The Prophet (s.a.a.w.) enjoined upon Muslims to treat the poor kindly and to help them with alms, Zakat, and in other ways. He said: "He is not a perfect Muslim who eats his fill and lets his neighbor go hungry."
He asked, "Do you love your Creator? Then love your fellow beings first."
Monopoly is unlawful in Islam and he preached that "It is difficult for a man laden with riches to climb the steep path that leads to bliss."
He did not prohibit or discourage the acquisition of wealth but insisted that it be lawfully acquired by honest means and that a portion of it would go to the poor. He advised his followers
"To give the laborer his wages before his perspiration dried up."
He did not encourage beggary either and stated that
"Allah is gracious to him who earns his living by his own labour, and that if a man begs to increase his property, Allah will diminish it and whoever has food for the day, it is prohibited for him to beg."
To his wife he said, "O A'isha, love the poor and let them come to you and Allah will draw you near to Himself." [Sahih Bukhari]
One or two instances of the Prophet's (s.a.a.w.) concern for the poor may be given here. A Madinan, Ibad Bin Sharjil, was once starving. He entered an orchard and picked some fruit. The owner of the orchard gave him a sound beating and stripped off his clothes. The poor man appealed to the Prophet (s.a.a.w.) who remonstrated the owner thus:
"This man was ignorant, you should have dispelled his ignorance; he was hungry, you should have fed him."
His clothes were restored to the Madinan and, in addition, some grain was given to him [Abu Dawood]
A debtor, Jabir Bin Abdullah, was being harassed by his creditor as he could not clear his debt owing to the failure of his date crop. The Prophet (s.a.a.w.) went with Jabir to the house of the creditor and pleaded with him to give Jabir some more time but the creditor was not prepared to oblige. The Prophet (s.a.a.w.) then went to the oasis and having seen for himself that the crop was really poor, he again approached the creditor with no better result. He then rested for some time and approached the creditor for a third time but the latter was adamant. The Prophet (s.a.a.w.) went again to the orchard and asked Jabir to pluck the dates. As Allah would have it, the collection not only sufficed to clear the dues but left something to spare. [Sahih Bukhari]
His love for the poor was so deep that he used to pray: "O Allah, keep me poor in my life and at my death and raise me at resurrection among those who are poor." [Nasai]
"By the grace of Allah, you are gentle towards the people; if you had been stern and ill-tempered, they would have dispersed from round about you" [Qur'an 3:159]
About himself the Prophet (pbuh) said:
"Allah has sent me as an apostle so that I may demonstrate perfection of character, refinement of manners and loftiness of deportment." [Muwatta; Musnad; Mishkat]
The last book of the Canonical Jewish Code of the Bible bears the name of "Malachai," which looks to be more a sur- name than a proper noun. The correct pronunciation of the name is Malakh, which means "my angel" or "my mes- senger." The Hebrew word, "mal'akh," like the Arabic "malak," like the Greek term "anghelos" from which the English name "angel" is derived, signifies "a messenger," one commissioned with a message or news to deliver to some- body.
Who this Malakhi is, in what period of the Jewish his- tory he lived and prophesied, is not known either from the book itself or from any other portion of the Old Testament. It begins with the words: "The 'missa' of the Word of Yahweh the El of Israel by the hand of Malakhi," which may be translated: "The discourse of the Word of Yahweh God of Israel, by the hand of Malakhi." It contains four short chapters.
The oracle is addressed, not to a king and his courtiers, but to a people already settled in Jerusalem with the Temple and its services. The sacrifices and oblations are of the meanest and worst kind; the sheep and cattle offered at the altars are not of the best quality; they are blind, lame, and lean animals. The tithes are not regularly paid, and if at all paid are of the inferior material. The priests, too, natu- rally, cannot devote their time and energy to perform their sacred duty. For they cannot chew the beefsteaks and roasted mutton-chops of the lean old, crippled sacrifices. They cannot live on the scanty tithes or insufficient stipends. Yahweh, as usual with this incorrigible people, now threatens, now holds out promises, and at times complain.
This discourse, or oracle, seems to have been delivered by the Prophet Malakhi in about the beginning of the fourth century before the Christian era, when the people of Israel were also tired of Yahweh; and used to say: "The Table of the Lord (Yahweh) is an abomination, and His meal is con- temptible" (Mal. i. 12). "He who doeth evils is good in the eyes of Yahweh, and He is pleased with them; or, where is the God of the judgment?" (Mal. ii. 17).
