Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Muslimah Has Some Questions Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

In the comments section to one of the featured posts (When the Dead Walked the Streets of Jerusalem) that is found on Paul Bilal Williams’ blog, a Muslimah named Khadijah Elisabeth raised some questions against the Christian faith:

@Ashmath, assalamo 3alaykom wr wb, another fantastic piece – it’s not only this event, but the whole story of God (supposedly) coming to earth, that is far too under-emphasized in the NT for it to be true. If Jesus were truly God, where is the awed adoration and worship, falling on their faces, of the multitudes that saw Him, or at least of the disciples that walked with Him? Where is the *clear, unamibiguous*[sic] declaration of it in all the Gospels and NT? And where is the massive, unified church, immediately proclaiming him their god and saviour as soon as He rose from the dead, abandoning the law completely in favour of his imputed righteousness? What kind of christology is “Jesus of Nazareth was a MAN accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22)? If God truly walked on the earth, if it were even possible according to OT theology, would not the whole universe tremble in remembrance of that day? (April 7, 2012 at 2:06 pm)

In this particular rebuttal we are going to address this specific objection of hers:

If Jesus were truly God, where is the awed adoration and worship, falling on their faces, of the multitudes that saw Him, or at least of the disciples that walked with Him?

Notice her statements carefully. If Jesus were truly God then the people around him, specifically his disciples, would have worshiped him as such.

Now this is a valid point which she raises since according to her Islamic beliefs no true Muslim prophet who was nothing more than a human being would allow anyone to give him such honor.

Islamic tradition is quite clear that Allah is the only one who is be worshiped or served:

Say: I am only a mortal like you; it is revealed to me that your god is one God, therefore whoever hopes to meet his Lord, he should do good deeds, and not join any one in the service of his Lord. S. 18:110 Shakir

Acts of service which Muslims are forbidden to render to anyone other than their own peculiar deity include such things as bowing or prostrating, as well as prayers or supplications:

Q16: What are the types of worship that can never be correct or accepted except when done solely for Allaah Alone?

A16: From its types are, Du’aa (supplication), Ista’aanah (seeking help and aid), Istaghaathah (seeking deliverance and rescue), Dhabh (slaughtering), Qurbaan (sacrifice), Nadhr (making vows), Khawf (fear of His punishment), Rajaa’a (hope for His mercy), Tawakkul (dependence and reliance on Allaah), Inaabah (turning in repentance), Mahabbah (love), Khashyah (awe), Raghbah (fervent desire), Rahbah (dread), Ta’alluh (taking one as a deity), Rukoo’ (bowing in prayer), Sujood (prostration), Khushoo’ (humility), Tadhallul (humbleness and self abasement), and the glorification and exaltation that is from the specific traits of al-Uloohiyyah. (The Proofs of Tawheed From the Book: Dalaa’il at-Tawheed Khamsoon Su’aalan wa Jawaaban fil-‘Aqeedah, by Shaykhul Islaam Muhammad bin Sulaym at-Timimee; bold and capital emphasis ours)

This isn’t merely an isolated opinion, but one which is widely held by virtually all the major Islamic authorities, as can be readily seen from the following citations:

Bowing or prostrating at the grave, which is [sic] actions we are only permitted to do for Allaah. It was narrated that Anas said: “It is not appropriate for a human being to bow to another.” Narrated by Ahmad, 3/158; classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Targheeb, 1936, 1937; Irwa’ al-Ghaleel, 3/158. (IslamQA, fatwa No. 36860. Mistakes made when visiting the Prophet’s Mosque; bold emphasis ours)

It is not permissible to bow when meeting someone, whether he is a scholar or anyone else.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said:

With regard to bowing when greeting someone, it is forbidden as is narrated in al-Tirmidhi from the Prophet; they asked him about a man who meets his brother, can he bow to him? He said: “No.” And it is not permissible to bow or prostrate to anyone except Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, even though that may have been a form of greeting in other religions, as in the story of Yoosuf – “…and they fell down before him prostrate. And he said: ‘O my father! This is the interpretation of my dream aforetime!’” [Yoosuf 12:100]. But in our religion it is not acceptable to bow or prostrate to anyone except Allah; in fact it is also forbidden to stand as the non-Arabs stand before one another, so how about bowing and prostrating? Similarly, a partial bow is also included in this prohibition.

End quote from Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa, 1/377

And he said:

With regard to lowering the head when meeting prominent figures such as shaykhs and so on, or kissing the ground and so on, these are things concerning which there is no difference of opinion among the imams that they are forbidden. In fact merely inclining the back to anyone other than Allah is forbidden. In al-Musnad and elsewhere it is narrated that when Mu‘aadh ibn Jabal came back from Syria, he prostrated to the Prophet, who said: “What is this, O Mu‘aadh?” He said: O Messenger of Allah, I saw them in Syria prostrating to their bishops and patriarchs, and they narrated that from their Prophets. He said: “They are lying, O Mu‘aadh; if I were to instruct anyone to prostrate to anyone else, I would have instructed a woman to prostrate to her husband because of the greatness of his rights over her. O Mu‘aadh, do you think that if you were to pass my grave you would prostrate?” He said: No. He said: “Do not do that,” or words to that effect.

To sum up: standing, sitting, BOWING AND PROSTRATING are due ONLY to the only One Who is deserving of worship, the Creator of the heavens and the earth; with regard to that which is due only to Allah, NO ONE SHOULD HAVE ANY SHARE IN IT; this also applies to swearing by anything other than Allah, may He be glorified and exalted.

End quote from Majmoo‘ al-Fataawa, 27/92, 93

The scholars of the Standing Committee said:

It is not permissible to bow when greeting or to take off one’s shoes for him.

