The Epistles

The Abrogation of Mosaic Law in the New Testament

The Christians say that, according to St. Paul, the Mosaic laws of practice have been abrogated for Christians. There is no need to follow the coercion of external Law, embodied in the dictates of the scribes and priests of the Pharisees, imposed on men. Rather, men should follow their inner conscience which results in following the spiritual Laws of practice God demands’.

1.   Ignorance is bliss.

Whatsoever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience sake For the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. If any of them that believe not bid you to a feast, and you are disposed to go; whatsoever is set before you, eat, asking no question for conscience sake.[1Corinthians 10:25-27]

Indeed, this seems a clear license that anything offered up by anybody, believer or not, is permissible to eat. It even seems to indicate you need not speak God’s blessing over the food before eating it. But Paul then gives a proviso.

If any man says unto you, ‘this (food) is offered in sacrifice unto idols,’ eat (it) not for his sake, nor your conscience sake.[1Corinthians 10:28]

He also says,

If I, by Grace, be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that which I give thanks? Whether, therefore, you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do it all to the Glory of God.[1Corinthians 10:30-31]

So, even according to Paul, there is a minimum standard, if you know. It is only if you don’t know, and take care not to ask, that you have the liberty to partake of whatever is offered. Even so, one should give thanks for God’s Grace before consuming what is set before you. Thus, according to the doctrine of Paul, ignorance, for the Christian, even deliberate ignorance, is bliss, and you will not be blamed for that.

2.   Christians are free from the Law of Moses.

The principle behind embracing ignorance is that the old Law, exteriorly imposed, is dead. The new Law, faith in Jesus Christ (May God Praise him), is what is living, and spiritually palpable.

Wherefore, my brethren, you also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that you should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the Law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. But now we are delivered from the Law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.[Romans 7:4-6]

Paul even reasons with us giving Abraham, (May God Praise him), as an example:

For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, (was) not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they which are of the Law (were to be) heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect. Because the Law works wrath: for where no Law is, (there is) no transgression. Therefore (it is) of faith, that (it might be) by Grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the Law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all; before Him Whom he believed, even God, Who quickens the dead and calls those things which be not, as though they were.[Romans 4:13-16]

3.   Or are they?

This vision of faith being the substitute of works is emphatically denied by James, the brother of Jesus:

My brothers, what is the gain if anyone says he has faith, but he does not have works? Is the faith able to save him? … [James 2:14]

faith, if it does not have works, is dead, being by itself. …[James 2:17]

out of the works the faith was made perfected. … [James 2:22]

a man is justified out of works, and not out of faith only. … [James 2:24]

as the body is dead apart from the spirit, so also faith is dead apart from works [James 2: 26]

He, too, gives examples and a rationale:

But if a brother or a sister is naked and may be lacking in daily food, and any one of you say to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, but does not give them the things the body needs, what gain is it? So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself.[James 2:16-17]

But someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith out of my works. You believe that God is One. You do well; even the demons believe and shudder. But are you willing to know, O vain man, that faith, apart from works, is dead?[James 2:18-20]

Was not our father, Abraham, justified by works, offering up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith worked with his works; and out of the works the faith was made perfected. And the Scripture was fulfilled, saying, “And Abraham believed God, and it was counted for righteousness to him;” and he was called, Friend of God. You see, then, that a man is justified out of works, and not out of faith only.[James 2:21-24]

But in the same way Rahab, the harlot, was also justified out of works, having received the messengers, and sending them out by another way. For, as the body is dead apart from the spirit, so also faith is dead apart from works. [James 2:25-26]

4.   Christ redeems, not the Law!

‘However,’ the Christian replies, ‘Paul deems the Law of Moses (May God Praise him) is abrogated because the Messiah (May God Praise him) redeems the Christian if he breaks it’.

Now we know that what things so-ever the Law says, it says to them who are under the Law: that every mouth may be stopped, and the entire world may become guilty before God. Therefore, by the deeds of the Law, there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the Law is the knowledge of sin.

