Religious confusion fuels misunderstanding and misrepresentation

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SHAFAQNA – Christian Today, a news media dedicated to Christian related news published a report in which it likens Islam’s belief in Imam Mahdi, with the Christian antichrist, implying thereof that Muslims stand in fact outside any “acceptable” Judaeo-Christian’s circles.

The report based its so-called findings on the expertise of one rather dubious character, a self-proclaimed Egyptian-born Christian scholar and writer: Michael Youssef.

Writing for Charisma News, Michael Youssef says while Christians await the return of the resurrected and ascended Jesus Christ, many Muslims, both Shiites and Sunnis, also expect the appearance of their own “messiah,” the Mahdi.

However, the Sunnis and Shiites differ on the identity of the Muslim messiah. “Sunni Muslims believe that the Mahdi is none other than Jesus himself, whom they do not believe died on Calvary but rather ascended into heaven at the age of 33,” Youssef says.

“They believe He will come back to earth and live for seven years, at the end of which He will visit Mecca and declare himself a Muslim. Allegedly He will then turn against the Christians and the Jews and judge the world by establishing the Islamic Sharia,” he says.

But the Mahdi is an altogether different person as far as Shiite Muslims are concerned. “Since they follow a different line of succession to Mohammed, their Mahdi is identified as the ‘Twelfth Imam’,” Youssef says.

“Shiites believe that this Mahdi is alive now but hidden until Allah reveals him at a time when the earth is in political and economical turmoil,” he adds.

Youssef then shares the biblical depiction of the antichrist. “Paul refers to him as ‘the man of lawlessness,’ ‘the man doomed to destruction’ and ‘the lawless one.’ 2 Thessalonians describes him as one ‘who will exalt himself over everything that is called god or is worshiped so that he sets himself up in God’s temple proclaiming himself to be God” (2:3-4, 8). In Mathew 24, Jesus affirms Daniel’s prophecy regarding the rise of the antichrist, noting that his arrival will spell out the end of the age (see Daniel 9:27).”

Youssef cites five similarities between the Mahdi and the antichrist, describing them as “chilling.”

First, “both are associated with the end times and the Day of Judgment.”

Second, “they both possess political, military and religious power.”

Third, “both will endeavour to bring the world under one religion.”

Fourth, “the Mahdi will force all people to convert to Islam, and the antichrist will make himself the object of worship.”

Fifth, “both will establish Jerusalem as the capital from which they will rule the world.”

Youssef then shifts his attention to the ongoing U.S. presidential campaign ahead of the November vote, alluding that one of the candidates could be the forerunner of the biblical antichrist.

“If you are looking to someone with a messianic complex, then he or she will simply pave the way for the biblical antichrist, Satan’s sinister representative, who will lead many away from the truth,” he says.

“Choose wisely and prayerfully!” Youssef urges American voters.

Beyond Mr Youssef’s outright bigotry against Islam, his religious expertise happens to be profoundly erroneous – based no doubt on misguided assumptions, and a good dose of ignorant pride.

While there are indeed some divergences in between Sunnis and Shiites when it comes to Imam Mahdi, both traditions are rather clear on the fact that Imam Mahdi and Jesus (Isa) bin Myriam (Mary) are indeed two very different people. And while both will play an important role in the end times, they are not one and the same. Only a few minorities within Islam have alleged any different – which minorities were actually rebuked by scholars and historians since their observations lacked any scholarly basis, and instead stand on the ranting of a few “illuminated” minds.

Dr John Andrew Morrow, a prominent scholar of Islam and author of The Covenants Of The Prophet Muhammad With The Christians Of The World told Shafaqna in exclusive comments: “There is indeed a hadith that identifies Jesus as the Mahdi … What is more some scholars like Ibn Khaldun rejected the belief in the Mahdi, however the mainstream view in Sunnism is similar to the Shiite one… although the criteria of the Mahdi are different. “

If one looks at the dozens of narrations that speak about Imam Mahdi and Isa bin Maryam, it is clear that they two distinct individuals, with different roles and characteristics, who will one day interact with each other.

Dr Morrow added: “There is no Mahdi except ‘Isa” such statement is found in Ibn Majah. However, it was treated as da’if or munkar (weak/erroneous), and it has never been accepted by hadith scholars as an authentic narration.

Non-Muslims think they can cherry pick Quranic verses and Hadith and interpret Islam as they wish. That is what the Wahhabis do … We have 1400 years of scholarship that cannot be ignored.”

While we should of course strive to debate and discuss theological differences and issues to increase our knowledge and enable communication in between communities, it is absolutely primordial that all so-called scholars be properly educated before they can step into the public sphere.

We live in a society which favours instant gratification and passes judgement on faiths, traditions and history without any real knowledge, perspective or reason … those traits it needs to be noted are the very foundations upon which bigotry and radicalism have risen.

Trying to belittle Islam by likening its faith, its traditions and its truth to devil worshipping, only exemplifies Mr Youssef’s profound lack of knowledge.

“Truth unites, falsehood divides. Stay with the truthful, no matter how few; stay away from the false, no matter how many.
Satan first creates discord in congregations, then divides and destroys.” Imam Ali

By Catherine Shakdam for Shafaqna

 

 

 

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