Islam, given the perspective of Judaism and Christianity
by Dr. Parviz Dehghani
What is the definition of this religion? It simply means ‘surrender’ and also ‘peace’. In other words, once we surrender our ego or ordinary self to the will of God or Allah, we’ll be at peace.
” If you suddenly feel very light, clear, and deeply at peace, that is an unmistakable sign that you have surrendered.”(Eckhart Tolle, the power of now, p.215). “Surrender does not transform what is, at least not directly. Surrender transforms you. When you are transformed, your whole world is transformed, because the world is only a reflection…. If you look in the mirror and did not like what you saw, you would have to be mad to attack the image in the mirror. That is precisely what you do when you are in a state of non acceptance. And, of course, if you attack the image, it attacks you back. If you accept the image, no matter what it is, if you become friendly toward it, it cannot not become friendly toward you. This is how you change the world.”(Tolle, pp.217-218). Tolle’s position reminds us of what the late Wayne Dyer once said on PBS. He said: ” When we look at things, the things we look at change.”
Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804), the 18th century German philosopher, once argued that in the past we reflected the world. But now, we let the world reflect us. When Jesus said to turn the other cheek, perhaps he knew we had been reflecting the world. When you become your friends’ mirror, you can show their faults. They will either appreciate you or resent you. If the former takes place, then your friendship will become stronger. However, if the latter occurs, then your friend might hurt you. Because he does not like what he sees in the mirror. In other words, he is now aware of his short comings and he does not like them and instead tries to get rid of them by removing you out of his way. To avoid being hurt, Christ tells us to turn, which could mean, it is time for him to become your mirror in order to reflect you for a change. In fact, when you reflect Jesus, you have him in you, namely, in your heart. Perhaps this is what John, the apostle and the author of the 4th Gospel meant by the logos becoming flesh to be with us. Now that we reflect Christ in our hearts, he reflects his father just like a mirror reflecting the sun. Jesus would say: Just as you have been reflecting me in your hearts, I’m reflecting my father in mine. So you can meet my father in my heart.
‘Blessed are those that are poor’ is a message conveyed throughout the Religions of the world. The word ‘poor’, however, does not refer to poverty. It rather points to ’emptiness’ within us to receive the presence of God. A Persian miniature often portrays a Sufi or a Muslim mystic who is holding up a cup while a beautiful young girl is pouring wine for him. Unless you’re empty like a cup, you cannot receive the wine. This pure wine is served in Heaven or Paradise and does not intoxicate. When we surrender to the Ultimate Reality, we’re nothing before it, like 0 plus 1 which is always 1. It is in this cup or heart that we meet that Reality. Prophets have always reflected that Reality. Jesus once said: Who so ever has seen me, has seen my father. In other words, I’m like a mirror reflecting the Sun. My father does not want to break this mirror but you do. Buddha said in Dhammapada (collections of his sayings): … If with a pure mind one speaks or acts, happiness follows him like his shadow that never leaves him. (The Twin Verses–Canto 1).
To surrender, means to give up possession of your ordinary self. It means to give (oneself) up. It means to capitulate. It means not to resist. It also means to hand over. (Newbury House, Dictionary, p.951). Islam means we should not possess what is not ours to begin with. Hand in your will to the Ultimate Reality. It means empty yourself from this ‘I-ness’. This is not real you. Your true Self or I-ness is the key to your salvation. You want to remove this ‘i-ness’ between you and that Reality. This is not the real you. You think it is, but it is not. We’re nothing before the Ultimate Reality. But even this ‘nothing’ can love God. Peace is ensued after we surrender to this Reality. Islam begins with the statement that there is no god but Allah (God). This is a statement of sacred knowledge. “There is no god” negates in order to affirm the Ultimate Reality. Starts with the non-being of all deities, that is, gods and goddesses and then it affirms that God is a necessary existence, namely, it cannot not be, therefore it must be.