But now, the righteousness of God, without the Law, is manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God, which is, by faith of Jesus Christ, unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified, freely, by His Grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what Law? Of works? Nay: but by the Law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law.[Romans 3:19-28]

‘And the Johannine Gospel, apparently, supports Paul’s doctrine,’ they continue:

And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only (begotten) Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. He that believes on him is not condemned: but he that believes not is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [John 3:13-18]

Even the verse from Romans gives a hint that righteousness is reflected in the Law, however, because righteousness is manifested naturally with true faith, and therefore justifies that faith.

5.   Christ’s redemption is IN the Law.

On the other hand, Paul contradicts himself in another letter, to the Galatians, where he proposes that the Law of Love plus the Law of faith in Jesus Christ (May God Praise him) as Redeemer produces, in the believer, deeds of the Law inherent in him.

For, brothers, you were called to freedom. Only do not use the freedom for an opening to the flesh. But through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you are not consumed by one another.

But I say, ‘Walk in the spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another; lest whatever you may will, these things you do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Law.’

Now the works of the flesh are clearly revealed, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lustfulness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, fighting, jealousies, angers, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envying, murders, drunkenness, revelling, and things like these; of which I tell you beforehand, as I also said before, that the ones practicing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control. Against such things there is not a Law.

But the ones belonging to Christ crucify the flesh with its passions and lusts. If we live in the spirit, let us also walk in the spirit.[Galatians 5:13-25]

Clearly, Paul is not saying that which was forbidden by the Law is allowed now. Rather, he is saying that a believer living spiritually will naturally do that which is of the spirit, and by his conscience shun, inwardly and in his actions, those works that mark him as a disbeliever, undeserving of the final reward.

6.   The separation of Gentile and Jew

So what is Paul actually driving at? I think it is that the conceit and hypocrisy of the Jewish priesthood and their followers have taken them out of the believers camp, and their adherence to some, but not all, of the stipulations in the Law, for the sake of Jewish tradition, helps them in no way in the hereafter.  Furthermore, at least according to Paul, the sincerity and good will of the non-Jew who has come to recognize the true faith produces in him the good deeds that bring reward in the hereafter. These deeds are accepted despite the lack of strict adherence in such to the signs of the covenant with Abraham (May God Praise him), may God praise him, (i.e. circumcision) and the lack of knowledge in their possession concerning the Mosaic Law. Thus he says:

For circumcision verily profits you, if you keep the Law: but if you be a breaker of the Law, your circumcision is made uncircumcision. Therefore, if the uncircumcision keeps the righteousness of the Law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision, which is by nature, if it fulfill the Law, judge thee, who, by the Letter and circumcision transgress the Law? [Romans 2:25-27]

Explaining:

For not the hearers of the Law (are) just before God, but the doers of the Law shall be justified.  For when the Gentiles, which have not the Law, do by nature the things contained in the Law, these, having not the Law, are a Law unto themselves. Whoso show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and (their) thoughts between them while accusing or else excusing one another. [Romans 2:13-15]

Is Paul’s damning indictment of the Jews actually justified? Let us see. I was reading some letters from Rabbi Nancy Kreimer, a Jewish rabbi in Philadelphia, written to Paul of Tarsus in absentia. In the fourth of these seven letters, she writes:

For you, Law was revealed by God and problematic only in its keeping Jews and Gentiles separate. For many Jews today, the divine origins of Law are questionable and one of the main reasons for continuing distinctive Jewish practices is precisely the separating of Jew and Gentile.

I must confess that there are some parts of Jewish Law that I uphold just for that reason (i.e. separating the Jew from the gentile, rather than for the sake of God), such as my intent to circumcise my children on the eighth day had they been male (which they were not!).

But that is not the whole story. I do not believe, as you did believe, that the Law is from God.

