Dr. and Imam Shabir Ally is a Canadian Muslim preacher and the president of the Islamic Information & Dawah Centre International in Toronto where he functions as an Imam. He is the founder of the TV and online show “Let the Quran Speak”.
Shabir Ally says the Buddha may have been a prophet sent by Allah (God) to bring the message of Allah, meaning Islam, to his own people in their language. However, Shabir Ally believes that the Buddha’s original teachings, meaning the message of Islam, have been misunderstood by his followers over time.
Here is the transcript of Shabir Ally’s statement on the Buddha:
Question: Dr. Shabir, the question is could Buddha have been a Muslim prophet that isn’t named in the Quran?
Dr. Shabir Ally: To answer that we have to think about what is meant by a prophet first of all. So in Muslim theology a prophet is someone to whom God communicated directly and usually that person has a mandate to preach to others as well, to share the message that God has delivered to them. And it is a kind of inspiration that’s different from the one that most people have, like somebody may say I’m inspired to do this or I feel I have a calling to take up the ministry in the church for example. So this is a very specific and very clear directive to an individual. Now in the Quranic perspective there have been such individuals at all times in all places. Why? Because God is giving this as his part of his mercy, it’s like benefits, like the air we breathe, the sunlight we benefit from, the guidance on how to live one’s life needs to be accessible to all people at all time. And if God did not offer such guidance then people will not be held responsible, God would not have the right, well in a way yeah He has the right because He’s the Creator. He can do whatever He wants theoretically at least. But it wouldn’t be seem morally justified for God to punish anybody without first sending a prophet who speaks to them in their language. So in this vein the Quran says that God has sent prophets to every people speaking to them in their language [unintelligible]… So when we look at heroes in the past we would rather think that there is a great possibility that this [the Buddha] was a prophet than to think otherwise, because in Muslim perspectives we need to find more prophets everywhere. So when we see that such a great person as the Siddhārtha Gautama called the Buddha is celebrated in another religion we presume that he might have been a prophet of God. Now of course the Buddha is known about his teachings are very different from the Islamic teachings, but we always allow for the possibility that a great man’s teachings could have been misremembered and misrepresented and misunderstood over time.