The Book of Malakhi, notwithstanding its being of a post captivitatem date, is, however, written in a seemly good Hebrew style. To say that this "misa," or discourse, has come down to us intact and unadulterated is to confess ignor- ance of the language. There are several mutilated sentences, so that it is almost impossible to understand the exact sense they intend to convey.
The subject of our discussion in this article is the famous prediction couched in Mal. iii. 1. The prophecy runs thus: -
"Behold, I send My Messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me; and suddenly shall come to his temple the Adon whom ye are seeking, and the Messenger of the Covenant whom ye desire. Behold, he cometh, says the Lord of Hosts" (Mal. iii. 1).
This is a well-known Messianic prophecy. All Christian Saints, Fathers, Popes, Patriarchs, Priests, monks, nuns, and even the Sunday-school children, will tell us that the first messenger mentioned in the text is St. John the Baptist, and the second messenger, whom their vernacular versions have rendered "Angel of the Covenant," is Jesus Christ!
A definite determination of the subject of this prophecy is of extreme importance, because the Christian Churches have ever since believed that two distinct persons are indi- cated therein; and the author of this erroneous belief is a singularly remarkable blunder of St. Matthew's. One of the characteristic features of the First Gospel - Matthew - is to show and prove the fulfillment of some particular state- ment or prediction in the Old Testament concerning nearly every event in the life of Jesus Christ. He is very careless to guard himself against contradictions, and less scrupulous in his quotations from the Hebrew Scriptures. He is cer- tainly not well versed in the literature of his own language. I had occasion to refer in the preceding article of this series to one of his blunders concerning the ass upon which Jesus mounted. This is a most serious point directly touch- ing the authenticity and the validity of the Gospels. Is it possible that the Apostle Matthew should himself be ignorant of the true character of the prophecy of Malakh, and ignor- antly ascribe to his master a misquotation which would natu- rally put to question his very quality of a divinely inspired Prophet? Then, what should we think of the author of the Second Gospel - of St. Mark - who ascribes the passage in Malakh-l to Isaiah? (Mark i. 2). Jesus is reported by Matthew (xi. 1-15), and this too is followed or copied by Luke (vii. 18-28), to have declared to the multitude that John the Baptist was "more than a Prophet," that it was he "about whom it was written: Behold, I am sending My Angel before thy face, and he shall prepare thy way before thee;" and that "none among those born by women was greater than John, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." The corruption of the text of Malakh is plain and deliberately made. The original text tells us that Yahweh Sabaoth, i.e. God of Hosts, is the speaker and the believers are the people addressed, as can be readily seen in the words "whom ye are seeking ... whom ye desire." God says: "Behold, I send My Messenger, and he shall prepare the way before My face." But the Gospels have interpolated the text by effacing the personal pronoun of the first person singular, and inserted "before thee" (or "thy face," as in Hebrew) twice. It is generally believed that Matthew wrote his Gospel in the then vernacular Hebrew or Aramaic in order to prove to the Jews that God, addressing Jesus Christ, said: "Behold, I send My messenger (Angel) [such is the version in Matthew xi. 10] before thee, and he shall prepare thy way before thee;" and wishes to show that this angel or messenger was John the Baptist. Then a contrast between the Prophets John and Jesus is left to Prophet Jesus, who describes John as above every prophet and greater than the sons of all human mothers, but the least in the Kingdom of Heaven - of which Jesus is meant to be the King - is greater than John.
I do not believe for a second that Jesus or any of his disciples could have made use of such language with the object of perverting the Word of God, but some fanatical monk or an ignorant bishop has forged this text and put into the mouth of Jesus the words which no prophet would speak.
The traditional idea that the Messenger commissioned to prepare or repair the way before the "Adon" and the "Messenger of the Covenant" is a worshiper and subordinate of the latter, and therefore to conclude that two distinct persons are predicted is a creation of the ignorance concerning the importance of the mission and the magnitude of the work assigned to that messenger. He is not to be supposed as a pioneer or even an engineer appointed to construct roads and bridges for the passing of a royal procession. Let us there- fore pore over this subject more deeply and in a courageous, impartial, and dispassionate manner.