If, therefore, she is typical of Jewish Rabbis, it seems that he is right. The Law is simply a badge of Jewry, no longer a means of salvation for the Jews, because they do not believe with their hearts. Never the less, in this case, the rabbi’s proposed action to separate Jewry from gentile life is futile because their Middle Eastern gentile brethren also follow the Law of Abraham (May God Praise him) and circumcise their children a week after birth.

7.   Liberty from the Letter of the Law does not grant licenseto break the Law.

Now the Lord is the Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.[2 Corinthians, 3:17]

Commenting on the words“there is liberty,”the well known Biblical commentator, Russell, says:

When a Christian is converted, receiving the Holy Spirit as an earnest of redemption, there is bestowed at the same time freedom: (1) from the Law [Galatians 4:18]; (2) from fear [Romans 8:13]; (3) from the law of sin and death [Romans 8:2]; (4) from sin [Romans 6:18]; and (5) from corruption [Romans 8:21]. The “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” of the Old Testament disappear in the presence of the Spirit of adoption [Galatians 4:7] through which we become imitators of God as beloved children [Ephesians 5:1], walking in love. [The Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, 2 Corinthians 3, verse 17]

However, other commentators disagree about this verse here, and the whole of the chapter it is a part of. One commentator says:

The above comment from Russell is typical of many false deductions based upon Paul’s teaching in this chapter. Jesus our Lord gave many negative commandments which may not be ignored by any Christian who hopes to be received in heaven. [See Matthew 5:19]. There are seven negative commandments in the first twenty verses of Matthew 6. It is simply not true that “in Christ” we are freed from any “you shall” or “you shall not” commands. Liberty in Christ does not grant license. [The Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament, 2 Corinthians 3, verse 17]

So, even according to Pauline doctrine, the Christians are not excused from the Law, but expected to live according to it, justified by faith in God through Jesus. Living by the Law in itself is not enough. What is required is Works AND Faith.

8.   The Muslim perspective on Works

The deed and intention

Hasif Salahuddin comments in the translation ofRiyâd-us-Sâliheenby Al-Imâm Al-Nawawiy Al-Dimashqi, published by Darussalam in 1998 [Chapter 1:1 & 1:10, on pages 12 & 17] on the following verses and authentic narrations about sincerity (Al-ikhlas):

And they were commanded not but they should worship God, and worship none but Him Alone, and to perform the ritual prayer (Iqámat-as-Saláh) and give the poor due, (az-Zakáh) and that is the right religion.[Quran, 98:5]

It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches God, but it is piety from you that reaches Him.[Quran, 22:37]

And

Say! ‘Whether you hide what is in your breast or reveal it, God knows.[Quran, 3:29]

The ritual prayer, or Iqámat-asSaláh, is the five obligatory prayers Muslims pray every day, while the poor due, or az-Zakáh is the yearly tax on wealth imposed on Muslims for the state welfare program on behalf of God. It is regarded as obligatory charity.

The Messenger of God (May God Praise him)  also said the following. The first authentic narration,(hadith), which isguidance from the Prophet recorded in the narration of his words and deeds as witnessed by his companions, the Sahaba is from the son of the second Caliph, ibn ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab, whilst the second is from Abú Hurrayrah, the most prolific of narrators of authentic (sahih) reports about the Prophet, whose chains of narration (isnad) have been checked meticulously for the trustworthiness of the transmitters.

The reward of deeds depends upon the intention, and a person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration will be for what he emigrated for. [Sahih Muslim, No.4927, Book 33, Leadership]

God looks not at your figures, nor at your outward appearance, but he looks at your hearts and deeds. [Sahih Muslim, No.6543, Book 45, Reverence, Nurturing Ties and Manners]

