Are we foreordained or predestined?

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A painting depicting Melchizedek conferring the Priesthood on Abraham

For those Latter-day Saints who attended their Sunday School classes today, I have decided to add my thoughts on today’s lesson in a blog post.

Many of the wonderful congregation  in my ward were discussing what is the difference between foreordaination and predestination?

Unfortunately though there was limited time to get into a deep discussion about what the difference is, and it wasn’t really answered correctly. So below are my thoughts on what I believe the difference between foreordaination and predestination are.

There is no such thing as predestination. The existence of such a concept would negate the entire purpose of the existence of mankind. In the pre-mortal spirit world Satan promoted the concept of predestination.
“And I, the Lord God, spake unto Moses, saying: That Satan, whom thou hast commanded in the name of mine Only Begotten, is the same which was from the beginning, and he came before me, saying–Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost, and surely I will do it; wherefore give me thine honor” (Moses 4:1).
Because men would be predestined to salvation, without any merit on their part, it would negate the principle of justice and the plan of happiness. Satan’s plan, that wanted everything for nothing, was justly rejected. Surprisingly, one third of the hosts of heaven, also desiring to get something for nothing, chose to follow the ways of Satan. They rebelled against God and tried to install their plan for salvation by force. Their legions were defeated and they were remanded to the custody of Satan forever, giving up the option to progress to mortality, partake of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the hope of eternal life.
Foreordination, on the other hand is a fact of life. In the pre-mortal spirit world many, because of their righteousness, were foreordained to positions of honor and authority in mortality and beyond—
Now the Lord had shown unto me, Abraham, the intelligences that were organized before the world was; and among all these there were many of the noble and great ones; And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits, and he saw that they were good; and he said unto me: Abraham, thou art one of them; thou wast chosen before thou wast born (Abr 3:22-23).
Although many of the noble and great ones were foreordained to become rulers in heaven–kings and queens, priests and priestesses unto the most high God–none of those blessings and responsibilities could be realized without the chosen ones obeying in mortality all of the laws of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The key to these blessings, and indeed to the happiness and fulfilment of the whole human family, depends specifically on the principle of the agency of man. Man must choose, of his own volition, to obey the requirements for promised blessings. Thus the justice of God, His kindness, love and mercy, are brought into play, and are responsible for the blessing and happiness of mankind, in accordance with the merit associated with wilful obedience to the word of God.

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Animal welfare in Judaism and Islam

This is part 4 of my series on the similarities between Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, the three great Abrahamic faiths.

Judaism and Islam teach very similar lessons on animal welfare. Both religions instruct that all living creatures are to be shown respect and compassion – ensuring that animals are not abused.

animal-welfare

Jews and Muslims are instructed to show mercy to animals

JudaismPsalms 145:9

God has mercy over all his works [Bava Metzia 85a: And thus so should man]

IslamSunan An-Nasa’i

Whoever is merciful even to a sparrow, Allah will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgment.

Jews and Muslims are instructed not to inflict cruelty on animals

JudaismProverbs 12:10

The righteous man regards the life of his animal.

IslamMishkat al-Masabih

A good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being.

Jews and Muslims should prioritise the sustenance of livestock

JudaismTalmud Berachot 40a

A man is forbidden to eat before he gives food to his beast.

IslamSahih al-Bukhari

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “While a man was walking he felt thirsty and went down a well and drank water from it. On coming out of it, he saw a dog panting and eating mud because of excessive thirst. The man said, ‘This (dog) is suffering from the same problem as that of mine. So he (went down the well), filled his shoe with water, caught hold of it with his teeth and climbed up and watered the dog. Allah thanked him for his (good)

Jews and Muslims should ensure animals in their care don’t suffer

JudaismExodus 23:5

If you see your enemy’s donkey lying under its burden would you refrain from helping him? You shall surely help along with him

Islam.

Narrated by Abdullah bin Ja’far: The Prophet once passed by a lean camel whose belly had shrunk to its back. “Fear God” he said to the owner of the camel, “in these dumb animals, and ride them only when they are fit to be ridden, and let them go free when it is meant that they should rest.”

