How are divine leaders chosen in Islam and Christianity?
The Catholic faith is the largest Christian denomination in the modern world with over a billion adherents, all faithfully following a single religious and political authority – The Pope. Seated on the golden throne of the church, he is believed to be the divinely appointed authority on earth. He hails from a long line of successors tracing all the way back to the apostles of Jesus Christ. But is the Pope’s authority really from God? Is he truly God’s representative on earth? Or does he wear a veil of fake sanctity – a wolf in sheep’s clothing? The Catholic Church is notoriously shrouded in secrecy and conspiracies from satanic worship and child abuse to the mysteries revealed in Dan Brown’s DaVinci code – the holy grail and bloodline of Jesus christ.
But the truth is, Imam Ahmed Al Hassan PBUH has revealed that the Vatican was hiding a great secret, one that would shake the foundations of Christianity forever. A secret that, if revealed, would have the power to unite the two largest religions in the world – Christianity and Islam.
the Roman Catholic Church
Today, over 2 billion people worldwide call themselves “Christians,” followers of Jesus Christ… but the Christians are a nation divided. The world has over 32,000 different Christian confessions. They all believe in something different — and each group truly believes they are upon the truth…. but what did Jesus really want? Within the verses of the Bible, Jesus called for his true nation to be as one.
“That they may be one, even as we are one.” – John 17:11
And he called for his followers to be one flock, united under one shepherd.
“So there shall be one flock and one shepherd…” – John 10:16
There is only one branch of Christianity which fulfills this command today. It is the only Christian faith united under one shepherd, one vicar, one man with the keys of the kingdom… and it is the oldest denomination in the world — the Roman Catholic Church.
Catholicism, cloaked in mysterious symbols and ritual practices, claims to be the only religion founded by Jesus Christ. But is that really true? Could the Catholic Church’s customs be rooted in the true teachings of Jesus Christ?
Or has Catholicism been corrupted by falsehood and fallacies?
Let’s take a look at the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. We will take a look at the commands of Jesus Christ, in his own words, and we will explore the common thread which unites all people who recognize Jesus as a divine authority on earth…. we will uncover the truth about Jesus and his divine successor.
HOW DID CHRISTIANITY BEGIN?
It may seem hard to imagine, given the massive number of Christians today, but Christianity started out as a small movement. The first followers of Jesus simply called themselves “The way” – a title, reflecting the disciples’ belief that Jesus was “The Way” to God the Father. As Jesus said in the Gospel of John:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6.
In other words, Jesus was God’s divine representative on earth. In keeping with this tradition, he named another man as the successor to his ministry.
Holy, Catholic Apostolic Church
It is well known and documented in the verses of the Bible that Jesus named one of his twelve disciples, Simon Peter, as the heir to his call. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said:
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah… And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Gospel of Matthew, 16:17-19.
Also bear in mind that Jesus once said:
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge and my judgment is just, because I seek not mine will, but the will of the father which has sent me.” John 5:30.
So Peter’s role was the will of God, the father. Jesus gave Peter the authority to lead and the church that Peter built, is what we know today as the Roman Catholic Church. As we said, Jesus called for his followers to be “one”. This sentiment is also reflected in the word “Catholic,” a Latin term meaning “universal” – The universal church.
In fact, these are both from the four marks or core beliefs, as laid out in the Catholic creed, which declares:
“I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”.
The word “apostolic” is a nod to Peter. Since the time of the apostle Peter, an unbroken chain of successors — men supposedly chosen by God — have led the Catholic Church, one after another, acting as the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Catholics call this tradition “Apostolic Succession”. Some have belittled this system, calling it a Catholic innovation, but the concept of divine successorship is and has always been a divine mandate. It is God’s system. And it is an important commonality, connecting Catholicism to other religions of the book.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, there are many verses, in which God’s vicegerents, the prophets and messengers, name their successors, just as Jesus named Peter. For example, Moses designated his successor, Joshua son of Nun.
“And the LORD replied to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man with the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him. Have him stand before Eleazar (ely-azar) the priest and the whole congregation, and commission him in their sight. Confer on him some of your authority, so that the whole congregation of Israel will obey him.…” Numbers 27:18-20.
