Thank you very much for answering my question and Jazakallah Khair.
I have another question in this regard. We know that the Christians had given up the Shari`ah of Moses (the Old Testament) long before the revelation of the Qur’an . This means that at the time when Qur’an was revealed, Christians did not follow the Kosher method of slaughter, part of the New Testament was based on the idea of the abolition of the Old Testament law and the New Testament dealing with this ideology was canonized before the Qur’anic revelation [correct me if I’m wrong]. Yet we see that the Qur’an included the Christians along with the Jews as the Ahl-e-Kitaab and permitted Muslims to eat the meat slaughtered by them and to marry their (chaste) women. Why did Allah include the Christians among the Ahl-e-Kitaab as people whose slaughtered meat we can eat even when we know that they never performed the dhabeeha ritual for slaughtering animals at the time of the Prophet ? If they actually did perform dhabeeha slaughter [which I am unaware of], I would really appreciate if you can provide me with appropriate references regarding that practice among the Christian societies at the time of the Prophet [pbuh].
Another anomaly, which confuses me, is that it is widely held that a Muslim man can marry chaste Christian women even though she believes in Trinity [associates partners with Allah]. However, the same line of reasoning [concession] is not extended to the meat slaughtered by the Christians! I would appreciate if you can throw some light on this anomaly and the principles of analogical reasoning used for deciphering the Shari`ah from Qur’an and Sunnah.
May Allah reward you for your productive work in enlightening the Ummah.
Thanks to Allah
It is not correct to assume that all the Christian sects gave up adherence to the Law of the Old Testament. On the contrary, in my opinion, it actually seems more realistic to believe that the Christians living in the Arabian Peninsula during the times of the Prophet (pbuh) and the revelation of the Qur’an adhered to the Mosaic laws of the Old Testament in letter and spirit. My opinion is based on the following points:
The Qur’an has criticized the Jews and the Christians for their malpractices and incorrect beliefs. These criticisms of the Qur’an focus on the malpractices and incorrect beliefs of the Jews and the Christians living in the environment in which the Qur’an was being revealed. For instance, the Qur’an has criticized the Christians of holding Jesus (pbuh) and his mother – Mary (pbuh) – to be divine (Al-Maaidah 5: 116). However, this was (an incorrect) belief only of the Christians living in that region. We are well aware of the fact that the general Christian population does not ascribe to the belief of the divinity of Mary.
The Qur’an has not criticized the Christians of holding the law to be abrogated. If the Christians of the times and region of the revelation of the Qur’an had actually held the law to be abrogated, the Qur’an would definitely have criticized them for it. We see that the Qur’an has criticized the Christians on a number of issues, but these issues, generally, pertain to the divinity of Jesus (pbuh). Thus, it should seem safe to assume that the Christians living in the Arabian Peninsula during the times of the revelation of the Qur’an lived their lives according to the Mosaic laws. Just as it would be safe to assume that those Christians did not ascribe to the belief of “atonement”, for if they had, the Qur’an , most definitely, would have criticized them for it.
The Qur’an has called the Christians by the name of “Nasaara“. While, it is known that the general Christians had come to be known as “Christians” or “Maseehee” from a very early period (as is mentioned in the “Acts of the Prophets”). In view of this fact, it seems quite plausible that the Christians living in the Arabian Peninsula at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an were generally those, who ascribed to the Nazarene creed1. The Nazarenes were a Syrian Judeo-Christian sect that came to be recognized in the fourth century AD. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:
Although they [the Nazarenes] accepted the divinity of Christ and his supernatural birth, the Nazarenes also maintained strict observance of Jewish laws and customs, a practice that had been dropped by the majority of Jewish Christians. They used a version of the Gospel in Aramaic called the Gospel According to the Hebrews, or the Gospel of the Nazarenes.
It is extremely unfortunate that the Gospel according to the Hebrews or the Gospel of the Nazarenes is nowhere to be found anymore. Had it been available, we would have known more about the beliefs and practices of this sect.
