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Taking The Mystery Out Of Muslims

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1 John 4:1-4:3 “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world


Taking The Mystery Out Of Muslims

Since September 11, 2001 all of us have become very aware of the world religion called Islam. Words like jihad, ayatollah, martyr, and Allah are commonly heard on TV, radio and talked about in American households. The question is, "Who are the Muslims?"

The term "Islam" means "submission" to the will of God. The person who submits is called a "Muslim," or a submitted one. Today, Islam is the second largest and fastest-growing religion in the world. It claims to have 1.2 billion followers, (one out of every five people) or about 20% of the world's population. In comparison, all of Christianity, with all its denominations, has about 1.8 billion followers. A United Nations demographic report forecasts Muslims will represent at least half of the global birthrate after the year 2055.

Although Islam was born in Arabia, today most Muslims are not of Arab descent. Indonesia has 172 million Muslims, 83% of its population; Pakistan has 137 million Muslims, 97% of its population; Bangladesh has 107 million Muslims, 87% of its population; India has 138 million Muslims, 14% of its population. Islam is the second largest religion in Europe (over 12 million) and if it had not been for Charles Martel, who defeated the Muslim armies at the Battle of Tours (France) in 732, possibly all of Europe would have fallen to Islam. According to Muslim leaders, there are more than 6 million Muslims in the United States , a little less than half the size of our nation's largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, which has 15 million followers. An October 8, 1990 article in the U.S. News And World Report stated that Islam is growing at a rate of 400% per year in the U.S.A. Muslims are found in all 50 states with the greatest concentrations in California, the Northeast and Midwest. The oldest mosque in the U.S. was built in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in 1934 and is still in use. Today there are over 3,000 mosques in the U.S. with new ones being built every week. In all, over 65 nations in the world today are Islamic.

Islam is the world's youngest major world religion that came into existence 1400 years ago. It claims, however, to be the restoration of original monotheism and truth and thus claims to supersede both Judaism and Christianity.


The PROPHET of Islam

Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is believed by Muslims to be the last and greatest prophet of God. He was a native of Mecca the site of a sacred shrine "the Kabah" which was the center of idol worship in his day and time. They had 360 gods and the Moon-god was their chief deity. The Kabah contained a black stone (probably a meteorite) which is still regarded as a holy object by Muslims today. At the age of 25, Muhammad married his 40 year old, wealthy, widowed employer. His newfound wealth allowed him the leisure pursue his interest in religion. Each year he spent the month of Ramadan in a cave meditating. Eventually, he became disgusted with the idolatry that had permeated his society and attempted to rid Arabia of all idol worship. The Arabian tribes disliked this and, as a result, forced him to leave Mecca after preaching against idolatry in that city. He then fled to Medina on July 16, 622 to establish his Muslim community. This date also marks the beginning of the Muslim calendar. At first the people there welcomed him, but eventually they too turned against him. As a result, Mohammed gathered an army and conquered the surrounding tribes and forced them to accept his religion at sword point. From its inception, Islam was an aggressive religion. This spirit of conquering and converting eventually led to the idea of jihad or "holy war" which was the primary means of the spread of Islam in its early years.

At the time of his death in 632 A.D., all of Arabia was under Mohammad's control and ruled by the teaching of Islam. In only 100 years after his death, Islam had spread throughout Northern Africa and the Middle East; eventually it conquered Spain , Turkey , India and also part of China .


The PILLARS of Islam

Islam is primarily a religion built upon human effort or works. The most important works or duties that are acknowledged by Muslims can be summed up in what are commonly referred to as the "Five Pillars of Islam."

1. The duty of the CREED - The first duty of every Muslim is to "bear witness" which is done by sincerely reciting their creed before at least two witnesses in order to become a Muslim. A faithful Muslim will repeat this creed constantly thereafter. The Muslim creed consists of these words: "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His messenger."

2. The duty of PRAYER - All Muslims submit to a very rigorous prayer regimen on a daily basis. Five times a day Muslims respond to the call to pray. No matter where they might be, Muslims face toward Mecca, place their forehead on the ground and then recite prescribed prayers. They do this at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, dusk and two hours after sunset. Then every Friday, they are required to meet in the Mosque to pray and hear a sermon. Muslims are required to say up to 17 ritualistic and repetitious prayers every day. These prayers involve confession of sins which begins with the purification of the body and ends in the purification of the soul.