And Kind David named his successor, his son Solomon:
“When David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, and keep the charge of the Lord your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. Then the Lord will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: “If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.” 1 Kings 2:1-4
The concept exists not only in Judaism and Christianity… but also in Islam. Just like the Christian faith – Islam is split into numerous sects… but the main division exists between the Sunni and Shia Muslims, who differ on the point of successorship. Like Catholics, the Shia hold tight to the importance of a leader chosen by God. While he was alive, Prophet Muhammad revealed the identity of the man who God had chosen to lead the nation after him — his cousin Ali ibn abi Talib. Prophet Muhammad said:
“Ali is from me and I am from him and he is your wali (guardian) after me or that he is the wali (guardian) of every (believer) after me.”
But after the death of the Prophet, the majority of Muslims rejected Ali ibn abi Talib as the chosen successor; splintering the Muslim nation into those who followed Imam Ali – and those who rejected the Wali or “guardian” which God chose. Shia Muslims believe that Ali was the first in a chain of divinely appointed successors, called the Imams.
The Shia believe the Imam is their “Wali”, a word which can be translated to mean, “custodian” or “guardian”, “father”.
The head of the Catholic Church is called the Pope, coming from the Latin word “papa” which means “father”.
In other words — the Pope to a Catholic is exactly what an Imam is to a Shia Muslim. The word “Imam” literally means “leader”, “chief”, and “guide”.
Don’t these words also describe the role of the Catholic Pope?
And both groups believe their leader is not an ordinary man. Infallibility Catholics believe in something called “Papal infallibility” which means the Pope, acting as the supreme teacher, under certain conditions, cannot make a mistake. It’s based on the promise of Jesus, entrusting his successor Peter with the “keys of the kingdom of heaven”. This promise seats Peter “on the throne of Jesus” or “ex Cathedra” in Latin.
According to Roman Catholic doctrine, a Pope speaking “ex cathedra” is infallible, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Throughout history, Pontiffs have spoken about papal infallibility. Pope Boniface VIII said: “We declare, affirm, define and pronounce it to be necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff.” Boniface VIII, Unum Sanctum. And Pope Pious IX declared:
“I, alone, despite my unworthiness am the successor of the apostles, the Vicar of Jesus Christ. I alone have the mission to guide and direct the bar of Peter. I’m the way the truth and the life. They who are with me are with the Church. They who are not with me are out of the church.” – Pope Pius IX
Like the Catholics, Shia also believe that their God-given leaders are infallible. In the Quran, God said:
“O you who believe! Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those vested with authority from among you.” Quran 4:59.
According to narrations, when asked about this verse,
“We know Allah and the Prophet, but who are those vested with authority whose obedience has been conjoined to that of Allah and yourself?” Prophet Muhammad replied: “They are my Caliphs and the Imams of Muslims after me.” Meaning, the line of Imams after Prophet Muhammad are infallible. — Kifayatul Athar, by al-Khazzaz, p53.
Sunni Muslims, unlike the Shia, have never held tight to the idea of a divinely appointed guide. They simply rely on their holy book – the Quran, the tradition of the prophet, and advice from self appointed guides – the fallible scholars and sheikhs. Much like the Protestants, who only have their holy book – the Bible, and guidance from their pastors and preachers. But it didn’t start out like that. In fact, each and every one of the thousands of Christian denominations, which exist today can trace its origins back to Catholicism. They broke off over time, often due to disputes over matters of jurisprudence. Division Protestantism originated in Europe in the 16th century. It’s name comes from the “protest” which caused the sect to split from the Roman Catholic Church. Different groups broke away, following figures like Martin Luther and John Calvin. Many new denominations were born, like the Church of England. Back in the 17th century, King Henry VIII wanted to marry a woman named Anne Boleyn. The only problem? He was already married.
He wanted to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, who failed to give him a male heir. However, divorce was not allowed under the religious law of the Roman Catholic Church. This long and twisted tale ended with Henry breaking away from the jurisdiction of the Pope, and founding a new church – the Church of England, appointing himself as its Supreme leader. But unlike the Pope, the King was thought to be powerful – not infallible. Both the Catholics and the Shia share the belief that there must be an infallible guide from God. And it makes sense, logically. Otherwise God’s purpose in appointing an imam for guidance would not be fulfilled.
The Imam is meant to be the living, breathing, embodiment of the religion. He can change the religious law, the jurisprudence, what is called the “sharia” in Arabic, to suit the culture of the time.
