By Dr. Bilal Philips
God has given human beings the ability to discern what the correct religion is. No religion should be considered the true religion simply because it was inherited, i.e. because one’s parents and grandparents followed it.
God gave human beings intellect to be able to make correct choices in all aspects of their lives. However, people commonly tend to use their intelligence in their worldly lives but turn it off in their spiritual lives. They often willingly accept ridiculous religious practices simply because it is an inherited custom.
However, it is God’s will that people are born into different religious traditions. He will not reward or punish people for the religion they were reared from early childhood to follow. However, each human being is required to reflect on his or her situation and to choose what is, in fact, correct.
In order to do so, one must have a set of criteria to determine objectively what the right religion is. One may start by examining the claims of each religion as to why it considers itself to be the true religion of God.
In the following brief lines, some of the main evidences for Islam’s claim to be the true religion of God will be presented and analyzed.
Characteristics of the true religion
The Religion’s name
In identifying the one true religion meant for all humanity the world over, at all times, it would be required that its name not be affiliated with any particular person, group or location. Thus, Christianity named after Christ, Buddhism after Buddha, Judaism after the tribe of Judah, and Hinduism (from the Indus valley) are all related either to a person, a group or a specific location and therefore cannot be universal religions.
It is impossible for Christianity to be the religion that was prescribed by God from the time of Adam, as it is based on Christ’s existence at the end of a line of Jewish prophets. Likewise, Buddhism, an offshoot of Hinduism, only came into existence with the person of Buddha who lived in India some time before Christ.
Islam, on the other hand, means “submission.” It is a principle addressing the essence of worship – complete submission to the will of God. It is appropriate as the foundation of God`s religion from the time of Adam until the end of this world. Submission to God is the essence of the message brought by all of His prophets, and it was the name of their religion. It does not matter whether a person uses Hebrew or any other language to express the concept of submission.
The name “Islam” is an Arabic term used by the final prophet, Muhammad (peace be upon him) because he delivered God’s final message to the people of Arabia. So, the claim of Islam, first and foremost, is that its name is suitable as a name for the true religion of God. It is not personal, which is why Muslims reject being called Mohammedans.” It is neither tribal, group related nor location specific. Furthermore, the central teaching of Islam is reflected in the name itself. Its central principle is the essence of worship that has been consistent among all the prophets of God – complete submission and worship of the one and only true God.
This is why only Islam can logically claim to have been the religion of Adam and Eve and all the prophets of God.
The central message
Since there is only one true God, it is obvious that all of creations owe their existence to Him alone and that the needs of all creatures are ultimately fulfilled by Him alone. Therefore, seeking help from others besides Him is futile, as He is in control of everything that exists.
The true religion of God must have as its central message and confirm that only He should be worshipped. The religion that claims to be the one true religion should instruct human beings to worship God alone and not to worship anything of His creation, as everything other than God is part and parcel of His creation. No other human being, animal, plant or object deserves to be worshipped, as none of them are able to help others on their own.
Ultimately, nothing can benefit the creation without the permission of God, its creator. So the essence of the relationship between human beings and God should be one based upon worship of Him alone. It is only Islam that commands people to worship God alone in both theory and practice. Only in Islam is the unique oneness of God preserved in both scripture and religious rites.
Comprehensiveness of worship
In Islam, the concept of worship entails doing all that God has commanded and not merely glorifying Him and calling on Him for human needs. The first priority consists of mandatory obligations, the second priority comprises voluntary acts done for God’s pleasure, and lastly, refraining from things that God has prohibited. So, for example, giving charity, fasting, making Hajj (pilgrimage) helping the less fortunate, and visiting the sick are all considered acts of worship. As pointed out previously, the central message of Islam is to worship God alone. So, all these acts of worship are directed toward God, seeking His acceptance.
Purity of teachings
Islam has retained its original message since the beginning of time. Islam teaches that the religion of all the one hundred and twenty-four thousand Prophets, beginning with Adam and ending with Muhammad (peace be upon them all), was one and the same, Islam: to worship only God, to reject any partners associated with Him and to submit oneself unconditionally to Him. God says in the Qur’an:
And indeed We have already sent forth in every nation a Messenger (saying), “Worship Allah and avoid the Taghut.” (i.e., false gods) Then (some) of them Allah guided; and errancy came true against (some of) them. So travel in the earth, then look into how was the end of the beliers. (An-Nahl 16:36)
Islam further teaches that human beings who invite others to worship them, who claim that they are God, or that they have God within themselves have deceived their followers, misguided them and diverted them from the true religion of God. The essence of worship in Islam can be found in Verse 5 of the first chapter of the Qur’an, known as Al-Fatihah, which means “the opening:
“It is You [alone] we worship and You [alone] we ask for help.”
Complete submission and obedience to God is what the first human beings, Adam and Eve, were commanded. They were put in a garden and instructed to eat from any tree they wished, except for one solitary tree. In all eras of human existence people have been directed by the prophets to do certain beneficial acts and to refrain from a few harmful ones. In all cases, for each and every forbidden thing there are many other permissible things similar in form. For example, pork is forbidden to consume and interest prohibited to give or receive, but there are countless other animals of the land, sea and air that are permissible to consume, and numerous other business transactions which may be conducted.
However, many people tend to become obsessed with prohibited things such as drinking alcohol and committing fornication, mistakenly claiming that abandoning these practices will make life very difficult. In reality, these prohibitions have been legislated in order to protect human beings. While there is good in all that God creates, the harm in some elements of creation outweighs the benefit, and for that reason they are forbidden by God.
To be continued…
Source: Taken from the author’s Is There a True Religion?