Islam has a world-following in excess of one billion devotees, about 20% are
in the Middle East, with the largest concentration of Muslims in Indonesia.
There are over 4 million Moslems living in America---which means that there are
about twice as many Moslems in the US as Episcopalians! There has been an active
Muslim contingent in North America for over 300 years, since the time the
religion arrived with West African slaves.
The Arabic term islam literally means "surrender," or "submission." Islam's believers (known as "Muslims" from the active participle of "islam"), accept surrender to the will of Allah (the Arabic word for God). Allah is viewed as a unique God---creator, sustainer, and restorer of the world. The will of God, to which man is to submit, is made known through the Qur'an (the Koran), revealed to his messenger Muhammad. Muhammad, it is claimed was the last of the great prophets which included Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus and some others. The basic belief of Islam is expressed in the shahadah, the Muslim confession of faith, "There is no god but God; Muhammad is the prophet of God."
Founded in the 7th century AD, Islamic fundamental beliefs include belief in angels, the revealed books and Scriptures, a series of prophets, and a Last Day (of Judgment). Muslim duties include five daily prayers, a welfare tax called zakat, fasting (during the month of Ramadan), and a pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca; these four elements plus the profession of faith are called the Five Pillars.
The Encyclopedia Britannica is a good resource for understanding the roots of Islam. Mecca at the time the prophet was born was inhabited by the tribe of Quraysh (Koreish) to which the clan of Hasim belonged. The city was a mercantile center with shrines to many gods, chief of whom was Ilah. The Ka'bah sanctuary in the city square guaranteed the safety of those who came to trade. The pre-Islamic deities of Arabia which were most venerated were astral deities, especially the triad of the moon god, the sun goddess, and the god associated with the planet Venus. The moon god was the chief and was protector of the cities. These deities were given various names, however the moon god was evidently originally the Babylonian moon god Sin. To end division among his people in Mecca, Muhammad elevated the moon god Al Ilah to the chief and only god. (It is not widely known in Islam that Allah was a sexual being, having fathered three daughters--this is documented in the E.B.).
Among the visitors and residents of Mecca in the time of the prophet were Jews as well as Christians. Muhammad's thinking was further heavily influenced by these followers of Abraham, as well as by special revelations which were (it is said) communicated to him by the angel Gabriel. The God of Abraham was not Ilah, however, but Yahweh. Abraham was called by Yahweh from Ur of the Chaldees (Babylon) and told to renounce the pagan gods of his family which were the gods of Babylon. In fact Babylon was the seat of all false religion after the Flood of Noah and from Babylon idolatry spread throughout the rest of the ancient world. Muhammad assigned to the moon god of Mecca some of the attributes of the god of Abraham, however the pagan and occultic roots of pre-Islamic religion were not discarded. Alexander Hislop's classic book The Two Babylons remains a good reference on the Babylonian Mystery Religion which has now permeated all the world.
Abu al-Qasim Muhammad ibn 'Abd Allah ibn 'Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hasim was
persecuted for his teachings in Mecca and fled to Medina in 622 AD, his
teachings were soon accepted and the community-state of Islam emerged. From the
date of Muhammad's flight, called the hijrah, Muslims begin their calendar---AH
(Anno Hegirae) 287 is the same as AD (Anno Domini) 900. During the early period
Islam acquired its characteristic ethos as a religion uniting itself in both the
spiritual and temporal aspects of life and seeking to regulate not only the
individual's relationship to God but human relationships in a social setting as
well. Thus, there is not only an Islamic religious institution (private) but
also an Islamic code/law governing society (public).
This dual religious and social character of Islam, expressing itself as a religious community commissioned by God to bring its own value system to the world through jihad (holy war or holy struggle).
Muhammad died in 632 AD and through jihad, Islam spread within a century from Spain to India. During the Muslim conquests Jews and Christians were assigned a special status as communities possessing Scriptures and are known to Muslims as "people of the Book" (ahl al-kitab) or dhimmis (protected people). Christians, Jews, and later Hindus and Zoroastrians were allowed religious autonomy, but had to pay a per capita tax called the jizyah. Many people converted to Islam to avoid the jizyah tax. In the 12 century the Muslim mystics, known as Sufis, were primarily responsible for spreading Islam to India, China, Central Asia, Turkey, and sub-Saharan Africa. Islamic traders were responsible (by the 14th century) for extending Islam to Indonesia, Malaya, and China.
Under Islam, land once possessed by Islam, if subsequently lost to an invader, remains land that is holy to Islam. It is especially imperative that such lost lands be restored to the rightful rule of Islam. Historically, of course, such lost lands now lost to Islam include not only Israel but large portions of Southern Europe, Spain and North Africa. Since Allah's will is for the entire world to come under subjection to the rule of Islam, Muslims are known for their zeal in spreading their religion, whether by peaceful means or by the sword.
Islamic doctrine/law/thinking are based upon fundamental principals/sources: the Qur'an, the sunnah (traditions), the ijma (community consensus), and ijtihad (individual thought).