Jews and Muslims are permitted to eat meat, but they must slaughter it in the humane way proscribed

JudaismDeuteronomy 12:21

you may slaughter of your cattle and of your sheep, which the Lord has given you, as I have commanded you, and you may eat in your cities, according to every desire of your soul.

IslamQuran 5:3

Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah , and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death], and those which are sacrificed on stone altars, and [prohibited is] that you seek decision through divining arrows. That is grave disobedience

Jews and Muslims are prohibited from eating meat from a living animal

JudaismGenesis 9:4

But, flesh with its soul, its blood, you shall not eat.

IslamQuran 5:3

Prohibited to you are dead animals, blood, the flesh of swine, and that which has been dedicated to other than Allah , and [those animals] killed by strangling or by a violent blow or by a head-long fall or by the goring of horns, and those from which a wild animal has eaten, except what you [are able to] slaughter [before its death]

Jews and Muslims are instructed to be mindful when taking chicks or eggs from a nest while the mother is in sight

JudaismDeuteronomy 22:6-7

If a bird’s nest chances before you on the road, on any tree, or on the ground, and [it contains] fledglings or eggs, if the mother is sitting upon the fledglings or upon the eggs, you shall not take the mother upon the young. You shall send away the mother, and [then] you may take the young for yourself, in order that it should be good for you, and you should lengthen your days.

IslamSahih Muslim, Bukhari, Abu Dawud

During a journey, someone travelling with the Prophet SAW, gathered some birds eggs from a nest. The mother bird’s painful cries and commotion attracted the attention of the Prophet SAW ,who asked the man to return the eggs to the nest.

Judaism and Islam teach that although animals are to be treated with compassion, they are still subordinate to man

JudaismGenesis 1:26

And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and they shall rule over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the heaven and over the animals and over all the earth and over all the creeping things that creep upon the earth.”

IslamQuran 45:13

“He has made subservient to you (men) whatsoever is in the heavens and in the earth.”

Similarites between Jewish Halacha, Islamic Sharia, and Catholic Canon Law

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This is part 3 of my series on the similarities beteeen Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.

Jewish Halacha, Islamic Sharia & Catholic Canon Law.

“Some well-financed Islamophobes like Daniel Pipes and David Yerushalmi argue that the Jewish Halacha should not be banned but Islamic Sharia must be banned since it imposes upon others unlike Jewish Halacha. This argument is exactly the reason founding fathers of nations such as the US and Australia kept their states out of the business of deciding which religion is right.”

Religious laws and Religious freedom in the United States.

Jewish Americans have been practicing their law called Halacha since their arrival in the United States. They also operate religious courts called Beth Din in which parties participate voluntarily. These decisions are at times enforced by US courts.

Catholic Americans have a well-codified system of laws and courts called Canon Law.

Even Latter-day Saints, the Amish, Anglican Churces, and Jehovahs Witnesses often reject the American court system (unless a member of their congregation has committed a criminal offence) in favor of their own religious method of resolving many disputes.

Recently The Judicial Council which is the highest court in the United Methodist Church has been in the news. General synod serves as the highest court of Presbyterians in the USA.

Although most of these laws and courts deal with religious matters, some do act as arbitration for non-religious matters: For example, in the Diamond Dealers Club in New York, in a de facto diamond exchange “most disputes among diamond traders are settled by the Beth Din the Jewish court. Since the Beth Din has a reputation for fairness and is familiar with the diamond trade. This has not led to the imposition of Jewish law or the breakdown of the separation of church and state.”

All these religious laws and courts operate on the voluntary consensual basis and are subject to our constitution.

Although Muslim Americans do not operate any court system, they practice Sharia every day in their lives. This is freedom of religion. And Americans have always wanted to keep it that way.

What is common between Jewish Halacha, Christian Laws, and Islamic Sharia?
The Ten Commandments!

Based on Divine revelations Muslims believe that God sent prophets and guidance to all people and that is the source of a lot of shared ground between religions especially the Abrahamic faiths.

