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The Truth about Islam; Jihad; Terrorists; and Muslims in America
Honesty and Understanding the Enemy
To understand the truth from God in the Holy Scripture (The Holy Bible), and to understand the enemy (radical Islamic fundamentalists) as well as the theology that motivates them we must have accurate information. It is misunderstanding and misinformation about these things that fuels unhealthy perceptions on both sides, and also causes us to lose sight of the one absolute truth that God handed us down in the form of the Bible.
Really there are two main facets to the discussion on Islam; Jihad; terrorism and Muslims in America. The first is an honest, complete and truthful look at Islamic theology that is consistent with the Quran and Hadiths. The second is dealing honestly with the history and practices of Muslims from Mohammad himself all the way to our modern-day Muslims (including American Muslims).
Salat - one of the five Pillars of Islam
Hajj - The pilgrimage to Mecca - Another of the five pillars of Islam
Understanding Islam: The basics
To understand Islam you of course would need to be familiar with the Quran, but not only that, the Hadith as well. Many aspects of the five pillars of Islam are really found in the Hadith, not the Quran. And it’s the five pillars that I’ll list below and then move on.
1. Zakat – charity - obligatory tax or almsgiving, similar in some ways to the idea of a tithe. This payment is made annually under Islamic law on certain kinds of property and livestock to be used for charitable and religious purposes, mostly for relief of the most poor of Islamic citizens.
This is found in Surah 9:60 “"The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise."’
2. Salat – prayer - the ritual prayer of Muslims, performed five times daily in a set form or liturgy. These prayers are not regular two-way communication with God (du’a), but rather a repetitive, prescribed prayer and recitation of Quranic ayahs (verses). Prayer is always directed in the direction of the Ka'ba shrine in Mecca.
Most of the ritual and liturgy surrounding the salat, as well as two of the five salat prayers cannot be found in the Quran. Only three of the prayers are listed in the Quran. And facing Mecca is in the Quran (2:144) as well.
3. Hajj – Pilgrimage - the pilgrimage to Mecca, which every adult Muslim is supposed to make at least once in his or her lifetime, takes place in the last month of the year.
Hajj can be found in Surah 22:78.
4. Ramadan – fasting – Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Muslims are required to fast from sun up to sun down for 30 consecutive days. Being sick or on a journey receives some leniency. Sawn, which is often understood as fasting, also refers to refraining from evil actions, thoughts and words. Shaitan (Satan) is supposed to be bound during Ramadan according to Islamic theology (Bukhari Hadith).
This can be found in the Quran in Surah 2:183-185.
5. Shahada – Testimony, or the two testimonials – This is an Islamic creed and confession of faith (“there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah”). This is actually the first, or preeminent of the five pillars of Islam. You cannot be considered a Muslim if you have not taken the Shahada and denounced any other religion/deities.
Surah 3:18 makes a monotheistic declaration, but leaves out any mention of Muhammad or the need to venerate him. It wasn’t until the Bukhari Hadith was written that the widespread requisite of adding “and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah” came into being.
What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur'an
What's in a world view?
Everyone has a world view. A world view is not a religious thing. It’s not a Christian thing exclusively. It’s not a Muslim thing exclusively. We all have one.
Our world view colors our attitudes; and is made up of our core truths and assumptions about the world around us. To operate and function as a human being one must have a world view.
To Christians, who have been indwelled by the Holy Spirit and drawn by God Himself, we know that God exists (Romans 1:19-21; Genesis 1:1); that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4); that He is triune (John 1:1-3; Genesis 1:1-2; Genesis 1:26); that God is always true; that mankind is fallen and corrupt (Romans 3:23); and that faith in Christ is the only way to be reconciled with God and receive eternal life in heaven (John 14:6; Romans 10:9). We as Christians live under the world view that the Bible is both 100% correct and authoritative on everything that is written or commanded in it. And we also have a world view that we must conform to Scripture and to the Jesus Christ that is revealed in Scripture to be like God; and to be faithful to Him.