The Ultimate Reality is One, which is not numerical. Nothing can be added to it, and nothing can be subtracted from it. It does not give birth, nor is it born. It is unique and nothing can be compared to it. This is an interpretation of a short chapter called ‘The Unity’ in the holy Qur’an, the sacred scripture of the Muslims. Based on this chapter, we can never consider a duality in the nature or essence of this Reality. In fact, the unforgivable sin in Islam is having a partner for that Reality. We also have this in the Ten Commandments:” You shall have no other gods before me.” Because if we ever do that, then we have blocked the Sun from reaching us. Allah, the Ultimate Reality is pure and simple. One can go one step higher and say that this Ultimate Reality is even beyond being and non-being, rest and motion. It is beyond any duality whatsoever. Of course, there is a risk involved here. Because this would mean the Ultimate Reality does not even exist. This is not atheism or a non-theistic approach towards the Ultimate Reality like in Buddhism. This simply means the Ultimate’s first manifestation is Being because of which everything else exist. However, there is a bright side to this fact. Because we don’t have to go through a lot of logical and philosophical pains to prove its existence.
The statement of knowledge, namely,” There is no god” negates what we conceive of the Ultimate Reality. It negates what we form in our mind as to what that Reality looks like. “You shall not make for yourself an image…” (Ten Commandments). It rejects what we imagine about that Reality. It does not accept our opinions concerning the Ultimate Reality. This, in fact, is a form of idolatry. We quietly worship our own creations. We can also externalize our understandings and conceptions by making idols to be worshiped like golden calf. We create God or gods in our images, though God is the One who has created us. We prefer to worship our own creations rather than the real God. In the statement of knowledge, God wants us to pursue the true God rather than the false ones. We ought to surrender to true God or Allah not to ourselves. If the world is nothing but the reflection of my mind, then by surrendering to it, I have surrendered to myself. After all, the world seems to be reflecting my ideas, according to Dyer and Tolle. To be true to both of these great writers, however, we should read all of their works before we make any judgment about them. However, when Jesus changed the way he looked at Lazarus, who had been dead for a while, Lazarus, the one he looked at, changed. Unless we change ourselves, we cannot change the world. Once, according to Islam, we surrender our will or I-ness to God, we’ll then be able to change the world, even though it seems dead. Both Confucius and Socrates found their societies almost dead. Nevertheless, they were able to change them. We can alter the world by changing ourselves. To change ourselves, we need to surrender not to evil but to Good or God or the Ultimate Reality.
Islam teaches that the only way we can have peace and serenity, is by surrendering to Allah or the Ultimate Reality. We need to go beyond ourselves vertically to achieve this peace. We should climb up the Jacob ladder to have this peace. We must first detach ourselves from the God or gods that are our own creations. This is the true pilgrim’s progress, which is a religious allegory by John Bunyan. (New world dictionary, p.1079). This progress was a vertical ascent, unlike the horizontal one, which had been the vision of the modern man till a few decades ago. The question was: progress toward what? We have exhausted this mother earth, in the name of progress, to the point that she might not even make it to the next generation given the population explosion. As we can see, environmental problems are getting worse. One might say that by forgetting and losing faith in the vertical progress, modern man had no choice but move forward horizontally. This can be easily observed by just looking at the paintings of Christ at the last supper after the Renaissance.
Prior to this so called ‘rebirth’ in Europe, the icons or images of Jesus at the Eucharist did not show a perspective. This word literally means ‘look through’. This is ” the art of picturing objects so as to show relative distance or depth. (Webster world dictionary, p.426). In early paintings before the Renaissance, Jesus is either standing or sitting with his back against the wall. But after the Renaissance, there is no wall behind him. Instead he seems to be sitting with a meadow behind him. Trees are big right behind him relative to the ones distant from him which look small. This is a picture with depth. This is what we mean by the word ‘perspective’. Let us put it in another way. Imagine there was a frostlike or opaque glass wall behind Christ. Naturally you cannot see anything through this wall. This represented the Eucharist painting before the Renaissance. As you can see, there is no perspective here. Imagine again instead of the frosted glass wall, there is simply a glass wall behind Jesus. Obviously you can see through this wall. There is a depth here, that is, now you can see the meadow behind Christ.
For example, if you were holding a metal or wooden ring in your hand, this would be the sign of eternity in the ancient world. The element of time is absent here, like the notion of time in Hinduism which is finally an illusion, or Maya. However, if you were to tilt the ring a bit, then you would have an oval shape reality before your eyes which gives you perspective. By and large, portraits of Jesus before the Renaissance, showed the presence of halos behind his head. Halo in Greek is halos, which means circular. It is like a ring of light around the Sun. This halo appears in the back or the side of Christ’s head like a disk. However, after the Renaissance, it became elliptical, like the way the earth goes around the Sun, which is more realistic. An ellipse gives us a perspective. The Renaissance mushroomed in Europe which created a great cloud. One wonders if this was not a poisonous mushroom, which some scholars believed it was not. However, there were others who felt Europe was never the same after this culture shock, which shook up the whole of this continent with its mushroom cloud power.