All the ten Commandments are found in Qur’an starting from worshiping only God to do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery and respect for parents and the neighbors. The only difference is the Sabbath which is an exclusively biblical concept. Muslims are asked by God to close their business for Friday prayers but nothing beyond.

Observant Muslims live by these ideals. And just like many Christians in the US, many in the Muslim world show enthusiasm for the Ten Commandments as a code to live by.

Comparing Sharia and Halacha Laws

Interestingly Sharia and Halacha both can be translated as the path or the way.

Just like Halacha, Sharia deals with both religious practice aspects such as daily prayers, fasting, charity as well as aspects of daily life such as personal hygiene, guidelines for financial transactions, and dietary regulations.

Both are not one book of codified law but have evolved over years in a body of religious literature named Sharia for Muslims and Halacha for Jews.
Observant Muslims and conservative and Orthodox Jews mostly follow their respective guides. Rabbis for Jews and Imams and Shaykhs for Muslims mostly act as interpreters for their teachings.

Banning Sharia is like banning freedom of religion

Currently there is a strong movement involved in demonizing Islam and targeting Sharia. 49 bills have been introduced in 26 states proposing banning or severely restricting the practice of Sharia. Five states have already banned Sharia.

Banning of Sharia would mean banning the practice of Islam. And that will go totally against freedom of religion and contrary to the separation of church and state.

Observant Muslims live Sharia on a daily basis as they pray, fast and do charity. Muslims also practice Sharia routinely for marriage, birth, funeral rites, dietary specifications, and all other aspects of religious life. Banning Sharia would have far reaching consequences in regards to freedom of religion.

That is why Jewish groups have started showing concerns. They are worried that if Sharia is banned, the Jewish Halacha may be next. Many Jewish organizations are opposing the anti-Sharia bills. They acknowledge that such laws threaten religious freedom and would threaten Jewish practices of religion and more broadly Jewish law.

The anti-Sharia laws are an attack on the culture of religious tolerance and harmony that American society has nurtured since the birth of this nation.
Religious law, and specifically Sharia law is what governs the lives of Muslims, it is what exhorts them to live justly, to help the needy, to be good to their neighbors, to take care of their families, and to be productive members of society. Banning Sharia would ban a Muslim’s way of life. Is giving into irrational fear worth this cost?

Corporal Punishments in Halacha and Sharia

Halacha and Sharia both contain corporal punishments as does the Bible but neither Jews nor Muslims practice that in the US nor has anyone demanded that the US Criminal law be replaced with Halacha or Sharia. The Prophet Muhammad, would look the other way instead of using corporal punishments when someone came to confess. Sharia’s purpose and the Prophetic implementation of the corporal punishment were diametrically opposite to what for example the Taliban have come to symbolize.

No Muslim organization or Jewish organizations have called for the implementation of corporal punishments of Halacha or Sharia laws in the United States.

Sharia is not all law: Only 200 verses of the Qur’an deal with legal matters out of around 6236 total verses.

There is a serious effort by hate groups to define Sharia as only laws instead of the practice of a faith as Muslims understand it.

Unfortunately those trying to ban Sharia or burn the Qur’an like to think of Islamic life as “law” and declared it against the US law.

The fact of the matter is that only 200 verses of the Qur’an deal with legal maters out of around 6236 total verses of Qur’an. The rest of the Qur’an is about the knowledge of God, a person’s role as an individual, how to act in society, vis-à-vis nature, what the Prophetic messages are, and a guide for righteousness.

Sharia, Jewish Halacha and Catholic Canon Law, are not replacing ‘the law of the land.” However for observant Catholics, Muslims and Jews their institutions and traditions are an important part of religious practice and must be respected provided that state and federal laws are observed, and participation is voluntary.

Do Muslims Wants to Impose Sharia

One of the basic principles of Sharia is non-interference. This principle of Sharia–noninterference in the affairs of other religious groups is derived directly from the Qur’an, which declares: “Unto you your religion and unto me my religion,” (Qur’an 109:6) as well as “Let there be no compulsion in religion,” (Qur’an 2:256). Sharia cannot be imposed.