3. The duty to FAST - During the Islamic month of Ramadan (the ninth lunar month of the Islamic year) Muslims commemorate Muhammad's receiving of the Qur'an by abstaining from foods, liquids, and sexual intercourse during daylight hours. They are allowed to partake of these though from sunset to sunrise during this time.

4. The duty to give ALMS - Muslims are required to give 2.5% (one-fortieth) of their income to the poor and needy.

5. The duty of the PILGRIMAGE - Every Muslim is expected to make a trip to Mecca at least once in their lifetime, provided they are physically and financially able to do so. Those who are unable to do so personally, may perform this duty by proxy.

Recently there has been much said about the Islamic jihad which literally means "struggle." Some say that the jihad is a sixth pillar of Islam and one that is looked upon differently by the various factions in this religion. For instance, extremists interpret jihad as literal warfare against non-Muslims, and believe that Muslims who die in a holy war are assured of a place in paradise. Moderates suggest that the jihad refers to specific battles mentioned in the Qur'an fought by Muhammad against his enemies (non-Muslims) and should not be applied universally or taken literally for today. They say that jihad can apply to leading a virtuous life, helping other Muslims through charity, education, or other means; preaching Islam; and fighting to defend Muslims.

When asked if the Islamic jihad refers to a "holy war" Muslims living in the West frequently quote the Qur'an in Surah 2:256 which says, "There is no compulsion in religion." However, the last ten years of Muhammad's life was lived in almost constant warfare converting people to Islam and also the Qur'an condones violence and contains many violent statements towards those who are not Muslim. For instance:

Surah 2:216, "Fighting is enjoined on you, and it is an object of dislike to you; and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know."


The SCRIPTURES of Islam

As Christians, we believe that the Bible - both Old and New Testaments - is our authoritative book from God. We believe it is the Word of God. For Muslims though, the only authoritative uncorrupted revelation from God is the Qur'an (Koran) which is considered God's most recent and final work that supercedes all others.

The word Qur'an means "recitations" which is based on the angel Gabriel supposedly instructing Muhammad to recite the revelations he received. In length, the Qur'an is slightly shorter than the New Testament (four-fifths its length) and contains 114 chapters called Surahs. Eighty-six of the chapters were revealed during the time Muhammad was in Mecca and 28 while he was in Medina. Each chapter is divided into verses (ayat). The surahs are not placed in any type of chronological or logical order. They are generally arranged according to their length with the exception of the first one, which functions more as a short introductory prayer. Muslims dare not touch this sacred book without first being washed and purified. Neither do they ever hold it below their waist. They carry it to war, write sentences from it on their banners, tie it around their neck as a charm, and always put it on the highest shelf or some other place of honor in their homes. For Muslims, the Qur'an is considered the inspired word of God.

In Surah 10:37 it says, "And this Qur'an is not such as could be produced by those besides Allah..."

Also in Surah 17:88 it states, "If the whole of mankind and jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur'an, they could not produce the life thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support."

Another very important book for Muslims is the Hadith (tradition) which is a collection of the sayings and actions of Muhammad. These sayings also called sunna (custom) cover nearly ever aspect of life. When Muhammad died, Muslims were convinced that God's revelations to the world were completed.

In Surah 5:4 it says, "This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion."

Muslims also believe that the Torah of Moses (Pentateuch, first five books of the Old Testament), the Psalms of David, and the Gospels given to Jesus are all holy books,but that all of them have been corrupted by Christians and Jews to the point that they are not fully reliable.

Surah 2:75 says, "...and a party from among them indeed used to hear the Word of Allah, then altered it after they had understood it, and they know this."

Surah 3:71 says, "O followers of the Book! Why do you confound the truth with the falsehood and hide the truth while you know?"


How the Qur'an was written?