To become a Muslim, one ought to utter: I witness that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. According to this Religion, we’re put on earth by God to be its custodian and caretaker. We’re guardian of this gift. But once we forget and turn our back to our obligation, then we’re bound to destroy the earth.
The paradigm in Islam is the prophet himself. He is the role model par excellence. After all, the holy Qur’an was revealed to him and no one else. He is the connection between us and the Ultimate Reality. He is like the narrow passage between the top globe to the bottom globe in an hourglass. The sand falls from the top to the bottom. (Newbury House Dictionary). The prophet is like a conduit when it comes to receiving messages from God.
The Ultimate Reality is absolute. It is perfect. It is complete. It is pure and simple. It is not mixed. It is unlimited. It is eternal and infinite. We, on the other hand, are relative, contingent, namely, possible and dependent beings. We’re time bound and locked up in space. We follow the teachings of our prophet and yet we’re not like him when it comes to know them in depth. We interpret them in our own ways as if we’re absolute.
Perhaps those who were ready to stone Mary Magdalene for committing adultery, forgot that there was also a commandment against murder. But Jesus was not so concerned to show them the contradiction they were involved with. He simply asked them whether they were without sins? If there were one, then he would cast the first rock. He was trying to teach them that they were not perfect. He was waking them up from their dogmatic slumber, using Kant’s words. The only person who can judge her is the who has embodied Plato’s forms, the one who has become flesh, as Avatars in Hinduism, and is among you like the wise Solomon in the Old Testament. When Christ told his people: “Don’t judge that you’ll be judged” he must have meant that unless you’re like the ones who are qualified to do so, avoid judging people. We live in the world of change and becoming, which is relative and imperfect. You ought to put your judgments on the back burner and instead of looking for faults in others, make an effort to work on yours. I’ll bet you’ll be so busy that you’ll not have enough time digging for dirt in other people’s behaviors.
Islam came to show the true reality of both Judaism and Christianity which are Abrahamic Religions. The holy Qur’an has also talked about other religions. Islam did not come to impose its superiority over other Religions. If all Religions are the manifestations of One Reality, then there is no reason why one should be superior to another. This is the question of One and many. There is only one light which enters a prism (The Ultimate Reality) from which the spectrum emanates. There is only One Ultimate Reality from which many religions come into being.
” …In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” “…And the Lord God commanded the man, [ ” You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will certainly die.”]. (Genesis, chapter 2). … ” You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God Knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God who knows the difference between good and evil.” (Genesis, chapter 3). As we can see, God is not the author of good and evil. God has the knowledge of them. However, He does not make things right or wrong. But why did not He want Adam and Eve know about them? The serpent tells them that you’ll be like God in knowing good and evil. This is really absurd. God being omniscient, knows everything. He knows the reality beyond the phenomena. He knows, according to Kant, the noumenon. The former stands for the reality behind that which appears to us.
In these chapters God seems to be teaching Adam and Eve what Kant called ‘Hypothetical imperative’, which is conditional and requires ‘If’ and ‘Then’ in its structure. The word ‘imperative’ means a command. These kind of statements are risky when it comes to predicting the future. As you can see, there are three hypothetical statements that are used in our quotations from Genesis: One is by God himself and the other two by the serpent. None of these predictions came true except one of the serpent’s when it says: You will not certainly die. Now you know why Hypothetical imperatives are not reliable. We never claim we’re Biblical scholars or we know better than them. However, we see what we see. Perhaps God was teaching both Adam and Eve a lesson about the above imperative. In the beginning God seems to appeal to what Kant called ‘Categorical imperative’. This command reminds us of the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments, that is, just do not or do it. Because if you do, then you’ll die. As we know they did not die. Kant avoids the Hypothetical imperative statements and stays with the Categorical imperative.