Every given point in history is unique; with its own circumstances, social traditions, with new technologies and systems. Think about how different the world is today, as compared to the time of Jesus. Now imagine trying to live in this modern world, using only antiquated laws. It defies logic to think that God, the all knowing, would not place someone on earth, at every point in time, to adjust the laws.
The Shia faith is based on the necessity of an Imam, a divine guide on earth, at all times. The sixth Shia Imam, Jafaar al Sadiq said:
“Certainly the earth cannot exist without an authority [of God’s] therein. In fact, mankind can only prosper through him, and the earth can only prosper through that.” Bihar alAnwar, v. 23, p. 51, no. 101.
The Imams, in the Shia faith are the ones who say what is halal or permissible, and what is haram or forbidden. The Catholic Pope has the exact same ability. If you look at some of the Catholic Church’s practices today, they are rooted in old traditions, many of which are strikingly similar to Islamic jurisprudence, for example, the religious tax.
The Catechism (cata-kism) of the Catholic Church says,
“The Christian faithful are obliged to assist with the needs of the Church, so that the Church has what is necessary for divine worship for apostolic works and works of charity end for the decent sustenance of ministers” (No. 222).
Traditionally the donation has always been 10%, based on a story of Abraham in the book of Genesis. The religious tax of 10% is called a “tithe,” coming from the Anglo Saxon word “teotha” meaning “a tenth.” Similarly, Muslims are required to give 20% of their income as a religious tax called “khums” which literally means “one fifth”.
Another old tradition is the use of modest dress. Catholic Nuns wear a uniform of modesty called a habit, an outfit which looks a lot like the Islamic hijab, worn by many Muslim women.
This tradition is based on the words of the so-called apostle Paul in the New Testament of the Bible, who said:
“…Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off…” 1 Corinthians 11:5-6.
But these old traditions are not written in stone. In fact, every religious rule is subject to change. And this is because the Pope is the lawmaker.
When Jesus consecrated Peter, he said:
“Whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19.
EXAMPLES OF THE POPE CHANGING THE LAW
Throughout history, the Pope has been changing the law. Up until the 11th century, it was permitted for priests to marry. Then, due to certain abuses that were taking place, Pope Gregory VII decreed that priests were no longer permitted to marry.
We still see the Pope using his powers to change the religious law in the world today. In a 2013 interview, the current Pope – Pope Francis said: “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules,” And he, in his capacity as Pope, is changing those rules, modernising the church in the process. Pope Francis has publicly stated brand new stances on a variety of issues, such as changing the orthodox stance on homosexuality.
In 2015, Pope Francis made another controversial change to the Catholic jurisprudence. He made headlines by granting priests the ability to forgive people for commiting the “sin of abortion”, an ability he used to have exclusively as the Pope. As the highest divine authority on earth, the Pope oversees the absolution of sins.
Absolution is an integral part of Penance, one of the holy sacraments of Catholicism. It’s an important principle within the Shia faith as well. It is written in the Quran,
“…no one will be able to intercede for the others except those whom the Beneficent God has given authority.” Holy Quran 19:87.
In other words, his vicegerents.
Another one of the authorities given to the Imams, in the Shia faith, is the ability to call for holy war. In Arabic the word for holy war is “jihad”. While the misguided actions of some have tarnished this word with a negative connotation, its meaning is multifaceted. Prophet Muhammad stressed that the most important holy war is spiritual, rather than physical. He said:
“The greatest Jihad is to battle your own ego. To fight the evil within yourself”.
In addition to this inner holy war, there is also an outer holy war, but this type of jihad can be ordered only by the infallible Imam.
But Jihad is not a concept exclusive to Islam. It exists in Catholicism as well.
The Pope also has the ability to call for holy war and it has happened, quite famously in Christian history. We see it in the headlines today.
This has happened before on a massive scale. In the 11th century, Pope Urban II declared a holy war, what is known in history as the first crusade. And it was no small fight. An estimated 90,000 men, women and children – of all classes… were persuaded to participate in the first crusade, a fight waged for reasons of religious protection. The crusades were a series of military campaigns organised by Christian powers in order to retake Jerusalem and the so-called Holy Land back from Muslim control. And between 1095 and 2070 CE, a total of eight holy wars were ordered by the Papacy. Some may argue that the space between Jesus’ command to “love your enemies” to the idea of a Holy War is a giant leap. But the truth is, it’s a part of God’s system.
Holy wars were divinely commanded in the Torah and the old testament of the Bible as well.