In Surah 7:157 Muhammad referred to himself as "the Prophet who can neither read not write." According to Islamic tradition, different fragments of the Qur'an were revealed to Muhammad verbatim by the angel Gabriel over a period of 23 years (Surah 25:32; 17:106). After each occasion, Muhammad recited these words to those present. Many of Muhammad's devout followers memorized these portions as they were revealed. In Surah 73:1-7 we are told that Muhammad's scribes wrote these revelations on "pieces of paper, stones, palm-leaves, shoulder blades, ribs and bits of leather." Other parts of the Qur'an are based on Muhammad's teachings which were written from memory by his followers after Muhammad's death.

One of the hallmarks of Islam is the belief that the Qur'an is a miracle from God because no error, alteration, or variation has touched it since its inception. However, history indicates that there were several differing texts before the final copy was delivered to the Muslim people.

About one year after Muhammad's death, many of those who could recite the Qur'an by memory had been killed in various battles. As a result, Omar, the second caliph (successor) of Islam, ordered the compiling of the Qur'an because he feared that the knowledge of it might fade away.

Some time later, it was discovered that several Muslim communities were using different versions of the Qur'an. Fearing that this might lead to doctrinal confusion, Othman, the third Muslim caliph, ordered the Qur'an edited which resulted in the official revised version of the Qur'an. Several copies of this newly revised Qur'an were sent to each major center in the Islamic empire and all the other copies of the Qur'an were recalled and burned. This version of the Qur'an has basically remained the same to this day with the exception of the infamous "Satanic Verses". As a result of the people of Muhammad's own tribe rejecting his new revelations, he gave in to their pressure and said it was okay for them to worship the three daughters of Allah - named Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat. This was to appease Muhammad's people. Eventually these verses were deleted from the Qur'an when Muhammad reverted back to monotheism. You may remember that in 1989 an Indian writer named Salman Rushdie brought up this forbidden topic when he wrote his novel The Satanic Verses. As a result, the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran condemned him and called for his assassination. A $3 million bounty was placed on his head, and he has been hiding ever since.


What if you disagree?

Socrates once said that "the unexamined life is not worth living." That philosophy can also be applied to what we believe. Norman Geisler in Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross, p. 10 says, "The unexamined faith is not worth living."

Acts 17:11, "The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God's message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true." (GW)

Muslims are discouraged from asking questions about their faith.

Surah 5:101-102, "O ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. Some people before you did ask such questions, and on that account lost their faith."

Muslims believe that asking questions about Islam can cause you to lose your faith in Islam. Generally, when someone has something to hide, they don't want you to ask questions.

An Islamic commentator on the Qur'an warned Muslims, "The Holy Prophet himself forbade people to ask questions– so do not try to probe into such things." (Maududi, The Meaning of the Qur'an, Vol. 3 pp. 76-77)

What Do Muslims Believe?

As Christians there are several doctrines that we share in common with Muslims. For instance, we believe in a resurrection, the final judgment of God as well as hell and so do they. We believe in angels and so do they. We believe in Satan and so do they. We believe in heaven and so do they (although it is usually called the Gardens of Felicity").

However, there are some major doctrines that are distinctive to Islam that we do not have in common.

• What Muslims believe about the BIBLE

2 Peter 1:21, "For no prophecy ever came from human initiative. When people spoke for God it was the Holy Spirit that moved them." (NJB)

As Christians we believe that the Bible is accurate and without error because it was inspired by the Holy Spirit and not by man. That being the case, the Bible is without error or contradiction. Muslims on the other hand view the Bible as being corrupted. They do not believe that the New Testament contains the actual words of Jesus, but rather other people's words about Jesus. Therefore they believe Jesus' words have been corrupted.

On the other hand, Muslims believe the Qur'an is God's Word. It is important to emphasize this point because if the Qur'an is the word of God then it should not contain any errors and it should hold true for all times. However, such is not the case.

Surah 4:82, "Do they not consider the Qur'an (with care)? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy."

If the Qur'an contradicts what the Bible says, Muslims believe the Qur'an. But the dilemma is that the Qur'an in Surah 2:136 claims to believe in, continue and not contradict the Bible. But does it?

• The Bible says that God created in 6 days, but the Qur'an says that He created in 8 days (Surah 41:9-12). The Qur'an even contradicts itself on this point and says in Surah 10:3 that it was done in 6 days.

• The Bible says that all of Noah's sons got onto the Ark, but the Qur'an says that one son was left behind(Surah 11:32-48).