Back to the question we asked earlier, we would like to know why God wanted them to stay away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Keep in mind, they had the choice between the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This would mean they did not have to do this to have their eyes opened to what is right and wrong. But they chose the latter any way. It is not easy to make a decision. However, their choice was against God’s command. By turning their backs to God’s command, they went for the tree and she listened to the serpent. Once they ate the fruits, they realized they were naked outside but clothed in side. The light of God in them was covered. The truth was veiled from within. Even though they did not die biologically, they died in side. Because they sold their souls to the devil for knowledge. They noticed they had contradicted themselves. How can you commit an evil act in order to know what is evil? The choice between good and evil had been given to them. How can you know about the fundamental facts of morality, which are good and evil, by making an immoral choice? Why the serpent was curled up on that tree and not on the tree of life? Why did God create Adam and Eve the way He did so they could not resist the temptation of the serpent? Why did he give them a choice knowing that they might pick the wrong one and then blame them later on? Why did not God warn them about the serpent ahead of time? Suppose the fruits had been soaked in poison by the serpent, do not you think God should have told them about it? However, let us not forget that Adam was not 100% Divine. God made him”… from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being”. (Genesis, chapter 2). Adam in fact was half Divine and the other half was from mother nature, the dust of the ground. In Hinduism, our true Self is Atman not our ordinary self. The first Japanese emperor in Shinto was half man and half Divine. Adam was like a tree, roots in the earth, branches reaching the sky. Although he was in the world, he was not of the world. So he was turned between two forces: God’s spirit and the ground or mother who claims her son. Father and mother, Yang and Yin are the subject matter here. God tells Abraham that you’re my people and I’m your Lord. You’re my wife and I’m your husband. In Christian wedding, the bride is the church and the groom is Christ.
In Genesis God knows that Adam and Eve were not gods. After all, there is only one God and cannot accept partner because it is against His nature. Being only half Divine, they were likely to fall in spite of God’s command. Although God gave them choices, between the tree of life and the knowledge of good and evil, He still commanded them not to eat from the latter, which means God knew something they did not know. Eve fell for the appearance and taste of the fruits. Her empirical self, the self that believes knowledge comes from experience, overshadowed God’s command for her. Did she use her God given intelligence to figure out things before eating the fruits? Apparently she did not. Certainly Empiricism has its own merit, namely, knowledge comes from experience. However, there are things we cannot experience without paying a price such as death. Rationalism, on the other hand, seems to offer a better solution. If we use our reason with the aid of our Intellect, we can reach the true knowledge without the help of experience. Perhaps Eve defied God’s command by asking: Why should not I eat? Well if you do, then you’ll die. This is called ‘Hypothetical imperative’ according to Kant. Because it deals with ‘If’ and ‘Then’. Besides, it provides you with a promise for the future, that is, you’ll experience death, if you do. But what is death to them? They had never experienced death. May be God told them you chose death over life. My breath of life is removed from you once you went to the tree of death. If you had eaten from the tree of life, you would have lived for ever. But now death will be among you till the end of time. It will follow you like your shadow. You may not die right away after you ate the fruits. But eventually you’ll get old and die. Your bodies will be subject to change and becoming once you’re out of this garden. They were dropped from high to low. They descended to the world of becoming from the world of being. Who knows what would have happened to them, if they had just used their Intellect rather than pure reason of Kant. Perhaps they should have used their Intellect or Atman, which is like the ray of the Sun within us. The Intellect, like Atman is eternal and infinite. It is like the light in the transparent fibers. If there are hundreds of fibers, it only requires one electric light bulb at the bottom to transfer light to all those fibers. This bulb represents the Ultimate Reality here. We can use this analogy to understand the nature of the Intellect or Atman. We’re like those fibers carrying the light, which is the Intellect. In a sense, we’re like conduits having this light, which is internal and infinite, within us.
We cannot rely on pure reason which can easily sway. Neither can we trust experience which is able to mislead us when it comes to knowledge. Did Adam and Eve use their pure reason? It is very likely. They used a combination of experience and pure reason. Kant tried to bring the two camps closer by saying that our knowledge begins with experience but it does not come from it. Some knowledge comes from experience but not all. What is missing in Kant’s philosophy is the presence of the unlimited Reason or the Intellect. Pure reason is limited according to Kant. However, unless one knows the unlimited Reason, one cannot know whether pure reason is limited. G.W.F. Hegel once said: ” No- one knows, or even feels, that anything is a limit, or defect, until he is at the same time above and beyond it. (The history of philosophy, by B. Magee, p.161.).
