World Religions: Islam

Islam has many adherents.  It is the second largest of the five major religions.  There are about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and about 2.2 billion adherents to Christianity (Largest Religion in the World, worldatlas.com).  There are nearly 3.5 million Muslims living in the U.S.A. (A new estimate of U.S. Muslim population – Pew Research Center 2018/01/03, pewresearch-org.cdn.amproject.org).  It is the third largest religion in the U.S.A. (Religion in the United States, Wikipedia.org).

The word “Islam” is the name of the religion.  It means “submission.”  It refers to submission to Allah (Lit. The God).  Robert Morey suggests, “The word ‘Islam’ did not originally mean ‘submission,’ as many people have supposed.  Instead, it referred to that strength, which characterized a desert warrior who, even when faced with impossible odds, would fight to the death for his tribe.  The word ‘Islam’ only slowly developed into meaning ‘submission’” (Morey, The Islamic Invasion, p. 37).  Regardless of etymology, the word “Islam” seems to be used for submission to Allah.

The word “Muslim” is the word for an adherent to Islam.  It means “one who submits.”  It refers to one who submits to Allah.

History

Let’s begin with Muhammad.  Muslims consider him to be the greatest and last prophet of Allah [The Quran mentions 25 prophets by name: Adam; Idris (Enoch); Nuh (Noah); Hud (Eber); Saleh (Salah); Ibrahim (Abraham); Lut (Lot); Ismail (Ishmael); Ishaq (Isaac); Yaqub (Jacob); Yusuf (Joseph); Ayub (Job); Shuayb (Jethro); Musa (Moses); Haran (Aaron); Dawud (David); Sulayman (Solomon); Ilyas (Elijah); Al-Yasa (Elisha); Yunus (Jonah); Dhul-kifl (Ezekiel); Zakariya (Zechariah); Yahya (John the baptist); Isa (Jesus); and Muhammad (Who Are the Prophets of Islam?, Wikipedia.org)].

Early Life

Muhammad ibn Abdallah was born in Mecca, Arabia, in c. 570 A.D..  His father died before he was born.  His mother died when he was six.  He was cared for by his paternal grandfather, for two years.  Then, his grandfather died.  He would be reared by his paternal uncle Abu Talib.  His uncle was a merchant and trader.  Muhammad would accompany his uncle on journeys to Syria and other places.  Muhammad learned this business.

Young Man

Muhammad developed a reputation as reliable and trustworthy in business.  He was hired as chief merchant by Khadija, a wealthy widow, for her business.  In time, she grew to love him.  She proposed marriage and he accepted.  She was forty years old, and he was twenty-five.  She would be Muhammad’s only wife until her death 25 years later (Not until after her death did he become polygamous).  The had six children together, two sons, who died young, and four daughters.

The Prophet

When Muhammad was forty years old (c. 610 A.D.), during the month of Ramadan, in a cave on Mount Hira, it is said that he received his first vision (Surah 96).  His visions were occasionally accompanied by seizures (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 12, p. 606 c. 1979; Robert Morey, The Islamic Invasion, pp. 71-72).  “Muhammad was at first unsure of the source of these visions, whether divine or demonic.  His wife, Khadijah encouraged him to believe that they were from God (Josh McDowell & Don Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, p. 379).  Revelation would continue to come until the year of his death (632 A.D.).  These revelations were written down by scribes, forming what we now have in written form, The Quran (the recitation).  At least this is the traditional understanding (there are those who now question this origin of the Quran.  Dr. Jay Smith of England is an example).

Muhammad at first shared his revelation with family (cf. Surah 26:214).  Early adherents were his wife, Khadijah, his cousin and who was reared by Muhammad, Ali, his servant, Zeyd, and close friend Abu Bakr.

