Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
Catholicism and Islam: Brothers-In-Arms!
A comparison of some of the beliefs shared in common by Catholicism and Islam, helps us to understand why the pope is working toward a new partnership with Muslims by acknowledging the commonality between their respective faiths. The basis for such a partnership is not merely a generic view of God, but a similar autocratic form of church government, as well as similar beliefs in such areas as the role of good works in salvation, the intercessory role of human agents, the immortality of the soul, the coercive methods of evangelism, and the vision of purgatory and hell.
by HOIM Staff
In light of the radical differences to be found between the Biblical and Koranic Gods, one wonders how the pope can work toward a new partnership with Muslims by praising their faith as being the same faith of Abraham? Could it be that the pope feels drawn to Islam more than to any other non-Christian religion, because there are significant similarities between Islam and Catholicism? To test the validity of this assumption, let us take a brief look at some significant similarities between the two religions.
Autocratic Form of church Government
In the first place both Islam and Catholicism have a similar autocratic form of church government where the seat of authority resides in one person: the pope in Catholicism and Muhammad in Islam. What the pope is for Catholics, Muhammad is for the Muslims. Both of them are accepted as God's representatives on earth. The pope claims to be Yeshua the Messiah (1922), and Muhammad proclaimed himself to be God's greatest prophet, superseding the Messiah himself. What this means is that both the Catholics and Muslims share the same admiration and veneration for a human leader who dictates their beliefs and practices.
Importance of Good Works to Earn Salvation
A second striking similarity between Islam and Catholicism is their respective understanding of the importance of good works to earn salvation. Both in Catholicism and Islam salvation is the result of a combination of grace and works. In Catholicism, God's grace is infused into believers to enable them to do the necessary good works to merit salvation on the day of judgment.
On a similar vein in Islam salvation is a combination of Allah's grace and Muslims' works. On the Day of Judgment, if a Muslims good works outweigh their bad ones, and if Allah accepts their good works, then they may be forgiven of all their sins and enter into Paradise. Therefore, Islam is a religion of salvation by works because it combines man's works with Allah's grace.
A few verses from the Koran suffice to exemplify the importance of works:
"To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath Allah promised forgiveness and a great reward" (Surah 5:9).
"Then those whose balance (of good deeds ) is heavy, they will be successful. But those whose balance is light, will be those who have lost their souls; in hell will they abide" (Surah 23:102-103).
The Muslims' understanding of good works is largely determined by the performance of the Five Pillars of Islam. These are
(1) the recitation of the creed that there is only one true God Allah and Muhammad his prophet;
(2) Praying five times a day;
(3) Fasting and abstaining from sexual relations during the daylight hours of the month of Ramadan;
(4) Alms-giving to the poor;
(5) Pilgrimage to Mecca, if possible, at least one in the life time.
Similar Definition of Good Works
The Roman Catholic understanding of good works is strikingly similar. Like the Muslims, the Catholics recite the Apostles' Creed in their church service. The recitation of prayers is also an important part of Catholic piety. I vividly recall my Catholic relatives reciting their prayers in the evening. They held a rosary in their hands to count the number of Ave Marias and Pater Nosters (Lord's Prayer) they had recited.
Fasting also is recommended to Catholics, especially as a form of penance to expiate sins confessed to a priest. Alms-giving is also an important aspect of Catholic piety. Alms are usually given to in the forms of charitable contributions to various religious (monastic) organizations that minister to the orphans and the poor.
Like the Muslims, Catholic are also encouraged to make a pilgrimage to Rome, especially during the Anno Santo, that is the Holy Year, which is now celebrated every 25 years. During the last Jubilee (Holy) Year of the year 2000, it is estimated that over 40 million Catholics made their pilgrimage to Rome, seeking remission of their sins, and indulgences for their loved ones in Purgatory.
An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment for sins on behalf of loved ones, that can be obtained through prayers, pilgrimages, and special masses. These can shorten the duration of the punishment experienced by loved ones in purgatory. It is evident that the methods of salvation in Islam and Roman Catholicism are striking similar. Unfortunately, both religious systems ignore that salvation is a divine gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8) and not a human achievement. Works of obedience are not the basis of our salvation, but a loving response to the gracious provision of salvation. It is because "the love of Christ compels us" (2 Corinthians 5:14), that we observe YEHOVAH God's commandments (John 14:15).
A third striking doctrinal similarity between Catholicism and Islam is the intercessory role of human agents. In Catholicism, believers pray to Mary and the Saints to intercede with God on their behalf or on behalf of their loved ones. We noted earlier that the new official Catechism of the Catholic Church, acknowledges that the Muslims "venerate Jesus as a prophet, his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devotedly invoke."
For Muslims the supreme intercessory role is reserved for Muhammad. On the final day of judgment, the Prophet will prostrate himself before Allah who, according to tradition, will say to him: "O Muhammad! raise up your head, and speak, it will be heard; and ask, it will be given; and intercede, and it will be approved," (A. N. Matthews, Translator, Mishcat-ul-Masabih, The Tibrizi Collection, 1810, vol 1, p. 607). The text continues indicating that Allah will pull out of the Hell fire those for whom Muhammad will intercede.
The notion of human mediators interceding with YEHOVAH God on behalf of others, is foreign to Scripture. The Bible teaches that "There is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the MAN Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5). It is only Yeshua the Messiah, "who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us" (Romans 8:34).
Immortality of the Soul
A fourth outstanding doctrinal similarity between Catholicism and Islam, is the belief in the survival of the soul apart from the body at the moment of death. A host of heresies derive or are largely dependant upon the belief that the soul is immortal by nature and survives the body at death.