On the basis of these sayings, Islamic scholars are of the unanimous opinion that the real foundation of one’s action is intention and everyone will get a reward or punishment according to one’s intention. It is true that one’s intention is founded in ones heart. That is to say, one has first to make up ones mind for what one subsequently proceeds to do. Furthermore, it is not appropriate to express verbally that which you intend, nor is ritually doing so part of Islamic practice according to the Prophetic traditions. Evident from this is the point that sincerity is a necessity in every action. In other words, every righteous deed must be done for the pleasure of God if it is to be accepted, and mixing your intention for a purpose other than sincerity is hypocrisy and will not be accepted by Him. Therefore, it is essential that every noble action be based on the two virtues of the heart and the deed – the sincerity, which includes faith because it is sincere for God, and works, which should be far from that which is base or evil. The heart should be purged of the lust for all things that destroy the noble deed, such as hypocrisy, ostentation, and greed for wealth, and similar mean things fall into the category of such evil. Since the true condition of the heart is known only to God, the true position of one’s actions will be known only on the Day of Judgment, when one will receive reward or retribution from God. Never-the-less, in this world, one should be treated according to one’s apparent condition (by society), whilst leaving the hidden to God to deal with as, and when, He sees fit.

According to ’Abdullah ibn ’Abbás, a foster son of the Prophet whom he prayed would be the foremost in knowledge concerning the Quran, the Messenger of Allah (May God Praise him), also said:

 ‘My Lord (God) said ‘Verily God (Allah), ta’ála (the Highest), has ordered that the good deeds and bad deeds be written down. Then He explained clearly how (they would be written). He who intends to do a good deed and does not do it, (1) then God records it for him as a full good deed, but if he carries out his intention, God writes it down for him with Him from 10 to 700 times over, or even many times more. But if he intends to do and evil deed and does not do it, (2) then God writes down for with Him a full good deed, but if he intends it and does it, God writes it down (just) as one (full) bad deed.’’[Sahih Muslim, No.338, Book 1, Faith]

Some scholars are of the opinion that when someone intends a deed and then does not do it,1 this means the person, when the intention was good, was prevented from doing it, or that he or she forgot to do it when he had the opportunity, and so missed the chance. They do not think it applies to the man or woman who withdraws from the intention deliberately, in which case perhaps nothing is recorded. Conversely, if the intention was bad,2 it probably means the person who deliberately turns away from doing the deed when he has the opportunity. Although I am not an authority on the matter, I don’t think it applies to the person who is prevented or forgets to do the deed. In the latter case, perhaps nothing is recorded. And God knows best.

This last narration is what is known as hadiyth qudsi, usually translated as Sacred Narrations, because the Messenger of God (May God Praise him) specifically indicates that the content is a direct order from God that he has been told to convey. These Sacred Narrations are next to Quran as a source of Islamic jurisprudence because the Messenger of God (May God Praise him) says he has been told by God to tell us (a thing), and yet the saying is not assigned a place as part of the revealed Quran. Such narrations are palpably revealed to theProphet (May God Praise him) by means of inspiration. This one mentions the magnitude of Devine Blessings which He (Allah) bestows upon His faithful worshippers now (in the believers’ records & perhaps for their lives in the Mundane world), and will bestow upon His worshippers on the Day of Judgment for one’s life in the Hereafter.

The Lawful (Al-Halal) and Forbidden (Al-Harám) Food

Specifically to do with eating forbidden food, God says in the Quran,

But as for him who is forced by severe hunger, with no inclination towards sin, then surely God is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful. [Quran, 5:3]

And,

But if one is forced by necessity without willful disobedience or transgressing the due limits, then there is no sin on him. Truly, God is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.[Quran, 2:173]

Concerning the Mercy and Justice of God, Ibn ‘Umar reported that Messenger of God (May God Praise him) said:

God loves that his allowances be taken advantage of, just as He hates being disobeyed.[Musnad Ibn Hanbal]

Therefore, in similar circumstances, we should do as the Messenger of God (May God Praise him) ruled on the following question. Abu Waqid Al-Layth narrated that some of the Companions asked the Prophet:

‘O Messenger of God! We live in a land where famine often strikes us. Therefore, when are we allowed to eat the meat of forbidden animals?’ (In this case, “forbidden animals” refers to carrion. But the ruling equally applies to other kinds of forbidden animals their and derivatives).

