Chapter Two: The Cow (Al Baqara)
Verses 135 & 136
Verses 135 & 136
They say, "Be Jews or Christians you will be guided." Say, "Rather, the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth, and he was not of the polytheists." (Chapter 2: Verse 135)
While this verse starts with the plural form ‘they say,’ it is actually telling us the statements of two different people. The Jews and the Christians, each of whom said something different. The Jews said: “become Jewish to be saved and guided” while the Christians said: “become Christian to be saved and guided.” They were part of three groups that opposed Islam. The third group were the pagans. Each group addressed the Muslims asking them to leave Islam and join their religion. Each group believed themselves to be on the right path, so they also addressed each other; The Jews were asking the Christians and the pagans to become Jewish, and vice-versa.
The religion of Islam came to uphold the core values of Judaism and Christianity, and to bring people back to the path of their Lord. Much of Judaism had been lost and altered since the time of Moses; similarly, much of Christianity has been tainted since the time of Jesus (peace be upon them all). Prophet Muhammad brought the message that restored the covenant between God and the believers. God says:
The Messenger believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, as do the faithful. They all believe in God, His angels, His scriptures, and His messengers. ‘We make no distinction between any of His messengers,’ they say, ‘We hear and obey. Grant us Your forgiveness, our Lord. To You we all return!’- (02:285)
Allah instructed His messenger Muhammad to reply to those inviting him to leave his faith with: Say, "Rather, the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth, and he was not of the polytheists." This response leaves very little room for argument or denial because the Jews and the Christians believe Abraham to be from amongst their Prophets. None denied him prophethood, or objected to his faith.
The word 'inclining' is translated from the Arabic origin ‘Haneefan.’ It means to turn away from corruption in society and incline towards moderation. This should remind you of God’s great bounty upon humanity, because He pulls people out of ignorance, overindulgence, and intolerance and guides them towards moderation. As you know, Messengers are sent at a time when negligence of God’s religion is widespread, and corruption is rife. The heavens interfere when the voice of the truth is overwhelmed and silenced. How could this happen, you may ask? The human conscience can be in one of two states. The first state is a conscience that blames and corrects itself. When you commit sin, you soon regret your action, blame yourself, and make a commitment never to do it again. The second state is a conscience that tolerates evil and even invites others to join in. In other words, it is a person who takes pride in sin and plans on repeating it over and over. On occasion, an entire community becomes corrupt, and the conscience of the society becomes tolerant of evil, and even celebrates it. God says describing such community:
they did not forbid each other to do wrong. How vile their deeds were! (05:79)
This is when the heavens intervene with a new prophet or messenger to bring people back to the straight path. God made the nation of Muhammad the best of nations until the day of resurrection, because He preserved within them groups that speak the truth and stir the society towards good. God says:
you are the best community singled out for people: you order what is right, forbid what is wrong, and believe in God. If the People of the Book had also believed, it would have been better for them. For although some of them do believe, most of them are lawbreakers- (03:110)
God entrusted His scripture to Muhammad’s nation. Our task is to command good and forbid evil because no Messenger will be sent after Muhammad (peace be upon him). Allah warns us against using or altering religion in order to fulfil worldly desires. He says:
The Jews and the Christians will never be pleased with you unless you follow their ways. Say, ‘God’s guidance is the only true guidance.’ If you were to follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you would find no one to protect you from God or help you. (02:120)
Allah instructed Muhammad to reply to those inviting him to leave his religion with: Say, "Rather, the religion of Abraham, inclining toward truth, and he was not of the polytheists." What was Abraham's religion, you may ask? Allah gives you the answer in the next verse of 'The Cow':
say, ‘We believe in God and in what was sent down to us and what was sent down to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and all the prophets by their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we devote ourselves to Him.’ (Chapter 2: Verse 136)
The religion of Abraham is faith in God alone without ascribing partners to Him. It is faith in what has been revealed in all the heavenly books; It is faith in the Quran and what was revealed upon Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob. It is faith in Moses' Torah, and Jesus' Bible. The essence of Abraham's religion is faith in whatever comes from our Lord.
Since the time of Adam, people have been called towards the worship of their one God. There is no deity but Allah who has no partners. He is the Creator, the Ruler, and the Director of the universe. Everything is subservient to His Divinity. Anything besides that is altered fabrication, and falsely attributed to God. The Noble Quran is our book, and anything that contradicts the words of our Lord is false. This is the soul of the religion of Abraham and all the heavenly messages since the time of Adam.
The verse ends with the phrase ‘and we devote ourselves to Him.’ meaning that Abraham and all the Prophets shared this devotion to Allah. Why do we devote ourselves to God? We answer that a person only submits to someone who is more competent, more knowledgeable, stronger and, most importantly, to someone who has no inclinations or conflict of interest with him or her. The only one who has power above all powers, the only one who is free of all need, the only one who can truly give you what is best for you is Allah. Thus, Allah is the only one you should rely on and devote yourself to.