Of course, Kant’s own reason was also limited. I guess it is true that only the like knows the like. But how can we trust his epistemology to begin with? Let us think for a moment and ask this question: How can I know something is short unless I know the whole length? The Intellect must have guided Kant to come up with such an assertion. But Kant does not seem to have given any credit to the Intellect in his philosophy concerning epistemology or the theory of knowledge. The Intellect within us is a Reality without which we’re practically blind. In the chapter, ‘The Angels’ in the holy Qur’an God says to his messenger: 19. “The blind man is not equal with the seer; 20. Nor is darkness (tantamount to) light; 21. Nor is the shadow equal with the sun’s full heat; 22. Nor are the living equal with the dead.”(Translation by M.M. Pickthall). If we only rely on pure reason in our life, we’re in reality walking dead. Kant argued that with pure reason we cannot know God; Nor can we know our true Self; Nor can we know the Reality beyond the appearances. I as I, can never know God. It is finally Atman that knows Brahman. Because Atman and Brahman are one and finally The Ultimate reality is One.
When it comes to the Christian dogmas, Trinity is the most problematic one which stands out among them. In Latin it is ‘trinitas’. In Christian theology it means the union of Father, Son, and Holy spirit (Holy Ghost). Here we’re confronted with a very important philosophical issue called the problem of one and many, which has been a familiar and complicated matter for many thinkers, sages, and religious philosophers for thousands of years. The question simply is: How can one be many at the same time and in the same relationship? This is a contradiction given Aristotelian logic of either / or. In other words, either something is or is not. We can’t have both. In other words, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. One is one and many is many. But one can’t be many. However, experientially, we can easily see how when the light of the Sun penetrates a prism, we have a spectrum, which consists of several different colors like the color of the rainbow. When the lights of the Sun and the moon reach the ocean, we can experience the manifestation of many, right before our own eyes. Plato believed one and many are one at one level of existence. We know the rays of the Sun are one with it. In Judaism and Islam, unlike Christianity, the One is emphasized. But in Christianity the many, namely, the three are the focus of its theology. Zen has it: “One in All. All in One- If only this is realized, No more worry about not being perfect! (Seng-ts’an/Sosan d.600). God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are different in forms and yet one in essence. Snow, ice, and steam are different but are one in essence which is but water.
In Qur’an, however, we read: ‘O People of the Scripture [Book]. Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught [anything] concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah and his word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three”—Cease! (it is) better for you!—Allah is only One God. Far is it removed from His transcendent majesty that he should have a son. His is all that is in the heaven and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender.'(171.chapter, women). As we can see, the question of one and many is discussed here. God is adamantly against the doctrine of Trinity in Christianity, lest it might be interpreted as polytheism or belief in more than one deity. But as much as Hinduism is not a polytheistic Religion given the presence of the gods Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva, nor is Christianity. In the former, namely, Hinduism One and many exist side by side. Brahman, or the Ultimate Reality, manifests itself in many forms just as it is also reflected in god the father, god the Son, and god the holy spirit. Perhaps the best analogy here is a tiffany lamp. It is a lampshade with a stained glass look. The light pierces through those broken looking multi pieces of glass or plastic. Amazingly in old French this word is related to the term’ Epiphany’. In late Latin it was ‘theophania’ meaning manifestation of God. Think for a moment about the stained glass windows in a cathedral. All those different pieces of glasses show their colors as the Sun light goes through them. Although there are many, yet they manifest one light. This is not polytheism. Those frosted patches on the lamp represent what we call masks of the Ultimate Reality. Those are like Vishnu, Brahma, and Shiva. Other patches are the Avatars or Incarnations of Vishnu and Shiva. As far as the stained glass windows, small colored windows play the same roles when it comes to the light of the Sun. The light of the Sun is like the Ultimate Reality and three of those colored windows are like God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Judaism and Islam shy away from the many and instead concentrate on one God or the One, the Ultimate Reality.
In answer to those who claimed they had murdered Jesus, the holy Qur’an says: — They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; slew him not for certain, but Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. (157-158, chapter, women). The Qur’an tells us that Christ was never crucified. In fact, no one would have been able to take the right of living from him. In reality the person who was crucified looked like him but was not him. Granted what the holy Qur’an said to His prophet was true, is it possible that one of Christ’s followers suffered on the cross vicariously? Is it possible that at the time of his arrest a person, who resembled him was taken away? It is possible that by the power of God’s miracle several of those around him turned to look like him? God being omniscient, is able to turn the events around such that His own messenger would have been saved from a violent death. How about the resurrection of Jesus after three days? Again by the power of God, the same follower who was put away was able to come back even though the Qur’an does not mention anything about this event. However, when God says that He took him up unto Himself, this reminds us of Elijah’s ascension on the chariot of fire to heaven. Elijah literally means ‘eliyahu’ or Jehovah is God. He was a prophet of Israel in 900 B.C.E . …suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and …and Elijah went up to heaven…. (2 Kings 2:11). Remember Elijah did not have to be murdered first in order to go to heaven to be with God.
