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Q / A
Answering Common Misconceptions 

42. Prophet Muhammad and Monotheism
 

Question:

A Christian friend asked me two questions, raised by the blasphemous  Jyllands-Posten newspaper cartoons:

 1) Is Islam a genuine monotheistic religion? Or is it, due to the special status of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) and the ban on showing his face,  a sort of "falsh" monotheistic religion? Present Christianity is a typical example, where the status of Prophet Jesus was raised to be a part of a trinitarian god. 

 2) Where does the ban come from not to show Prophet Muhammad's face (SAWS)?

Thank you and salam.

Answer:

Nowadays, Islam is the ONLY truly pure monotheistic faith. Qur'an, the Holy book of Islam is par excellence: the TRUE book of monotheism. The concept of One God, with no partner whatsoever, son, mother or other; with no equal, is the main theme elaborately penetrating every chapter or line of the book, from cover to cover. Only few examples would suffice here:

* Say, “He is Allah, The Only One, Allah, The Everlasting Sovereign). He has not begotten and has not been begotten, And to Him none
   could be co-equal.”
(Meaning of Qur'an 112:1-4)

* There is not anything like Him (whatsoever) (Meaning of Qur'an 42:11) 

* And Allah has said, “Do not take to yourselves two gods. Surely He is only One God; so of Me, Me (only), then, have awe.”  (Meaning of Qur'an 16:5)

* Do you surely bear witness indeed that there are other gods with Allah?” Say, “I do not bear witness.” Say, “Surely He is only One God, and surely I (myself) am quit of whatever you associate (with Him).”    (Meaning of Qur'an 6:19)

* Allah, there is no god except He, The Ever-Living, The Superb Upright Sustainer. (Meaning of Qur'an 2:255, 3:2)

Muslims believe in all Prophets who carried the same message of monotheism:

* Say (O Muslims), “We have believed in Allah, and whatever has been sent down to us, and whatever was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac and Jacob, and the Grandsons,(i.e., the Tribes) and whatever was brought down to Moses and Jesus, and whatever was brought to the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to Him we are Muslims.” (Meaning of Qur'an 2:136; and similarly in 3:84)

* And in no way did We send (any) Messenger even before you except that We revealed to him, (saying), “There is no god except I; so worship Me.” (Meaning of Qur`an 21:25)

Following from this, the Qur'an repeatedly and emphatically stress the human nature of all prophets, including Muhammad, Jesus and Moses; and deplores any distortion of their image or elevation of their status to any sort of divinity:

* Say, “O population of the Book, (i.e., the Jews and Christians) come to a level word between us and you, that we worship none except Allah, and that we do not associate anything with Him, and that some of us do not take to themselves others as lords, apart from Allah.” So, in case they turn away, then say, “Bear witness that we are Muslims.” (Meaning of Qur'an 2:64)

* In no way should a mortal (to whom) Allah brings the Book and the Judgment and the Prophethood thereafter say to mankind, “Be bondmen to me, apart from Allah.” (Meaning of Qur'an 3:79)

  *  And in no way did We send before you any of the Emissaries, except that surely  they indeed ate food and walked in the markets.  (Meaning of Qur'an 25:20)

The true human nature of the prophet Jesus is respectfully declared in the Qur'an:

   * Surely the likeness of `Isa (Jesus) in the Providence of Allah is as the likeness of   Adam. He Allah) created him of dust, thereafter He said to him, “Be!” so he is (i.e., he was).  (Meaning of Qur'an 3:59)

* And they have said, “The All-Merciful has taken to Him a child.” Indeed you have already come with a hideous thing. The heavens are almost about to be rent asunder thereof, and the earth cloven and the mountains to collapse, razed (completely), For that they have attributed to The All-Merciful a child; And in no way does it behoove The All-Merciful to take to Him a child. Decidedly none is there  in the heavens and the earth except that he comes up to The All-Merciful as a slave. (Meaning of Qur'an 19:88-93)

  * And as Allah said, “O Jesus son of Mary, did you say to mankind, “Take me and my mother to your selves as two gods, apart from Allah?”  He said, All Extolment be to You! In no way is it for me to say what I have no right to. In case I ever said it, then You already know it. You know whatever is within my self, and I do not know what is within Your Self; surely You, Ever You, are The Superb Knower of the Things Unseen. In no way did I say to them (anything) except whatever You commanded me (saying), “Worship Allah, my Lord, and your Lord.” And I was a witness over them, as long as I was among them; then as soon as You took me up, You, Ever You, have been The Watcher over them, and You are Ever-Witnessing over everything. In case You torment them, then surely they are Your bondmen; and in case You forgive them, then surely You, Ever You, are The Ever-Mighty, The Ever-Wise.” (Meaning of Qur'an 75: 116-118)

Regarding Prophet Muhammad, the Qur'an affirms his nature and role as a human messenger, the Seal of Messengers, as in the following:

* Say (O Muhammad), “Surely I am only a warner; and in no way is there any god except Allah, The One, The Superb Vanquisher. (Meaning of Qur'an 38:65)