Think about Joshua bin Nun and the siege of Jericho. The reason for this is that God’s representative on earth is the complete religious and political authority. The two cannot be separated. And complete allegiance and submission to him is required.
It is one of the foundations of Catholicism that loyalty to the Pope supersedes loyalty to any nation. The first Pope, Peter, in the Acts of the Apostles wrote,
“We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29.
And this is how Catholicism has operated throughout history. In the 14th century, Pope Boniface VIII wrote:
“That there is only One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church we are compelled by faith to believe and hold, and we firmly believe in her and sincerely confess her, outside of whom there is neither salvation, nor remission of sins…Furthermore we declare, state and define that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of all human beings that they submit to the Roman Pontiff.” Pope Boniface VIII Unam Sanctam (November 18, 1302 AD).
The Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits, a religious order of the Catholic Church, takes four vows – the ultimate being a vow of complete loyalty to the Pontiff.
“As members of a religious order, Jesuits take three vows — of poverty, chastity and obedience — and a fourth vow of obedience specifically in regard to worldwide mission. In other words, Jesuits must be ready to accept whatever mission the Pope requires, a vow that is reflective of our broader dedication to the universal Church, and to the greater good of all people from all faiths and cultures.”
Catholics recite a statement of belief – a creed, and go through a series of initiations into the church, ritual practices that signify submission to God, and the covenant between man and God’s vicegerent.
There are seven sacraments unique to the Catholic faith, but the rituals of initiation are three; baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist. The body of Christ. The blood of the lamb.
You will find in Luke chapter 22, verse 20:
“This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
Hidden within these words is a great mystery. A mystery, which no one throughout history has been able to decipher…but it has been revealed by Imam Ahmed Al Hassan PBUH.
The sacrament of eucharist is performed with the intention of entering into the guardianship of the church, submitting to God, something which the Shias also value.
The word Islam means “submission”, reflecting the central core of the religion – submission to God and his vicegerents on earth.
One of the five pillars of Islam is “shahada” or testimony. It is the creed, professing one’s belief in the oneness of God, the acceptance of Muhammad as God’s messenger, as well as the guardianship of the Imams.
The word “Shia” means “a group of followers” – the ones who follow the Imam of the time. The 6th Shia Imam, Jafar al Sadiq said:
“People are commanded to know us (Ahl al-Bayt), and they are referred to us and to submit to us.” Al Kafi, Volume 2, Hadith 2862, Chapter 164.
Like the Imam is to the Shia, the Pope is considered the sovereign ruler of the Catholics. And as such, he requires a sovereign state.
A SOVEREIGN STATE
The Roman Catholic church derives part of its name from the city of its inception. Just as it is today, Rome has always been the epicentre of the Catholic faith. After all, the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. Peter traveled to the heart of the Roman Empire to carry out the will of Jesus, who had commanded his disciples to…
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” Matthew 28:19.
But he was met with grave persecution. In the year 64, when a great fire ravaged the city of Rome, Emperor Nero, who was accused of setting the fire himself, pinned the catastrophe on the growing Christian movement and put a mass group of Christians to death in his private arena. The Roman historian Tacitus (tas-itus) wrote:
“An immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind… Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired.”
The area developed into a popular pilgrimage site. Catholics flocked to pay their respects at the grave of the first Pope, St. Peter, much like Shia Muslims visit the graves of the Imams – a tradition known as “Ziyarah.” This point in history marked a turning point for the church. For the first 280 years of its history, the church was banned by the Roman empire. But during the reign of the Emperor Constantine, the church underwent a curious transformation. Constantine adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire. He gifted the Pope the Lateran Palace as a personal residence, and began constructing the Old St. Peter’s Basilica. This gave the bishop of Rome an unprecedented level of wealth and power, for the first time creating an incentive for world leaders to interfere with matters of the church.
The church, newly vested with power, kept its headquarters in the city of Rome, eventually establishing its own city state there. Vatican city is the modern day capital of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s not only the location where the Pope lives and operates, it is an internationally recognized sovereign state, ruled entirely by the authority of the Pope. Vatican City mints its own money, has its own flag, operates its own post office, has its own national anthem, and even has its own army. While Vatican City is just under 100 years old, the tradition of the Pope having his own sovereign state traces back much further. Before Vatican City, the Pope presided over the Papal Lands, scattered across Italy.
And the concept of a divine state was mentioned and foretold throughout the bible.
