There is a view of the world that designates ‘culture borrowing’ as the sole explanation as to why a later culture may contain features that mirrors or matches a pre-existing culture. Often this is the most probable or plausible explanation. Let us call this the ‘Negative-Material-Contingent’ explanation of cultural continuity, which utilizes solely secular or empirical evidences, attempting to find patterns and then make general deductions based on the material evidence available. Its blind-side is with the dearth of material evidence its generalisations will become wider and, therefore, more likely to be off-the-mark. Another blind-side is not only its delimitation to material evidence but its insistence to deny any explanation involving ‘genuine’ revelation. Such an explanation will never be factored-in as plausible, because this approach has no measuring tool to assess the veracity of such a truth-claim and its possibilities. (See ‘The Challenge of the Qur’an‘ for an example of an attempt to demonstrate in ‘Open’ secular terms, material evidences for revelation.)
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
As an example, the fact that there might be topics, motifs in the Qur’an that appear to mirror or match those from other cultural traditions – notably, the Judaeo-Christian or the Ancient Persian or Ancient Egyptian etc – the ‘Negative-Material-Contingent’ explanation of cultural borrowing is cited by secular (and some Jewish and Christian) historians as the sole explanation for this phenomena. This might be a reasonable stance to take if we did not know of or consider an alternative explanation that only comes to fruition with the advent of Islam-as-articulated-by-Muhammad, peace be upon him.
This alternative explanation is one restricted to Islam and specifically to the Qur’an (and Sunnah). And this is because of Islam’s bold proclamation of being not only a culmination of all other religious cultural traditions but also the Last valid and authentic spiritual offering of guidance to humanity from the Divine-Source.
ALLAH, Most Exalted, Says:
“This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion.” (Qur’an, Al-Maidah 5:3)
“Muhammad is not the father of [any] one of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of ALLAH and last of the prophets. And ever is ALLAH , of all things, Knowing.” (Qur’an, Al-Ahzab 33:40)
This is a unique stance in its universal and global projection of itself. As such, this ‘Islamic-Contingent’ explanation ought to be reckoned on a par with the ‘Negative-Material-Contingent’. That is, the ‘Islamic-Contingent’ explanation is part and parcel of a ‘Positive-Material-Contingent’ explanation, which means, it does not deny, out-of-hand, but accepts the plausibility of extra-material phenomena, so long as its truth-claims can be assessed demonstrably. (*How extra-material evidences can be ‘assessed demonstrably’ is the subject of another post). The ‘Islamic-Contingent’ explanation, therefore, is the notion that the existence of a seeming cultural continuity with a topic or motif that appears to filter into the Qur’anic narrative from another, older tradition is because that topic or motif is in origin from the same source – namely, a sacred source (of knowledge) in terms of its inclusion in the Qur’an.
In the video, above, the scholar explains the genius of Islam is to pronounce that all the prophets in the whole Judaeo-Christian tradition were in fact, historically and literally, all Muslims (literally, ‘submitters-to-God). Linguistically and historically, there is truth to this. But secular historians cannot draw the necessary conclusion to this fact: that the ‘Islamic-Contingent’ explanation is the most viable one because of their blind obsession with the implication that a sacred source (which they believe necessarily is not located in materiality, and so) cannot exist. (This is also shameful for those Jewish and Christian historians, who do the same thing, despite their alleged belief in the idea of revelation; they should know better.)
The scholar’s tone in the video is actually one of derision (which is lost on some Muslims who repost this video, thinking he is praising Islam. He is not.) His envious scorn is a tragic indictment on him. His unjustified resentment ensues from the fact that in one motion, the Islam-articulated-by-Muhammad, peace be upon him, is at one with the Islam-articulated-by-Jesus and the Islam-articulated-by-Moses, peace be on them both; and moreover, the current Christian and Jewish religions that differs from the Islam-articulated-by-them all (with prophet Muhammad as the last voice and re-articulation of the original religion) is in fact neither the actual religions of Jesus or Moses, respectively, and consequently nor are they (since the advent of Muhammad) the truth – peace be upon them all.
The parallels between the religion of the historical Moses and the historical Jesus and Islam-as-articulated-by-Muhammad (peace be on them all) is described as a ‘paradox’ for instance, because the ‘Negative-Material-Contingent’ explanation fails; it serves only to expose its blind-side most fully for all to see. And what this demonstrates is, simply, the genius of Islam. Alhamdulillah.
To appreciate the validity of Islams truth-claims vis-a-vis the other religious traditions is to:
a) Compare the early characteristics of the faith (Jewish, Christian and Islamic); you will be amazed at the similitude in core values and the practice of the early adherents. (i.e. See The Early Jerusalem Church was more Islamic than Christian.)
b) Identify the characteristics of all the prophets and decide whether the Last prophet shares similar traits; is he a prophet or not?
c) Consider the Qur’anic and Sunnah statements regarding the traditions of the people of scriptures (Christian, Jews etc) and what they did to their respective religions. How does this fare against historical accounts of the development of modern day Christianity and Judaism vis-a-vis the original teaching of Jesus and Moses, peace be on them both? (See the link in a) – above.)
d) Use the validity of the Qur’an’s compilation (as opposed to all the other religious scriptures) as evidence for its import to be taken seriously.
NOTE 2: The use of Negative and Positive matierial contingents has been extended from the idea of a Closed and Open Secularism, respectively, first introduced in ‘Muslim Theories of Evolution‘, Section G.
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.