By Dr. Mahmood Ahmad Ghāzī

 

In his forwarding letter to this ‘Foreword’ Dr. Ghāzī writes:

Please accept my heartfelt congratulation on the production of such a beautiful book which I have read during these days. Kindly find attached herewith the Foreword:

 

The debate between Islam and Christianity is as old as Islam itself.  During the past fourteen hundred years, the encounter between Islam and Christianity has been passing through various ups and downs. It is an irony of fate that, from the very beginning, Islam wanted to make this long encounter graduate into a lasting cooperation and understanding. From the earliest Makkan period of his mission, Prophet Muhammad (pbAh)tried to establish and maintain cordial relations with the Christians around him. In fact, the first encounter of Islam with Christian theology took place immediately after Prophet Muhammad (pbAh)received the first revelation. Within hours of his maiden experience with divine revelation, the Prophet (pbAh)met Waraqah ibn Nawfal, a cousin of his wife Khadījah and perhaps the only savant in his hometown having knowledge of Christianity. Waraqah not only acknowledged the divine origin of the new message but also explained to his young visitor other dimensions of the coming career. What the old Christian divine hastened to recognize and acknowledge is exactly what was expected from the followers of other divine faiths. The Qur’ān repeated this call in very clear and unequivocal terms in a Medīnan revelation when it invited the People of the Book to join hands with the Muslims to serve the common cause of the divine religions, which form an unbreakable chain of divine blessings for humanity.

According to the Qur’ān, it is necessary to constitute a Muslim to have faith in all Prophets and Messengers sent by the Almighty. A Muslim has to believe in the prophethoodof Abraham (pbAh), Moses (pbAh), Jesus (pbAh)and all other biblical prophets to remain within the fold of Islam. This belief is necessary to emphasize the continuity of this chain of prophethood which is unbreakably linked.  It was to emphasize this link further, that the coming of the last Messenger and the revelation of the final and the perfect message had been foretold by earlier prophets and divine messages. The Qur’āngoes to the extent of declaring that the Jews and the Christians, at least of the days of the Prophet (pbAh), recognized the prophethood of Muhammad (pbAh)as easily and quickly as they would recognize their own children. According to a well known Qur’ānic verse, Jesus Christ (pbAh)had told his followers that one of the purposes of his coming was to give the glad tidings about the advent of a Messenger, named Ahmad (pbAh), to come after him.

On the basis of such Qur’ānic statements, Muslim scholars have been engaged in the study of earlier religious scriptures to find out verses containing predictions about the advent of Prophet Muhammad (pbAh). Not only the statements of the Qur’ān, but also reports attributed to a number of companions who had entered the fold of Islam from the Jewish or Christian backgrounds had encouraged research in earlier scriptures. They came out with findings supporting the Qur’ānic and other Islamic pronouncements. On the other hand, the majority of the Jewish and Christian scholars have not only been denying the existence of any such predictions in their scriptures, but have been refuting Muslim point of view, either through modifying the translations of the relevant words or verses or giving them different interpretations.

Amajor difficulty in coming to an agreement lies in the loss of the original text of most of the scriptures, which are now available only through indirect and secondary translations by unknown translators. Muslim writers on the subject have held that the relevant words and passages in the biblical literature have been interpolated during the various turmoils faced by them [Jews] in their long history [Most of the Biblical scholars do not deny the fact; they rather testify to it.]. This observation becomes weighty when one notices that some terms have been variously translated by various translators. Muslim scholars have addressed themselves to this question in different ages of Muslim intellectual history. Those who undertook this exercise include celebrities like Tabarī, Ibn Hazm, Shahrastānī, Qurtubīand Rāzī, among earlier authorities, and Rahmatullah Kayrānwī, Daryābādī and Mawdūdī among the recent authors. They tried to identify words and verses in the biblical literature which contained predictions about the advent of the last Prophet (pbAh).

Christian authors interpret the relevant verses and words in a metaphorical sense. However there has been almost unanimity among the Muslim writers on biblical studies about the connotations and interpretations of the disputed words and passages. The ‘Song of Songs’ included in the Old Testament of the Bible is one such passage. Mr ‘Abdus Sattār Ghawrī has undertaken an in-depth study of this passage and tried, quite successfully, to establish that it refers to Prophet Muhammad (pbAh). He analyses the [fairly] long passage thoroughly and marshals impressive arguments to substantiate his thesis.

The present volume is the result of years, rather decades, of long studies and research. He has been a keen student of biblical literature for quite some time. Previously he has published a number of papers and publications on questions of common interest for Muslim, Christian and Jewish theologians. He has developed a deep insight into the Bible and other related literature. His knowledge of Hebrew facilitated his access to material not available in English translations.

The present volume is a landmark in his scholarly career. Based on long study and profound research, it presents its point of view with solid arguments and in an objective manner. He has compared his findings with those of non-Muslim writers and has tried to show the latter’s weaknesses. He has almost exclusively relied on western sources for all his biblical interpretations. Authentic Muslim sources have been cited only to refer to aspects of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbAh)life.

I hope that this book will be of interest not only to Muslim readers but also to Christians, Jews and followers of other religious dispensations. The book has appeared at a very opportune moment. Today, the relations between Islamand Christianity seem to be at the lowest ebb. In the midst of growing tension between the Muslim world and the west and the resultant conflict and commotion there is need to bring the followers of major divine religions to an understanding. Indeed, such an effort is a great service to humanity. I am confident that Mr. Ghawrī’s book contributes to this objective. All lovers of humanity in general and followers of divine religions in particular should welcome this publication.

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