The Qur'an (which is Arabic for reading or recitation) is regarded by Muslims as The Word Of God, delivered to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. The Qur'an is divided into 114 surahs (chapters), the early surahs revealed in Mecca are ethical and spiritual teachings and the Day of Judgment, whereas the later surahs are concerned with social legislation and the politico-moral principals of community.
The sunnah (a clear and well-trodden path, of traditions) denote tribal/common law and the examples of the Prophet, his words and deeds. Six collections of the Hadith (a collection of the sayings of Muhammad) compiled in the 3rd century AH (9th century AD) are regarded as especially authoritative by the Sunni Muslims; whereas Shi'ah Muslims have a different set of sayings in their Hadith.
The ijma standardizes Islamic law and since the 3rd century AH, have been primarily closed to further interpretation. Accepted interpretations of the Qur'an and the actual content of the sunnah all rest finally upon the ijma. The transformation of the ijma into a conservative mechanism and the acceptance of a definitive body of Hadith virtually eliminated ijtihad (individual thought).
The Islamic doctrine of God, expressed in the Qur'an is rigorously monotheistic: God is one and unique; he has no partner or equal. Trinitarianism, the Christian belief that God is three persons in one substance, is vigorously repudiated by Muslims. Muslims believe although Allah's presence is everywhere, he does not indwell anything or anyone. He is the sole Creator, and sustainer of the universe, wherein every creature bears witness to his lordship and unity. He is also just, merciful, majestic, sovereign, and has endowed every creation with a definite and defined nature which allows the myriad of creation to function as a whole. This "nature" of creation, sets limits; and the limitedness of everything is one of the most fixed points in both the cosmology and the theology of the Qur'an.
According to the Qur'an, God created two apparently parallel species, man and jinn. Man was created from clay and jinn was created from fire. The jinn are endowed with reason and responsibility but are more prone to evil than man. The Qur'an is primarily directed at man, and is self described as the guide for the human race. Despite man's lofty position, the Qur'an describes human nature as frail and faltering. Man is viewed as rebellious and full of pride, arrogating to himself the attributes of self-sufficiency. Pride, thus, is viewed as the cardinal sin of man, because by not recognizing in himself his essential creaturely limitations he becomes guilty of ascribing to himself partnership with God and thereby violating the unity of God. True faith (identified as iman), consists of belief in the immaculate Divine Unity and Islam is in one's submission to the Divine will.
According to the Qur'an, the being who became Satan had previously occupied a high station but fell from grace by refusing to honour Adam when ordered by Allah to do so. Since then, Satan's work has been to beguile man into error and sin. Satan is a contemporary of man, and his act of disobedience is construed to be the sin of pride. Satan's machinations will cease on the Last Day.
The Qur'an reveals that messengers from God have, throughout history, been calling man back to God; yet few men have accepted the truth; most have rejected it and have become disbelievers (the kafir, the ungrateful). In Islam there is no point of no return, God is always willing to offer pardon based upon genuine repentance.
All prophets of Islam are human and never part of divinity; they are simply recipients of revelation form God. God never speaks directly to man, he sends angels or inspiration.
In Islamic doctrine, on the Last Day when the world will come to an end, the dead will be resurrected and judgment will be pronounced on every person in accordance with his deeds. Those condemned will burn in hellfire, and those saved will enjoy the abiding pleasures of paradise. Besides suffering in physical fire, the damned will also experience a fire "in their hearts"; similarly, the blessed, besides physical enjoyment, will experience the greatest happiness of divine pleasure.
In Islamic life hoarding of wealth without recognizing the rights of the poor is threatened with the direst punishments in the hereafter and is declared to be one of the main causes of the decay of societies in this world. The practice of usury is forbidden. Islam is the concept of the community of the faithful.
The mission of the community of the faithful is to "enjoin good and forbid evil" so that "there is no mischief and corruption" on earth, the doctrine of jihad, in view of the constitutional of the community as the power base is the logical outcome. The objective of jihad is not the conversion of individuals to Islam, but rather gaining of political control over the collective affairs of societies to run them in accordance with the principles of Islam. Individual conversion occurs as a by-product of the power structure of the community passing to the hands of the Muslim community. Under Islam, it is forbidden to wage wars for the sake of acquiring worldly glory, power, or rule. The Muslim sect of Kharijite once held that "decision belongs to God alone," and insisted on waging continuous and relentless jihad, but the followers of this sect were virtually destroyed during the internecine wars of the 8th century.
The Kharijis sect (and the more moderate Ibadis sect) believed that the basis of rule was righteous character and piety, any Muslim, irrespective of race creed or colour could become ruler-provided he or she satisfy the conditions of piety. This is in contrast to the claims of the Shi'ah that the ruler must belong to the family of the Prophet, and in contrast to the Sunnis that the head of state must belong to the Prophet's tribe. Sunni political theory is essentially a product of circumstance-an after-the-fact rationalization of historical developments. Thus, between the Shi'ah legitimism that restricts rule to Ali's family, and the Kharji democratism, Sunnism holds to the position that the rule belongs to the Quraysh (the Prophet's tribe), the condition that actually existed.