The Old testament scriptures prophesied a kingdom, ushered in by a Messiah. An earthly kingdom, that would be divine, established and presided over by God’s chosen ruler. This concept was at the center of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. Jesus talked constantly about this idea a lot, referring to it as the “Kingdom of God”. The gospel of Mark states:
“And after John was delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God and saying: ‘The time is completed, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe in the gospel’”
And Jesus considered it his mission to spread the news of this kingdom. He said:
“To other cities also I must preach the kingdom of God: for I am sent for this purpose” Luke 4:43.
But the prophecy of this kingdom didn’t end with Jesus Christ. And the idea of a divine state is not exclusive to Christianity. It is an important concept in the Shia belief system as well.
Shias believe, based on the scriptures and the narrations of Muhammad and the family of Muhammad, that in the end times, the Imam of the time will establish a sovereign state of divine justice. And this Divine Just State will be ruled by a leader chosen by God.
Shias believe that God, alone, chooses the ruler, the Imam. Just like Catholics believe that God, alone, chooses the Pope. This is a shared belief in the supremacy of God, rather than supremacy of man. So how does God decide?
Have you ever faced a difficult decision and wished that you could ask God, directly, “What is the right thing to do?” Muslims believe that if you ask, God will answer. The Islamic faith teaches of something called “istikhara” a term rooted in the Arabic word for “choice”. It’s a way to ask God for guidance. And the process, by which the Pope is selected, is strikingly similar. There are three types of Istikhara. The most famous and widely practiced is opening up a random verse of the Quran. In Christianity, the same concept exists. It’s called bibliomancy.
Another type of Istikhara is performed using prayer beads. And the third type of Istikhara is done by asking a group of 10 believers for guidance. Whatever the majority says is the answer.
Essentially, God speaks through them. And how is the Pope selected? When a Pope dies or resigns, his successor is chosen by a council of Cardinal electors. Cardinals are bishops and Vatican officials from all over the world. The men gather together in what is called the Papal Conclave, in St. Peter’s basilica. One by one, they cast a ballot, one by reciting a prayer and dropping a twice folded ballot into a large chalice. The process is repeated until a two thirds majority is reached. If no one receives the majority of votes, the ballots are burned and chemicals are used to produce that famous black smoke. When the Pope is finally chosen, white smoke shoots out of the chimney to signal to the world the election of a new pope.
Secrecy is key… and the ballots must be burned, because the ballots are not meant to be cast by the Cardinals themselves, but by the Holy Spirit, the essence of God.
But there is a major problem with this selection process – it simply does not allow God to appoint the true leader.
While the aim is to have God select the Pope by the secret vote of the council of Cardinals, there are some major limitations… they keep it in the family, so to speak.
In practice, the papacy is restricted to cardinals or perhaps a few bishops but even that is rare.
The last non-cardinal to be elected was Pope Urban VI in the 14th century. When it comes to selecting the Proof of God, the pool of options would have to include everyone on earth in order for it to be valid. How can you expect to get God’s selection when you limit the people he can choose from? And on top of that, the water of this small pool of prospective candidates is notoriously filthy…
Doesn’t this remind you of the warning of Jesus Christ, who said:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits…” Matthew 7:15-15-16.
And what are the fruits of this leadership? If you take God out of the equation, the Papal selection process is nothing more than a democratic election. An election held by an elite society — one, which is guarding great secrets. And if the Papal selection process is not accurate, it can only mean one thing: the Pope, the Papa, the father of the Roman Catholics, the man who billions of people look to for divine guidance, is seated on a throne of lies.
We have established that the Roman Catholic Church is the only Christian faith, today, which traces back to the apostles of Jesus. Catholicism is the only denomination, founded upon the true principle of a divinely appointed leader, a guardian of the faithful. And we have listed point after point, proving that Catholicism’s principles are rooted in that, which God ordained. And these are the same principles at the heart of the Shia faith.
So the big question is this… — could there be a secret, connecting these two faiths? Perhaps a piece of history, lost… Could these two, seemingly different religions be one and the same?
There is one kingdom, and one rightful king — a true Pope. But somehow, somewhere along the way, the one, universal church of God was hijacked. Within the walls of the Vatican, behind closed doors… there are secrets locked away. Secrets, which would shake the golden throne of St. Peter itself… And now… after thousands of years… thanks to Imam Ahmed Al Hassan PBUH, the time has finally come for those secrets to be revealed.