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  • Writer's pictureAhmed

Jewish and Christian Cultures

As the world has advanced, it has made effort after effort to approach this ideal. Moses gave to Israel both a religion and a civilisation. But his teaching proved too rigid to answer to that variety of urges of which human nature is capable. As soon as the people of Israel began to think along new channels and to entertain new ideals and objectives and to break new ground, the teaching which Moses had left for them began to fail. Moses did not succeed in making good citizens out of the new generations of Israel. True, they continued to attach themselves to this teaching but they became either rebels or hypocrites. Christianity, therefore, could not but proclaim that the Law was a curse. Christianity was compelled to proclaim this, because it saw that the utterly rigid Law of Moses had made human beings either rebels or hypocrites. The Message of Jesus, however, was delivered many centuries after Moses. The Mosaic Law was like a coat made to the size of a child, which no longer fitted adult Israel. Jesus saw the futility of grown-up and able-bodied adults trying to put on frocks made for little children. The spirit of Jesus rebelled against this. We should rather say that from the depth of Jesus’ heart came the voice of God to say: "This people has gone far ahead of the time when they received their teaching from Moses. This teaching was enough for them as long as they remained in their earlier condition. But now they need a new teaching, a new coat to fit their increased size." But the new teaching which Jesus proposed for Israel or, to be exact, the teaching which Christians coming centuries after Jesus attributed to him, may be summed up in the phrase, "The Law is a curse." There is no doubt that food which is above the digestive capacity of a person is a blight, not a blessing; but it would be wrong to conclude from this that the food as such is a blight and not a blessing. A small coat would seem strange on an able-bodied adult. So would a large coat on the body of a child. A small coat on the body of an adult and a large coat on the body of a child seem strange, but it cannot be said that the coat as such is funny. It seems to us, therefore, that to attribute to Jesus the teaching that "The Law is a curse" is cruel. All that Jesus must have said and meant was that the version of the Mosaic teaching current in the time of Jesus had become a curse for the people of that time. If he meant this, it was but truth. But the followers of Jesus have mutilated this piece of wisdom into something preposterous. In any case, whether Jesus said what we think he said or what Christians mistakenly think he said, there can be no doubt that in his time the human mind had advanced far from what it was in the time of Moses. It needed now a new guidance, a new ethics, a new civilisation and a new culture. But while Israelite Teachers had tied man to a narrowly conceived teaching, Christian Teachers released man from all moral and religious obligations. Mosaic teaching restrained the mind of Israel from advancing beyond Moses’ time, unless it was in the form of rebellion or hypocrisy. Christian teaching made man free from all obligations and induced the belief that the Law of God cannot raise man to any moral height. Man took over from God, as it were, the duty of planning for his salvation. The result was that the very religion which thought that the sacrifice of God was necessary for the salvation of man began to teach that for the moral advance of man the guidance of God was not necessary. We have a complete historic record only of the Israelite religion. Therefore we have taken our example from Israelite history. When a question relates to the end which a process of evolution seeks, we can answer it only by reference to historical records complete in all their stages. The history of the Israelite religion is witness to the fact that the human mind kept on growing for a long time. It traversed stage after stage but did not seem to reach any final end. Similarly, the history of the world is witness to the fact that the human mind has advanced through many periods of social progress, but has still failed to reach the conception of a large human brotherhood. Both lines of evidence seem to point to the fact that the human mind, like the human body, has had to pass through many evolutionary stages. But until the advent of Islam it did not reach any kind of finality in spiritual advance. In passing through different stages of social advance it was not able to rise above the limitations of nation or race and the idea of human equality and human brotherhood did not take root. It passed through many different periods of culture, but did not reach any satisfactory Law, a Law for all mankind. The Mosaic teaching no doubt made an attempt to bring together social and cultural ideals, but after a time it began to fail. It began to fail because what it had offered was not the last word on the subject. Jesus no doubt tried to make a change, but the change did not prove enough, and was not able to stand the tide of rebellion in which the human mind had then become involved. All that survived of the teaching of Jesus is the saying attributed to Christianity that the Law is a curse. This saying, taken in the form in which it occurs, offends the good sense of every thinking person. Unless it is suitably interpreted, the saying is itself a curse because it only serves to turn man away from God and to free him from His guidance. Therefore it seems that the end which the evolution of the human mind was seeking had not yet come. The process and stages through which human civilisation and human culture had passed pointed to the fact that civilisation and culture are subject to the same law of evolution to which the human body was for long subject. It seems certain, therefore, that human civilisation and culture were to attain to an ultimate perfection in the same way in which the human body, after a long process of evolution, had attained to an ultimate perfection of form; and this alone indicates the need of Islam in the presence of other religions, the need of a religion which should provide an end to the evolution of human culture, an end which is embodied in the teaching of the Quran.

Will be continued...

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