Unfortunately though Some Muslims ignore this principle of Sharia, like Christian fundamentalists and Ultra Orthodox Jews, they like to impose things on others, but most Muslims like most Christians and most Jews do not support that.

No Muslim American organization has ever passed a resolution calling for replacing the national laws with Sharia laws. However most Muslims and Jews do not eat pork, Muslims eat Halal foods, and Jews eat Kosher. The US and most other Western countries have always considered these to be reasonable religious accommodations. You can go to most restaurants and they will have Halal and Kosher foods available.

Defend Freedom of Religion for All People

The myths of the Thanksgiving holiday reflect on the pilgrims who went to the United States to avoid religious persecutions caused by one Christian sect persecuting another. It became the cornerstone of the US democracy to keep state and religion separate. It has been by and large a successful venture in keeping the state and the church flourishing independently.
Banning Sharia is going to be a historic departure from the historic consensus which has served democracy as the founding basis.

We must not discriminate against any religion. All religions should be treated equally in all democratic nations. We cannot pass laws based on hate, fear, and ignorance.

Latter-day Saints and Science

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A portrait of Charles Darwin 

As a Christian my atheist friends usually say to me things like “how can you believe in religion,” and “I can’t believe you don’t believe in evolution and you think the earth is only a few thousand years old.” In fact there is absolutely nothing in the holy scriptures that claim the earth is young or that there is no evolution. The Book of Genesis was not written as a scientific fact book on the creation, it is not a book on science, rather it was to teach the Jews that there is a God, and they’re the chosen people to bring down the Torah (Laws) of God. My atheist friends couldn’t be more wrong. As a devout Christian and a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I absolutely do believe in science, and evolution. I also believe the earth is billions of years old. If you read The Bible and especially the Pearl of Great Price properly, you will find out that the earth is extremely old, and there is guided evolution. Here are a few quotes from our modern day Prophets, Apostles and scholars on science, religion and evolution:

“In these respects we differ from the Christian world, for our religion will not clash with or contradict the facts of science in any particular… whether the Lord found the earth empty and void, whether he made it out of nothing or out of the rude elements; or whether he made it in six days or in as many millions of years, is and will remain a matter of speculation in the minds of men unless he give revelation on the subject. If we understood the process of creation there would be no mystery about it, it would be all reasonable and plain, for there is no mystery except to the ignorant.” President (Prophet) Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 14:166, May 14, 1871.)

“… for by the scriptural record itself we learn of stage after stage, age after age of earth processes by which eventually this planet became capable of supporting life — vegetable, animal and human in due course…

But this we know, for both revealed and discovered truth, that is to say both scripture and science, so affirm — that plant life antedated animal existence and that animals preceded man as tenants of earth.

According to the conception of geologists the earth passed through ages of preparation, to us unmeasured and immeasurable, during which countless generations of plants and animals existed in great variety and profusion and gave in part the very substance of their bodies to help form certain strata which are still existent as such. [This was written before the introduction of radioactive isotope dating techniques.]

The oldest, that is to say the earliest, rocks thus far identified in land masses reveal the fossilized remains of once living organisms, plant and animal. The coal strata, upon which the world of industry so largely depends, are essentially but highly compressed and chemically changed vegetable substance. The whole series of chalk deposits and many of our deep-sea limestones contain the skeletal remains of animals. These lived and died, age after age, while the earth was yet unfit for human habitation.” (Elder James E. Talmage)

“In due course came the crowning work of this creative sequence, the advent of man! Concerning this all-important event we are told that scientists and theologians are at hopeless and irreconcilable variance. I regard the assumption or claim, whichever it be, as an exaggeration. Discrepancies that trouble us now will diminish as our knowledge of pertinent facts is extended. The creator has made record in the rocks for man to decipher; but He has also spoken directly regarding the main stages of progress by which the earth has been brought to be what it is. The accounts can not be fundamentally opposed; one can not contradict the other; though man’s interpretation of either may be seriously at fault.” (Elder James E. Talmage)