Messenger of God (May God Praise him) replied, ‘When you neither find food for lunch and dinner nor have any produce to eat, then eat from it.’[Musnad Ibn Hanbal, Vol.5:218)]  

These verses and narrations show us the infinite Mercy of God, who not only makes allowances for His worshippers’ difficulties, but encourages them to take advantage of those allowances when appropriate.  If you are in difficulty and don’t make use of His allowance, that is reprehensible in itself – and God alone knows how He will deal with such ingratitude. However, the majority Muslim scholars state that one can only eat of the forbidden in dire need that which would keep one alive. Yet still, when you are in such dire need, the forbidden becomes lawful during that need. But that does not mean forever. Once the crisis is past, one should repent the occasion that led to partaking of the normally forbidden and return back to the fine and lawful.

Specifically referring to food that is lawful, God says,

The food of the People of the Book is lawful to you and your food is lawful to them.[Quran, 5:5]

In the Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Quran in the English Language, the authors, M. Taqi-ud-Din Al Hilâli and M. Muhsin Khan, mention that Az-Zuhri said,

There is no harm in eating animals slaughtered by Christians. But if you hear the one who slaughters the animals mentioning other than God’s name, do not eat of it; But if you do not hear that, then God has allowed the eating of animals slaughtered by them, though He knows their disbelief.[Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Quran in the English Language]

They also mentioned that it is said ’Ali ibn Talib, the fourth Caliph and the Prophet’s son in Law, gave a similar verdict. Moreover, they  reported that Al Hasan and Ibrahím said,

There is no harm in eating of an animal slaughtered by an uncircumcised person. [Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Quran in the English Language]

Finally, Ibn Kathír reports in his abridged explanation of the Quran that Bukhári recorded that ’A‘ishah narrated that some companions asked,

O Messenger of God! Some people, recently converted from disbelief, bring us some meat over which we do not know if God’s name was mentioned or not!

Messenger of God (May God Praise him) replied, ‘Mention God’s Name on it and eat from it! [Al-Misbáh il-Muníru fíy Tahdhíybi Tafsír Ibn Kathír]

9.   Conclusion

In general, then, if not in the details, the difference between the Muslim position and the position of Paul concerning what is lawful or forbidden to eat, is that the Muslim must endeavour to ensure what he eats is lawful, and only eat a thing that is forbidden to eat if he has no alternative to keeping body and soul together. If the latter situation occurs, then he must pronounce the name of God over the food before eating it. Paul, on the other hand, says you must avoid eating a thing only if you know it is forbidden. If you do not know that a thing is forbidden, you are free to eat it as long as you thank God for its provision. The difference is subtle, but telling, but not so different as the position that many Christians take; that all restrictions are off.

Even so, it is a difference that should be corrected in your heart; corrected to submission to One God.

James, the brother and apostle of Jesus, reminded us that even the demons acknowledge that God is One and shudder even as they act against Him. Then he asks,

 ‘But are you willing to know, O vain man, that faith, apart from works, is dead?’[James 2:20]

Faith and works are needed, and that means fully submitting to God. If you decide to do so, such submission and acknowledgement will be rewarded abundantly. God says in the Quran about the Christian who hears it and believes, and then acts on that belief:

Indeed now we have conveyed the Word to them, in order that they may remember. Those to whom we gave the Book, before it, believe in it. And when it is recited to them, they say, ‘We believe in it. Verily, it is the Truth from our Lord. Indeed, even before it we were Muslims, (Muslimíyn-those who submit to God).’ These will be given their reward twice over because they are patient, repel evil with good, and expend (in charity) what we provide for them. And when they hear evil, they withdraw from it, saying, ‘To us our deeds, and to you your deeds. Peace be unto you. We seek not (the way of) the ignorant’.[Quran, 28:51-55]

Read On: The Acts

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