Those are just a few core truths about Christianity.
Islam is no different, other than the fact that their core values are not truths, or are half-truths and distorted. In other words, because they vary from or deny what the Holy Bible says, we must understand that they are not actually true and are spiritually detrimental. However, they may resemble Christian concepts in certain regards.
And in Islam, there are certain core values that form the Islamic world view. It’s important to note that not all Muslims are consistent with their theology. In fact, most Sunnis are inconsistent with their theology and that’s a good thing, since consistency with Islamic theology is where you get the fundamentalist, extremist, terrorist, mujihadeed world view. This is the “kill them wherever you find them” (Surah 9:5; 2:191; etc.) mindset when it comes to those who are infidels (non-Muslims or apostate Muslims) to their world view.
I say this because it is intellectually dishonest to say that these Muslim terrorist groups such as ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Shabbab, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, etc. aren’t motivated, instructed and unified by their belief in certain explicit tenets of the Quran and Hadith. It is also historically ignorant or an attempt at revisionism to not acknowledge that Muhammad did most of his conversions with the “infidels” at the point of the sword, and Islamic expansion/conversion for centuries afterwards and even today has been much the same. The two primary methods of Islamic growth are an explosive birth rate and military conquest.
It would also be intellectually dishonest and unfair to say that because the preceding two paragraphs are true, that means that all Muslims are bloodthirsty savages; crave war; or want to persecute other people groups. This simply is not true. There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, and most of them would be relatively peaceful. In fact many would be considered either nominal, hypocrites or even apostates by the more consistent fundamentalist groups.
There are in fact two primary factions of Muslims in the world. There are Sunni Muslims and Shia/Shiite Muslims. Most of Iran and large parts of Iraq are Shia. Saddam Hussein’s regime was Sunni, as is ISIS. Most of the victims of ISIS are actually Shia Muslims; far and away moreso than the Christians, Jews and Yazidis combined.
ISIS as I said before are Sunni. It’s important to note they are absolutely not Shiite/Shia! They would be considered Salafi Sunnis, which basically means they are fundamentalist or “hardcore extremists”.
For our President to make an ignorant statement such as ISIS is not Islamic, is misguided at best and downright deceitful and irresponsible at worst. The name of ISIS, shortened to IS by some, stands for Islamic State (in Syria or in Syria, Iraq and Levant). The Islamic state is also known as a caliphate, or is a region of territory dominated and ruled by Islamic Sharia Law. This law is based on the Quran, Hadiths and any fatwas that have been issued. The military, government and religious authority are all one in the mindset of a Muslim that is consistent with the Quran and/or with the Hadith.
The Nominal Muslim; the inconsistent Muslim; and your next-door neighbor Muslim
Again, most Muslims would be considered culturally Islamic or nominal Muslims, meaning that they are not fully consistent with their theology. This can be due to a different view of the Quran and/or Hadith; apathy; ignorance of the religion; or simply a focus on certain points of the religion while ignoring other clear aspects of it.
It is good that this happens. This is where you or I can say that we have a Muslim friend next door. This is where we can live in relative peace and harmony in the United States with Muslims who have been here for decades in some instances. This is where Christian minorities in Islamic dominated cultures can sometimes live in relative peace, unless there are a group of Muslims consistent with all of the Quran living nearby.
Most Muslims that I’ve met in America are nice people. They want to live in peace and be accepted. They love their wives and children. They have jobs or businesses. And they essentially from a secular perspective would live and behave similarly to many other Americans.
Many Islamic values and moral beliefs are similar to those of biblically consistent Christians. They generally have similar beliefs on things like alcohol, sexual morality (with a couple glaring exceptions), modesty, theft, honesty, and respect for authority.
There are Muslim Sheiks and Imams even in Iraq that have wept for; argued for; and even fought on behalf of the Christians and the Yazidis in their nation. These men do not want to be linked to or likened to ISIS and other terrorist groups. And to be fair to them they shouldn’t be.