“Let us not try to wrest the scriptures in an attempt to explain away what we can not explain. The opening chapters of Genesis, and scriptures related thereto, were never intended as a text-book of geology, archaeology, earth-science or man-science.” (Elder James E. Talmage)

“I cannot agree with your conception that there was no death of plants and animals anywhere upon this earth prior to the transgression of Adam, unless we assume that the history of Adam and Eve dates back many hundreds of thousands of years. The trouble with some theologians—even including many of our own good people—is that they undertake to fix the date of Adam’s transgression as being approximately 4000 years before Christ and therefore about 5932 years ago. If Adam was placed upon the earth only that comparatively short time ago the rocks clearly demonstrated that life and death have been in existence and operative in this earth for ages prior to that time.” (Elder James E. Talmage)

“not begrudge existence to creatures that looked like men long, long ago, nor deny them a place in God’s affection or even a right to exaltation — for our scriptures allow them such. Nor am I overly concerned as to just when they might have lived, for their world is not our world. They have all gone away long before our people ever appeared. God assigned them their proper times and functions, as he has given me mine — a full-time job that admonishes me to remember his words to the overly eager Moses: “For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.” (Moses 1:31.) It is Adam as my own parent who concerns me. When he walks onto the stage, then and only then the play begins.” (Professor Hugh Nibley)

And the last quote I’ll post today is from a devout Latter-day Saint Christian friend, who responded to a question he was asked about weather he likes Charles Darwin’s work or not. This was his answer:

“Yes I like Darwin’s work. There is no doubt in it. It explains every thing that we observe in biology.
If someone can come up with a different explanation that better explains all the observations and all the data, and everything that we observe in every aspect of biology, then that person will win a Nobel Prize and will be as famous through the ages, along side the greats like Einstein, Newton, Darwin, Galileo, and Keppler.”

Similarities between Latter-day Saint and Islamic beliefs

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The Kabba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia

This is part two of my series on the similarities between the three great Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

I find it incredible that Latter-Day Saint Christians and Muslims have so much in common. In fact the LDS beliefs and practices are more closely related to Islam’s than some other Christian sects. I will write a more comprehensive piece on this subject in the next few days, but for now I’ll just write a basic list of just a few of the similarities between Latter-Day Saint and Islamic belief systems. (Also we as LDS believe that Muhammad received a portion of Gods light, please refer to the link I have posted in the comments to see the official Church statement regarding Muhammad and other influential religious leaders).

Muslims and LDS both believe that we are eternal spirits, who have been given a body for a mortal experience.

Muslims and LDS both believe in the pre-existence, and that we lived with God before we came to earth.

Muslims and LDS both believe that the almighty God is Elohim (Allah in Arabic).

Muslims and LDS both believe that the Bible is true as far as it is translated correctly.

Muslims and LDS both believe in the Garden of Eden and that Adam and Eve fell after being tempted to eat from the tree of knowledge.

Muslims and LDS both believe that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah and he is returning to earth soon in a second coming to user in the new millennium, and the Jews will accept him as the Messiah. Every knee shall bow and the wicked wiped off the earth is a belief in Islam and LDS theology.

Muslims and LDS both believe that after Christ’s death, there was an apostasy and that God stopped sending Prophets and removed the Holy Ghost from the earth. Muslims believe the priesthood was taken and will return with Jesus. LDS believe however that the Priesthood has already been restored to the earth.

Muslims and LDS both believe in the literal gathering of Israel, and that the Jews will return to their homeland, which has already happened.

Muslims and LDS both believe in daily prayers (while the Muslims are commanded to pray at least five times a day LDS are commanded to pray three, morning, midday and evening).

Muslims and LDS both believe in ritual cleansing, washing and anointing before making sacred covenants with God. The Hajj or pilgrimage to Mecca is a primitive version of the temple endowment and the initiatory.

Muslims and LDS both believe in preparing yourself spiritually before coming face to face with God with ritual hymns. The adhan and the sacrament hymns and prayer are very similar in theory.

