LEARNING ABOUT ISLAM
Editor's note: In this attempt to pre- sent a balanced view, I am
indebted to Muslims, Christians, and Jesus, a book by Carl
Medearis (Bethany House). Nothing herein is intended to convey
approval for the historic evils or modern errors of Islam,
Christianity, or any other faith.
by Calvin Burrell
0n September 11, 2001, nineteen terrorists hih-jacked
American jetliners departing Boston's Logan Airport. They crashed
two of them into the World Trade Center's twin towers in lower
Manhattan, New York; one into the Pentagon building near
Washington D.C.; and a fourth into the ground near Shanksville,
Pennsylvania. Those responsible for this reprehensible death and
devastation were all fanatical devotees of a radicalized form of
the religion of Islam. Now in the tenth year since the late,
great attack on America, what should we learn by the time that
tragedy's tenth anniversary comes around next September?
We should learn the basics about Islam.
Before the 9/11 date that lives in infamy, most Americans
and Christians had little knowledge of or concern about the faith
of Muslims. Since Islam was a mostly false faith practiced in
mostly faraway lands, what had we to do with that?
Less than ten years later, our apathy has changed
drastically. This "elephant in the room" is on all our minds and
most of our lips. Thinking and talking about Islam, we have a
responsibility to accurately reflect our subject. This is not a
simple matter, because the subject is large and multi-layered. We
may know the difference between a mosque (Muslim "church") and an
imam (its leader-preacher), but what about Sufi (one version of
Islam) and Shiite (another version, mainly in Iran, that opposes
the Sufi version), Hamas (Google it), and Hezbollah (ditto)?
Brief summaries of Islamic history and of belief and practice are
provided in the accompanying sidebars.
We should learn that Islam is related to, and differs greatly
Both Islam and Christianity teach the existence of one true
and living God - the almighty creator, provider, and judge of
all. Allah is the Arabic word for God. Both faiths accept the
truth of creation; man's fall into sin; the flood; and the
revelation of God through Abraham, Moses, and the prophets -
including Jesus, who is honored by Muslims as virgin-born,
prophet-teacher, and miracle worker.
Islam departs from Christianity in teaching that God's
primary blessing was transmitted through Abraham's firstborn,
Ishmael (ancestor of Arabic peoples), not through Isaac (ancestor
of Israelites). While revering Jesus to a degree, Islam denies
that He is God's Son or the world's Savior via death and
resurrection. Muhammad, not Jesus, is the last, greatest prophet.
Though he tried to point people back to the God of Abraham, his
methodology and elements of his message led Jews and Christians
to regard Muhammad as a false prophet.
We should learn that not all reports about Muslims are
fairly presented. In modern media, especially e-mail and
Internet, the growing threat of Islam is often stressed. We hear
Christians advance the notion that Europe is now largely Muslim
and that America is next in line to be overrun. Disinformation
travels faster than truth and is often believed first. The
Failing to distinguish factual truth from emotional
rhetoric, Christians are rightly corrected and critiqued by those
who know their facts better than we.
Do we too often believe the worst about Muslims based on the
attitudes and conduct of their lunatic fringe, rather than on the
broad contours of faith as practiced in Islam's mainstream? By a
fair estimate, the radical militants consist of less than one
percent of all Muslims worldwide.
Do our unspoken prayers regarding Islam more nearly resemble
the curses of some imprecatory psalms than they do the
intercessory prayers of Jesus and Paul, who pleaded God's mercy
over their enemies? Rather than accepting the realities of our
globalizing culture with its greater opportunities for witness,
we often resent Muslims who have migrated to Christian nations,
and magnify the fear of living alongside them.
Do we too easily observe Muslims with mistrust and avoid
them as enemies, rather than loving and accepting them with the
blessing that Christ taught? When we judge the faith of Islam
according to its worst representatives (like the Taliban) and
impute to all Muslims the bad behavior of a few (like Al-Qaeda),
we practice a form of prejudice that we would rightly reject if
it were applied to Christians or to our own church.
Let us seek to know all the world's peoples through the
lenses of grace and truth, not the lenses of ignorance or
We should learn what works and what doesn't, sharing with
Generally, direct attacks on Muhammad or the Qur'an gain
little with devotees of Islam.
While the Bible is far superior to any other so-called
sacred writing, striking similarities have been observed about
how it and the Qur'an are often used:
* The Bible is employed by Christians of all kinds to support and
defend their version of the faith, including more and less
militant responses to Islam.