The Sunni sect embraces the principle of toleration, making it possible for diverse sects to recognize and coexist with one another. Sunni theologians place emphasis on divine omnipotence at the expense of the freedom and efficacy of the human will, a deterministic outlook on life characteristic of the Sunni (and invigorated by the Sufi) teaches that nothing exists except God. The Sunnites support the concept that "Muslims must obey even a tyrannical ruler."
The Shi'ah, probably under Gnostic and old Iranian influences, expanded their belief that the ruler must be from the family of the Prophet, and that the perfect leader (imam) is transformed into a metaphysical manifestation of God. The imam, alone, is infallible and can reveal the hidden and true meaning of the Qur'an. The Shi'ah recognize a dozen imams throughout history and believe that knowledge derived from sources other than the imam is useless. Shi'ism in contrast to Sunnism adopted the doctrine of freedom of the human will and the capacity of human reason to know good and evil. In the sphere of law Shi'ism differs from Sunni law mainly in allowing temporary marriage, legally contracted for a fixed period of time based upon a fixed dower.
From a spiritual point of view, perhaps the greatest difference between Shi'ism and Sunnism is the Shi'ah concept of the "passion motive." The violent death of Ali's son, Husayn, in 680 AD, at the hands of Umayyad troops is celebrated by the Shi'ah with moving orations, passion plays, and processions in which the participants (in an emotional frenzy of self-flagellation) beat their breasts with heavy chains and sharp objects.
The cities of Mecca and Medina are holy shrines of Islam. The fifth pillar of Islam, the pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca, begins on the 7th and ends on the 10th month of the Dhu al-Hijjah. When the pilgrim is ten kilometers from the Holy City (Mecca) he enters the state of ihram, he wears two seamless garments and neither shaves nor cuts his hair or nails until the ceremony ends. The principal activities consist of a visit to the Ka'bah sanctuary or the Sacred Mosque; the kissing of the Hajar al-Aswad (the Black Stone); seven circumambulations of the Ka'bah; and the ascent of and running seven times between Mt. Safa and Mt. Marwah (not really mountains but topographic elevations in the desert). At the second stage of the ritual, the pilgrim proceeds from Mecca to Mina, a few miles away; and from there he goes to Arafat, where it is essential to hear a sermon and spend one afternoon. The last rites consist of spending the night at Muzdalifah (between Arafat and Mina) and offering sacrifice on the last day of ihram, which is the id (festival) of sacrifice.
The sacred places of Islam include: the Ka'bah sanctuary at Mecca built by Abraham; the Prophet's mosque in Medina; and Jerusalem from where Muhammad (mi'raj) ascended to heaven (which was the direction to which the early Moslems prayed before the "qiblah" was changed to the Ka'bah in Mecca). For the Shi'ah, Karbala in Iraq (the place of martyrdom of Ali's son, Husayn) and Meshed in Iran (where Imam Ali ar-Rida is buried) are considered places of special veneration. In Baghdad the tomb of saint Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani is visited every year by pilgrims from throughout the Muslin world, as are numerous Sufi shrines.
The general religious life of the Muslims is centered around the mosque. Friday is the weekly Muslim holy day. The most important and comprehensive concept of Islam, at the practical level, is that of the Shari'ah (the path leading to the watering place). In religious terms it means the highway of life leading to God.
The virtue of chastity is regarded as of prime importance by Islam. The Qur'an advanced its universal recommendation of marriage as a means to ensure a state of chastity (ihsan) which is held to be induced by a single free wife. Adultery and false accusations of adultery are severely punished.
With regard to Islamic art, the most important principal is aniconism, the prohibition of figurization and representation of living creatures. Underlying this prohibition is the assumption that God is the sole author of life and that a person who makes a picture of a living being seeks to rival God. Architecture and poetry are the richest of the Islamic art forms.
Perhaps the least understood element of Islam is the doctrine of jihad (holy war). The classical Islamic position holds that the world is divided into three spheres: the zone of Islam (dar al-Islam); the zone of peace (dar as-sulh---those nations with whom Muslim nations have peace pacts); and the zone of war (dar al-harb---the rest of the world). In modern times the jihad has appeared primarily as a defense against colonialism, rather than as a program of offense.
In classical Islamic law, Shari'ah, offenses against the person, from homicide to assault, are punishable by retaliation---the offended being subject to precisely the same treatment as the victim. For six specific crimes the punishment is fixed (hadd): death for apostasy (renunciation of religious faith) and for highway robbery; amputation of the hand for theft; death by stoning for extramarital sexual relations where the offender is a married person and 100 lashes for unmarried offenders; 80 lashes for an unproven accusation of unchastity/adultery, or for consumption of any alcoholic beverage.
