Christianity History Islam

Islam, Chris­tian­i­ty and Soci­etal Problems

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Islam­ic Edu­ca­tion Trust, Australia

Islam and Chris­tian­i­ty both claim to be not just reli­gions, but com­plete ways of life, to guide and solve man’s prob­lems. Though not com­mon­ly known, there are count­less prob­lems in dai­ly life which Islam solves and which Chris­tian­i­ty (among oth­ers) is inca­pable of real­is­ti­cal­ly solv­ing. We will exam­ine just a few, insha’allah.

a. Crime and Corruption

Mus­lims are encour­aged to for­give offences against them where this is rea­son­able, tol­er­a­ble and pro­motes good human rela­tions. How­ev­er, where such benev­o­lent behav­iour would only allow the spread of crime, cor­rup­tion, injus­tice and inter­fer­ence with basic human rights, then it is incum­bent upon the mem­bers of that soci­ety or the author­i­ties con­cerned to con­trol and pre­vent such vice by any effec­tive and equi­table means.

Both Chris­tian­i­ty and espe­cial­ly Islam pro­vide detailed moral laws and prin­ci­ples for peace­ful and pro­gres­sive co-exis­tence. These moral teach­ings if strict­ly fol­lowed are meant to min­i­mize and if pos­si­ble elim­i­nate the role of the courts. How­ev­er, some cit­i­zens are bent on defy­ing moral appeals and coun­selling, and become threats to peace, jus­tice and secu­ri­ty. They engage in crimes of murder/​assassination, rob­bery, drug traf­fick­ing, pros­ti­tu­tion, smug­gling, eco­nom­ic exploita­tion, gen­er­al cor­rup­tion etc.

To these prob­lems, Chris­tian­i­ty is inca­pable of offer­ing any real­is­tic and prac­ti­cal solu­tion. This is because some teach­ings of the New Tes­ta­ment have been inter­pret­ed to imply that evil should not be resisted[1] and that the laws of the Old Tes­ta­ment were abrogated[2].

On the oth­er hand Islam pro­vides a com­plete and detailed, just­ly bal­anced legal sys­tem (from the Qur’an and Sun­nah) that com­ple­ments its moral teach­ings. Pun­ish­ments under the Shar­i’ah (Islam­ic Law) are not admin­is­tered in the spir­it of vengeance but are aimed at reform­ing the soci­ety and deter­ring future vices. Mer­ci­ful­ly, no pun­ish­ment is admin­is­tered if there is the slight­est evi­dence of inno­cence. Rel­a­tive to oth­er legal sys­tems, the Islam­ic legal sys­tem when ful­ly imple­ment­ed with­in the Islam­ic soci­etal frame­work, has been the most suc­cess­ful in history.

b. Racism and Tribalism

Racism, trib­al­ism and nation­al­ism have been and still are major caus­es of injus­tices rang­ing from denial of sim­ple human rights to full scale wars.

Quite apart from the fact that the numer­ous ref­er­ences in the Qur’an[3] and Prophet­ic examples[4] teach explic­it­ly against racism and trib­al­ism, Islam goes beyond mere moral appeal in unit­ing races and tribes.

Every Mus­lim male or female is required com­pul­so­ri­ly to per­form the Hajj (pil­grim­age to Makkah) at least once in his/​her life­time (if afford­able). The Pil­grim­age to Makkah is one in which rep­re­sen­ta­tives from near­ly every race, tribe or eth­nic group on earth gath­er, wear­ing the same type of sim­ple white cloth­ing, liv­ing togeth­er and eat­ing togeth­er, per­form­ing the same acts of wor­ship to the same Cre­ator. This is a proof of the equal­i­ty, uni­ty and broth­er­hood of human­i­ty which Islam tries to incul­cate in all Mus­lims. In the five com­pul­so­ry dai­ly prayers, Mus­lims of all races and colours stand foot-to-foot and shoulder-to-shoulder.

The first per­son in Islam­ic his­to­ry to call prayer at the time of the Prophet was a black African, Bilal. He was also appoint­ed as guardian of the Islam­ic State Trea­sury at the time of the Prophet(P). Even some of the Prophet’s wives were not of the same tribe or race as him. Also, no ances­tor of any par­tic­u­lar race or his descen­dants were cursed to become slaves to any other[5]. No reli­gion or ide­ol­o­gy in human his­to­ry has taught and act­ed against racism and trib­al­ism as strong­ly and as suc­cess­ful­ly as has Islam.

c. Alco­hol And Oth­er Intoxicants

It is a known fact that alco­hol has been one of the world’s great­est destroy­ers. Its ter­ri­ble vio­lent con­se­quences are felt all over the world.