No one could have injured Christ and let him bleed to death on the cross so that he be resurrected after three days. Therefore, the Qur’an attests to the fact that the one who was crucified was not even Jesus. Not only Christ’s birth and occultation were themselves miracles, but his whole life in this world was nothing but miracles. Jesus was a spirit from God, according to Qur’an and finally went back to Him like Atman that is in the final analysis one with Brahman. Some Muslim scholars, however, believe when God says: “Konfu,”Yakoun”or “Be, and he is” this means God regards Jesus as the embodiment of the term “To be”. This could mean Christ was in fact being itself.
Christ was an Avatar or Incarnation of Vishnu for the Hindus. He came down in flesh at the time when things were bad. Buddha was also regarded as an Avatar of Vishnu in Hinduism. According to the gospel of John, ” In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God…. The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (1: 1-14). The word here is logos. In philosophy it is Intellect. In Christian theology the Word is Ultimate Reality. It is sustaining spirit of God as it was revealed in Jesus. (New world dictionary).
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) was a German philosopher. He is not known to have been a Christian thinker in the history of philosophy. Nevertheless, he studied theology to perhaps become a priest someday. But instead he switched to philosophy. The Christian doctrines, which had been accepted by faith in the past, had to have some logical explanations. Therefore, he tried to come up with a substantial proof in his philosophy of history.
Let us not forget that in Hinduism time and history are cyclical. But in the West, time and history were linear according St. Augustine, namely, rule of the Father, Rule of the Son, and Rule of the Holy Spirit. So here cyclical versus linear. For Kant pure reason, being limited, cannot know God, our true Self, and the Reality behind the appearances. According to Kant the world of noumenon, is completely unknown to us. Only God has access to this world. What is noumenon? “In Kant: An object or power transcending experience whose existence is theoretically problematic but must be postulated by practical reason. In theoretical terms Kant defined the noumenon positively as “the object of a non-sensuous intuition,” negatively as “not an object of the sensuous intuition;”but since he denied the existence of any but sensuous intuitions, the noumenon remained an unknowable “X.” In his practical philosophy, however, the postulation of a noumenal realm is necessary in order to explain the possibility of freedom. (Dictionary of philosophy by D.D. Runes, p.231). There is a Berlin wall between the world of phenomena and the world of noumenon. We cannot go over it, nor can we go under it. We also cannot go around it, nor can we go through it.
Being impressed by Gospel of John, Hegel felt that the noumenon was not behind the wall. It was already among us. The word is flesh and is with us. The hierarchical distance existing between the realm of the Forms and the world, Being and becoming in Plato’s philosophy was non-existent for his student Aristotle. Forms which manifest perfection are in the objects all around us. According to Plato the world reflects those Forms. However, for Aristotle the world contains them. The form of a fish is in the fish. That is why a mother fish delivers fish not an elephant. Forms and the world are united for Aristotle. Now we know why Aquinas was Aristotelian. Perhaps he was also influenced by Gospel of John.
Before Hegel the river reflected the Moon and the Sun. God was a transcendent Reality. But with Hegel, the holy Spirit seems to have entered the flow of the river of life. But where is the Moon? Where is the Sun? The answer seems to be: They have fallen into the river of time and history. No wonder why the color of the river is white or golden. How did Hegel resolve the contradiction we were facing with Jesus being both fully man and fully God? Once we look at being, we notice that it is nothing. So non-being emerges out of being. Being and non-being are the foundation of contradiction. Being is thesis, non-being is anti-thesis. Then the resolution of this contradiction is in the synthesis which is becoming. So becoming contains a chain of beings and non-beings. For Hegel the history is the story of this triad. In the past, motion was first anf conflict next but with Hegel this conflict between thesis and anti-thesis was the engine of becoming and change. Synthesis in turn becomes thesis for the next project. ”
The historical process that constitutes reality is the development of Geist– the ultimate essence of being– towards self-awareness. Hegel compares this development to the agony, death, and resurrection of Christ; redemption comes when the process is understood.” (B. Magee, p.159). Life (Thesis), death (Anti-thesis) and resurrection (Synthesis).