The Qur’an does not label the Jews or the Christians to be polytheists (for instance consider the words of Al-Hajj 22: 17). It is important to understand that “Mushrik” (polytheist) is a term of the Qur’an , which it has used only for those people who ascribe to polytheistic beliefs, knowing that the belief in question is a polytheistic belief. In other words, the Qur’an has only called those who knowingly ascribe to polytheism by the title of “polytheists” or “Mushrik“. The Jews or the Christians have never ascribed to polytheism. The Qur’an has indeed criticized both these groups to ascribe to beliefs that are polytheistic in nature, yet the Qur’an has not called them “polytheists” because they do not hold their beliefs to be polytheistic. On the other hand, the Qur’an calls the Qureish and the other tribes of Banu Isma`il, “Mushrik” because they clearly ascribed partners to the Almighty. In my opinion, therefore, it is not correct to label any group as “Mushrik” (or polytheist) – whether from among Jews, Christians, Muslims or any other established monotheistic creed – unless that group itself accepts and declares polytheism as its belief.
Keeping the above explanation in perspective it should be quite clear that allowing marriage with a Christian or a Jewish woman is not analogous with marrying a polytheist. The Qur’an has allowed marriage with Christian or Jewish women because even though they do not hold Mohammad (pbuh) to be a true prophet of God and even though their beliefs [may] entail some serious flaws from the point of view of the Qur’an , yet, like Muslims, they are strict adherents of monotheistic beliefs. Like Muslims, no Jew or Christian can even imagine associating partners to the Almighty.
Now, coming to your specific question regarding the “anomaly”, I would like to state that it seems to be anomalous, only when you construe the opinion that I gave in my previous response to imply that the food of the Christians is prohibited. That is actually not the case. The food of the Ahl-e-Kitaab – the Jews and the Christians – is by no means any less Halaal (allowed for consumption) for Muslims than their own food. The debate is actually not on the point whether the food of the Ahl-e-Kitaab is Halaal or not. There should be no difference of opinion on that, as the Qur’an has clearly allowed it. The debated point, on the contrary, is that when the Ahl-e-Kitaab offer something, which is prohibited by the Shari`ah (flesh of a dead animal or flowing blood or flesh of swine or anything that is slaughtered in the name of someone other than God or is slaughtered without taking Allah’s name on it), then can a Muslim eat it or not. In my opinion, the answer is “NO”. However, this “NO” does not imply prohibition of the food of the Jews or the Christians, but just the prohibition of the items stated in the Qur’an , whether offered by Jews, Christians or even Muslims.
20th October 1999
There is also some evidence to suggest that the Nazarene creed also ascribed to the belief of the divinity of Mary (Hadhrat Maryam). The following is a note on the Gospel of the Hebrews posted on one of the internet sites giving information about the canonical and apocryphal books in the Christian theology (http://www.comdac.com/~trowbridge/gosheb.htm):
- 70-150 C.E.
It is both odd and unfortunate that no copies of any of the so-called “Judeo-Christian” gospels have survived antiquity, though the texts, kept by early Christians who maintained deep-seated Jewish beliefs, were often quoted by Christian writers throughout the first five centuries. These short citations are our only windows through which we might study the traditions of the communities that used them.
The Gospel of the Hebrews is the most often quoted of the Judeo-Christian gospels, though it must be noted that at least two other texts (Ebionites and Nazoreans) were referred to by the same title, and we can only make educated guesses as to which gospel each fragment was derived from. At least eight early writers had either referenced or cited from Hebrews, each offering their own interpretations and assessment of validity. From these we know the date of composition is no later than mid-second century, possibly much earlier. It was said to have been written in Hebrew, though much of its theology parallels Egyptian tradition.
The gospel shows no direct dependence upon the canonical gospels, though it shares a verse with the Gospel of Thomas (GosThom 2). Among the most unique traditions is the depiction of Mary, like the Johannine logos, as divine?in fact, that she was the incarnation of Michael, who was the personification of the Holy Spirit. Also, Jesus first appears to his brother James following the resurrection. Since James the Just was traditionally held to have founded the church at Jerusalem, it is no surprise that the Hebrew gospel elevates his authority by making him the first to witness the risen Christ. [↩]