Islamic belief has obviously drawn heavily on information available to the prophet Muhammed from local Jews and Christians living in Arabia during his. The principle claim that the revelation given to the Prophet came from an angel is not unusual among world religions or cults, and is consistent with the warning of the Apostle Paul given in 2 Corinthians.
"I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband. But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ...And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. (11:1-15)
Islam attributes mercy and compassion to Allah, but has no provision for the
certain salvation of the individual, no sacrifice for sin and of course no risen
Lord to indwell and guide the believer through this life and the next. Allah is
notoriously unpredictable and whimsical in his actions and the Koran
sufficiently vague so as to give little assurance or guidance for daily life
beyond strong, harsh legalistic restrictions and punishments taken out of
context from the Law of Moses. On many points Islam differs radically from
Christianity. To cite but one important instance, the church of Jesus Christ is
not to bear the sword, nor to ally itself with the state, but to concentrate on
"calling out (of the world) a people for His name." Orthodox Christianity
proclaims the coming of the kingdom of God among men, but not Christian
Dominionism. Compassion, understanding and tolerance is to be extended to
everyone, not from an attitude of superiority, but of service, following the
example of her Lord who said, "The Son of man came not to be served, but to
serve and to give his life as a ransom for many"; and, "The Son of man came to
seek and to save that which was lost." God will see to it that His rule on earth
eventually is universal, but in the meantime He is full of mercy and very
longsuffering towards all the sons of Adam.
Islam's claim as far as Israel is concerned is to assume (without any Biblical basis of course) that Ishmael, not Isaac, is the legitimate heir to whom the Abrahamic promises were passed.
Although not commonly appreciated by most Christians and Jews, the various
sects of Islam, in their oral tradition, and from the Koran, maintain a complex
and intricate eschatology dealing with the end of the age and the coming of a
great world leader, or Mahdi. The center of these events at the end of the age
is Jerusalem, not Mecca, and Jesus is one of the principle participants in the
coming great judgment, according to Muslim belief.
Since the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in 70 AD, Jews have been unable to offer any blood sacrifice for sins, however the Moslems observe to this day an annual sacrifice of many thousands of lambs which are slain during the pilgrimage to Mecca:
"Midway through the pilgrimage rites, pilgrims move into tents outside the city of Mecca for the ceremony of standing in the Valley of Arafat at the foot of the Mount of Mercy. This celebrated standing ceremony, which lasts throughout an entire afternoon, creates in the minds of the devout a profound sense of the presence of God in their lives and of divine forgiveness of their sins. They remember, too, that Muhammad visited this spot and preached here on his final pilgrimage. So meaningful is this ceremony that many authorities regard it as the climactic or central event of the entire pilgrimage. In the evening, pilgrims gather forty-nine small stones which they take to Mina the next morning, in order to hurl them at one of three stone pillars representing the devil and his powers of temptation. By this rite (Jamrat) they recall the way Ishmael, on his way to be sacrificed by his father (Muslin tradition substitutes Ishmael for Isaac as the son whom Abraham nearly sacrificed), turned back the suggestions of Iblis that he flee."
"The slaughtering of a small animal on the field of sacrifice is a way of remembering that Allah accepted Abraham's sacrifice of a ram in place of his son." (Quoted from Islam: A Survey of the Muslim Faith by C. George Fry and James R. King, Babwer Press, Grand Rapids, 1980)
Muslim belief draws more on Old Testament Jewish belief than on Christian
influence, though both Jewish synagogues and Christian assemblies existed in
Arabia when the Prophet received the angelic revelations which lead him to write
"Christians are interested to learn of the high regard Muslims have for Jesus (Isa, in Arabic). Jesus, it is taught, was born of a virgin, without human father, and lived a sinless life. He is given titles of honor bestowed on no other prophet and He is pictured as a wandering preacher who performed miracles and spoke beautiful words. To Him was given a book for His people, the Gospel, but the book was lost (or hopelessly distorted) and Jesus Himself was rejected. His people attempted to crucify Him, but Jesus was saved when someone took His place on the cross or tree and He ascended into heaven, having promised to send a comforter (Muhammad)."
"In Muslin piety many legends surround Jesus. Some Muslims believe that at some time in the distant future He will return to earth and marry. A grave site has been reserved for Him. Others declare that Jesus will judge the world at the end of time--or that He will help Muhammad with his work of judgment. Still another tradition, from the Ahmadiyya Muslims of South Asia, has it that Christ fled Palestine for India, where He gathered many followers, died at a ripe old age, and was buried at Srinagar, where His tomb was recently uncovered." (Fry and King, op. cit.)
A recent study of Muslim beliefs concerning the end time says:
"The Imamite doctrine of the Mahdi at one point merges with the return of Jesus, another prominent figure of Islamic eschatology. The doctrine of the return of Jesus, as described in the Sunnite sources and cited by the Shiite traditionists is explained in a more or less uniform manner."
