His messengers.” And they say, “We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.” (Qur’an 2:285)
Notice the phrase, “We hear and we obey” – that is, if you know the guidance/ instruction is coming from ALLAH, Most High, or His Prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him) – there is no debate. The phrase did not say “I think, there I am,” which is the indicator of the Modern paradigm. (This latter phrase is taken from the philosopher, Rene Descartes’ famous ‘Cogito Ergo Sum’ statement, which hails the age of the Modern mindset in the European – and increasingly, the global – consciousness. )
So, how did the early Muslim community of believers understand the deen around the Prophet (peace be upon him) in terms of the core tenets of faith and action (i.e. Aqeedah)? Remember, the first three generations of Muslims are the ‘Golden Generation’ [see HERE] and secondary role models in comprehending the deen (after the primary examples outlined in Qur’an and Sunnah). We have their tafsir (commentaries). To devise our own core tenets – to do our own thing – is do-able… but wrong. (See ‘The Difference between Aqeedah and Fiqh‘.) The likes of the Quilliam Foundation, for instance, who are trying to ‘Liberalise’ Islam, and who have political backing in the UK – and in Egypt, attempts the ‘Liberalise’ the Qur’an, and similar movements around the world – seems likely that in some near-future time, they will ‘Council-of-Nicea’ such designs, claim them as authentic and ‘mainstream’ them and then outlaw as a heresay (ironically) the truly authentic articulation of Islam, which is the one evidenced in the Qur’an and by the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself and the first three generations of believers who actually lived it. Be ready for the Great Lie, as it approaches in our Post-Truth world.
5. To Seek the Early Community of Believers
If a Christian could go back in time, one would presume they would want to be with Jesus (peace be upon him), so they could see him preach his message for real. But if they weren’t allowed to see him – for whatever reason – and given the controversy with St Paul and the Early Jerusalem Church, it would make sense for this Christian to seek after the early disciples of Jesus to get closer to his original message, as the next, best step – such as to seek after St Peter. But there is evidence that Peter was taking orders from James the Just, and some comment how James was by-and-large air-brushed out of the Gospels. [EVIDENCE to be supplied, pending.] Historians are convinced James must have been one of the original disciples because they demonstrate how he had such a prominent role after Jesus’ ascent; in fact it was the highest role! – the head of the Early Jerusalem Jewish-Christian Church! The point being made is it is natural and reasonable (if you are interested in the truth and not your ego) to seek the early community of believers (who lived with their respective prophet) and attend to their accounts of the prophet. This is natural and right. To bypass the membership and historicity of that tradition and jump to some extraneous person’s opinion about what they think the authentic religion is (i.e. St Paul in the Christian example or a Muslim upon bid’ah in the Muslim example)… is blatantly ludricous.
However, with the early community of believers in the Christian example, disruptive and significant fitna (catastrophes) came quick after Jesus’ ascent and we do not have reliable data of the companions’ actual words when we compare this against the Muslim example: disruptively significant fitna came later and the rigiorous hadith tradition enables us to access the early believers’ account (See ‘The Hadiths had it – well, they still have it’.) which is much more numerous and substantially more reliable than the claims that this line or that line even in the Bible actually derives from the prophets.
History is repeating. Muslims have been living in a disruptive and significant fitna right now – for the last two to three hundred years. But even then our deen is protected by the promise of Allah, Most High. Be encouraged that the (sincere) seekers of truth are always the winners despite appearances one way or the other.
Be warned: Do not let a Muslim St Paul you away from the (only one, authentic) deen!
سبحان ربك رب العزة عما يصفون وسلام على المرسلين والحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله محمد وعلى اله وصحبه أجمعين
Exalted be your Lord, the Lord of Glory, above what they attribute to Him, and peace be upon the Messengers, and all praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe. And the peace and blessing upon prophet Mohammed and his relatives and all his companions.