Then in about 613 A.D. he began to publicly proclaim these revelations (cf. Surah 74:2).  This gained him some adherents to Islam.  The names of the seventy are known (Britannica, p. 606).  However, it also brought opposition.  Dave Miller has written, “The cornerstone feature of his message was the condemnation of the idolatry that dominated Arab culture and, in contrast, the affirmation of one God… Muhammad found himself in direct conflict with the economic interests of his mother tribe, the Quraysh.  As the ruling tribe of Mecca, the people of the Quraysh were the guardians of the Ka’bah, the holy place to which all Arabians made pilgrimage in the worship of the pagan deities” (Miller, The Quran Unveiled, p. 7).  At least 360 were represented at the Kabah (Robert Morey, The Islamic Invasion, p. 40).  As opposition grew, Muslims began to emigrate to Ethiopia and to Yathrib (now Medina), Arabia.  Some in Yathrib had already accepted Islam.  When Muhammad was fifty-two years old, he escaped a murderous plot and fled to Yathrib, 200 miles to the north.  This flight (Hegira) took place on July 16, 622 A.D.  It marks the beginning date on the Muslim calendar (2018 A.D. 1439 A.H./1440 A.H. Anno Hegirae – in the year of Hegira.  This is due to Islam’s calendar consisting of being shorter, consisting of 354 or 355 days).

In Yathrib (Medina).  Muhammad converted many to Islam.  He expelled others (two groups of Jews: Qaynuga and Nadir).  Others were executed or enslaved (a group of Jews: Qurayza).  Muslims claim that these Jews were treasonous and plotting against him. Muslims also began to go on raids (razzias) on caravans.  “In January 624, a small band of men were sent… to Nakhlah… and attacked a caravan from Yemen… In March 624, he (Muhammad – B.H.) was able to lead 315 men on razzia to attack a wealthy Meccan caravan returning from Syria” (Britannica, p. 607).  Angels are said to have aided them in this victory (Surah 3:123-125).

Return to Mecca

Muhammad “Marched on Mecca in January 630 with 10,000 men.  Abu Sufyan and other leading Meccans went out to meet him and formally submitted, and Muhammad promised a general amnesty.  When he entered Mecca there was virtually no resistance.  Two Muslims and 28 of the enemy were killed… Idols were destroyed in the Ka’bah and in some small shrines in the neighborhood.  To relieve the poorest among his followers, he demanded loans from some wealthy merchants” (Britannica, p. 608).

Muhammad died on June 8, 632 A.D..  He was about 62 years old.  He had united most of Arabia under his leadership.

Muslims would go on to conquer many lands. Islamic territory stretched “from the borders of China and the Indian subcontinent, across Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of “Europe (Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula to the Pyrenees)” by the mid-8th century A.D.  Three options seems to be offered to unbelievers: (1) Accept Islam; (2) Pay the jizya (poll tax on non-Muslims); (3) War (Surah 9:29; Also Tafsir Ibn Kathir Vol. 8, p. 668 quoted in The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam by Robert Spencer, p. 37).

Beliefs and Practices

1. Five Major Articles of Faith or Iman (cf. Surah 2:285).

(1)  Belief in Allah.  There is only one true God, and His name is Allah.  He alone is worthy of worship.

(2)  Belief in Allah’s angels.  Allah created the angels.  They are his servants.  They are  sent by Him to help His prophets and followers.  Each man and woman has two recording angels – one recording his good deeds, and one recording his bad deeds.

(3)  Belief in Allah’s books.  There are four inspired books in Islam: The Tawrat (Torah) given to Moses; The Zabur (Psalms) given to David; The Injil (Gospel) given to Jesus; and the Quran given to Mohammad.  Muslims believe that the first three have been corrupted by Jews and Christians.  Any place where the first three books contradict the Quran, it is said to be due to corruption of the text of these first three books and not due to any error in the Quran.  Robert Morey has written, “While it is easy to say that the text of the Bible is corrupt, it is another thing to prove it… when I ask for some kind of proof that the Hebrew or Greek text is corrupt, they respond by saying, ‘I do not have to prove it is corrupt.  It has to be corrupt, otherwise it would agree with the holy Quran’” (Morey, The Islamic Invasion, p. 135).

 (4) Belief in Allah’s prophets.  The six greatest are: Adam; Noah; Abraham; Moses; Jesus; and Mohammad.  Mohammad is considered the greatest and last prophet.

(5)  Belief in the last day, the day of resurrection and judgment.  All men will be raised.  The books kept by recording angels will be opened.  Each man’s deeds will be weighed. Some will go to Jannah (lit. garden, paradise; i.e. heaven).  There are many levels to Jannah.  Many will go to Jahannam (from Hebrew Gehenna; i.e. hell).  There are seen different gates leading to different punishments on different people.  Some believe that for some (Muslims) Jahannam will not be eternal, but more like Catholic Purgatory (info on Articles of Faith see: McDowell & Stewart, Handbook of Today’s Religions, pp. 389-390; The Articles of Faith, Islamweb.net; The 6 Articles of Iman, discoveringislam.org).

