Coming closer to God. What exactly does this catch all phrase mean? It’s a question that has given rise to two distinct and competing ideologies, Islam and Christianity. Both of these faiths offer completely distinct solutions to this question, and at the heart of that solution lies salvation. How then, does one understand how these faiths address this question? In this article that is what I ultimately seek to answer.
Christianity answers this question in having God lower Himself, humble Himself by becoming a human being and taking on flesh. These beliefs are drawn from the crystal clear Biblical verses that follow:
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14 (NIV).
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. – Philippians 2:6-7 (NIV).
The Christian solution to this question is to lower God’s stature amongst men, to make Him one of us, an idea that has pervaded the thoughts of mankind spanning more than a millennia. To the Graeco-Romans, humans shared divinity with God as is seen with Hercules and Apollonius, with the Hindus, divinity also shared humanity as is seen in the appearance of a “Murti”. Christianity finds this in the form of Jesus. This idea is not new, and as was explicated upon recently, the Jesus of Christianity finds its metaphysical basis in Aristotelian thought. Instead of us coming closer to God, God came closer to us.
Islam on the other hand offers a much more robust proposition. God is not one of us. We are not gods. God is not arrogant such that He has to “lower” Himself and “humble” Himself. Rather, we accept an unassailable axiom, that we are beholden to God and He needs no change. To come closer to God, it is our humanity that needs to be reigned in, our desires and sins, our evil actions that need to submit to the authority to the ultimate judge and jury, God and God alone. We are not in competition with God, we are not rivals to His divinity, we are and never will be equals. The problem is not with God misunderstanding humanity or having a need to manifest Himself in our likeness, that is the arrogance of man to assume the fault is with God, such that the solution is that He needs to be more like us!
It is ironic that both Muslims and Christians agree that the downfall of Satan/ Iblees was due to his arrogance, that he would not submit to God’s authority. Yet born out of that fall was the belief of Christians that the solution for our world is that God should be one of us, the direct opposite of submission, the sin that fell Satan himself. As the Qur’an then says:
Do they seek other than the religion of Allah (the true Islamic Monotheism – worshipping none but Allah Alone), while to Him submitted all creatures in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly. And to Him shall they all be returned. – Qur’an 3:83 (Mohsin-Khan Translation).
The idea that God need not only “humble” Himself (this assumes God is inherently arrogant), but that He should also die due to our actions against Him, that is sin, is the height of arrogance itself. God need not pay for my sins against Him. God need not suffer due to my inequities. I need to humble myself and accede to His authority, His mercy and His love. This is why I believe Islam answers the question of how we come closer to God, by recognizing His authority over us, by submitting our souls to Him it is then and only then can we truly know Him.
and God knows best.