"He will descend in the Holy Land at a place called Afiq with a spear in his hand; he will kill with it al-Dajjal (the Antichrist of Islamic eschatology) and go to Jerusalem at the time of the morning prayer. The Imam will seek to yield his place to him, but Jesus will refuse and will worship behind him according to the Sharia of Muhammad. Thereafter he will kill the swine, break the cross, and kill all the Christians who do not believe in him. Once al-Dajjal is killed, all the Peoples of the Book (i.e., Jews and Christians) will believe in him and will form one single umma of those who submit to the will of God. Jesus will establish the rule of justice and will remain for forty years, after which he will die. His funeral will take place in Medina, where he will be buried beside Muhammad, in a place between Abu Bakr and Umar."
"The Muslim eschatological tradition is unanimous in assigning to both Jesus and the Mahdi a significant role in the doctrine of the qiyama (resurrection). As a matter of fact, many exegetes of the Quran in explaining the verse, "He (Jesus) is surely a knowledge of the Hour" (43:61), state that the descent of Jesus during the rulership of the Mahdi will make the approach of the Hour known. In the development of the eschatological role of the Mahdi in Shiite traditions, much emphasis was laid on the function of the Mahdi as the descendant of Muhammad and the Imam, who will be followed in the prayer by Jesus. The latter point is repeatedly emphasized in the Shiite eschatological tradition. This distinguished the roles of the Mahdi and Jesus, which at times became confusingly alike. On the other hand, some Sunnites, in their polemics against the Shiites, related a tradition attributed to the Prophet: 'There is no Mahdi save Jesus, son of Mary.' This tradition was evidently used to undermine the chiliastic hopes of the Shiites and to minimize the eschatological importance of the Mahdi, which was emphatically maintained by the Shiites. The group who used the above tradition in their polemics argued that while there was no mention of Mahdi in the Ouran, the return of Jesus was well established in the signs of the Hour, and he, not the Mahdi, would kill the Dajjal.
"In the Shiite traditions the function of killing the Dajjal is reserved for al-Mahdi. In a long tradition Ali is reported to have answered a question regarding al-Dajjal, whose features are vividly described thus: He is one-eyed, his eye being in his forehead and shining like the morning star. On his forehead is written: "This is the kafir (non-believer)," which will be legible to both literate and illiterate persons. His emergence will be preceded by a time of great hardship. Then Ali describes the manner in which he will appear on a donkey, and his call will be heard from one end of the earth to the other. He will tell the people that he is their creator and their lord.
"Those who follow him on that day will be the enemies of God, who will be wearing something green on their heads. God will cause them to be killed in Syria at a spot named Afiq, on Friday, three hours after the sunrise, at the hands of the one behind whom Jesus will worship. Beware that his death will be followed by a great event. This great event is the revolution of the twelfth Imam, commencing from the direction of Safa in the precinct of the Keba. Thereafter no repentance will be accepted. Al-Dajjal's role at the End of Time is almost identical with that of Satan, as explained in traditional sources, because he will tempt people by bringing food and water, which will be scarce at that time. The Prophet is reported to have said that since the time of Noah there has been no umma on earth who did not fear al-Dajjal and his temptations; every prophet has warned his community against this tempter. The episode of al-Dajjal's emergence, at the time of the zuhur, has been interpreted as a test for sifting the true believers of God from the false ones," (From Abdulazziz Abdulhussein Sachedina in his book, Islamic Messanism, State University of New York Press, Albany, New York, 1981).
In their book The Islamic Understanding of Death and
Resurrection, Jane Idleman Smith and Yvonne Yaybeck Haddad, State
University Press of Albany, New York (1981) quote from an earlier work, The
Religion of Islam, by Ahmad Galwash:
"It has been well known (and generally accepted) by all Muslims in every epoch, that at the end of time a man from the family (of the Prophet) will without fail make his appearance, one who will strengthen the religion and make justice triumph. The Muslims will follow him, and he will gain domination over the Muslim realm. He will be called the Mahdi. Following him, the Antichrist will appear, together with all the subsequent signs of the Hour (the Day of Judgment), as established in (the sound tradition) the Sahih. After (the Mahdi), Isa (Jesus) will descend and kill the Antichrist; or, Jesus will descend together with the Mahdi, and help him kill (the Antichrist), and have him as the leader in his prayers."
One can not expect that all Moslems everywhere are so well read in matters of
their own faith that they all have worked out a personal view of eschatology.
But what is interesting is that Islam does has a belief system about the end of
the ages, the coming of a great Iman Mahdi, a great judgment, a heaven and hell,
and a God who is basically merciful and compassionate.
As we approach the end of the age and consider the building of a Third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem as well as mounting messianic expectations in Israel, it is interesting to consider the possibility that a charismatic, religiously persuasive, and inspiring Jewish false messiah might conceivably also fulfill Muslim expectations for their own long-awaited Mahdi and thus expedite the final false and misleading Middle Eastern peace treaty spoken of by the ancient Hebrew prophets.