2. Five Pillars of Islam (arkan al-Islam).

(1)  The profession of faith (The Shahada or Kalima).  “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet.”  One must publicly state this to become a Muslim [Related Quran passages – Surah 2:163, 225; 20:14; 33:40; 112:1].

(2)  Prayer (Salat).  Muslims are to pray five times per day (upon rising or dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, dusk, before retiring or night).  Prescribed prayers are to be recited in Arabic facing the Kabah in Mecca. [Related Quran passages – Surah 2:139-158, 238; 11:114; 33:42].

(3) Almsgiving (Zakat).  Muslims are to give 2 ½ % of their income to the needy, orphans, and widows [Related Quran passages – Surah 2:43; 110, 227; 9:18; 22:14].

(4)  Fasting (Saum).  Muslims are expected to fast, consuming no food or drink from dawn to dusk each day, during the month of Ramadan (the month Muhammad received the first revelation of the Quran).  There is an exception for the ill.  Some also make exceptions for the elderly and the pregnant.  [Related Quran passages – Surah 2:183-185].  It is worth nothing that there has been found, in certain parts of the world, a 20% increase of a child’s likelihood of having visual, hearing, or learning disabilities if born during the month of Ramadan.  This pattern exists in Southeastern Uganda and even some parts of Michigan (Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Super Freakonomics, p. 57-ff).

(5)  Pilgrimage (Hajj).  Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life, if possible [Related Quran passage – Surah 2:169].  (Info on Pillars of Islam – See: McDowell & Stewart Handbook of Today’s Religions, pp. 390-391; Pillars of Islam, islamicity.com; The Five Pillars of Islam, Khanacademy.org).

3. Other beliefs

a. Muslims do not believe that Jesus was begotten by God (Surah 112). They do not believe that Jesus was (is) the Son of God (Surah 4:171-f; 6:101; 9:30; 10:68; 18:1-ff; 19:88; 43:72-82, etc.).  Though the virgin birth is implied (Surah 3:47).

b. Muslims do not believe in the deity of Jesus (Surah 4:171-f; 5:70-75, 114-ff).

c. Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion of Jesus (Surah 4:157-158).

d.   Many believe in the doctrine of abrogation (naskh), wherein later Surahs (chapters) have precedence over earlier Surahs (cf. Surah 2:106).  For example: warfare (Surah 8:39; 9:29) is believed by some to have precedence over no compulsion in religion (Surah 2:256).  [Mecca: 96, 68, 73, 74, 1,  111, 81, 87, 92, 89, 93, 94, 103, 100, 108, 102, 107, 109, 105, 113, 114, 112, 53, 80, 97, 91, 85, 95, 106, 101, 75, 104, 77, 50, 90, 86, 54, 38, 7, 72, 36, 25, 35, 19, 20, 56, 26, 27, 28, 17, 19, 11, 12, 15, 6, 37, 31, 34, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 51, 88, 18, 16, 71, 14, 21, 23, 32, 52, 67, 69, 70, 78, 79, 82, 84, 30, 29, 83; Medina: 2, 8, 3, 33, 60, 4, 99, 57, 47, 13, 55, 76, 65, 98, 59, 24, 22, 63, 58, 49, 66, 64, 61, 62, 48, 5, 9, 110. Chronological order from The Quran verses in Chronological order, Qran.org].

Types of Islam

1.  Sunni. The Sunni branch comprises 87-90% of the Muslim world (Sunni Islam, Wikipedia.org).  Sunnis believe that Mohammad did not clearly designate a successor.  The Muslim community elected Abu Bakr as the first Caliph (successor).  The Sunnis believe that the Caliph is to guard, not continue, revelation (Article: Gary Brantley, Major Divisions of Islam).

“Within thirty years of Mohammad’s death four Caliphs were appointed in succession: Abu Bakr (632-634), Umar (634-644), Uthman (644-656), and Ali (656-661).  Sunnis regard these first Islamic leaders as ‘the four rightly guided Caliphs,’ since they lived close to Mohammad.  Sunnis believe that the Sunna (behavior or practice) of these four Caliphs, together with The Prophet’s, is authoritative for all Muslims.  The Sunnis derive the name from this emphasis on Sunna (Brantley).