Muslims and LDS both believe in the age of ignorance (dark ages) during the great apostasy and that the last dispensation will be opened by a Prophet similar to Moses.

Muslims and LDS both believe in the Ten Commandments.

Muslims and LDS both believe that charity is everything.

Muslims and LDS both believe that education and reading are the most important aspects of life.

Muslims and LDS believe in the Virgin birth and miracles of Jesus.

Muslims and LDS both believe that Jesus was the greatest of all Prophets. Although Muslims believe that Jesus was taken directly to heaven by Elohim, and not crucified, they still believe that he suffered in Gethsemane and even though he was in agony he still prostrated and gave thanks to Allah. There is actually evidence to support that the Qur’an did once contain the crucifixion story, but it was changed after other copies were burnt in 667 AD, around 30 years after the original was compiled. The original was actually guarded vigorously by Muhammads wife Hafsah, but when she passed away the Islamic/Arabic political leader Uthman burnt it, even though Hafsah always refused to give it up for burning.

Muslims and LDS both believe in the word of wisdom and have strict dietary guidelines.

Muslims and LDS both believe that marriage will last into eternity.

Muslims and LDS both believe strongly in the Law of Chastity.

Muslims and LDS both believe in the law of Tithe, and give 10% of their earnings to the Lord so he can bless those in need.

Muslims and LDS both believe in praying and fasting. Fasting will help you draw closer to God. Muslims are also encouraged to give the money of the meals they missed through fasting to charity.

Alcohol is banned in Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Muslims and LDS both believe that we should all be missionaries and proclaim our faith in God in all things.

Muslims and LDS both believe that all children are innocent and if they pass away before the age of accountability then they will go directly back to God. We both believe that no children will be dammed as they are all innocent.

Muslims and LDS both believe in the administering of angels.

Muslims and LDS both believe in the third of the host, when Lucifer rebelled against God, and was thrown out to the earth and given the name Satan, he took a third of heaven with him. And they are all around us and tempting is today.

Muslims and LDS both believe that family history and traditions are very important in remembering who you are and where you come from.

Muslim and LDS both believe in the Holy Ghost.

Muslims and LDS both believe that we are commanded to respect the law of the land on which we live, and be law abiding citizens.

Muslims and LDS both believe that the greatest gift God has given us is intelligence and free agency. There is no compulsion in religion.

Muslims and LDS believe in all the Prophets of the Bible and all the Biblical stories.

I will write a more comprehensive and informative list on my blog shortly. I hope this gives you all the idea that we share much common ground with our Muslim Brothers and Sisters. In fact w also share a lot with the Shi’a beliefs about the age of ignorance and the final dispensation, so I’ll have to write a blog on that too as it’s rather fascinating. You can truly see that God prepares everyone to hear the restored Gospel through many different faiths. Muhammad truly did receive a portion of the truth and united the barbaric pagan tribes of Arabia, and bought them to the God of Abraham. That’s the whole purpose of the Qur’an.

Similarities between Masjid al-Haram and the Jewish Temple

There are a number of interesting similarities between the two holiest sites in Islam and Judaism. Masjid al-Haram is the Great Mosque in Mecca, while the Jewish Temple once stood in Jerusalem where the al-Aqsa complex stands today.

beit-ha-mikdash

How the Second Jewish Temple may have looked during Hag. 

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Masjid al-Haram during Hajj, the building in the centre is the Kaaba.

