Is Islam something Christians ought to take notice of? Should we try to understand it? Is it relevant, you might ask? Well, let me put it this way. The once seemingly closed and distant Islamic world is at our doorstep whether we like it or not. We just need to take a look around us. In urban areas especially, there are more Muslim immigrants and visitors now than there ever was. We only need to turn on the television to bring the world of Islam into our homes. Islam has taken centre stage on world news coverage. Several documentaries explain Muhammad and the Haj. Even popular TV series increasingly explore themes where Muslims are involved. In fact, I think there is more about Islam now on secular television than about Christianity. Islam is steadily seeping into our consciousness. Of course, there is also the fact that Islam is the second largest religion in the world. More pertinently, it is presently the fastest growing. Analysts will clarify that the growth of Islam is primarily driven by population growth (higher birth rates) rather than conversion. In western nations, the growth of Islam is largely attributable to the increasing influx of Muslim immigrants. Be as it may, Islam is nevertheless growing faster than Christianity or any other religion. Some of the attention towards Islam is undoubtedly due in part to the mindshare it occupies when we speak about war and terrorism. No one can deny that these days, most terrorists are Muslim. However, we must stress this - most Muslims are NOT terrorists. The regular Muslim is generally against Islamic extremism. They view Muslim terrorists as a threat to Islam itself. Muslims are in fact peace loving family oriented individuals who can be some of the most hospitable people and warmest friends we can have. If you have ever been invited into a Muslim home, you will know what I mean. Moderate Muslims, perhaps better referred to as "Â€Â˜modernists" are wrestling against fundamentalism and radical factions. In Turkey for instance, the divergence between modernists and the fundamentalist is evident and perhaps best encapsulated in the on-going debate over the use of head-scarfs (a.k.a. Â€Â˜"hijab" or "Â€Â˜burqa"). The two sides are even represented politically and contend for government. Although it is true that modernists and the more traditional or fundamental are at odds on some issues, they do have this in common - both seek to established societies guided by Islamic principles albeit through different approaches. Modernists advocate it through rational freedom of choice in a spirit of Islam, while the more radical, militant or political Islamist is more inclined to coerce it. Either way, fundamentalism is gaining ground and changing the face of Muslim nations. A sure sign is the increasing implementation of Islamic state principles which basically pushes for conformity to religious precepts in all aspects of life. This means religious precepts to regulate governance, banking, commerce, education, media and even diet and attire among other things. In other words, the Islamic state is a totalitarian system based on Sharia laws A gradual leaning towards fundamentalism is being observed in Muslim nations and writers often refer to this as "Â€Â˜Islamization". Some also describe it as "Â€Âœcreeping Islam"Â€ or "Â€Âœcreeping Sharia"Â€. Islamization is a two-fold concern; firstly, because it is a fundamentalist agenda that seeks to restore strict implementation of Sharia laws. Sharia laws prescribe a dual system of ethics - one for Muslims and another for non-Muslims. In Sharia law, equality, civil liberties and human rights are not upheld in the same way as we know it. We are all quite aware that Sharia laws, when strictly enforced, impose punishment in the most draconian anachronistic form. Yet, it is being practised in Muslim countries today. In Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan for example death by stoning is the punishment for adultery. It has also been reported in Somalia and adopted in Aceh (Indonesia), although such a sentence has yet to be actually carried out in the latter. In Malaysia, which is generally regarded as being moderate, a Muslim woman was sentenced by an Islamic court to canning for consuming beer. Yes, beer! Thankfully, public uproar ensued and the sentence was commuted. Muslim countries are seen to increasingly favour and explore stricter implementation of Sharia laws. Boundaries of acceptance are being tested and prodded. The above examples are of course only instances of the more extreme. In fact, Islamic precepts have been progressively implemented across the board. Piety levels are on the increase in the Muslim world. It is time we take notice of the revival in Islam that has been going on for the last 30 years. The second concern is this - there is an apparent connection between fundamentalism and radical extremism. It would not be a stretch to say that fundamentalist ideology incubates radical extremism. Why? It is out of fundamentalist precepts where we find interpretations of Islam that justifies killing. There are just going to be some who will be motivated enough to take up arms as their ultimate expression of piousness. This zealous motivation, fervent enough to kill, is what distinguishes a Muslim as bona fide radical. This mind-set is where suicide bombers and militant jihadists come from. As much as Muslim scholars will assure us that Islam is a peaceful religion, they cannot deny there is a fundamentalist interpretation of the Quran that justifies violence. When we hear the assurance of peacefulness, we are probably hearing it from a Sunni Muslim. Again, I would like to stress that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful. There are however caveats. Like the Bible, Muslim literature contains accounts of bloodshed and violence. Whether one interprets such accounts as contextual examples of the past or literal standing instructions to be presently obeyed will make all the difference. In Islam, it is a divine mandate to follow Muhammad. This implies that all acts by Muhammad including killing of non-Muslims is to be piously modelled. In the Muslim world, Shia Muslims seem more ready to subscribe to the calls to violence and their interpretation of Islam is probably the more fundamentalist of the two main sects. Thankfully, Shia Muslims are the minority in the Muslim world. Yet it should be noted that there is no lacking of fundamentalism in Sunni Islam. The fundamentalist eschew western principles of freedom and individualism and view the western culture as a corrupt evil influence upon the world. This isnt very unlike our Christian viewpoint of separation from worldliness. We should note that to the Muslim mind-set, culture and religion are virtually indivisible. Hence, many Muslims would equate western decadence