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The Lord's Prayer: Islamic View Point?

Question and answer details
Nadia
2014/08/24
Assalam Alaikum... The Christians believe that the prayer OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN was taught by Jesus (peace be upon him)... What actually is the story behind it?
Daud Matthews
Answer

Salam Dear Sister,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Since you have requested an answer to Christian belief from an Islamic perspective I would like to first point out, the Islamic perspective is not the same as the Christian perspective.

Let me explain. While Muslims believe in the revealed books: the Scrolls of Abraham, The Psalms of David, The Torah given to Moses, The Injil to Jesus and the Quran to Muhammad (peace be on all of them); the only book available in the language in which it was revealed is the Quran.

If you take a sentence in say, Hindi and translate it to Urdu and then to a local language like Guajarati, and then back to Hindi, do you think you will arrive back to the original sentence? Obviously you won’t and this is precisely the problem Muslims have with the Bible.

Jesus (peace be upon him) spoke Aramaic, he lived in a Greek speaking community, the Bible was first recorded in Greek, then translated through Latin and eventually to English.

Not content with that? There are many different “versions” of the Bible, some have the occasional verse taken out e.g. Mark 9:44; Mark 9:46; Matthew 17:21; Matthew 23:14; Matthew 27:35; Acts 8:37, and most have the longer (spurious) ending of Mark included.

This strongly suggests that the “Word of God” is not the Bible (although the Word of God may be contained in the Bible) as man has been able to make changes.

In contrast, the Quran is in the language in which it was revealed and has been available (memorized) since it was revealed as well as subsequently being written down, without changes.

Now, if a passage (book) is not in the original language how does one know what the limits of interpretation, interpolation and extrapolation are? There may be more or less flexibility between languages but each language will not have the same flexibility; try with the languages I suggested earlier.

Yet, here we have a book – the Bible - written in a language Jesus (peace be upon him) didn’t know and the translation is quoted as though it was what was said and meant by the speaker in his original language.

Muslims don’t (or shouldn’t) say the Bible is corrupted (that is another issue) rather, since it is not in the language Jesus (peace be upon him) spoke, we simply do not know what he actually said or meant, nor whether what is recorded is actually authentic.

Where the Bible agrees with the Quran we may assume there is some truth in what the Bible says. Where there is no agreement, we do not know whether the Bible is authentic or not but we believe the Arabic in the Quran to be the exact word of God as revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The Lord’s Prayer

The Christian concept is that Jesus (peace be upon him) after choosing his disciples, went to a large open plain and gave a speech in which he taught the assembled people. In the Gospel according to Matthew, it is known as the Sermon on the Mount, in which he explained prayer is not to show off and gave the example of what is known as the Lord’s Prayer. This is taken by Christians as the example to follow in their prayers to God:

Our Father (which art, who is) in Heaven!

Hallowed be thy name,

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done,

On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

(And forgive us our trespasses)

Forgive us our debts (sins)

(As we forgive those who trespass against us)

As we have forgiven our debtors (as we forgive those who sin against us).

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from the evil one.

(For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory)

(For ever and ever, Amen.) [Matthew 6:9 - 13]

What is in parenthesis are alternative additions

Al-Fateha

In the name of Allah, the Beneficent. the Merciful.

Praise be to Allah, Lord of all the worlds,

The Beneficent, The Merciful,

Owner of the Day of Judgement.

Thee (alone) we worship;

Thee (alone) we ask for help.

Guide us to the straight path.

The path of those whom Thou hast favoured;

Not (the path) of those who earn Thine anger

Nor of those who go astray. (Quran 1:1 - 7)

The comments below are from: “A Structural Analysis of the Sermon on the Mount” by Andreij Kodjak, Berlin; New York; Amsterdam: Mourton de Gruyer, 1986 [ISBN 3-11-010833-X]:

Another version – the Sermon on the Plain in the Gospel according to Luke [6:20 – 49], has a different version, that a disciple asked the question and received a similar but different answer; possibly it was a different audience [Op. Cit. p213].

The author makes the assumption of a “Structure of Christ’s Standard Sermon” and in his analysis of the two versions mentioned above, the author freely admits to abridgements by the authors of Matthew and Luke. e.g.”As the Sermon on the Plain is approximately one-fourth as long as the Sermon on the Mount, assuming both texts are abridgements of Christ’s sermons, which in all probability, as the major pronouncement, were of comparable length, we can surmise that Luke had to eliminate from the available oral or written versions much more material than Matthew. The difference in the degree of abridgement is apparent ...” [Op. Cit. Appendix I p213]

Some Muslim scholars are of the opinion that since Jesus (peace be upon him) spoke Aramaic the word at the beginning would have been Rabb (Lord) but was (mistakenly) changed by the scribes to Ab (father), and Allah knows best.

What is the purpose of the Lord’s Prayer?

Quote: The Lord prefaced His prayer by first asking His followers to avoid “vain repetitions” and to pray “after this manner.” Thus, the Lord’s Prayer serves as a pattern to follow and not as a piece to memorize and recite repetitively. The Master simply wants us to pray for God’s help while we strive constantly to resist evil and live righteously.

It is to show mankind how to worship their God. The Christians believe the Lord’s Prayer is a personal prayer.

Following on from that, Islam, which Muslims believe came to supersede Christianity and Judaism has al-Fateha – the Opening Chapter of the Quran. No prayer is complete without the recitation of this chapter.

The Fateha as used in prayer is a dialogue between God and His servant where part is for God, part is for the worshipper and part is shared. After giving God His position, the servant says “... only You we worship, only You we ask for help”, God tells us, My servant shall have what he asks for. Then, the servant asks: “Guide us to the straight path ...”. 

In this way the Fateha may be viewed as a prayer and the answer to that prayer is the Book of Guidance – The Quran. Some Christians mistakenly view the al-Fateha as an impersonal prayer; I believe the explanation above (from a divine hadith – personal conversation between Allah and Muhammad) negates such an understanding.

Al-Fateha is also an example of how we should structure our personal prayers when we make requests. For example, we first praise God, then appeal to His Attributes applicable to our situation; if we are asking for health, we appeal to al-Shafi (The Healer), al-Kafi (The Sufficient); then we make our request, then “only You we worship and only You we ask for help, guide us to the straight path”; and we finish by reciting blessings and salutations on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Prayer, as with all forms of worship, despite being obligatory is actually performed out of love for God; and God loves all creation, but His obedient servants in particular. All obligatory acts of worship in Islam are to be performed with concentration and humility.

We remember Allah as a loving God, whereas the Christians believe God is love. A common failing of Muslims in the West is when we make a mistake, or harm someone accidently, we say “sorry”, as Muslims we should say “forgive me”. We are told: Forgive others so that you may be forgiven.

I hope this helps answer your question.

Salam and please keep in touch.

Useful Links:

Is the Bible the Word of God?

The History of the Bible and the Quran

The Lord’s Prayer & the Last Supper: A Muslim Take


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