CHRISTIANITY AND ISLAM – MY OBSERVATIONS
ON TWO CONCURRENT RELIGIOUS EVENTS
(I first wrote this article in 1990)
This is a very special time in the lives of the followers of two world religions – Christianity and Islam. For Christians it is the time of Good Friday and Easter that mark the death and the resurrection of Jesus. For Muslims it is the month of Ramadan when all devout Muslims observe a fast, from sunrise to sun set each day, and then feast at night. We shall examine the significance of each of them in this essay.
Jesus was a great spiritual personality, who was born nineteen hundred and ninety four* years ago (4 B.C.) in Bethlehem. Christians accept him as the Son of God and the saviour of the world. Unfortunately, many people do not know of most of the life of Jesus. They know of his birth, and when he was taken to Egypt to escape death by Herod. They know about when he was brought to Jerusalem at the age of twelve, and when he confounded the Rabbis in the Sanhedrin. The next time they learn of him is at the age of thirty, when he began to preach on the banks of the Sea of Galilee. His teachings culminated with the Sermon on the Mount.
As happens with nearly all saints, saviours and prophets of the world, the average people and the established church or religion, do not understand them. This happened in the case of Jesus when he was persecuted by the chief priest Caiaphas and was handed over for trial to Herod and Pontius Pilate. He was eventually hanged on the cross on Mount Golgotha.
There is evidence that Jesus travelled in those ‘missing’ years to Egypt, the Middle East and to India. He studied the Upanishads of India, and the Yogic practices and psychic healing. One teacher of spiritual healing mentioned in this relationship is Udraka 1. Jesus also learned from travelling holy men with whom he had discussions, as he was growing up.
Concerning his death on the cross, there is some doubt. He belonged to a very close-knit group of Essenes. During the storm which arose, and when all the Roman soldiers fled for shelter, it is felt that his Essene brothers removed him from the cross and nursed him back to health. It was thus that he was subsequently able to visit his disciples, to comfort them and to give them further teachings. If he rose from the sepulchre on the third day and ascended to heaven, then why did he, or what need did he have, to appear to his disciples on earth? He had already instructed them in everything that they needed to know and to do after his departure.
For the Islamic people the fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars that must be observed by the faithful. The other four pillars are: (l) to accept Allah as God and Mohammed as His Messenger; (2) to pray five times a day, turning towards Mecca; (3) to give alms for the welfare of the less fortunate people and (4) to go on pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in one’s life time.
It is all well and proper to observe certain rites and ceremonies, in order to uphold the standards of one’s religion. By fasting the whole day and eating at night has some merit in it, as it teaches forbearance and discipline. But some Muslims eat delicacies at night and gain weight which would negate the good done by the fasting. Another practice of Muslims is ‘Id-al-Fitr’. This is a feast celebrated at the end of Ramadan when animals are slaughtered and, in a festive mood, the people enjoy a sumptuous feast. In order to carry through with their spiritual gain through the month, it would have been more appropriate if they treated the animals by giving them a feast, instead of feasting on them. I think that a loving, merciful, humane and compassionate Allah would like that much better. After all, it is our duty to protect innocent animals, as their lives are just as important to them as ours are to us. The commandment “thou shalt not kill” is not observed in these practices at all.
Recently in our local newspaper, there was a lengthy article on eating to protect the environment and the earth. It gave many reasons why people should not eat meat but should be vegetarians. In that article Dr. Klaper, whom I had known before he moved to the United States, stated: “I will not eat anything that can run away from me and have sex.” This may be a humorous way of looking at the situation but it does make sense. It excludes all animals from the diet.
First and foremost, religion is a path towards a goal, and what one does in religious practices must be geared towards increasing knowledge and understanding of a spiritual goal. It must not bring harm to any living creature. Religion must be understood properly, and people should not feel guilt or fear and thus follow the religion. Christians are told that they are all sinners and that Jesus died for their sins. Driving such guilt into the hearts of adherents is not the way of God. The same Bible also teaches: “As you sow, so also you shall reap.” How can Jesus die for your sins, when you have to reap what you have sown in your life? How can Jesus, who died nearly two thousand years ago, save you from your sins at this time, or save those who existed before him, or those who never heard of him, and who had no clue about him at all? The positive way of accepting Jesus is that he was a God-realized person who gave his teachings for the salvation of humanity, and not to lull ourselves into believing that he died for our sins.
God is All Merciful and Loving and would also like his devotees to be merciful and loving. Both Muslims and Christians will agree with this. Yet, both of them slaughter animals and perpetrate religious wars; some even use chemical and germ warfare against their fellow human beings. Do they think that they can get away with it? How can God be satisfied with their behavior? We must weigh what we are doing and see whether it makes universal sense. Does is fit in with ‘natural law’ which is the preservation and improvement of all life. Does it increase love, understanding, compassion, humility and forgiveness in our hearts, and does it remove the selfish, greedy, hateful and killing instincts from our minds? Be your own judge.
- #3 And Jesus sought to learn the Hindu art of healing, and became the pupil of Udraka, greatest of the Hindu healers. 4 Udraka taught the uses of the waters, plants and earths; of heat and cold; sunshine and shade; of light and dark. 5 He said, The laws of nature are the laws of health, and he who lives according to these laws is never sick. (The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus, Chapter 3)
*as of 1990
Christianity, Islam, Ramadan, Good Friday, Thou shalt not kill, Jesus, Mohammed,