About the Mosque and Temple

  • Al-Masjid al-Haram: The Sacred Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) is in the city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is the largest mosque in the world and surrounds one of Islam’s holiest places, the Kaaba. Unlike other mosques which are segregated, men and women can worship at Al-Masjid Al-Haram together.
  • Beit ha-Mikdash: The Holy Temple (Beit ha-Mikdash) stood in the city of Jerusalem, Israel. Two successive Temples stood on the Temple Mount, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. It is the holiest place in the world for Jews. The complex was separated into areas where priests, leviim, women and non-Jews could all come to worship the Almighty.
  • Kaaba: The Kaaba is the most sacred point of the most sacred mosque in Islam. It is a square building which according to Islamic tradition, was first built by Abraham. Over time the Kaaba became a place of idolatry, until Muhammad commanded that the idols be removed from this holy site.
  • Kodesh Ha-Kodashim: The Holy of Holies (Kodesh HaKodashim) was the most sacred part of the most sacred place in Judaism. It was a sanctuary within the Temple that housed the Covenant of the Ark. Only the High Priest was permitted to enter this area.
  • Al-Masjid al-Haram: The mosque can hold 900,000 people (currently being expanded to 2,000,000)
  • Beit ha-Mikdash: The Second Temple could hold 1,000,000 people (expanded to this capacity by King Herod to allow for the large numbers Jewish and non-Jewish pilgrims during chag)
  • Islam: Wherever a Muslim is in the world, they are obligated to face the Kaaba when praying.
  • Judaism: Wherever a Jew is in the world, they are obligated to face the Kodesh Ha-Kodashim when praying.
  • Al-Hajar Al-Aswad: The Black Stone (Al-Hajar Al-Aswad) is the eastern cornerstone of the Kaaba. It is a stone that is revered by Muslims and is said to have fallen from Heaven to show Adam and Eve where to build an altar. It was originally set intact into the Kaaba’s wall by Muhammad .
  • Even Ha-Shetiya: The Foundation Stone (Even Ha-Shetiya) is the name of the rock that is believed by many to be the location of Holy of Holies. According to Jewish tradition it is the site where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac, it is the rock from which Earth was formed, it was close to the stone that God gathered the earth that was formed into Adam. It was on this rock that Adam, Cain, Abel, and Noah offered sacrifices to the Almighty. Underneath the Foundation Stone there is a cave. Muslim tradition teaches that Muhammad ascended to heaven from this point. The stone currently lies under the Dome of the Rock. Five hundred years before the birth of Muhammad, Rabbi Yishmael one of Judaism’s most important rabbis was recorded saying: “In the future, the sons of Ishmael (the Arabs) will do fifteen things in the Land of Israel … They will fence in the breaches of the walls of the Temple and construct a building on the site of the sanctuary”.
foundation-stone-jerusalem

The Foundation Stone – Temple Mount / Dome of the Rock

hajar-al-aswad.jpg

he Black Stone – the cornerstone of the Kaaba

Pilgrimage – Haj / Hag

  • Muslims: Once a year Muslims are commanded to make a pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca
  • Jews: Three times a year Jews were commanded to make a pilgrimage (Hag – hag ha-matzot, hag ha-sukkot, hag ha-shavuot) to Jerusalem
  • Muslims: Only those capable of traveling to Mecca are obligated to go
  • Jews: Only those capable of traveling to the Temple were obligated to go
  • Muslims: Purify the body with water before going on Hajj
  • Jews: Purify the body with water before going on Hag
  • Muslims: Circle the Kaaba seven times (Tawaf) anti-clockwise
  • Jews: Circle the Temple seven times anti-clockwise
  • Muslims: During Hajj pilgrims are obligated to offer certain animals as a qurban (sacrifice)
  • Jews: As part of the Hag pilgrims were obligated to offer certain animals as a korban (sacrifice)
  • Muslims: If a woman is in her menses she should refrain from circling the Kaaba
  • Jews: If a woman is in her menses she should refrain from ascending to the Temple Mount and circling the Temple
  • Muslims: It is preferable to enter the al-Haram complex barefoot
  • Jews: It is preferable to enter the Temple complex barefoot

What Is Sharia Law?

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The word shari’a has a history among Jewish and Christian communities prior to its usage in Islam. The translation of the Old Testament into Arabic attributed to Saadia Gaon (d. 933) shows that shari’a was used by the Arabic-speaking Jewish community. The most commonly used term for translating Hebrew torah is Arabic shari’a or its plural. The word shari’a is also used to designate single rules or a system of rules in the Hebrew Bible. Around the tenth century, we also have the word shari’a in certain Christian writings, where the Christian religion, the law of the Messiah is referred to as shari’at al-Masih. In Islamic literature , sharia and its various cognates also refer to a rule of law, laws or the totality of a particular Prophetic message. 