* Say (O Muhammad), “Surely I am only a mortal the like of you: it is revealed to me that surely your God is only One God. So whoever hopes for the meeting with his Lord, then let him do righteous deed (s) and not associate anyone in the worship of his Lord. (Meaning of Qur'an 18:110)

* Say (O Muhammad), “Surely I am only a mortal like you. To me it is revealed that your God is only One God; so go straight to Him, and ask for His forgiveness; and woe to the   associators. (Meaning of Qur'an 41:6 )

* And in no way is Muhammad (anything) except a Messenger; the Messengers have already passed away before him. Then, will it be that, in case he dies or is killed, will you turn (Literally: turn (s) over on) on your heels? And whoever turns (Literally: turn (s) over on) on his heels, then he will never harm Allah in anything; and Allah will recompense the thankful. (Meaning of Qur'an 3:144)

 The Prophet severely warned Muslims of exaggeration in praising or respecting him:

- "Do not exaggerate in praising me as the Christians praised the son of Maryam, for    I am only a servant. So, call me the Servant of Allah and His Messenger." [Reported by Al-Bukhari]

Yet, it is a part of believing and living as Muslims that we should love, respect and obey the Prophet Muhammad:

* Indeed you have already had a fair example, in the Messenger of Allah, for whoever     hopes for Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah much. (Meaning of Qur’an22:21)

* And surely you (O Muhammad) are indeed of a magnificent character. (Meaning of Qur’an 68:4)

* …it may be that your Lord will make you rise again to a praised station. (Meaning of Qur’an 17:79)

* Surely Allah and His Angels shower Serenity (Literally: shower prayers) on the Prophet. O you who have believed, pray for (benediction on) him, and submit in full submission. (Meaning of Qur'an 33:56)

* Surely (the ones) who tone down their voices in the presence of the Messenger of Allah, those are they whose hearts Allah has tested for piety; they will have forgiveness and a magnificent reward. (Meaning of Qur'an 49:3)

 * And whatever the Messenger brings you, then take it; and whatever he forbids you, then give over. And be pious to Allah; surely Allah is strict in punishment. (Meaning of Qur'an 59:7)

* And obey Allah and obey the Messenger; yet if you turn away, then surely it is for Our Messenger only (to deliver) the evident proclamation. (Meaning of Qur'an 64:12)

* (Yet) no, by your Lord, they will not believe till they make you judge regarding what  they controvert among themselves. Thereafter they should not find in themselves any restriction about whatever you have decreed, and should submit in full submission. (Meaning of Qur'an 4:65)

Also, it is reported that the Prophet said: "None of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father, his children and all mankind." [Reported by Al-Bukhari]

Coming now to the ban on portraying the Prophet or his face, this obviously has nothing to do with ascribing any sort or degree of divinity to his beloved person; to the contrary, it is a protection against falling into the pitfall of taking his picture or statue as idol. This pitfall of taking idols (of prophets or other symbols such as the Cross …etc) is common in the rituals of almost all world religions, e.g. the portraits and statues of Christ and the Virgin Mary in Christianity. A common self-delusion of these beliefs is to claim that this is not worshipping or praying “to” idols, but rather taking them as intercessors to God:

* Verily the faithful religion is for Allah. And the ones who take to themselves patrons apart from Him (say), “In no way do we worship them excepting that they may bring us near in proximity to Allah.” Surely Allah will judge between them concerning that wherein they differ among themselves. Surely Allah does not guide him who is a liar, a most disbelieving (person). (Meaning of Qur'an39:3)

For this reason, Islam has blocked all the venues leading to idolatry, including portraying not only the honorable prophets, but any person that could later on be glorified then deified!:

- It is reported that Umm Habibah and Umm Salamah mentioned before the Messenger of Allah (SAWS) of a church which they had seen in Abyssinia and which had pictures in it. The Messenger of Allah (SAWS) said: When a pious person among them (among the religious groups) died they built a place of worship on his grave, and then decorated it with such pictures. They would be the worst of creatures on the Day of Judgment in the sight of Allah. [Reported by Muslim]

- Ibn 'Umar, may Allah be pleased with them, reported:
Allah's Messenger (SAWS) said: Those who make statues would be punished on the Day of Resurrection and it would be said to them: Breathe soul into what you have created.
[Reported by Muslim]

In this context also, Islam prohibits building shrines on Muslim tombs:

- It is reported that the Messenger of Allah (SAWS): Allah cursed the Jews and the Christians that they took the graves of their prophets as places of worship. [Reported by Muslim]

Finally, if the mere portraying the Prophet Muhammad is a sin, what about portraying him in such horrifying caricatures, as published in a number of European newspapers, starting with the Danish  Jyllands-Posten!!

Useful Links

Status of Prophet Muhammad

 The Position of Muhammad

The Light of Muhammad

Do We Pray for Prophets Jesus and Muhammad?

 The Truth About Muhammad