Hegel uses the word Geist as half way between spirit and mind- it seems it is more mental than the term “spirit,” and more spiritual than the word “mind.”For Hegel Geist is what existence is all about, which is the ultimate essence of the being; and the totality of historical process that establishes reality is the development of Geist towards self-awareness and self- knowledge. Once this state is reached, whatever exists shall be harmoniously at one with itself. This self-aware one-ness of everything, according to Hegel is “the Absolute.” Since he looked at the fundamental content of what exists as something non-material his philosophy was to be taken as “Absolute Idealism.”(B. Magee, p.159).
Geist was in time and space where it did not belong. Geist being eternal and infinite just did not fit in. Some scholars called Hegel’s philosophy “Pantheism” or literally all God. This means God is one with the universe. There were other scholars who thought God became time and history as Geist reached its self-awareness.
Benjamin Franklin once said: ” Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”
Out of Hegelian philosophy, several phenomena emerged: one was Marxism and the other one was Existentialism and both came together in the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre who was an atheist (1905-1980).
There was, however, a philosophical figure who was a contemporary of Hegel but he did not like him and disagreed with his ideas. This was Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860). He was fascinated with Hinduism and Buddhism later on in his life. Those who were influenced by him were Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and Sigmund Freud (1856-1939).
Given Hegel’s philosophy of history, a new movement began to manifest itself in the 19th century by different names such as historical Jesus, Jesus seminar, and Revisionist movement to challenge Christ of faith. Once God became history, what other tool better than that to find out who Jesus really was. Thus, history was used by American, British, and German scholars to see who Jesus really was devoid of all the interpretations which had made him to be what we know of him now. These scholars have done tremendous amount of studies to prove that there is a complete discontinuity between the historical Jesus and Christ of faith. In other words, Socrates was not how Plato had described him to be. They believed the same thing must have happened in the case of Jesus. They were even advised by Jewish scholars to learn Hebrew first in order to understand what had gone on during the time of Christ which led to what Church fathers did in 300 A.D.
There were other scholars who strongly believed that the reason why Jesus had been elevated to the level of God the Father was due to the fear Church fathers had of naturalism existing in the Greek culture. Naturalism means “The doctrine that religion does not depend on supernatural experience, divine revelation, etc., and that all religious truth may be derived from the natural world.”(New World Dictionary). Therefore, Christ was regarded as a supernatural phenomenon to be on a par with God the father although there is no indication that such a thing was ever acknowledged by Jesus himself?
In answer to God’s question as to whether Christ ever asserted that he was His son or he was God himself for that matter and a member of Trinity, Jesus responds by saying that Lord, I never said such a thing. This short dialogue is in the holy Qur’an.
We also read in the holy Book, Qur’an: 45. ” (And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, and illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah). 46. He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he is of the righteous. 47. She said: My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal hath touched me? He said: So (it will be). Allah createth what He will. If He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only Be! and it is. 55. (And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ.”59. Lo! the likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust [ of the ground], then He said unto him: Be! and he is.”(Chap, The family of Imran) (Trans, by M.M. Pickthall)
For a moment pay attention to the word ‘ To Be’. Here it seems Allah stands for the Ultimate Reality though it has name. This is like Tao which is the Ultimate Reality in Taoism or Brahman in Hinduism. Allah is way above even existence. So it cannot be necessary existence, which means it cannot not be, thus it must be. Adam and Jesus are created this way: Be! and they are. Allah is being giver. Allah is existence provider. How can Allah itself be subject to existence like anything else in the universe? Because if it is, then it is limited by both names and being in our mind. Allah is the author of existence. Allah is that Reality which existantiates, namely, it gives existence. We’re contingent beings while Allah is not. Then is Allah necessary existence? Philosophically our answer could be that Allah is the generator of existence. Why? The reason being, we cannot introduce duality to the understanding of who this reality is. ” To be or not to be “, it is something to think about. Yes, this was said by Hamlet himself. As we know, Hamlet was one of Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. So it seems there is no reason to try logically to prove the existence of this Reality. Perhaps we’re encouraged to experience this Reality in our hearts rather than worry about its existence. “The Sun came, the reason of the Sun” is the literal translation of a Persian poem, which means, the very fact that the Sun shines, is in and of itself the reason, for the Sun. Is it possible that Allah is even beyond being and non-being? Effect does not have to be of the same nature as cause.