Accord­ing to AWAKE Mag­a­zine of Feb­ru­ary 8, 1991, it accounts for the death of one per­son in every 21 min­utes in Brazil, about one-fifth of all traf­fic fatal­i­ties in Eng­land and Ger­many and up to 80 per­cent of 50,000 annu­al traf­fic fatal­i­ties in Mex­i­co. In the Unit­ed States, alco­hol relat­ed acci­dents account for over 23,000 deaths per year.

Apart from these ugly acci­dents, alco­hol has been the cause of innu­mer­able oth­er acts of vio­lence, mur­der, rape, fam­i­ly break-ups, seri­ous med­ical and psy­cho­log­i­cal prob­lems, eco­nom­ic hard­ship, despair and pover­ty to men­tion but a few. In view of this, it would­n’t be an exag­ger­a­tion to say that alco­hol, along­side oth­er intox­i­cants (e.g. hard drugs) is the moth­er” of evils.

Some of the world’s reli­gions teach active­ly against intox­i­ca­tion. How­ev­er, most of them are inca­pable of effi­cient­ly min­i­miz­ing it, because they don’t usu­al­ly go beyond moral admo­ni­tion. Some Chris­tians are against alco­hol con­sump­tion how­ev­er, there exists no clear state­ment in the Bible pro­hibit­ing it. On the con­trary, some vers­es are shown to tol­er­ate, appre­ci­ate and even encour­age wine-drinking.[6] These vers­es, even if not active­ly enjoin­ing the con­sump­tion of alco­hol, at least encour­age it.

Islam, on the oth­er hand is the only reli­gion which has waged total war against intox­i­cants. The pro­hi­bi­tion of alco­hol in the Qur’an was done grad­u­al­ly, first for­bid­ding the par­tic­i­pa­tion in prayers when intox­i­cat­ed ; then stat­ing that its harm out­weighs its ben­e­fits ; and then con­clu­sive­ly and unequiv­o­cal­ly pro­hibit­ing it[7]. One of the prin­ci­ples of Shar­i’ah is that any­thing that is con­ducive for haram[8] is itself haram. That is why Islam pro­hibits a per­son engag­ing in any­thing con­ducive to intox­i­cants : the pro­duc­tion of it, its sale, trans­porta­tion, wit­ness in its trans­ac­tion, pur­chase, serv­ing of it etc.

With this, Islam is the only reli­gion on earth which seeks to erad­i­cate or at least min­imise intox­i­ca­tion and its evil con­se­quences, by apply­ing moral, legal, social as well as eco­nom­ic pres­sures on intox­i­cants and intox­i­cant-relat­ed vices.

d. Polygamy

To begin with, it must be under­stood that Islam (under nor­mal cir­cum­stances) does not make polygamy manda­to­ry, but only per­mits it. Nowhere in the Qur’an or the Tra­di­tion of the Prophet (P) are Mus­lims oblig­ed to mar­ry more than one wife. In fact, the verse in the Qur’an which per­mits polygamy[9] does so con­di­tion­al­ly. The same verse restricts the num­ber of wives to a max­i­mum of four (4) and states it as a prime con­di­tion that the wives be offered jus­tice and equal treatment.

In Islam, polygamy serves as a check against many soci­etal evils, such as adul­tery, for­ni­ca­tion and pros­ti­tu­tion. If for instance a woman can­not find a sin­gle man to mar­ry or becomes wid­owed, her options are :

    i. to pass the remain­der of her life in bit­ter depri­va­tion of her nat­ur­al desires for a hus­band, chil­dren and soci­etal security .
    ii. to ful­fil her nat­ur­al desire by becom­ing a sex object for exploita­tion (e.g. as a prostitute).
    iii. to become a mis­tress with­out rights or legit­i­ma­cy for her children.
    iv. to opt for a polyg­a­mous mar­riage, where she is loved and appre­ci­at­ed by her spouse and treat­ed equal­ly as a co-wife. 

The first option is unnat­ur­al and would not be cho­sen by most nat­ur­al women ; while the sec­ond and third lead to many crimes and ero­sion of the soci­ety’s moral val­ues. The fourth, how­ev­er, is an exam­ple of a prac­ti­cal fair deal” solu­tion to a real prob­lem. The out­right pro­hi­bi­tion of polygamy clos­es the door to the solu­tion of var­i­ous phys­i­cal, moral, social, emo­tion­al and prac­ti­cal prob­lems which infest the soci­ety today in many parts of the world.

