Question and answer details
|We believe that Jesus was a messenger. Then why do we disagree with some of his teachings, such as ‘don’t resist evil’? Although it is not practical, isn’t it wrong to disagree with the teachings of the messengers of Allah?|
|Group of Consultants|
Thank you very much for your question.
The foregoing means that Muslims need not implicitly believe in the words of Jesus, as given in the present Gospels, as being his exact words.
We read in the Gospel:
According to Matthew (5: 39):
‘But I say unto you that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.’
As you yourself have said, this teaching is not practical. Also remember in this context what Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) instructed us:
‘When you see an evil act, you have to stop it with your hand. If you can't, then speak out against it with your tongue. If you can't, then at least you have to hate it with all your heart. And this is the weakest of faith.’
(Reported in The Collection of Hadiths of the Prophet by Imam Muslim.)
If these words were the words of Jesus we appreciate them. Yet, Islam came with a balanced view between the rigid jurisprudence of Judaism and the sole focus on ethics and morals of Christianity. That is why Islam is called the straight path and the Qur’an is called the mizan (balance).
Islam also has a very strong ethical content, regarding mercy, as always recommended on the personal level. It doesn't however tolerate injustice or accept aggression. Muslims are also required to seek justice and to defend the vulnerable and the powerless. They should never take the stance of indifference or neutrality in such cases.
We believe that the message of Jesus was meant to soften the rigid laws of Jewish jurisprudence and that was a very relevant task at its time. Muslims do believe in the previous messages and do not distinguish between prophets. Still, we also have a distinct and comprehensive shari`a (Islamic law) that includes manners, ethics social logic and principles, as well as rules that apply to economics and politics.
Muslims do not see Islam as detached from former divine messages, and the jurists have set the rule that if there is a space of overlapping instructions, then Muslims might benefit from the commandments of former messages. Such commandments came to bring people to the path of Allah. Jurists has set the condition that this interaction and mutual ‘dialogue’ would not contradict with a basic rule in Islam, nor a verse in the Qur'an or an authentic hadith (saying) of the prophet (peace be upon him).
Resisting evil with all our might is a responsibility Muslims carry, rather than yielding to it - no doubt. For this reason, we would set the teaching ‘resist not evil’ as a moral instruction that suited the purpose of that message at a specific historical moment. The message of Islam is the final message, which has a universal nature. Thus, the Qur’an is the last testament, which sets the rule that mercy has to be accompanied by seeking justice, and they cannot be separated.
As for your question: ‘... isn’t it wrong to disagree with the teachings of the messengers of Allah?’ The answer is: It is wrong on our part to disagree with the teachings of the messengers of Allah. But we must be sure we know what those teachings were and who they were taught to.
We need to avoid taking Jesus' teachings as if each phrase can be treated in isolation and as completely general. Given the doubts that surround much of his teachings today, we need cautious and careful analysis of many sayings to reach a good evaluation of his teachings. Taking a single phrase out of the context of who he was instructing and out of the context of what else was being taught to them, by Jesus and others, will yield many problems and much confusion. Even a subtle change of wording between what he said and what was actually reported may make a great deal of difference - and we haven't even mentioned the problems of translation!
If we take for example the idea of "resist not evil", this needs to be understood within the context where the Jews were excessively unforgiving and seeking retribution for every evil done. What is known as "the Lord's prayer" to Christians illustrates this point well, with its emphasis on "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us". Much of Christ's message was about this. The Qur'an sets the record straight and confirms the clear and balanced moral rule in this area, which Jesus was trying to bring his people back to:
And Allah knows best.