Islam, 9-11, And You

Islam, 9-11, and you

Dr. Jim Denison

History

Islam was founded by Muhammad (A.D. 570-632), in the midst of religious pluralism, idolatry, and division among his Arab people in Mecca and the Arabian peninsula.

Muhammad’s hatred of idols led him to place an immense emphasis on the unity and transcendence of God. Islamic theology thus holds that God is too highly exalted to enter into any kind of relationship–he reveals only his will to us. Even in paradise, people will not know God as he is.

Muhammad’s day was characterized by tribal warfare, brutality, and promiscuity; he thus emphasized divine control, and opposed religious liberty and separation of church and state. Since Allah is Lord, he must be Lord of all. Thus Muhammad created a civilization, not merely a religion–a way of life for all people, governing personal autonomy and all morality. Islam attempts to provide the answers to every conceivable detail of belief and daily life.

The religion of the day was extremely complex and polytheistic; thus Muhammad constructed a faith which emphasizes simplicity. There is only one central idea: there is but one God, who is Maker and Absolute Controller of all things and people.

Sunnis and Shiites

Muhammad left no designated heirs. The “caliphs” (Arabic for “successors”) continued his movement, led first by Abu Bekr.

Soon, however, divisions began to emerge. Most Muslims followed the caliphs and their successors; these are known as Sunni’s today. But some believed that only the fourth caliph (Muhammad’s son-in-law) was the true successor Muhammad, and have supported his successors; they are the Shiites. 90% of Muslims are Sunnis; 10% are Shiites, living primarily in Iran.

Beliefs

Islam means “peace” or “surrender.” Muslims worship Allah, the Arabic name for “God.” It views mankind as free yet under the sovereignty of Allah. The Koran is the central focus of Islam. “Koran” means “the reading.”

View of God and ultimate reality: all reality is grounded ultimately in the one sovereign personal being of God who has created the world–Allah.

View of mankind: freedom, overshadowed by the sovereignty of God.

Central focus: the Koran, as Allah gave it through Muhammad. It was given over a period of 23 years in the Arabic language, and contains 114 Surahs (chapters) and 6236 verses.

In addition to the Koran, the Hadith (a collection of the “sayings” of Muhammad) and the Sunna (the record of the personal customs of Muhammad and his community) give guidance for Muslim life. But the Koran is the only divine revelation.

Salvation: “Islam” means “peace” or “surrender.” Salvation in this faith involves our submission to the sovereign will of God, along with an almost dominating emphasis on the necessity of good works. These words are detailed in the “five pillars of Islam,” found in the Koran:

The “witness” (“shahadah“): “La ilaha illal lah Muhammadur rasulul lah”–“There is no god but Allah, Muhammad is Allah’s messenger.” Every Muslim must declare this aloud at least once in his life very slowly, with deep meaning and full commitment; most Muslims repeat it many times each day.

Prayer (“salah“): with directed motions, five times a day, facing toward Mecca, the holy city.

Almsgiving (“zakah“): approximately 2 1/2% of all one’s income and permanent annual worth, to the poor. This is an act of worship.

Fasting (“sawm“): especially during the month of Ramadan, which commemorates the giving of the Koran. From dawn to sunset every day of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, a Muslim refrains from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual relations.

Pilgrimage (“hajj”): to Mecca at least once from every believer who is physically and financially able to make the journey.

In addition, jihad (“holy war”) can be declared the unequivocal religious duty of the Muslim man, as the will of God.

Note that strict morality is a hallmark of Muslims. They obey strong prohibitions against drinking wine, eating pork, gambling, and practicing usury. They invoke the name of Allah at the slaughter of all animals. They also require a specific dress code: men–covering from navel to knees; women–covering of whole body except face and hands, with women above the age of puberty required to cover their face while going out and meeting strangers; pure silk and gold not allowed for men; prohibition of women’s clothes for men and vice versa; symbolic dress of other religions is not allowed.

Final destiny: a final day of judgment, consummation of history, and the assigning of heaven and hell to all persons on the basis of their acceptance or rejection of the message of God and their accompanying good works.

Allah is depicted as weighing the good and bad works on a delicate scale of balance which is accurate even to the weight of a grain of mustard seed (Koran 7:5-8; 21:48; 23:103-5; 101:6-8).

Those in heaven will be rewarded with sensual pleasure; those in hell will live forever in unspeakable pain.

Growth

Islam’s spread worldwide has been the fastest of any religion in history. Within a single decade, A.D. 622-632, Muhammad united the nomadic tribes of the Arabian peninsula into a single cohesive nation, gave them a monotheistic religion in place of their polytheistic, tribal faiths, organized a powerful society and state, and launched his world-wide movement.

Muhammad died in 632 and was succeeded by Abu Bekr. Under his reign and afterward Islam continued to spread, promoted by extensive military campaigns.

Within a century after the death of Muhammad, the Islamic empire stretched from Arabia west through North Africa, to Southern France and Spain; also north of Arabia through the Middle East and east throughout Central Asia, to the borders of China. In the process, Islamic expansion took in much of the oldest and strongest Christian territory.

The spread of Islam in western Europe was finally checked by Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours (in France) in A.D. 732, exactly a century after the death of Muhammad. Spain was later reclaimed for Christianity, but a wide belt of territory from Morocco to Pakistan and Indonesia remained Muslim, and has so to this day.