1. In the first place, we must well understand that the Messenger is a man, a creature of human body and soul, and that he is not an Angel or a superhuman being. In the second place, we should open our eyes of wisdom and judg- ment to see that he is not dispatched to prepare the way before another Messenger called "Adon" and the "Messenger of the Promise," but he is commissioned to establish a straight, safe, and good Religion. He is commissioned to remove all the obstacles in the way between God and His creatures; and to fill up all the gaps and chasms in this grand path, so that it may be smooth, easy to walk on, well lighted, and protected from all danger. The Hebrew phrase, "u pinna derekh," means to say that the Messenger "will put straight and clear the worship or the religion." The verb "darakh" of the same root as the Arabic "daraka," means "to walk, reach, and comprehend;" and the substantive "derekh" signifies, "road, way, step," and metaphorically "worship and religion." It is used in this spiritual sense all through the Psalms and the Prophets. Surely this high Messenger of God was not coming to repair or reform a way, a religion for the benefit of a handful of Jews, but to establish a universal and an unchangeable religion for all men. Though the Jewish religion inculcates the existence of one true God, still their conception of Him as a national Deity of Israel, their priesthood, sacrificial rites and cere- monies, and then the non-existence of any positive articles of belief in the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the dead, the last judgment, the eternal life in heaven or hell, and many other deficient points, make it absolutely unfit and insufficient for the peoples of diverse languages, races, di- mates, temperaments, and habits. As regards Christianity, it, with its meaningless seven sacraments, its beliefs in original sin, the incarnation of a god - unknown to all previous reli- gious and mythological literature - and in a trinity of indivi- dual gods, and finally because it does not possess a single line in scripto from its supposed founder, Jesus Christ, has done no good to mankind. On the contrary, it has caused divi- sions and sects, all inbued with bitter feelings of hatred and rancor against each other.
The Messenger, then, was commissioned with the abro- gating of both those religions and the establishing of the ancient religion of Prophets Abraham and Ishmael and the other Prophets, with new precepts for all men. It was to be the shortest road to "reach" God; the simplest religion to worship Him, and the safest Faith to remain ever pure and unadul- terated with superstition and stupid dogmas. The Messenger was commissioned to prepare a road, a religion that will conduct au who wish to believe in and love the One God without having need of the leadership of hundreds of self- appointed guides and pretenders. And above all, the Mes- senger was to come suddenly to his temple, whether it be the one in Jerusalem or the one in Mecca; he was to root out all idolatry in those countries, not only by the destruc- tion of idols and images, but also inculcating in their former worshipers the faith in one true Allah. And the accom- plishment of this stupendous task, namely, to construct a new Path, a universal religion, that teaches that between God and man no absolute mediator, no priest, saint or sacrament, is at all permissible, has only been done by a Prophet whose name is Muhammad al-Mustapha!
2. John the Baptist was not the Messenger foretold by Malakhi The accounts given about him by the four Evange- lists are very contradictory, but the one thing that they together agree on is that he prepared no way at all; for he was not accredited with a sacred scripture: he neither founded a religion nor reformed the old one. He is reported to have left his parents and home while still a youth; he lived in the desert on honey and the locust; and spent there his life until he was about thirty years old, when he showed himself to the multitudes on the banks of the River Jordan, where he used to baptize the penitent sinners who confessed their sins to him. While Matthew knows nothing of his re- lationship with Jesus, or does not care to report it, Luke, who wrote his Gospel, not from a revelation, but from the works of the disciples of the Master, records the homage rendered by John to Jesus when both in the wombs of their mothers (Luke i. 39-46). He baptizes Jesus in the waters of the River Jordan like everybody else, and is reported to have said that he (John) was "not worthy to bow down to untie the laces of the shoes" (Mark i. 7) of Jesus, and ac- cording to the Fourth Gospel he (John) exclaimed that Jesus was "the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world" (John i. 29). That he knew Jesus and recognized him to be the Christ is quite evident. Yet when he was imprisoned he sends his disciples to Jesus, asking him: "Art thou he who is to come, or should we anticipate another one?" (Matt. xi. 3, etc.). The Baptist was martyred in the prison because he reprimanded an infidel Edomite, King Herod the Tetrarch, for having married the wife of his own brother. Thus ends, according to the narrative of the Evangelists, the life of a very chaste and holy prophet.
It is strange that the Jews did not receive John as a prophet. It is also stranger still to find that the Gospel of Barnabas does not mention the Baptist; and what is more, it puts the words said to have been uttered by John concern- ing Christ into the mouth of the latter about Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah. The Qur'an mentions the miraculous birth of John under the name of "Yahya," but does not refer to his mission of baptism.