And they said:

It is not permissible to bow when greeting a Muslim or a kaafir, whether with the upper part of the body or the head, because bowing IS A FORM OF WORSHIP, and worship can only be for Allah alone.

Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azeez ibn Baaz, Shaykh ‘Abd al-Razzaaq ‘Afeefi, Shaykh ‘Abd-Allah ibn Ghadyaan, Shaykh ‘Abd-Allah ibn Qa‘ood

Fataawa al-Lajnah al-Daa’imah, 1/233, 234

And Allah knows best. (IslamQA, fatwa No. 164865. Is it permissible for a younger person to bow to an older person when greeting them?; bold and capital emphasis ours emphasis ours)

The Muslim authorities are also clear that to perform such acts to anyone other than the Muslim deity is to commit the unpardonable sin of shirk, or of associating a creature along with Allah in his exclusive divine worship (cf. Q. 2:22; 4:48, 116):

Q 4: Is it true that a person who testifies that Allah is the Creator and Provider, and that Muhammad is Allah's Messenger, and performs Salah (Prayer) is a Muslim even if they make Sujud (Prostration) to their shaykh and offer sacrifices for people other than Allah?

A: Making Sujud and sacrificing for anyone other than Allah is Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship). People who indulge in any of these practices after being aware of the ruling of doing so, are Mushriks (people who associate others with Allah in worship) and Kafirs (disbelievers). Allah will not accept any of their deeds even if they offer Sawm (Fast) and Salah. Deeds of Mushriks are rejected. Moreover, if they die in this case, Allah will not forgive them. Allah says: <Verily, Allah forgives not that partners should be set up with Him (in worship), but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He wills> Allah also says, <Verily, whosoever sets up partners (in worship) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden Paradise to him, and the Fire will be his abode. And for the Zâlimûn (polytheists and wrong-doers) there are no helpers.> Also Allah says: <But if they had joined in worship others with Allah, all that they used to do would have been of no benefit to them.> But if they return to Allah in sincere Tawbah (repentance to Allah) before death, Allah will forgive them, as Allah (Exalted be He) says: <Say: “O ‘Ibâdî (My slaves) who have transgressed against themselves (by committing evil deeds and sins)! Despair not of the Mercy of Allâh: verily, Allâh forgives all sins.> Muslim scholars unanimously agree that this Ayah (Qur'anic verse) speaks about repentant people. As for the Ayah of Surah Al-Nissa': <Verily, Allâh forgives not that partners should be set up with Him (in worship), but He forgives except that (anything else) to whom He wills>, it speaks about the unrepentant people, namely, those who died in Kufr (disbelief) and sin. May Allah protect us from that. (Fatwas of the Permanent Committee [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: Portal of the General Presidency of Scholarly Research and Ifta'], Volume 1, Part 1, Chapter on Aqidah, Creeds: Prostration before anyone or anything other than Allah, Fourth question from Fatwa no. 4360: Prostrating before other than Allah and slaughtering animals for them, pp. 336-337; underline emphasis ours)

Q 7: Is it permissible to perform Ruku‘ (bowing) to one’s parents?

A: This is impermissible and is tantamount to Shirk (associating others with Allah in His Divinity or worship). Ruku‘ is a form of worship, just like Sujud (prostration); therefore, it is impermissible to bow or prostrate before anyone other than Allah the Exalted. (Ibid, The Seventh Question of Fatwa no. 9868: Bowing to Parents; underline emphasis ours)

2. Shirk Uluhiyyah. The concept of Tauhid al-Uluhiyyah necessitates that one direct each and every act of worship to Allah and only to Allah. Thus, to direct any act of worship to other than Allah is an example of shirk in Uluhiyyah. Examples of acts of worship that are due only to Allah are du’a, prayer, PROSTRATION, vows and oaths. Shirk in Uluhiyyah is the most common type of shirk amongst mankind. This is because most of mankind affirms the existence of One Creator, yet directs acts of worship to other than Him. Thus, Christians, while in believing God ‘the Father’ direct most of their worship to Jesus Christ. (An Explanation of Muhammad ibn ‘Abdul Wahhab’s Kashf al-Shubuhat - Critical Study of Shirk, translation and commentary by Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi [Al-Hidaayah Publishing & Distribution, Birmingham, UK], 6. The Categories of Shirk, 1. Shirk in Relation to the Categories of Tawhid, p. 37; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The Holy Bible itself contains examples of godly men forbidding people from bowing down or sacrificing to them:

“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell at his feet, and worshiped him. But Peter helped him up and said, ‘Stand up! I myself am also a man.’” Acts 10:25-26

“In Lystra a man without strength in his feet, lame from birth, and who had never walked, sat and heard Paul speaking. After observing him closely and seeing that he had faith to be healed, Paul said in a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet!’ And he jumped up and started to walk around. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voices, saying in the Lycaonian language, ‘The gods have come down to us in the form of men!’ And they started to call Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the main speaker. Then the priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the town, brought oxen and garlands to the gates. He, with the crowds, intended to offer sacrifice. The apostles Barnabas and Paul tore their robes when they heard this and rushed into the crowd, shouting: ‘Men! Why are you doing these things? We are men also, with the same nature as you, and we are proclaiming good news to you, that you should turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them.’” Acts 14:8-15

And, according to the inspired Scriptures, even righteous angels refused to accept such reverence on the grounds that they are nothing more than slaves of God just like the rest:

“I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. When I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had shown them to me. But he said to me, ‘Don’t do that! I am A FELLOW SLAVE with you, your brothers the prophets, and those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.’” Revelation 22:8-9 – cf. 19:9-10

Thus, if Jesus were nothing more than a man then neither he nor his disciples would ever permit anyone to grant him such honor.

However such is not the case, as we shall see in the next part.