• The Bible says that Abraham's father's was Terah, but the Qur'an says that his name was Azar (Surah 6:74).

• The Bible says that Abraham was going to going to sacrifice Isaac, but the Qur'an says that he was going to sacrifice Ishmael(Surah 37:100-112).

• The Bible says that Abraham had 8 sons, but the Qur'an says that he only had 2 sons (Surah 37:100-112).

• The Bible says that Joseph was bought by Potiphar, but the Qur'an says that he was bought by a person named Aziz (Surah 12:21).

• The Bible says Jesus was born in a stable, but the Qur'an says He was born under a palm tree (Surah 19:22-25).

• The Bible says that Zacharias was not able to speak for several months, until John the Baptist was born, but the Quran says that it was only for 3 nights (Surah 19:10).

Another contradiction found in the Qur'an is the way that Muhammad received his calling from Allah. In the Qur'an there are four versions of his calling, all happening in a distinctly different way. (Surah 53:2-18; 81:19-24; 16:102; 26:192-194; 15:8; 2:97)


• What Muslims believe about GOD

Upon a careful examination of the Qur'an it becomes clear that Muhammad had some serious misconceptions about the teachings of Christianity. He thought that Christians worshiped three Gods - the Father, the Mother (Mary) and the Son.

Surah 5:116, "And when Allah will say: O Isa son of Marium! did you say to men, Take me and my mother for two gods, besides Allah, he will say: Glory be to Thee, it did not befit me that I should say what I had not right to say..."

As Christians, we believe that there is one God and He is a Trinity consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all three being co-equal and co-eternal persons. In other words, God is one in being, but exists in three persons.

• The truth of the Trinity can be seen in the OLD TESTAMENT in that God speaks of Himself as "we" (Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7; Isaiah 6:8).

• The truth of the Trinity can be seen in the NEW TESTAMENT in baptism (Matthew 28:19), at the birth and baptism of Jesus (Luke 1:35; Mark 1:10-11), in Paul's prayer (2 Corinthians 13:14), and in Jesus' prayer (John 14:16-17).

• The truth of the Trinity can also be seen in the BIBLE in that all three are called God (John 6:27; John 20:28; Acts 5:3-9).

Muslims believe that Allah is their God. The word Allah was derived from al-ilah which had become a generic title for whatever god was considered the highest of all their gods at the time. During the days of Muhammad, each Arab tribe used the word Allah to refer to its own particular high god. Before Islam began, the Moon god was the central focus of prayer and worship at the Kabah. In fact, it was the chief of the 360 different gods being worshiped in Arabia at the time.

The Arab tribe into which Muhammad was born was particularly devoted to Allah the Moon god. Muhammad's father's name was abd-Allah and his uncle's name was Obied-Allah. These names reveal the personal devotion that Muhammad's family had towards the worship of Allah, the Moon god.

When people prayed to the Moon god they used the name Allah. The symbol of this Moon god was the crescent moon, and was constantly found on ancient pottery and artifacts of worship. As a result, Islam adopted the crescent moon as its own religious symbol.

The Moon god was worshiped by praying toward Mecca several times a day, making an annual pilgrimage to the Kabah which was the temple of the Moon god, running around the Kabah seven times, touching a black stone set in the wall of the Kabah, and gathering on Fridays for prayer and giving alms to the poor. These were all pagan rites practiced by the Arabs long before Muhammad was born. They also serve as a part of the framework for the five pillars of Islam practiced today.

Muslims believe that Allah could never have a son. To say this would be blasphemous. Muslims call Allah by His "99 beautiful names", but never refer to him as "Father" because to them God is unknowable and transcendent. To Christians, God is both transcendent (above us) and personal (near us).

Surah 19:88-92, "And they say: The Beneficient God has taken (to Himself) a son. Certainly you have made an abominable assertion: The heavens may almost be rent thereat, and the earth cleave asunder, and the mountains fall down in pieces, that they ascribe son to the Beneficient God. And this is not worthy of the Beneficient God that He should take (to Himself) a son."

Surah 3:64, "...we shall not serve any but Allah and we shall not associate none with Him."

Muslims teach that anyone who believes in the Trinity will go to hell.

Surah 5:72, "Surely whoever associates others with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the garden, and his abode is the fire..."