The end of the age we live in is marked by deception on a world-wide scale-because truth has been so widely and universally rejected by mankind. This is the clear statement of Paul when he speaks about the appearing of the man of sin:
"Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God (in Jerusalem), proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed (unveiled), and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming. The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false (lit: "the lie"), so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (2:3-12)
From the Muslim point of view the Islamic shrine known as the Dome of the
Rock built on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is an answer to, and a denial of,
the attractions of Christianity and its Scriptures, providing the "faithful" of
Islam with arguments to be used against Christian theology. The inscriptions are
seven hundred and thirty-four feet long in all, amongst the lengthiest
inscriptions in the world. There is a great amount of repetition and many
quotations from the Koran.
The following extracts are relevant:
Inner Face: South Wall. "In the name of Allah the Merciful the Compassionate. There is no God but Allah alone; he has no co-partner. He is the Kingship and His the praise. He giveth life and He causeth to die, and He hath power over everything."
South-East Wall. "Verily Allah and His angels pronounce blessing upon the Prophet. O ye who have pronounced blessings upon Him and give Him the salutation of peace. O, People of the Book (i.e. the Jews and Christians, always referred to as such by the Moslems -Ed.) do not go beyond the bounds in your religion and do not say about Allah anything but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, is but a messenger of Allah and His word which he cast upon Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe only in Allah and of his messenger, but do not say 'Three' (Trinity) and it will be better for you. Allah is only one God. Far be it from His glory that he should have a son."
North Wall. "The Messiah will not deign to be in the service of Allah nor will the angels who stand in his presence. O Allah; pray upon Thy messenger "the servant Jesus---(N-W Wall) the son of Mary and peace be upon him the day of his birth, the day of his death and the day of his being raised alive. That is Jesus, son of Mary---a statement concerning which YOU are in doubt. It is not for Allah to take for Himself any offspring, glory be to Him."
West Wall. "Allah bears witness that there is no God but Him, likewise the angels and the people possessed of knowledge," (S-W Wall)---Upholding justice. There is no God but He, the Almighty and All wise. Verily, the religion in Allah's sight is Islam."
Outer Face: West and North-West Walls. "In the name of Allah the Merciful and Compassionate. There is no God but Allah alone. Praise be to Allah who hath not taken to himself offspring. To Him there has never been any person in the sovereignty. Mohammed is the messenger of Allah, may God pray upon Him and accept his intercession."
"Praise be God who has not taken unto himself a son and who has no partner in sovereignty nor has He any protector on account of weakness."
If religious Jews are offended by the presence of this Islamic shrine on
their holy mountain, Christians have even more reasons to take offense at these
blasphemous statements about their God, and the deliberate insults to Biblical
revelation that the interior inscriptions clearly intend.
The word "Islam" in Arabic Language means "submission" & "peace" A Muslim
is a person who submits to the will of Allah and finds therein peace. Islam is
derived from the Arabic word "salaam" meaning peace.
Who are the Muslims? The common answer is "the Arabs." This is a mistaken impression that is true only insofar as Islam arose among the Arabs, its Prophet and many of its adherents were and are Arabs, and its scripture, the Holy Quran, must be recited in original Arabic form. The Arabs comprise only 25 % of the present population of Islam. They form majority of the population in roughly thirty-six (36) countries and nearly half of the population in five others. The estimated strength of Islam is estimated to be one billion people, almost one fifth of world population. Islam is the world's third largest religion, behind Christianity and Buddhism,and its present rate of growth and vitality rivals both traditions.
Muslims represent many races and socioeconomic settings. There have been however significant divisions of opinion within the umma (commonwealth of Islam or Islamic Community). Despite these differences, Islam brings unity by incorporating divergent interpretations of basic beliefs.
SUNNI: The recorded practice and teachings of Prophet Mohammad were early regarded as his Sunnah, meaning 'path' or 'way.' These traditions became powerful symbols for the Islamic religion, models of right belief and practice. The collection of Prophet Mohammad's sayings are called "Hadith" comprising Sunnah or "authoritative examples." These required further interpretations and application to a variety of situations of everyday life.
Majority of Muslims following Sunnah of Prophet Mohammad are termed "Sunnis." Islam developed four schools of jurisprudence whose functions were to decide upon the proper application of Holy Quran and Sunnah to virtually all aspects of life of the community. Each of the four schools takes its name from early jurist to whom later followers trace many of the school's distinctive opinions. The four schools are:
1. Hanifi's (after Abu Hanifa, d.767)
2. Maliki's (after Malik ibn Anas, d.795)
3. Shafi'is (after Muhammad al-Shafi'i d.819)
& 4. Hanbali's (after Ahmad ibn Hanbal d.855)
The learned scholars of law are called "Ulema."They are highly respected for their learning in the religious sciences. Islam has no clergy or priesthood as such. The basic principles of Islamic Law are established by the following:
i) The Holy Quran
ii) The Prophet's Sunnah
iii) The learned consensus of Ulema
iv) Reasoning by analogy from accepted interpretations of i) & ii) to new problems not directly addressed therein.
All of the four above form a concept of revelation of God's will to the community of Islam. This concept is called, Shari'a, it is more than scripture, it implies a composite source of teaching and practice involving the Holy Quran, the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad and authoritative human interpretation and application.
