Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)
As millions suffer in war torn Asia and Africa, humanity is craving for mutual love and compassion. What do we owe to our fellow humans? Is the suffering of a white man any more special or sacred than that of a black man? Should the suffering be judged by the religion of the one who is suffering or struggling to save his or her family?
Let me cut through the chase and go straight to the parable from the Gospel of Matthew that I have in mind:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:34-45)
There are numerous verses in the Holy Quran emphasizing kindness and the teaching of being service minded and the teachings are illustrated with different metaphors. Here I would like to reproduce a Hadith which is very similar to the presentation of the Gospel of Matthew:
Indeed, Allah will say to his servant when He will be taking account of him on the Day of Judgment, ‘O’ son of Adam, I was hungry and you did not feed me.’ He will answer: ‘How could I feed you? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so who is the son of so and so felt hunger, and you did not feed him. Alas, had you fed him you would have found that (i.e. reward) with Me.’ ‘O’ son of Adam, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink.’ He will reply: ‘How could I give You drink? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so, the son of so and so was thirsty and you did not give him drink. Alas, if you had given him, you would have found that (i.e. reward) with me.’ ‘O’ son of Adam, I became sick and you did not visit Me.’ He will answer: ‘How could I visit You? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my servant so and so, the son of so and so became sick and you did not visit him. Alas, had you visited him, you would have found Me with him.’
Deeds have consequences as we noted in the quotes above and as we experience on a hourly basis in our daily life. But let us examine the converse, the relevance of faith:
If I believe that there was a James White in Egypt in 2222 BC, who was 10 feet tall and weighed 1499 pounds. He had repeated dreams to jump off a cliff for the salvation of humanity and one day he did so and was found dead at the bottom of the valley with a written note in his hand that if you believe that I am 10 feet tall and weigh 1499 pounds and just died for your sins then your sins will be forgiven in the Afterlife.
The absurdity of such a claim and such a faith is obvious. The proposition that a faith alone can be most consequential in the big scheme of things is hard to take seriously in the aftermath of James White narrative above. Nevertheless, the Protestant Christians have had a similar official position, which they have called Sola fide over the centuries, since the reformation in the 16th century. Before we talk further about Sola fide, my apology to the Protestants and I do yield that here I have taken the liberty to caricature their position and pushed it to an extreme.
Sola fide (Latin: by faith alone), also known as justification by faith alone, is a Christian theological doctrine that distinguishes the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestant Christianity, as well as some other denominations, from the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and some parts of the Restoration Movement, as well as the Methodist Churches.
The doctrine of sola fide asserts God’s pardon for guilty sinners is granted to and received through faith alone, excluding all “works“. All mankind, it is asserted, is fallen and sinful, under the curse of God, and incapable of saving itself from God’s wrath and curse. But God, on the basis of the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ alone (solus Christus), grants sinners judicial pardon, or justification, which is received solely through faith. Faith is seen as passive, merely receiving Christ and all his benefits, among which benefits are the active and passive righteousness of Jesus Christ. Christ’s righteousness, according to the followers of “sola fide,” is imputed (or attributed) by God to the believing sinner (as opposed to infused or imparted), so that the divine verdict and pardon of the believing sinner is based not upon anything in the sinner, but upon Jesus Christ and his righteousness alone, which are received through faith alone.
More recently the Protestants have moved away from this extreme stress on faith and moved closer to the Catholic position. A recent Pew Research Center revealed:
In other words, 500 years after the Reformation, 52% of the Protestants realize the futility of the claim that deeds don’t matter.
We saw one polar extreme of emphasis on faith and how it has eroded over the last 500 years among the Protestants and the other polar extreme is offered by the atheists, who deny the existence of God of the Abrahamic faiths. They unequivocally declare that faith is irrelevant and only deeds should matter.
Judaism and Islam lay emphasis on both faith and deeds. But faith in what? Different sects of Islam and Judaism will differ on the details? But, they will all agree that feeding a hungry or offering drink to a thirsty or saving the life of a sick are all meritorious acts.
There is something more that we can easily agree on, whether theist or atheist and that is motives or intentions do matter. We have all grown accustomed to and fully understand the valid difference between murder and man slaughter and other examples can be picked up from our social interactions and administration of law in different societies.
So faith does matter in some sense, at least in as far as it influences our attitudes, our inspirations and our intentions.
Islam has traditionally stressed faith in the Gracious and the Merciful God and His Providence and Afterlife and belief in His Prophets, Scriptures and angels. Different sects will have varying emphasis on these six articles of faith and if we pin down individuals and they profess with complete transparency and honesty, the details of faith of each individual will differ. In the poll of the Protestants and the Catholics we have had a taste of the variation.
Here, let me leave the reader alone on his or her personal journey of finding out in what ways the faith should be important and what details of the Christian or the Muslim faith are significant for our salvation! Buckle up and start your journey in the suggested reading and the comments below:
— The Muslim Times (@The_MuslimTimes) September 21, 2015