This is an OPINION page. Every week, a different intellectual writes a FOCUS on a pertinent issue! Monotheistic Religions and their Origin [Archives:1998/01/Focus]
By: Ismail Al-Ghabiriy
The Quran’s account of the history of Noah and his people is narrated in Surah Hood in considerable detail. There are, however, several points which merit further comment, since their significance is not confined to the story or to the people of Noah. Indeed historical accounts are given in the Quran because they are relevant to all mankind and they have a direct bearing on faith. We will discuss these points so that the full significance of the story is fully absorbed. Many people ask whether the floods actually engulfed the whole earth or whether were they were confined to a certain area where Noah and his people lived. What were the boundaries of that area in the ancient world? We have no definite answer for such a question. But that is irrelevant because the world at the time was confined to Noah and his people. Secondly, the floods must have swept this whole area, drowning all creatures, except those who were saved by the Ark. This is a great event which we are certain to have happened, since many sources besides the Quran tell us about it. The people of Noah were immersed in ignorance. Hardened in their evil ways, they stubbornly rejected the message of Noah based on the Oneness of God. This message was first revealed to Adam. We know from history, the reasons for the fall of Adam – temptation. After him, his offspring were charged with the task of building the earth. This is the purpose of our existence. God has given us the qualities and abilities necessary to do this task. This submission to God’s purpose and will is known as faith. Hence, this submission, or Islam was the first faith ever known to man on earth. Hence, the people of Noah’s sin was their refusal to submit to God’s will. They were immersed in worship of idols, and most troublesome of all, the people did not respect the rights of each other. Man’s deviation from Islam, in its broad sense, has taken place as a result of the machinations of Satan, the enemy of both God and man. Satan exploits people’s weaknesses whenever they become lax in their observance of God’s commandments and deviate from his guidance. God has created man and granted him a measure of free choice, by which he is tested. Equipped with free choice, he can choose to hold fast to God’s guidance, fortifying himself against evil. But when man deviates from God’s guidance, Satan overpowers him until he eventually falls to a condition of complete ignorance. This fact, that the first faith ever known on earth is that of or submission to God – Islam – guides us through choice to our self fulfillment and elevation. Today comparative religious scholars know this submission as monotheism. Monotheism is not a latterday development of human religion. It is preceded, by several stages and forms, the polytheism worship of natural forces, spirits, planets, etc. Whatever modern research has done in this connection, it follows a line predetermined by historical, psychological and political factors whose aim is to destroy the basis of divine religion, revelations and messages in order to establish that all religions are a human product. Once this is established it can be easily claimed that religions have developed in the same way as human thought. Some of those who write in defense of Islam, slip and endorse the theories established by those specialists in the history of religion conducting their research along the biased line. While defending Islam so enthusiastically, they unwittingly destroy the basis of the Islamic Faith as stated in the Quran with decisive clarity. The Quran states that Adam (peace be on him) descended on earth with the faith of Islam. It also states that Noah (peace be on him) faced the later generations of mankind,was deflected by Satan from the line of Islam to the line of ignorance, with the same Islamic faith based on the absolute Oneness of God. The same cycle repeated itself after Noah, with mankind abandoning Islam to adopt doctrines of ignorance. All prophets were sent with the same message of God’s oneness, calling on mankind to submit themselves to God alone. The line of prophets from Ibrahim (Abraham), Mussa (Moses), all the way to Al-Maseeh (Jesus) and Mohammed carried the same message. An enlightened study of the development of religious doctrines does not lead to the conclusion that people reached the stage of monotheism on the basis of evolution and progress relating to the essence of faith. It shows that the monotheistic faiths, preached by successive prophets and messengers, were complete in the message delivered by each messenger that had deviated from true faith. In other words, faith was complete right from the start, because it was not the result of human thinking or increased human knowledge. It was given to man by God and as such, it was true and complete right from the beginning. This is clearly established in the Quran. It was clearly established in the Bible, and the Old and New Testaments, etc. It is not for any scholar, especially if he/she wants to defend Islam, to depart from what is stated so clearly in order to follow the masters of comparative religion as they grope for a coherent theory.