For example, the belief in the intercessory role of Muhammad, Mary and the saints mentioned above, stem from the belief that at death the souls of the faithful ascend to the beatitude of Paradise, known as "The Garden" in the Koran. Similarly the beliefs that at death the souls of those whose sins are pardonable transit to purgatory while the souls of impenitent sinners are cast into eternal hell fire, are based on the belief in the immortality of the soul. Both Catholicism and Islam hold to the belief in purgatory and hell.
It is downright humorous to read some of the Islamic manuals describing the process of the extraction of the soul from the body. For example, Al-Ghazali, in al-Durra al-fakhira offers this colorful description:
"And when one's destiny approaches, that is, his earthly death, then four angels descend to him; the angel who pulls the soul from his right foot, the angel who pulls it from the left foot, the angel who pulls it from his right hand, and the angel who pulls it from his left hand....Then he is silent so that the his tongue is tied, while they pull the soul from the tips of his fingers. The good soul slips out like the jetting of water from a waterskin, but the profligate's spirit squeaks out like a skewer from wet wool" (cited by Jane Idleman Smith & Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, The Islamic Understanding of Death and Resurrection, 1981, p. 37).
Once the soul is extracted from the body, the angels take it to one of three places: Paradise (the Gardens), Purgatory, or Hell, depending upon Allah's judgment on the individual. Let's limit our comments to Purgatory and Hell.
Purgatory and Hell
The two doctrines of purgatory and hell are remarkably similar in both Catholicism and Islam. Both religions believe that the souls of penitent sinners need to go through a purgation or purification process before they can be admitted to Paradise. In Catholic teachings the suffering of purgatory is needed to pay for the temporal punishment of sins committed on this earth. In Islam the suffering is inflicted as punishment for sins of omission.
Jane Smith and Yvonne Haddad, explain that in Islamic teaching the suffering of purgatory is needed, because
"despite all that the pious believer may have done according to the commandments of God while on earth, he still may have committed some transgressions, however slight, or failed to do certain things that he should have done. Many of the traditions suggest punishment for single sins of omission. 'Why are you punishing me when I carry out prayer and pay alms and fast in Ramadan thus and thus?' The angel replied, 'I am punishing you because you one day passed by an oppressed person who was calling for your help, but you did not help him. One day you prayed, but you had not cleansed yourself before urinating,'" (ibid., p. 48).
The last sin refers to the requirement of the Koran to rinse the sexual organs before praying -- a common practice in the Moslem world even today.
The notion of believers suffering in purgatory to pay for the punishment of their sins before they are admitted into Paradise, negates the all sufficiency of the Messiah's substitutionary sacrifice to pay the penalty of our sins. Scripture clearly teaches that the Messiah "has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:26; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:3). A part of the Good News of the Kingdom of YEHOVAH God is that "God showed his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). There is no need for penitent sinners to suffer the punishment of their sins in this present life or the next, because the Messiah's atoning sacrifice has paid the penalty of our sins.
The Islamic vision of Hell is remarkably similar to the Catholic one. In fact, some writers suggest that the seven stories Inferno of Dante Alighieri, was inspired by the Islamic Hell with seven stories, each of which for a distinct class of wicked.
In his thesis on the Eschatological Teachings of Islam, Wadie Farag writes:
"Hardly a cruder or more barbarous picture of hell could be conceived than that depicted in the Koran and Hadith. The fires of hell are seventy times the intensity of terrestrial fire. The wicked who will suffer in it throughout eternity, will forget that they ever enjoyed any pleasure on this earth. Their tongues will drag out and men will stamp upon them. They will suffer hunger and when given food it will stick in their throats. They will be given 'hot water served to them, with iron hooks; and when it comes near their faces it will scorch them, and when it goes into their bellies will tear every thing there into pieces'" (Wadie Farag, Eschatological Teachings of Islam, 1949, pp. 74-75).18
"Scorpions as big as mules and snakes like camels torment them; stinking rivers full of vile creatures entrap them; the damned have black charred skins, huge long tongues, mouths vomiting pus and blood, entrails filled with fire; their bodies will be greatly enlarged so that they can more adequately experience the torture. All suffer by fire, although the degree of punishment differs according to one's sins. The damned attempt to escape, but each time the guardians of the Fire seize them and throw them down again" (The Islamic Understanding of Death and Resurrection, p. 87).
The gruesome and barbarous description of hell, that is common to both Islam and Catholicism, may serve the cause of promoting the worship of their awful god -- a god to be feared rather than loved, but it defames the biblical YEHOVAH God who in His mercy will annihilate the evildoers at His Coming (Zechariah 14:3-4; 14:12).
The preceding comparison of some of the beliefs shared in common by Catholicism and Islam, helps us to understand why the pope is working toward a new partnership with Muslims by acknowledging the commonality between their respective faiths. We have seen that the basis for such partnership is not merely a generic view of God, but a similar autocratic form of church government, as well as similar beliefs in such areas as the role of good works in salvation, the intercessory role of human agents, the immortality of the soul, the coercive methods of evangelism, and the vision of purgatory and hell.
The commonality of certain beliefs and practices between Catholicism and Islam, encourages us now to explore the past and future prophetic role these two powers. Some may feel that this lengthy discussion has detracted from the study of Islam and the Papacy in prophecy. I would disagree. A basic understanding of the two religious systems is essential to understand what we are about to study, namely, their prophetic roles as two manifestations of the Antichrist -- with the future appearance of Al-Mahdi fulfilling the role of the prophesied False Prophet of Revelation (Revelation 16:13; 19:20 and 20:10).
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