The description of his sermon is given in the third chapter of Matthew. He seems to have announced the approach of the Kingdom of Heaven and the advent of a Great Messenger and Prophet of God who would baptize the believers, not with water, "but with fire and with the holy spirit."
Now, if John the Baptist were the Messenger appointed by God to prepare the way before Jesus Christ, and if he was his herald and subordinate, there is no sense and wisdom whatever in John to go about baptizing the crowds in the waters of a river or a pond and to occupy himself with half a dozen disciples. He ought to have immediately followed and adhered to Jesus when he had seen and known him! He did nothing of the kind! Of course, a Muslim always speaks of a prophet with utmost respect and reverence, and I am not expected to comment further, as an Ernest Renan or an indifferent critic would do! But to say that a prophet whom they describe as a dervish (Sufi) of the wilderness clad in the skins of animals, and a dervish who comes forth and sees his "Adon" and the "Angel of the Covenant," and then does not follow and cleave to him, is ridiculous and incredible. To think and believe that a prophet is sent by God to pre- pare the way, to purify and clear the religion for the coming of his superior, and then describing him as living all his life in the desert among the animals, is to tell us that he was constructing chaussees, causeways or railways, not for men, but for beasts and genii.
3. Nor was John the Baptist the Prophet Elijah or Elias, as Christ is made to have said. The Prophet Malakhi, in his fourth chapter (verses 5, 6), speaks of the coming of Elijah, which fact is foretold to take place some time before the day of the Resurrection and not before the Appearance of the Messenger in question. Even if Christ had said that John was Elijah, the people did not know him. What Jesus meant to say was that the two were similar in their ascetical life, their zeal for God, their courage in scolding and admonishing the kings and the hypocrite leaders of the religion.
I cannot go on discussing this untenable claim of the Churches concerning John being the Messenger "to prepare the way." But I must add that this Baptist did not abrogate one iota of the Law of Moses, nor add to it a tittle. And as to baptism, it is the old Jewish ma'muditha or ablution. Washing or ablution could not be considered a "religion" or "way" whose place has been taken by the famous and my- sterious Church institution of the sacrament of Baptism!
4. If I say that Jesus Christ is not intended in the prophecy of Malakhi, it would seem that I was advancing an argumentum in absurdum, because nobody will contradict or make an objection to my statement. The Churches have al- ways believed that the "Messenger of the way" is John the Baptist, and not Jesus. The Jews, however, accept neither of the two. But as the person foretold in the prophecy is one and the same, and not two, I most conscientiously declare that Prophet Jesus is not, and could not be, that person. If Jesus was a god, as he is now believed to be, then he could not be employed to prepare the way before the face of Yahweh Sabaoth! If Prophet Jesus were the Yahweh Sabaoth who made this prophecy, then who was the other Yehweh Sabaoth before whose face the way was to be prepared? If he were a simple man, made of flesh and blood, and worshiper of the Lord of Hosts, then the claim falls to the ground. For Jesus as a simple human being and prophet could not be the founder of the trinitarian Churches. Whichever form of the Christian religion we may take, whether it be the Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Salvationist, Quaker, or any of the multitudinous sects and communities, none of them can be the "way," the "religion" indicated by Malakhi; and Prophet Jesus is not its founder or preparer. So long as we deny the absolute Oneness of God, we are in error, and Jesus cannot be our friend nor can he help us.
5. The person indicated in the prophecy has three qualifications, namely, the Messenger of Religion, the Lord Commander, and the Messenger of the Convent. He is also described and distinguished by three conditions, namely "he is suddenly coming to his Mosque or Temple, he is looked for and sought by men, and is greatly desired and coveted."
Who can, then, be this glorious man, this Great Bene- factor of humanity, and this valiant Commander who rendered noble services in the cause of Allah and His religion other than Prophet Muhammad? - upon whom may rest God's peace and blessing.
He brought to the world an unrivalled Sacred Book, Al-Qur'an, a most reasonable, simple, and beneficial religion of Islam, and has been the means of guidance and conversion of millions and millions of the heathen nations in all parts of the globe, and has transformed them all into one universal and united Brotherhood, which constitutes the true and formal "Kingdom of Allah" upon the earth announced by Prophets Jesus and John the Baptist. It is futile and childish to com- pare either Jesus or John with the great Messenger of Allah, when we know perfectly well that neither of these two did ever attempt to convert a single pagan nor succeeded in persuading the Jews to recognize his mission.