with Christianity. Put it this way, it would not be a stretch for a Muslim to think that Christians need help and that Islam is the answer. In fact Muslims believe that Islam came to correct every other religion before it including Christianity. The Quran plainly names Christianity (and Judaism) as a false religion and identifies Christians and Jews as the enemies. Muslims reject the notion of Jesus as God and see Christianity as misguided and polytheistic. They believe that the Bible and Torah are corrupted and fraught with inaccuracy. However, it should be noted that the Quran recognises the Torah and The Gospel (a book written by Jesus Himself and not His disciples) as "Holy Books" but Muslims will quickly make the distinction that it is the "Â€Âœoriginals"Â€ that are mentioned in the Quran, not the Torah and the Gospel that shapes Judeo-Christian belief. Muslims assert that while some elements of the "Â€Âœoriginals"Â€ are contained within the Judeo-Christian texts they are corrupted versions of the now lost "Â€Âœoriginal"Â€ versions mention in the Quran. Essentially, this means Muslims can pick and choose whatever they want from the Bible and the Torah wherever it lines-up with the Quran but reject the rest. For example, Muslims will sometimes interpret Â€Âœ"The Comforter"Â€ promised by Jesus in the Bible as Â€Âœ"Muhammad"Â€ who fulfilled Jesus' promise. I apologise for giving you that uncomfortably opposing thought. As a Christian, every fibre of our being will scream against that. Although Muslims do believe in a person called Jesus, or "Â€ÂœIsa"Â€ in the Arabic language, this so called Isa is viewed only as a prophet in a long line of prophets. Some of us might think that the Muslim recognition of Jesus is a commonality to be celebrated but I doubt we would be as enthusiastic once we understand how Isa is a completely different person from the Jesus we know. The differences are not exactly minor details we can gloss over. While most Muslims are peaceful and seek cooperative integration with the secular world, the radical fundamentalist sees the world quite differently. The militant Islamist sees non-Muslims as infidels to be converted or failing that, exterminated. I think we have all seen (in news coverage) events of Islamist extremism being unleashed, not just within Muslim countries but onto the world with highly destabilising consequences. Radical fundamentalists within Muslim countries tend to be aggressive even towards other more moderate Muslims and even discriminate against Muslims sects other than their own. The radicals see themselves as custodians of the truth and regard the moderates as sell-outs. It is this extremism and radical fundamentalism we should be concerned about. We ought to be wary of radical militant Islam, yet we must separate that from the Muslim person - whom we are commanded to love. I have nothing against Muslims and I think it is important for us to have a balanced understanding of Islam (or anything for that matter). Any religious position that is taken to extremes is distorted and potentially dangerous. This holds true for any religion - Christianity included. Radical Islamic fundamentalism is really a manifestation of Â€Â˜religiosity, which is something also prevalent in Christian circles. At the very least, we ought to understand what the Muslims believe about god and who Jesus is to them. We may very well come across a Muslim sharing about Islam. Muslims probably make more effort at evangelism and spend more money on it than Christians. We ought to know how Islam sees certain things. Nominal and disgruntled Christians have been known to become confused and consequently convert to Islam. Testimonies of such converts stating to the effect that "Â€ÂœJesus led me to Islam"Â€ are not uncommon (seriously! Google it...). It is best we know our God and Jesus and how They are not portrayed as the same in Islam. Knowing this might give us a better perspective of how a Muslim might attempt to convert a Christian and at the same time hopefully better equip us to reach out, care and share to Muslims. Muslims, people of all races, cultures and religions are all part of Gods world - this world that we live in. If we are to follow our Greatest Commandments to love God and love people, we must learn to appreciate and accept diversity. However, that doesnt mean we have to remain ignorant or be in a state of denial about uncomfortable truths.
Yes you say most muslims are peaceful and there are radical sects, but they seem to be the ones who speak out and control or have power among the muslim religion. Those peaceful muslims will go along with the extreme ones because as you stated violence is okay against non-muslims especially christians. So, I would be weary of any muslim group, just because they (peaceful ones) don't do anything, it still is a law so to speak from them to do it. Now on the other hand, yes I would be friendly towards them and try to presuade them in the christianity view ( basically preach the gospel and such). But lets not think that these peaceful muslims are good people and leave them alone and let them have their community. They will be wolves among us in sheep clothing.
back, Brother doulos! Your wisdom has been missed.
This is an outstanding blog. You've again done a fantastic job of putting things into perspective. Thank you.
Something I might add: Here in the USA, we talk about our legal system being based on Judeo-Christian values. We generally, as either Christians or those who accept the true history of our founding, accept that.
It should, therefore, be no surprise that countries with a long Islamic history and population should have their laws based on Islamic/Sharia principles. In those countries they would view the foundations of our legal and cultural systems to be just as "odd" as we view theirs.
Thanks for sharing this in depth study of Islam, Brother Doulos! Very informative and eye-openning! ! God Bless you mightily!
Moderate or radical, all Muslims need Yeshua/Jesus, just like the rest of us.
Muslims in the U.S. are often friendly & law-abiding, but Muslims in Muslim run nations are often violent persecutors of the followers of Yeshua/Jesus. We all need to pray for them.
Good to hear from you, Sia! It has been awhile!
Thank you for sharing this blog. It is important for us to "know" the world in which we live. For the past few years I've been learning more about Islam and have been alarmed at statements frequently made in America that Christianity, Islam and Judaism are basically "the same thing"!
Muslims who dare to become Christians often do so knowing that they could lose their jobs, homes, family and even their lives.
I cannot help but ask myself... if I were in the same situation, would I choose Christ...
May we be willing to follow Jesus... no matter what...