The Narrow Gate
By Paul Salahuddin Armstrong
“Those who believe and do deeds of righteousness and establish regular prayers and regular charity will have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.”
– Holy Qur’an 2:277
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it. Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
– Holy Bible, Matthew 7:13-20
Jesus gives us some very good advice about religion. He tells us to take the ‘narrow gate’, the true path that is not always easy to follow. The ‘gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction’, refers to how easy it is to fall prey to the temptations and sins that can destroy us. Many will go astray, but few are those who find the right path.
Jesus warns us about false prophets. People who outwardly appear religious, but inwardly are driven only by their own selfish and evil desires. Although they appear harmless like sheep, their true nature is that of wolves. Jesus described how to identify God’s true servants, ‘you will know them by their fruits’. The fruits or works of a person give away their true nature, ‘those who believe and do deeds of righteousness‘. Actions speak louder than words, people who are like wolves in sheep’s clothing will eventually reveal themselves through their own actions
Although many Christians don’t realise it, Matthew Chapter 7, proves Islam is true guidance from God. For more than 1000 years Muslims made an immense contribution to the sciences, arts, and cultures of the world. Precisely because they were following the teachings of Islam. The west was freed from oppression by the ideas and sciences cultivated by Muslims, while most of Europe was still in the Dark Age. Yet many are still unaware of this historical fact; it was this spark that ignited the Renaissance, that great flowering of Western thought and innovation to which we owe so much of our modern civilisation.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.'”
– Holy Bible, Matthew 7:21-23
‘On that day’ refers to the Day of Judgement. This is also found in the Holy Qur’an 5:116.
“And behold! Allah will say ‘O Jesus the son of Mary! didst thou say unto men ‘worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?’ He will say: ‘Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing Thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart though I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.”
These verses are about people claiming to be Jesus’ followers, when in fact they’re not. Jesus cannot be referring to others, for he specifically said those who call him, ‘Lord’. Muslims, for instance don’t call Jesus, ‘Lord’ because of the confusion this can cause. These people will appeal to Jesus saying ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’. To which Jesus will reply ‘I never knew you’. Why would Jesus call these people lawless? Jesus and his earliest followers were in many ways practising Jews, rather than an entirely distinct new religion. Judaism teaches living in accordance with the Torah, the Law given to the People of Israel by Moses. The disciples of Jesus received a balanced teaching, spirituality within the context of the Law.
Early Christianity and Classical Islam actually have a lot in common. While the spiritual element of both faiths is emphasised, the Law mustn’t be forgotten. We have been commanded to live according to the Divine Law by God and all of His prophets. Prophet Muhammad taught his followers to always remain conscious of God, this is the purpose of the prayers and Sufi devotions which are the heart of Islam. But, he also taught us to live in accordance with the Law, which we know as Shari’ah. One of the greatest Muslim scholars Imam Malik, is reported to have said:
“whoever studies Jurisprudence and didn’t study Sufism will be corrupted; and whoever studied Sufism and didn’t study Jurisprudence will become a heretic; and whoever combined both will reach the Truth.”
– the scholar ‘Ali al-Adawi , vol. 2, p 195.
Jesus himself stated:
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
– Holy Bible, Matthew 5:17-20
“…in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary confirming the law that had come before him…”
– Holy Qur’an 5:46
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell–and great was its fall.”
– Holy Bible, Matthew 7:24-27
Jesus emphasised our faith should be based on sound foundations, like a house built on rock. This way we shouldn’t falter when our faith gets tested. But those whose faith has no foundation will fail as easily as a house built upon sand. The rock he is referring to, is the rock of truth. A believer who has come to know this will not easily be deceived by imitations.
“To thee We sent the Scripture in truth confirming the scripture that came before it and guarding it in safety; so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed and follow not their vain desires diverging from the truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open Way. If Allah had so willed He would have made you a single people but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute.”
– Holy Qur’an 5:48
Many Christians say that it is not through works that we will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, as Paul states in his letter to the Romans (3:28) “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” While this may be true to a certain extent, a true believer will strive to please his Lord. Hence the deeds of a true believer should outshine the deeds of others. James states the following with regards to faith and works:
“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, ‘You have faith and I have works'; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?”
– Holy Bible, James 2:14-20
James is recorded as being Jesus’ brother. He led the early Christian community in Palestine. Paul on the other hand persecuted Christians before he was struck with blindness on the road to Damascus, where he claimed he had a vision of Christ.
Which is the more reliable witness? Paul who wasn’t even a disciple of Jesus, or James who was? James emphasises that a man of faith is justified by his works, and not merely by faith alone.
Although the essence of the faith which Jesus taught, is of the same essence as the faith which Muhammad brought. Christianity has since diverged from these original teachings, that have such strong affinity with the Jewish faith and Islam. There were still many Christians who believed in the Oneness of God and denied the Trinity and other false doctrines until 325 AD. That year the Roman Emperor Constantine called the First Council of Nicaea. This Council resulted in the first uniform Christian doctrine, the Nicene Creed. Here the doctrine of the Trinity became central to Christianity. Christians who didn’t accept it were persecuted from this time onwards. Interestingly only 245 years later in 570 AD, Prophet Muhammad was born in the city of Mecca. Muhammad taught the same belief that God is One. Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, Surah 4 An-Nisaa, verse 171:
“…Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: For Allah is One God: Glory be to Him: (Far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.”