Flag of Al Qaeda in Iraq now known as ISIS
Photograph of one of the mujihadeen
Countries with Sharia Law
Contributing to the problem of relations with Islamic Americans
That being said, there is not a great deal of willingness in much of the Islamic world, either here in America or abroad to publicly denounce groups like ISIS, Hamas, and Boko Haram and their actions. There is not an outcry from Muslims around the world that desiring a caliphate is evil. There is not an outcry from many that Christians and other religious minorities should not be subjected to second-class citizenship status the likes of which would make most Muslims in our nation who think they are hated or mistreated gasp in shock and horror. There is not an outcry from most of the Muslim world that despite any wrongdoing on the part of Israel, it’s still wicked and cowardly to hide terrorist troops and weaponry in grammar schools or for the authorities to hand over confiscated weaponry back to Hamas.
This is the problem in much of the world and is why often times you seen many Americans, particularly more conservative Americans, distrustful of Muslims or in some cases even hateful towards them. Is hatred wrong? For sure.
However, to rectify many of the problems that Muslims and Arabic Americans have suffered in the U.S. over the past 10+ years, it would require that our Muslim neighbors be willing en masse to publicly, not privately or anonymously, denounce the actions and the motivations of these terrorists groups to be evil; unacceptable; and deplorable.
It would also take a concerted effort to eliminate not only ISIS, but also other groups such as Hamas; Boko Haram; Al Shabbab; the Taliban; etc. When I say eliminate, I will be clear that I mean imprisonment, conversion, subduing and neutralizing them; or if necessary defeat in battle. For those Muslims who do not share the fundamentalist jihadist worldview, that would at least be a sign of good will, and of sincerity.
The role of any government is to be a terror and a sword to those who would do evil (see Romans 13). And as such all governments have that responsibility to their own people as well as our allies and citizens abroad to meet and deal with evil wherever it may be.
This, along with a plethora of terrorist attacks; bombings and beheadings that have taken place over the years are the primary cause of animosity and angst between Arabs (not all are Muslim) and Muslims in the U.S. and the rest of America’s citizenry. To be sure, and to be fair, I should also note that there is racism and blind hatred that is at play sometimes too.
Another problem comes with offshoot cults of Islam, such as the Nation of Islam. The Nation of Islam are not true Muslims. And they are essentially a racist cult much like the KKK, Aryan Nation, or Aryan Brotherhood. Most Americans do not know that there is a difference, and if they asked a member of the Nation of Islam, they would probably claim to be a Muslim. Seeing the hatred as well as the craziness of this group and knowing their history, it is not surprising that many would not trust them. Until the late 1990’s, or really until 9/11, the Nation of Islam was far and away the most prominent image that the average American had of “Islam”.
There is not much done to denounce these folk either. It may be harmful to relations between Muslims and the rest of America. However, it’s not as detrimental as attitudes towards the caliphate and terrorist groups, because not as many Americans take the Nation of Islam seriously.
Age of Caliphs Map
Would you like to know more about the history of Islam; the Quran; or the Pact of Umar?
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity
The Kingdom of God Expanding into the Muslim Nations and to our Muslim Neighbors
We as Christians must learn how to understand our Muslim neighbors; be diligent in sharing with them the true Gospel that will save souls on the Day of Judgment; and work to be peacemakers as well as to be used of God to reconcile the souls of the elect to Him from out of the Muslim world.
Many Christians in the United States miss out on good opportunities to be able to relate with Muslims who they interact with because of either lack of knowledge or discomfort with Arabic words that they perceive as “Muslim words”. One such word is Allah. Allah is a word that predates Islam, and means “Most High God”. It was used by Christians to refer to Jesus Christ and the Trinity for centuries before Muhammad was born or Islam ever conceived.
