September 11, 2001 is a day that we will all remember. Like the day that President Kennedy was shot, we will remember where we were and what we were doing when we first heard about the horrific terrorist attack. Many things have changed since that dreadful day.
Ironically, one thing that has changed is that the Muslim religion has received far more publicity since September 11. Never before have Americans heard so much about what Muslims believe, and most of this has been quite positive toward Islam. We are told that Islam is a religion of peace and charity. A recent poll indicated that the religion of Islam now has a higher favorable rating in the USA than in any previous poll. Is Islam truly a religion of peace or is it a religion of terror? In the brief space available here, we will give further understanding into this religion that has suddenly become a point of interest to nearly all Americans.
Many words and terms concerning the religion of Islam are frequently misunderstood and misused even by the major media outlets. For example, many Americans associate Islam with Arabs. While it is true that there are many Arab Muslims, it is important to understand that most Muslims are not Arabs. Following, in order, are the nations with the largest Muslim population:
6. Former Soviet Republics
It is striking that only one of the top twelve nations is an Arab nation - Egypt. When the media uses terms like the "Arab - Israeli confict" it is misleading. Many Muslims who seek to destroy Israel are not Arabs. Another term often misused is the term anti - Semitic. This is usually used to mean "anti - Jewish." Indeed Jews are Semites. But I'm sure it would come as a surprise to most Americans to know that Arabs are also Semites! The book of Genesis gives us five different lines of the Arab people. Genesis 10 gives the genealogical record of the sons of Noah - Shem, Ham , and Japheth. As we study the genealogy of Shem, we find that the Jewish people descended from Shem, but so did many of the Arab peoples. The descendants of Joktan and other descendants of Shem settled in Arabia. Therefore, it is confusing to refer to Arabs who oppose Israel as being
"anti - Semitic. The other four lines of Arab people are through:
1. The relationship between Lot and his daughters
4. The children of Abraham and Keturah.
What is a Muslim?
There are many different sects within Islam just as there are many denominations within Christianity. just as it is not accurate or fair to lump all Christians together as though they have exactly the same religious beliefs and political views. However, there are certain beliefs that are held in common by all Muslims. These would include:
1. There is one God. (Allah is the Arabic word for God)
2. God is the Creator of all things and will one day judge all men.
3. God gave a revelation to Mohammed and his revelation is written in the Koran.
Muslims also believe that God gave four inspired books:
1. Torah (written by Moses)
2. Zabur (written by David)
3. Injil (the gospel of Jesus)
It is important to note that the first three writtings listed above are not thesame as the writtings in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Muslims believe that God gave a revelation to the Jews (Old Testament) and the Christians (New Testament), but that the Jews and Christians corrupted these revelations. Muslims consider the Bible to be a corrupted record of the revelation that God gave. They believe that, due to this corruption, God chose to give a final, perfect revelation to Mohammed.
Who is Mohammed?
Sometimes Muslims have been called Mohammedans. They resent this because they believe that the title Mohammedan implies that they worship Mohammed. Muslims do not believe that Mohammed was Divine. He was a mere human and a sinful human at that!
Surah 47:19 (The Koran is divided into 114 chapters of Surahs.)
So know (o Muhammad) that there is no God save Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy sin ...
That Allah may forgive thee (Mohammed) of thy sin that which is past and that which is to come...
Mohammed was born in 570 A.D. It is important to pause for a moment and think about this date. When Mohammad was born, the Old Testament and New Testament had already been completed for hundreds of years. Later we will show the clear evidence that Mohammed had some knowledge of the Bible and borrowed liberally from it in the production of the Koran.
Mohammed's father died before he was born. A nurse raised him away from his mother until he was about five years old. After that, he was in the care of his mother and grandfather. Both soon died and he was under the care of his uncle for most of his childhood. This uncle was a Nestorian Christian (Nestorius was a church patriarch in Constantinople in the early fifth century) and surely told Mohammed many stories from the Bible. When Mohammed was approximately twenty-five years old, he married a widow who was fifteen years older than he was. Many believe that she also was a Nestorian Christian. In any case, it is plain that Mohammed had much contact with Christians and had some knowledge of the Bible.