Polygamy has been a com­mon prac­tice through­out world civil­i­sa­tions, even before the advent of Islam. It was prac­ticed by Bib­li­cal Prophets such as David[10], Solomon[11], Jacob[12] and Abraham[13]. Inci­den­tal­ly, despite the fact that these prophets prac­tised polygamy, they are still regard­ed as right­eous men of God : David[14]; Jacob[15] and Abraham[16].

The Chris­t­ian Church gen­er­al­ly teach­es against polygamy, although some sects (e.g. Mor­mons) have prac­ticed it. This means that if a man is denied the legit­i­mate way of solv­ing some of the above-men­tioned prob­lems (or relat­ed ones), then it becomes more like­ly that he would not be moral­ly, legal­ly, and finan­cial­ly respon­si­ble for the part­ner and off­spring concerned.

The abuse of polygamy and dif­fer­ent forms of injus­tice in mar­riage have been unequiv­o­cal­ly con­demned in Islam. Where some Mus­lims mar­ry more than one wife for neg­a­tive rea­sons or delib­er­ate­ly neglect kind­ness and jus­tice between the wives, this can­not be blamed on Islam. Rather, such Mus­lims should be blamed for dis­re­gard­ing Islam­ic teachings.Since the Bible does not explic­it­ly for­bid, reg­u­late or even restrict polygamy, we may won­der at what oth­er prac­ti­cal solu­tions it can offer to solve the prob­lems relat­ed to strict monogamy. If the verse in Lk. 16:18 is tak­en to mean that polygamy is pro­hib­it­ed, then there can be no prac­ti­cal means avail­able for Chris­tian­i­ty to solve such prob­lems. If on the oth­er hand, it is inter­pret­ed to implic­it­ly per­mit polygamy (since it has not cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly pro­hib­it­ed it), then Chris­tian­i­ty will face the prob­lem of unre­strict­ed polygamy, as nei­ther such restric­tions are made in the Bible nor are there any conditions.

e. Sex­u­al Immorality

Adul­tery and for­ni­ca­tion or pros­ti­tu­tion are prob­a­bly the most destruc­tive forms of immoral­i­ty. They have been major caus­es of embar­rass­ment to fam­i­lies, fam­i­ly break-ups and divorce, ille­git­i­mate chil­dren, child abuse, increased abor­tion and unwant­ed preg­nan­cies, and spread of sex­u­al­ly-trans­mit­ted dis­eases includ­ing AIDS.

Both Chris­tian­i­ty and Islam teach against all forms of sex­u­al immoral­i­ty. How­ev­er, only Islam pro­vides effec­tive and real­is­tic means of pre­vent­ing it. For example :

    i. Islam encour­ages mar­riage between males and females when­ev­er pos­si­ble and rea­son­able. Chris­tian­i­ty on the oth­er hand, views celiba­cy as being more right­eous than mar­riage. Though not pro­hibit­ing mar­riage, it does not encour­age it. Paul only said : It is bet­ter to mar­ry than to burn” (i.e. in hell, due to fornication).

    ii. Islam pre­scribes cer­tain mea­sures to guard against sex­u­al immoral­i­ty. It is an Islam­ic prin­ci­ple that what­ev­er is con­ducive to some­thing pro­hib­it­ed is itself pro­hib­it­ed. Con­se­quent­ly, any form of dress or behav­iour that is con­ducive to sex­u­al immoral­i­ty is prohibited. 

In Islam a com­pre­hen­sive set of prin­ci­ples of dress code (hijab) is pre­scribed for both men and women. No such code is pre­scribed by Christianity.

Erot­ic and vul­gar danc­ing espe­cial­ly between unmar­ried cou­ples is strict­ly pro­hib­it­ed in Islam because it is con­ducive to sex­u­al immoral­i­ty even though such dances may ini­tial­ly have begun with clean” inten­tions. This also applies to hold­ing each oth­er, stay­ing in seclud­ed places and so on. Such pro­hi­bi­tions are not explic­it in the Bible.

Under the Islam­ic legal sys­tem four (4) reli­able adult wit­ness­es, of good rep­u­ta­tion, who have seen the act in progress, are required to give evi­dence in court before any con­vic­tion or pun­ish­ment can be giv­en for adul­tery or for­ni­ca­tion. This demon­strates that the severe pun­ish­ments (of cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment for adul­tery, etc.) serve more as deter­rents than any­thing else.