Therefore Muslims do not believe in the Trinity.

Surah 4:171, "O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and do not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa son


of Marium is only an apostle of Allah and His Word which He communicated to Marium and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His apostles, and say not, Three."

In addition the god of Islam, Allah, is presented in the Qur'an as an autocratic ruler who is aloof, impersonal and unknowable (Surah 5:40). The Christian God on the other hand is close, personal and knowable.


• What Muslims believe about JESUS

One of the most mentioned individuals in the Qur'an is Jesus. He is mentioned 35 times. If you were to talk to a Muslim about Jesus they would eagerly say that they believe in Him. In fact, they believe that in order to be a true Muslim one must believe in Jesus.

"No Muslim is a Muslim if he does not believe in Jesus peace be upon him, in Adam peace be upon him, in Moses peace be upon, in Noah, in Abraham, in Ishmael, in Isaac in Joseph in David peace be upon them all. If any Muslim rejects faith in any of these messengers he ceases to be a Muslim. But what we believe is that these messengers were only sent for a particular group of people at a particular time period, and their complete message was not sent for the whole of humanity but was only sent for a specific group of people at that time period." (www.islamicoutlet.com)

What exactly do Muslims believe about Jesus?

• The Bible says Jesus is God, but Muslims believe He was only an APOSTLE

John 20:28, " Thomas responded to Jesus, "My Lord and my God!" (GW)

Surah 5:75, "The Messiah, son of Marium is but an apostle..."

Surah 5:17, "Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely, Allah – He is the Messiah, son of Marium."

• The Bible says Jesus is the Son of God, Muslims believe He's only the SON OF MARY

Mark 1:1, "The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God." (NIV)

Surah 9:30, "The Jews call 'Uzair a son of Allah, and the Christians call Christ the son of Allah. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. Allah's curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!"

The Qur'an uses the phrase "son of Marium" (Mary) the majority of the time when referring to Jesus. The phrase "Son of Mary" is used only once in the New Testament by the Jews who did not believe in Jesus. (Mark 6: 3,7)

Muslims believe that words like father or son imply that God would have to have a wife. They reason that Jesus could not be the son of God since God doesn't have a wife.

What they fail to understand is that Jesus is God's Son not in the sense that the Father procreated Him, but rather in the sense that Jesus Himself is just like the Father in all His characteristics and attributes. The ancient Semitics used the phrase "Son of..." to indicate likeness or sameness of nature and equality of being. This is why when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Jews understood He was claiming to be God.

John 5:18, "For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God." (NIV)

• The Bible says Jesus was crucified, Muslims believe He only ASCENDED TO HEAVEN

Luke 23:33, "When they came to the place called "The Skull," they crucified Jesus there, and the two criminals, one on his right and the other on his left." (TEV)

Surah 4:157-158, "And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure. Nay! Allah took him up to Himself; and Allah is Mighty Wise."

• The Bible says Jesus is the Savior of the world, but Muslims believe He was only a PROPHET

John 4:14, "God sent his Son to be the Savior of the world." (CEV)

Surah 19:30, "He said: Surely I am a servant of Allah; He has given me the Book and made me a prophet."

Islam doesn't have a savior, it's a religion of works. It's a religion based on rituals rather than a relationship with God. How successful a Muslim is at doing what the Qur'an says determines their eternal fate.

Surah 4:57, "And as for those who believe and do good deeds, We will make them enter gardens..."

The most important of all works whereby a Muslim obtains favor from Allah is by performing the five pillars of Islam. Another way to reach paradise is to die fighting for Allah. Islam is so works-oriented that it even teaches that your good works can actually cancel out your bad ones.

Surah 11:114, "...surely good deeds take away evil deeds; this is a reminder to the mindful."

Ephesians 2:8-9, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- 9not by works, so that no one can boast." (NIV)



Appendix

Arabic names and their English equivalents:

Allah = God
Ibrahim = Abraham
Ilyas = Elias
Injeel = Gospel
Isa = Jesus
Jibreel = Gabriel
Marium = Mary
Musa = Moses
Nasrani = Christian
Qarun = Koran
Taurat = Torah
Yahudi = Jew
Yusuf = Joseph
Xakariya = Zarcharias

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