* The Qur'an is employed by Muslims of all kinds to support and
defend their version of the faith, including more and less
militant relations with Jews and Christians.
* As the Qur'an can be "used" to show that Muslims follow a
violent faith, so the Bible has been "used" to show the same
about Jews and Christians.
Trumpeting the failures of Muhammad and the Qur'an, we will
likely reach dead ends with our Muslim friends. A more promising
approach is to engage them in matters where we find some common
ground - like Jesus. Many Muslims have a deep respect for Abraham
and Jesus and a desire to live together in peace.
Although denying that Jesus can be God's divine Son or the
world's crucified - and - risen Savior, Islam does commend our
Christ as a true and sinless prophet of God who did mighty works
among the people. It is possible to build bridges of friendship
with many Muslims who regard Jesus with high devotion and
respect, based on the Qur'an's treatment of Him. Wise Christians
can use that respect to build a relationship that God can use to
grow the kingdom of Christ.
Readers who wish to pursue this thought or obtain Carl
Medearis' book may visit www. carlmedearis.com.
Seventh Century Start
Islam began in Saudi Arabia with the teachings and conquests
of the prophet Muhammad and his followers about 600 years after
Christ. A leading citizen of Mecca, Muhammad traveled widely as
manager of a trade caravan. Exchanging God - stories with many
Jews and Christians, he became convinced that people were losing
the true faith of Abraham. Islamic tradition says he was given a
series of messages from God via the angel Gabriel - messages
later compiled into the Qur'an.
The Muslim calendar dates from AD 622, when Muhammad and his
closest followers fled the persecutions of Mecca to Medina, where
his teachings were better received. From then until his death
just ten years later, he unified the Arab people, gave them new
religious doctrine, and won many military victories over his
enemies. Without this prophet intending to start a religion, his
faith spread eastward through Iran, north through Syria, and
westward across northern Africa as far as Spain and southern
France - all within 100 years of his death.
Teaching and Practice
Islam can be summarized by six articles of faith:
* Indivisible oneness of God.
* Angels as the servants of God.
* Holy books, including the Taureh (Pentateuch); the Zabur
(Psalms); the Injil (Gospels); the Hadith (traditions of
Muhammad); and, holiest of all, the Wan.
* Major prophets: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad
- the last and greatest.
* Day of final judgment: Good Muslims will be automatically
saved; those who don't believe in God (not meaning Jews and
Christians, according to the Qur'an) will descend to hell
* Predestination: Allah's absolute sovereignty brings a sense of
fatalism to Muslim faith; everything happens because "God wills
Islam can also be summarized by five pillars of practice:
* Confession: "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His
* Fast: Devout Muslims abstain from food, drink, and tobacco from
sunrise until sunset during the month of Ramadan.
* Giving: Motivated by compassion, Muslims are required to give
2.5 percent or more of their assets to the poor, the sick,
travelers, or new converts.
* Prayer: Ritualized prayers are performed five times daily by
devout Muslims, especiaLLy on Islam's holy day - Friday.
* Pilgrimage: Most Muslims make one lifetime journey to Mecca,
home of the Kaaba shrine, and to other sites in Saudi Arabia.
Size and Location
The two largest religions in today's world are Christianity,
with more than 2 billion adherents, and Islam, with about 1.5
billion. Large numbers of Muslims reside in Middle Eastern Arab
countries (280 million), northern and sub-Saharan Africa (270
million), Pakistan and Bangladesh (230 million), Indonesia (195
million), and India (130 million). Russia, Iran, Afghanistan, and
other central and southeastern Asia nations have many millions of
Muslims, while the United States and the European Union have less
than 10 million each. Latin America fewer than 2 million.
The Bible Advocate - Nov./Dec. 2010 - a publication of the Church
of God, 7th Day, Denver, CO. USA.
We must bear in mind, being as wise as a serpent and as harmless
as a dove: the Islam faith and religion is one of the great false
religions that Satan has used to keep people in deception, and of
course God allows that deception for He has a salvation plan that
includes that in this age of man (before Jesus returns) MOST
people are BLINDED to the truth of God's word - the Islamic
people are, and so also are the vast majority of the "Christian"
people. God's people are as Jesus said, the little flock, the
salt of the earth, sprinkled here and there.