Such strong deter­rents and pun­ish­ments do not exist in Chris­tian­i­ty because it lacks a legal sys­tem that would pre­vent or con­trol those who are not God-con­scious in their soci­ety. The Old Tes­ta­ment which pre­scribes cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment for adultery[17] is believed to have been abro­gat­ed in the New Testament[18]. The New Tes­ta­ment (NIV ver­sion) of the Bible says in a head­ing just before Jn. Chap­ter 8 that, The ear­li­est and most reli­able man­u­scripts and oth­er ancient wit­ness­es do not have Jn. 7:53, 8:11.”

f. Pro­tec­tion of Honour

False wit­ness­ing and char­ac­ter-assas­si­na­tion espe­cial­ly of inno­cent men and women caus­es great pain to the indi­vid­ual and fam­i­lies con­cerned. This is espe­cial­ly true when a woman is accused false­ly of mar­i­tal unfaith­ful­ness (i.e. adul­tery) because this can seri­ous­ly affect the trust and rela­tion­ship between the wife and her family.

In Islam, such accu­sa­tion with­out nec­es­sary evi­dence (as explained ear­li­er) calls for a legal pun­ish­ment of 80 lash­es, which also acts as a strong deter­rent against false wit­ness and slan­der based on hearsay.

Chris­tian­i­ty on the oth­er hand has no such effec­tive solu­tion for slandering.

g. Divorce

Mar­riage is the foun­da­tion of the fam­i­ly, which is the basic unit of soci­ety. Just like in oth­er reli­gions, Islam favours mar­riage as a means to psy­cho­log­i­cal, emo­tion­al and phys­i­cal grat­i­fi­ca­tion, as a mech­a­nism for nat­ur­al relief, legit­i­mate pro­cre­ation and social secu­ri­ty, and as a medi­um for wide-rang­ing social inter­course and solidarity.

While Islam takes the con­ti­nu­ity and per­manance of mar­riage for grant­ed, it also allows for its dis­so­lu­tion when the mar­riage fails to achieve its pur­pose. How­ev­er, the gen­er­al ground for divorce in the Qur’an is the extreme dif­fi­cul­ty or impos­si­bil­i­ty of either of the par­ties to ful­fil their duties to each oth­er or to live in kind­ness, com­pas­sion and tran­quil­li­ty. It is clear from this that divorce is pro­nounced as a last resort after all avenues for rec­on­cil­i­a­tion have been exhaust­ed. The Prophet(P) was report­ed as say­ing Of all things made per­mis­si­ble by Allah, divorce is the most dis­liked by Him.”[19]

In the New Tes­ta­ment, divorce is prohibited[20], except in the case of adul­tery. This is obvi­ous­ly extreme and unre­al­is­tic and does not solve the prob­lem of a mar­riage where one part­ner exploits the oth­er through all sorts of injus­tices (e.g. alco­holism, abuse, child molesta­tion, etc.) Even in the case of divorce as a result of adul­tery, Chris­tian­i­ty gives no hope to either divorced par­ty in find­ing hap­pi­ness with a new and more com­pat­i­ble part­ner, because his/​her remar­riage is con­sid­ered as adul­tery in the Bible[21]. Even a woman who for exam­ple, wants to part from a ster­ile or impo­tent hus­band in order to pur­sue the nat­ur­al wish for bear­ing chil­dren with anoth­er hus­band is denied that wish through legit­i­mate means, thus leav­ing only ille­git­i­mate alternatives.

See­ing that Chris­tian­i­ty pro­vides no answer for such an unhap­py mar­riage where all attempts at rec­on­cil­i­a­tion have failed, many have sought civ­il lit­i­ga­tion to divorce, which in real­i­ty is a non-Chris­t­ian way out. That is to say, all Chris­tians who seek divorce through this means are going out of Chris­tian­i­ty to find solu­tions to prob­lems which Chris­tian­i­ty can­not prac­ti­cal­ly solve. How­ev­er, this has led to extreme and unre­strict­ed free­dom of divorce, even for triv­ial rea­sons, which results in the dilu­tion of the sanc­ti­ty of the mar­i­tal bond and the ero­sion of fam­i­ly life. That in turn leads to chaos and immoral­i­ty in the society.