We can use that term, as the only true God that is Most High is the God we learn about in the Holy Bible. It is a Christian term, not a Muslim one. It has been used by our Muslim friends to describe a god that’s a false god. However, that shouldn’t hinder us any more than a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness or a Universalist would in their misuse of the names of Jesus Christ and Jehovah.
Many Christians in America also are unaware (as well as most Muslims in America and throughout the world) that the Quran actually teaches that the Bible is truth and light from God (not corrupted as many Muslims falsely believe). In fact, the Torah (first five books of the Bible, or the Law); the Psalms; the Injeel (the four Gospels); and the prophets are all mentioned as being truthful and authoritative messages from Allah in the Quran (examples: Surah 5:43-47; Surah 10:94; Surah 3:3; Surah 3:48).
That being said, the Quran does not have the same message as the Bible; nor does it teach of the same God. It is not on par with the Bible as the word of God or even close. It does not bear the same message as Jesus or of any of the prophets that God sent in the Old Testament. In fact, much of what Muhammad said about the Gospel; Jesus; and the Bible in general were assumptions that he made presumptuously and in error. Deuteronomy 18:20-22 deals specifically with the types of proclamations that Muhammad made and his particular type of prophesy.
That all being said, we do have some other areas of common ground that we can find with our Islamic neighbors. Maybe God will draw them towards Himself, through us or through others, to a saving relationship with the Lord God Jesus Christ. Or maybe He will just allow us to live in peace and harmony with our Islamic neighbors and be able to celebrate the values that we do share.
An example would be the claim that ‘Islam respects women more than any other society in the world, letting women be treated like objects by filthy perverted men is not what you call a civilized society’ (Rose, 2014). While it’s clearly untrue and nearly insane to think that women are respected more in Islam than in any other religion or culture in the world, there is an area where we can agree. The degradation of women; objectification of women; and the sex/pornography culture that secular American culture has created (modernist and postmodernist) is abhorrent on many levels. The fact that women are so sexualized that many actually think it is empowering and will gain them respect if they shed their clothing and make themselves available to men visually or physically is grievous and senseless and clearly to the detriment of women.
This is something we can agree upon with our Muslim neighbors. Modesty is beautiful and it engenders respect and value of both men and women. To take it to the extent of certain Islamic regimes like Saudi Arabia and require burkas would be wrong for sure, but modesty is absolutely a virtue.
We Christians can clearly agree with our Muslim friends that drunkenness is sinful. We can agree with them that adultery is wicked. And we can agree with them that things like theft; injustice; usury and homosexuality are all declared to be sin by God. We have a lot in common.
America is, and should even moreso be, an example to our Muslim neighbors and friends of how God truly wants us to live as a people; in regards to our liberties and in regards to our attitudes towards God and our fellow man. America needs a tremendous amount of improvement, but we still essentially lead the way when you look at those Christians in the U.S. who are still faithful to our God and to His word.
We can show our Muslim friends and neighbors a more excellent way; a more loving way. We will not make them sign anything like the Pact of Umar. We will not demand that they recite the Nicene Creed or face the consequences. We will not make them pay a jizya tax and extort them so that they can be kept “safe” like Christians have to pay in many countries. We will not kidnap, enslave, murder, rape, molest, displace, torture or imprison our Muslim neighbors and friends or mistreat them because of their religion.
Not only will we not do those things, because God has called us to a more excellent way, but we will show our Muslim friends and neighbors patience; love; compassion; honesty; integrity; peace; kindness; gentleness; faithfulness; peace; joy; and self-control. We can share with them the true kingdom of God, which is far greater than any earthly caliphate. We can share with them the true message of God which is far more than just the shahada. And we can let them experience being in the presence of a true follower of Christ, blessing them and others around us.
To do this we have to put behind us things like racism for starters. We also need to stop identifying ourselves by our gender; our sexual desires and behaviors; or our political ideologies. It’s time that we identify in Christ and seek to serve Him as one united Church and Body in spreading His kingdom, both here in America and abroad, even to the Muslim world.
You think about that and God bless!