2.  Shia. The Shia branch compromises 10-13% of Muslims (Islamic Schools of Branches, Wikipedia.org).  They are the majority in Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, and possible Yemen (Sunnis and Shia: Islam’s Ancient Schism, BBC.com).  Shias believe that Mohammad designated Ali, the fourth Caliph above, to be his successor and Imam (leader).  Ali was Muhammad’s first cousin, closest living male relative, reared by Muhammad, and son-in-law.  Shias believe that Ali and his descendants are the legitimate successors.  Furthermore, “Shi’ites differ with Sunnis regarding the authority of the Caliph.  Unlike Sunnis, Shi’ite Muslims believe that the Islamic leader, whom they call imam is more than merely a guardian of Mohammad’s prophetic legacy.  Rather, Mohammad bequeathed ‘Ali with his wilaya (i.e. his ‘spiritual abilities’), enabling him to interpret the Quran and to lead the Islamic community infallibly” (Brantley).  “The word ‘Shi’ite’ means ‘partisan’ and indicates that Shi’ites are partisans of ‘Ali’” (Brantley).

3.  Sufi. This may be thought of as more of a movement in Islam, than a sect (Brantley).  The majority of Sufis are Sunnis (Sufism, Wikipedia.org).  “Reacting to the externally oriented, and legalistic disposition of the Islamic religious system, Sufis seek a mystical experience of God.  The word Sufism usually is translated ‘Mysticism,’ and reflects this emphasis in a personal religious experience” (Brantley).  Some Sufis whirl is circles as a meditation practice.  Asceticism is practiced by some.

4.  Ahmadiyya.  This branch of Islam numbers between 10-20 million (What Are The Ahmadiyya Beliefs?  Worldatlas.com).  They are very active on university campuses.  The believe in jihad by pen, not jihad by sword (Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, alislam.org).  They believe in separation of Mosque and State (alislam.org).  They believe that Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadiam was the metaphorical second coming of Jesus (alislam.org).  “Ahmadi teachings state that all major world religions had divine origins and were part of the divine plan toward the establishment of Islam as the final religion, because it was the most complete and perfected the previous teachings of other religions (Ahmadiyya was the most complete and perfected the previous teachings of other religions (Ahmadiyya, Wikipedia.org).

5.  Ibadi. This branch of Islam numbers about 3 million and is found mainly in Oman (The Major Branches of Islam, worldatlas.com).  The name is derived from Abadallah ibn Ibad.  They tend to be tolerant of other religions (Ibadism, The Roots of a Tolerant Sect of Islam, fanack.com).  Unlike the Sunni and Shia, they believe that the Muslim Community can rule itself without a single leader (worldatlas.com).

6. The Nation of Islam (NOI).  Membership numbers between an estimated 10 – 50 thousand  (Nation of Islam, Britannica.com).  They have called for a separate black nation to be carved out of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi (Britannica.com).  They are highly unorthodox in their views.  “W.D. Fard Muhammad is the God of the Black Muslim.  He is known to his followers as ‘Allah (God) in the person of Master W.F. Muhammed, to whom all praise is due, the Great Mahdi or Messiah… Allah come to us from the Holy City, Mecca, on July 4, 1930’… Muhammad’s followers pray to him and implore his help in everything” (Britannica, Vol. 2, p. 1094 © 1979).  Louis Farrakhan, since 2010, has strongly encouraged NOI members to study Dianetics and to undergo auditing from the church of Scientology (Nation of Islam, Wikipedia; The Troubling Connections Between Scientology and the Nation of Islam by Bethany Mandel, nationalreview.com; The Mothership of All Alliances by Eliza Gray, newrepublic.com).

These are only a few of the many dozen of sects in Islam. It is not Christianity alone, that is divided.

Thoughts

The Quran recognizes the authority of the Bible (Surah 5:46-47, 68; 6:48).  Muslims today, claim that the Bible has been corrupted.  The burden of proof is on them.  Can man change God’s word? (Surah 18:27).

According to the Quran, Jesus provided signs, miraculous evidence (Surah 5:114; 19:29-f; 61:1-8).  The Quran seems to deny such evidence was given by Mohammad (Surah 29:46 cf. 17:90-91).  Why should one accept the word of Mohammad?

The New Testament seems complete (John 16:13; Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Peter 1:3; Jude 3).  Why would we need additional revelation?

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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