SHI'IA: A significant minority of Muslims, 10-15 %, differ on certain religious and political matters almost since the beginning of Islam. They are known as Shi'ia 's. The historical and religious differences do not obscure the broad lines of agreement between Shi'ias and Sunnis.
Shi'ias differ little from Sunnis in belief and practice. Their differences lie mainly in the modes of leadership and piety. Although Islam united the Arabs of North and South under the same banner but the cultural and traditional differences remained strong and surfaced at the time of choosing the successors of Prophet Muhammad after His death. The majority believed in choosing from the closest companions of Prophet Muhammad while others sought guidance in political and religous matters from Hazart Ali, Prophet Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law. Hazart Ali was chosen as the fourth Caliph (leader of Islamic community) but was assassinated in 661. The civil strife that resulted left and indelible mark upon Islamic Umma (community).
Shi'ias believe Prophet Muhammad passed on a significant part of his teachings directly to Hazart Ali, and hence to subsequent Imams ( sprititual leaders). Although the twelfth and last Imam disappeared late in the ninth century, expected to return before the Judgement Day. The Shia Ulema carry on the distinctive teachings and interpretations they trace back through the Imams to Prophet Muhammad. The teachings of the sixth Imam, Jafar al-Sadiq (d.765) became the basis of Jafari schools among Sunnis.
The emotional intensity that characterizes Shi'ia beliefs culminates on the tenth day of Muharram (the first month of Islamic calendar). On this date in Karbala, Iraq, in 680, Hazart Husayn, son of Hazart Ali and grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was brutally murdered by troops of Ummayyad Caliph,Yazid. For nine days, Yazid's troops besieged the camps and deprived Hazart Husayn and his followers (72 of them) of any water. Remembering the tragedy of Hazart Husayn on every year on 10th of Muharram is done by Sunnis as well as Shi'ias.
The pillars of Islam are considered obligatory for all Muslims although Sunni
and Shia schools of law have slight variations.
The pillars of Islam play important roles in intellectual and social dimensions of Islamic life. The five pillars of faith and practice are:
1. The Shahada (Witness)
2. The Salat (Prayer)
3. The Zakat (Alms)
4. The Sawm or Siyam (Fasting)
5. The Hajj (Pilgrimage)
SHAHADA: (Witness) The Shahada is:
In Arabic "La ilah ha il Allah, Muhammadan Rasul-Allah" Translation: "(There is) No diety but Allah (and) Muhammad is His Messenger" or,
"There is no God but Allah" and "Muhammad is His Apostle"
Islam is one of the three monotheistic religions to arise in the Middle East; along with the other two - Judaism and Christianity- it stresses the oneness and uniqueness of God. The world 'Allah' means 'The God.'
The second phrase of the Shahada declares that Muhammad is God's messenger to humankind. Accepting the Judaeo-Christian Biblical tradition in large part, Muslims believe that God had sent prophets and messengers to other nations in the past with the same revealed message Muhammad was to recite to the Arabs. Muhammad's mission brought the final positing of divine Truth, and thus Muhammad is regarded as the "Seal of the Prophets."
SALAT: (Payer) Performing daily prayers is an act of communication between humans and God. Five daily prayers are considered a duty for all Muslims,and on these occasions preparations in ritual purity are required. The prayers are Fajr (early morning before the sun rise), Zuhr (afternoon), Asr (later afternoon), Maghrib (after sunset) and Isha (evening). The prayers must be said while facing in the direction of Mecca. The congregational prayer of Friday afternoon is compulsory and must be said in a Mosque, Muslim's place of worship. There is a sermom and then the prayers in uniform rows.
ZAKAT: (Alms) The Zakat is a form of giving to those who are less fortunate. It is obligatory upon all Muslims to give 2.5 % of wealth and assets each year (in excess of what is required) to the poor. This is done before the beginning of the month of Muharram, the first of new year. Giving the Zakat is considered an act of worship because it is a form of offering thanks to God for the means of material well-being one has acquired.
SAWM or SIYAM: (FASTING) Another form of offering thanks to God is fasting. It is duty to all Muslims to fast during the ninth month of Islamic calendar, Ramadan. During this month, Muslims refrain from food, drink during daylight. Excepts are those ill health, pregnant women & travelers. One is to make up lost days of fasting at a later time. The time of fasting is from just before sunrise to just after sunset. The breaking of fast is joyous occasion. Sawm during Ramadan or any time is recognized as physically demanding but spiritually rewarding.
HAJJ: (Pilgrimage) The pilgrimage season begins in the tenth month, the month following Ramadan, and lasts through the middle of twelveth month, Dhu al-Hijja. This fifth pillar requires all Muslims who are physically and financially capable to make Hajj to Mecca once during their lives. The actual rites and prayers take place at the scred Ka'ba in Mecca and at nearby locations. Muslims associate the origin of the Hajj and the founding of the Ka'ba with the prophet Abraham. Nearly two million Muslims perform Hajj each year.