Most Muslims use shari’a to mean God’s law; sharia is the transcendent moral law of God, known only to God. Laws that are accessible to humans are referred to as figh, and are based on the elaborate interpretative works of the scholar jurists called the fuqaha. In other words, sharia is divine in origin, while fiqh – which means ‘understanding’ or ‘jurisprudence’ – is always a human activity. Although the concept of Gods ideal law is encapsulated in the word shari’a, it was the juristic discipline of fiqh that came to dominate the intellectual world of Islam. Jurisprudence was the most prestigious branch of Islamic sciences, valued more highly than theology or philosophy, despite some overlap. This was the situation right up until the period of European colonialism, after which European legal codes combined with aspects of sharia. From the end of the 19th century, however, in most Muslim countries, Islamic law was relegated largely to family law, including inheritance. 

Fiqh was never more than a human approximation of a sacred ideal, a product that was ultimately a pious, but imperfect, effort. Its stylistic features combined juristic speculation with literary ingenuity.  

While there were several schools of law in early Sunni Islam, the groupings of these jurists eventually settled out at four schools (maddhabs). According to medieval Islam, these schools were named after their founders: Malik ibn Anas (d.796), Abu Hanifa (d. 767), Al-Shafi’i (d. 822), and Ibn Hanbal (d.855). Many western scholars have argued that the founder of the schools were not responsible for establishing the ‘schools’ named after them, for example, Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali, but that it was the pupils of the founders who established the basic elements of the school. There are also Shi’i schools – the Zaydis and Ithna ‘Asharis – which developed separately. 

As the four schools became established, jurists of individual schools wrote according to the methods and disciplines of that particular school, despite spatial and temporal differences. There were two ways by which the views of different writers from different eras were established. One was through the exploration of those problems that each generation of jurists inherited from their ancestors and the other was through the process of citing past authorities. 

The richness of juristic speculation within each school and across schools is contained in the diversity of juristic opinion (ikhtilaf), the central stylistic feature of fiqh. The principle of ikhtilaf allowed the jurists to put forward various perspectives on a single point of principle by the discussion of options and circumstances. As fiqh literature grew, these principles often became buried under the mound of detail and formula, but never lost the element of discussion and debate. 

Sunni Islam recognizes four sources through which Islamic law is derived. These are the Qur’an, the sunna of the Prophet, the consensus (ijma’) of the community and analogical reasoning (qiyas). Islamic law is divided between works of positive law (furu) and the principles of law (usul). A fundamental hermeneutical aspect of furu is ijtihad, meaning ‘effort’. Technically it refers to individual effort made by each jurist to take into account all principles of interpretation to discover a rule of law. 

Those who exercised ijtihad became known as mujtahids. A mujtahid who was asked a direct question was known as a mufti and his legal opinion is known as a fatwa. From the ninth to the tenth centuries, major works of positive law have largely covered the same topics and have a similar structure. As well as exploring areas of worship, such as purity, prayer, fasting, topics include marriage, divorce, inheritance laws, sale and penal laws. All areas of life are subject to moral and legal reflection. 

Most non-Muslims, however equate sharia with the fixed penalties known as hudud. In classical law, these are known as crimes against God, mentioned either in the Qur’an or the hadiths. The crimes are unlawful intercourse, false accusation of unlawful intercourse, drinking wine, theft, armed robbery, and, in most schools apostasy. For these crimes, there are fixed penalties, invoking a mixture of flogging, amputation and even death. 

Strict rules of evidence and complex nuances on what counted as a crime, made application of the penalties very difficult to carry out. During the 19th Century, many Muslim countries abolished Islamic criminal law completely and replaced it with Western statue law. While some Muslims majority societies continue practice these punishments, or threaten their use, many reformers, scholars and human rights activists in the Islamic world argue that they should be abolished completely, as they were never meant to be immutable and are used only as a means of oppressing society; they go against the ethical and interpretive spirit of Islamic law.