One might say Allah simply is but it does not exist. What does existence mean literally anyway? To exist means ” To continue to be. In Latin it means ‘existere’, or even better ‘exsistere’, meaning ‘to stand forth, arise, be. ‘Ex’ is ‘out’; ‘sistere’ is to set, stand, from ‘stare’, to stand. (Etymological Dictionary, by W.W. Skeat). Basically ‘existence’ means standing out there. On other words, God is outstanding. Does this make any sense to you? In Islamic philosophy, however, I’m found means I exist. As we hear, I was lost and I’m now found. I did not exist before. I was only alive. But now I live authentically.
Allah is not a kind of God who is watching you from a distance like the song suggests. If this is the definition of the word ‘existence’, then Allah does not exist. On the other hand, if Allah simply is, then we’ll end up with its opposite, namely, ‘is not’. This dualism can also create problem for the oneness of God. Because Allah is beyond being and non-being as we mentioned before.
In the chapter, ‘The unity’ we read: 1. Say, “He, God, is One, 2. God, the Eternally Sufficient unto Himself. 3. He begets not; nor was He begotten. 4. And none is like unto Him.”(The study Quran, trans by S.H. Nasr, p.1579). Let us not forget that there is not a single word which can define the term ‘Samad’ in English language. That Reality is so solid that nothing can added on to it and nothing can be subtracted from it. No wonder it is beyond dualism of any kind.
When it came to God’s existence, Kant felt the statement ‘God Exists’ was analytic. In other words, ‘existence’ here does not add anything to God what so ever. For example, in the statement, ‘All triangles have three angles’ we’re not providing any information that is not already there in ‘triangle’. This is an analytic statement according to Kant. So why waste so much time and energy to prove the existence of God anyway? Kant refuted all of Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence God.
One might say, after all, is not the word ‘God’ a title, let us say, for all Abrahamic Religions? Then are we proving a title? Besides, if nothing can be added to the Ultimate Reality, including the term ‘Existence’, then why worry for its existence? Let us not forget that in some languages the verb ‘To be’ is nonexistent. When a toddler points to something, he or she is asking two questions: Does it exist? And what is it? The first is the question of ‘existence’ and the second is about the ‘whatness’ or ‘essence’ of what is seen. Obviously the toddler is observing the existence of what he or she is seeing at the moment. As you can see, there is no need to use the verb ‘To be’ here. When the Sun is shining, it is not necessary to make a statement that it exists. All what the toddler has to do is to point. His or her mother then says in response: It is the Sun honey.
“I am that I am or I am who I am” is what God told Moses on top of mount Sinai. God here was asserting His identity to Moses through the burning bush. He simply told him that he was present before him so they could have a conversation. Even if Moses could not see Him, he talked to God. He would not have been able to speak with the Ultimate Reality because it does not have a persona or mask. This Reality had to come to Moses’ level so he could reach him. As we know, there is no duality of being and non-being in the Ultimate reality. Moses could have answered Him by saying that: ” I hear you Lord but I still do not know what you are. In other words, I’m still ignorant of your Essence or Whatness.
Let us now turn to the beginning of the Old Testament. In Genesis God tells us he created man in His image or likeness. But the serpent tells Adam and Eve He does not want you to eat from the fruits of this tree, lest you might become like Him. Can you see the contradiction here? If God has created you in His likeness, then why did you two fall for what serpent told you? In other words, you were told the reason God asked you not to eat from the fruits of this tree was that you might become like Him. But the point here is that those two were already like God. Why did you fall for such a thing? Perhaps they were not thinking correctly. The first of Buddha’s Eightfold paths was about right knowledge or right thinking. Both Adam and Eve were given the power of intelligence but they failed to use it. Intelligence is not Kant’s pure reason which is neutral. The Intellect is like the light of the Sun within us. It is Atman in Hinduism. It is what Meister Eckhart (1260-1327) called that which is uncreated in us. One might question as to why God created them so weak to fall so easily? No one can deny the fact that it is sometimes very difficult to choose between different options.
There is no doubt that God, according to the Bible, created us in His image. However, we have been returning the favor by creating God in our own images. So by proving the existence of such a God, we’re actually proving the power of our own imaginations. It is not an art to prove the existence of the Gods who are our own byproducts.
I believe we all need to keep pursuing the true God. We ought to look and search for the Ultimate Reality. This is the message of Islam, which is also shared by both Judaism and Christianity.