JIHAD: (Striving) Although it is not a pillar of Islam but is a duty in one form or another. The most common media misconception is of calling Jihad a 'Holy War.' The general meaning of the term is "striving for moral and religious perfection." The broader meaning of this term encompasses one's life and community. The constant struggle of striving to remain on the path of Islam by observing the above five pillars of Islam is Jihad. One who strives is Mujahid.
Being a Mujahid, a striver for moral and religious perfection, involves numerous forms of public and private devotion that charaterizes the 'practice' of islam. This includes respecting the dietry laws against eating pork and drinking alcohol, respecting parents and elders, helping to provide for close relatives and kins, giving to the poor and disadvantaged. On the other side, theft, murder, fornication, adultery, lying, cheating, wrongly accusing or testifying are strictly forbidden by Shari'a (Islamic Law). In technical sense, Islam means 'the pratice of the religious and social duties' outlined above.
IMAN: (Faith) The faith, like Five Pillars, can be divided in six parts. It means belief in the following:
1. God and His Attributes
4. Sacred Books
5. The Judgement Day
Additional Reference Material
The Religion of Islam (by Randall Price, Ph.D., in The Coming Last Days Temple, Harvest House, Eugene. OR. 1999. (http://www.worldofthe bible.com).
Mohammed, the prophet and founder of Islam, was born in Mecca about AD 570. At the time of his birth, Arab tribes in Mecca and throughout the Arabian peninsula were polytheistic, with each tribe having its own local deity. A large black meteor found in the desert and believed to have been sent by astral deities was placed in the southeast corner of a cube-shaped structure (Kaaba) in Mecca and became the central shrine of Hubal, a chief male god among 36o other deities. Among these was al-Hajar al-Aswad, a nature deity who was symbolized by the black stone. The most prominent Meccan deities besides Hubal were his three sister goddesses al-Lat, al-Manat, and al-Uzza. Mohammed at first acknowledged these goddesses as deities (believing them to be daughters of Allah), but later said his thinking had been corrupted by Satan. Al-Lat (or Allat) is the feminine form of Allah, and is believed to have been the female counterpart of Allah.' The chief goddess of Mohammed's tribe of Quraysh was al-Uzza, to whom Mohammed's grandfather almost sacrificed Mohammed's father except for the counsel of a fortune-teller. The head of this pantheon was al-Ilah (literally "the god"), a vague high god (astral deity) who some believe was associated with the moon. Mohammed's father's name was Abd-Allah ("the slave of al-Ilah"), so it is evident that Mohammed was well acquainted with this deity. He was also familiar with the Najran tribe, which was predominately Christian and exercised significant influence in northern Arabia. It is believed that Mohammed was at one time a student of Christianity and that this explains the inclusion of Jesus, as well as the Jewish patriarchs, in the Qur'an.
Beginning in A.D. 610 Mohammed claimed to have received angelic revelations that al-Ilah (Allah) was the supreme god and had a message of warning.' Several years later Mohammed began to speak publicly as a prophet of Allah, but was rejected by the pagan Meccans. The intensity of the persecution to Mohammed and his followers grew through the years and forced him to flee to Medina in AD 622. This event, known as the Hijra ("Migration'), marked the beginning of the Islamic era. After gaining local favor and amassing an army, in AD 630 Mohammed returned to Mecca, conquered it, and made it the spiritual center of his new religion of Islam. The city's Kaaba stone was transformed from a pagan shrine to the focus of Muslim pilgrimage (Hadj). The Holy book of Islam is the Qur'an (or Koran), which is composed of the angelic message to Mohammed, revelatory books, and selected and "corrected" stories of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and David's psalms from the Old Testament and the story of Jesus (Arabic, Isa) from the New Testament. All of these are believed by Muslims to have been Muslims as well, even though they lived thousands of years before the birth of Mohammed! " The Hadith is another sacred book, which contains collected sayings and deeds of Mohammed, the last prophet.
Islam's god Allah is not the same as the God of Judaism or Christianity. Neither are its accounts of figures from the Jewish and Christian Bibles the same. Islam claims its version is correct and that all others have been corrupted. Christians, in particular, are said to be guilty of the unpardonable sin of shirk, which means to associate partners or companions to Allah. This accusation results from the Muslim misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine of the triune nature of the one God.
Islam, from its beginning, has been a religion of the sword (al Harb). The concept of Holy War (Jihad), mandated by Allah, requires Islam to completely subdue the earth through military conquest. The world is thus divided between Dar al-Islam ("House of Islam") and all areas yet unsubdued by Islam, Dar alHarb ("House of War"). All other religions and all other prophets after Mohammed are false, and all non-Muslims are infidels or dhimmi (tolerated minorities under Islamic rule-such as Jews and Christians). This controlling command eventually brought Islam to Israel, and is the reason for the Muslims' uncompromising control of the Temple Mount. ,
by Lambert Dolphin
Web Pages: http://ldolphin.org/