This prob­lem of divorc­ing for triv­ial rea­sons is solved in Islam by the very nature of the divorce process. First­ly, all means of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion must be tried, through mutu­al dia­logue, inter­ces­sion or arbi­tra­tion by rela­tions, etc. Sec­ond­ly, the peri­od between the pro­nounce­ment of (revo­ca­ble) divorce and actu­al sep­a­ra­tion (approx­i­mate­ly three months) allows time for tem­pers to cool and dif­fer­ences to be resolved. More­over, this process of revo­ca­ble divorce can be fol­lowed twice before it becomes irrev­o­ca­ble. Because of pro­vi­sions such as these, Islam encour­ages rec­on­cil­i­a­tion before the divorce becomes binding.

The Islam­ic posi­tion con­cern­ing divorce is unique and mod­er­ate between the two extremes of cat­e­gor­i­cal pro­hi­bi­tion of remar­riage after divorce, and total lib­er­ty. Islam is a tru­ly real­is­tic, com­plete and per­fect way of life (Qur’an 5:4). Thus it only pre­scribes what is human­ly attain­able for the social, moral, and spir­i­tu­al well-being of mankind.

h. Prob­lems with Inheritance

The Mus­lim is per­mit­ted and even encour­aged to write a will which would cov­er a max­i­mum of one-third of his/​her estate or prop­er­ty. This is to cov­er the needs of spe­cial cas­es that would oth­er­wise not be guar­an­teed a share of the estate, for instance char­i­ta­ble bequests, the needs of orphans and adopt­ed chil­dren and also extra needs required by heirs (such as the chron­i­cal­ly ill).

If due to the tes­ta­tor’s insan­i­ty, illit­er­a­cy, minor­i­ty or sud­den death, there exists no will, or the will has been cor­rupt­ed, destroyed or is unjust, then all legit­i­mate heirs are guar­an­teed an equi­table pro­por­tion of inher­i­tance in the Qur’an.[22]

Chris­tian­i­ty, on the oth­er hand, has no such dimen­sion of inher­i­tance rules and nobody (not even a wife, chil­dren or par­ents) is guar­an­teed any­thing. A prob­lem also aris­es when, for one rea­son of the oth­er a will does not exist, or is cor­rupt­ed or unjust. In this case, Chris­tian­i­ty can­not enforce jus­tice based on the Bible. To turn to civ­il courts is to find a sec­u­lar” solu­tion for an unjust will.

The New Tes­ta­ment men­tioned absolute­ly noth­ing con­cern­ing the dis­tri­b­u­tion of the estate or prop­er­ty of a deceased. Chris­tian­i­ty, prob­a­bly in com­pli­ance with Paul’s teachings[23] has even aban­doned the laws pre­scribed in the Old Testament.

The ques­tion to the read­er then is, if a reli­gion can­not solve human soci­etal prob­lems in this life, how rea­son­able will it be for me to rely upon it to solve human prob­lems in the Hereafter ?

And only God knows best.


[1] Matthew 5:38 — 42

[2] Gal.5:18, Rom. 10:4 and 13:10

[3] Qur’an, 49:13, 39:6, 2:213, etc.

[4] “… the white man is not supe­ri­or to the black, nor is the black man supe­ri­or to the white…” (report­ed by al-Bukhari)

[5] See Gen.9:25 – 27

[6] See, for instance : Psalms 78:65 ; 1 Tim. 5:23 ; Prov. 31:6 – 7 ; John 2:1 – 11

[7] See Qur’an 2:219 ; 5:93 – 94)

[8] A for­bid­den act or thing.

[9] Qur’an, 4:3

[10] 2 Samuel 12:8

[11] 1 Kings 11:3

[12] Gen­e­sis 29:15 – 30

[13] Gen­e­sis 16:3 – 4 ; 25:1

[14] Acts 2:30

[15] Hosea 12:12 – 13

[16] Gen­e­sis 20:7

[17] Deut. 22:22

[18] Jn. 8:1 – 11

[19] Report­ed by Abu Dawud

[20] Mk. 10:1 – 12 ; Lk. 16:18 ; 1 Cor. 7:10 – 11

[21] Mk. 10:11 – 12, Lk. 16:18 — Any­one who divorces his wife and mar­ries a anoth­er woman com­mits adul­tery and the man who mar­ries a divorced woman com­mits adultery.”

[22] Qur’an 2:180 ; 4:7 – 9, 11 – 12, 19, 33 and 176.

[23] Gal. 5:18, Rom. 10:4 ; 13:10.Endmark

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