Mohammed was born in Mecca and it was there that he first claimed to receive revelations from Allah. His first followers were relatives. As the number of followers grew, they experienced persecution from those practicing the predominant pagan religion in Mecca. He and his followers fled to Medina. Three major changes took place in his lie during his time in Medina. His first wife died, Mohammed took many wives (about fifteen). Second, the pagans in Medina rallied around him as their spiritual leader, so Mohammed now had a large following. This led him to be bolder in spreading his beliefs and this often included military expeditions to foribly bring other people under subjection. Finally, he now began to receive much longer revelations. These are the earliest chapters of the Koran.
Mohammed died in 632 A.D. from a combination of pneumonia and poisoning. The next thirty to forty years were one of the most remarkable periods in history. Mohammed's followers conquered a vast territory and these Muslim lands became a major force in world politics even until today.
What About Jesus?
Many Christians may be surprised to learn that Jesus is mentioned nearly one hundred times in the Koran. The Koran teaches that Jesus had a miraculous conception and birth. He had supernatural knowledge, was sinless, healed, raised the dead, ascended, and will return. The Koran even teaches some miracles supposedly performed by Jesus that are not found in the Bible - when just an infant, he spoke and later gave life to some clay birds! Despite all of this, the Muslims make two major blunders in their teaching about Jesus. First, they believe that He was merely human. He was one of 28 prophets with Mohammed being the last and greatest prophet. Second, most Muslims do not believe that Jesus died. They give various explanations of this, including one idea that God changed the appearance of Judas so that the Jews mistakenly thought that Judas was Jesus, and thus crucifed the wrong man. Of course, if Jesus is not God and if He did not die, there is no possibility of salvation for any man.
There are often said to be five pillars in Islam:
1. Muslims must profess that there is no God but Allah, and that Mohammed is the messanger of Allah.
2. Prayers are to be said five times each day and Friday is a special day of worship. There is a prescribed time and way to say these prayers, including standing, kneeling, and laying prostrate with hands and face on the ground.
3. Ramadan is the holy month each year in which Muslims are to fast during daylight hours.
4. Alms are to be given to the poor.
5. A pilgrimage should be taken to Mecca at least once during a followers lifetime.
It should be noted that there are exceptions to all of these except the first one. It is not necessary to do these things if old age, poor health, poverty, etc. makes it difficult or impossible to do them.
Is the Koran a Supernatural Book?
One does not need to spend too much time reading the Koran to realize that vast portions have been plagiarized from the Bible and various ancient writings. Many stories told in the Koran were clearly taken from earlier religious writtings, including the account of Jesus speaking as an infant (found in FirstGospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ) and Jesus giving life to the clay birds (found in Thomas'Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ). Much of the Koran is borrowed from the Bible, including:
Surah 7:179 (compare with Jeremiah 5:21 etc.)
... having hearts wherewith they understand not, and having eyes wherewith they see not and having ears wherewith they hear not
Surah21:105 (compare with Psalm 37:29)
My righteous slaves will inherit the earth
Surah 57:3 (compare with Isaiah 44:6)
He is the First and the Last
Surah 7:40 (compare with Matthew 19:24)
... for them the gates of Heaven will not be opened nor will they enter the Garden until the camel goeth through the needle's eye
Surah 22:47 (compare with 2 Peter 3:8)
... a Day with Allah is as a thousand years of what ye reckon
In addition to the above, there are many blunders in the Koran such as referring to the sister of Aaron as Mary instead of Miriam and saying that Moses sacrificed a yellow cow instead of a red heifer.
As we have briefly mentioned earlier, Mohammed often took violent action to spread his beliefs. We are constantly hearing today that Islam is a religion of peace. There are many sects within Islam and it is true that many Muslims are peaceful people. However, there are verses in the Koran that can be used to support radical, violent actions by Muslims. Among these passages are:
Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor - due, then leave their way free.
Fight against such as those who have been given the Scripture (Jews and Christians) as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.
Muslims who wish to do so may certainly use these passages and others like them to justify acts of violence against Jews and Christians.
Is There Salvation in Islam?
Islam teaches us to follow a mere human who was a sinner - Mohammed. Even Muslims acknowledge that Mohammed died and remained dead. The Bible presents a Savior who is without sin and who was God in the flesh. Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Islam teaches a works system of trying to earn salvation by being good. The Bible tells us that no man is good - no man is righteous. All men stand guilty before God. (Romans 3:10-19) It is vain to try to be good enough to merit an eternal home in heaven. Jesus Christ paid the penalty through His death on the cross. But that's not all. Jesus Christ, unlike Mohammed, didn't stay in the grave! He rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and is our living Savior right now!