An Overview of the Islamic Religion

INTRODUCTON

            This research paper introduces key significant features on the study of the Islamic religion. It synoptically delineates on the origin of Islam, the life of its pioneer, Muhammad, and its authoritative based in reference to its traditions and essential beliefs within the context of its historicity and theology and the Biblical approach to win a Muslim convert.

ORIGIN OF ISLAM

            According to the Islamic tradition, Islam has its root in the genesis during the creation of humanity; as such, reference is given to Adam, Abraham, Jesus, and Muhammad being the last prophet of all and to whom accreditation is given as the messenger of Allah. If the Qu’ran or Islam has its root in the genesis of creation; then, does the Qu’ran contain some Biblical truths? The Qu’ran does made reference of Biblical characters such as Adam, Abraham, and Jesus by oral historical tradition, but some of the sayings concerning Jesus are true while some are false. For example, the Qu’ran says that Jesus is a prophet, but rejects that Jesus is the Son of God. Hexham comments on this regarding the origin of Islam as mentioned below.

“According to Muslim tradition, Islam came into existence with the creation of humanity by the Creator God, known to Muslim as Allah. Following the creation, God revealed his will to mankind through the first man Adam, and a long line of prophets that included Abraham and Jesus. The last and final prophet was Muhammad, to whom God revealed his will for mankind in the holy Qu’ran, and who now serves as model and inspiration for all men.”[1]

            One of the peculiar things that show that the Qu’ran is full of traditions is the quotation shown above. The Islamic religion is referencing Adam, Abraham, and Jesus and laying emphasis on Muhammad as the last prophet. Is he the last prophet of Islam or Christianity? He can not be the last prophet of Christianity for the fact that there is no place in the Bible that mentions Muhammad by name. The Islamic religion is making mention of Abraham and Jesus in order to link Muhammad to God. Muhammad can not be the prophet of God because he was not inspired according to the Qu’ran. The Qu’ran is not an inspired book, but it a revelation received by Muhammad from an angel calling himself Gabriel. Did God create man out of the clot of blood? God did not create man out of the clot of blood, but from the dust according to Genesis.

The demonic angel disguised himself under the name of Gabriel to mislead Muhammad. This is the reason according to the Islamic tradition and world history, Muhammad thought it was the God of the Christians that had appeared to him. He was subjective.

            On the other hand regarding the origin of Islam, Islam geographically originated in Arabia at the time when Muhammad had received a revelation from Gabriel according the Islamic tradition.

THE LIFE OF MUHAMMAD

            As this research paper endeavors to dig into the Religion of Islam, it is expedient to give a brief history of the pioneer of the Islamic religion to enable the audience understands his personality or character. The pioneer of the Muslim religion which is regarded to be a theistic religion contemporary to Christianity and Judaism is Muhammad. According to the Islamic tradition, Muhammad was born in 570 A.D in the region of Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula. During this time in Arabia, the institution of worship of gods became the pattern of the inhabitants’ practices; consequently, the practice of infanticides wherein children were offered to the gods through the process of burning them became the practical upheaval in the land. As the result of this, the inhabitants of the land aspire for deliverance. Couduan comments on this in his book regarding Muhammad as stated below.

“Muhammad was born in A.D 570 in the vicinity of Mecca. The indigenous Arabian religion of the time was a mixture of polytheism and animism. Mecca was a center of this religion and the focal point of pilgrims visiting its many idols and shrines. The first thing that greeted a pilgrim entering Mecca was a statue of God’s (Allah’s) three sensuous-appearing daughters (al-Lat, al-Manat and al-Uzza).”[2]

            Muhammad lived in the region at the time where people believed in the worship of many gods and the practice of animism. His desires for religious worship contrary to what was going on prompted Muhammad to separate himself from the polytheistic and animistic generations to seek God for divine revelation and direction. His aspirations regarding the worship of God were monotheistic in nature. It is believed according to tradition; Muhammad lived with the Monk in the Arabian Desert for some number of years even before getting married to Khadīja. His affiliation with the Monk may have also prompted him for the campaign regarding the worship of one God, who is regarded to be the Supreme Being. Azumah in his book commented on this regarding the worship of many gods in Mecca and he states,

“Mecca was a religious center. The local god of Mecca, Hubal, was highly venerated in the ancient temple known as the Ka’bah, which was surrounded by images of deities representing different ethnic groups. According to Islamic tradition, there were 360 such images, including statues of Jesus and Mary.”[3]

            As seen in this quotation, Mecca was the center of idolatry where every family who lived in this region at the time, had a family god to worship. Muhammad whose family worshipped the Kaba at time can not be divorced from the polytheistic religious worship; notwithstanding, the appearing of the angel to him according to the Islamic tradition gave him a new look regarding whom to worship. The Christian God whom he called Allah had appeared to him. Indeed Muhammad was not cleared about the subject of the revelation he received. He became subjective. According to the Islamic tradition, Gabriel spoke to him at time and sometimes Allah himself would speak to him. I see confusion in this spiritual experience Muhammad is encountering at the time. It is not surprising why Muhammad was not clear about who appeared to him. Wilken comments on Muhammad’s revelation activities as stated below:

“When Muhammad received a revelation, he would go into a trance and start to shiver. Then, like the pre-Islamic kahins (Arab soothsayers), he would be wrapped up in some garments (73:1-7) apparently to induce new revelations. According to Islamic traditional sources, the words he recited were then memorized by his followers and inscribed on objects such as bones, palm leaves or tree bark.”[4]

            It should be recorded that Muhammad in the past had been involved in the family worship of the Kaba, the Muhammad’s family god at the time prior to his revelation. Spiritually, Muhammad was connected to a deity before he received the revelation from the angel Gabriel according to the Islamic tradition. Every statement made concerning Muhammad is connected to or has its root to the Islamic custom. If tradition is also referenced to the Islamic Faith; then, we need to examine this religion thoroughly as to get its authenticity to see if this is from God. Paul warns the Colossian Christians to be mindful of the tradition or dogma of this world according to Col. 2:15-18.

            If Muhammad has been connected to a deity before, it means that he was initiated in this religion which worshipped the Kaba. Such religion believes in the worship of the spirits of the unknown.

According to the onset of the revelation, Muhammad would go into a trance and start to shiver like an Arab Soothsayer and after; he would be wrapped into some garments to induce new revelations. The mannerism in which Muhammad received his revelation is not reconcilable to any of the manners in which the Old Testament prophets received the revelation from God through inspiration. Muhammad was not inspired according to the Islamic tradition backed by the Qu’ran, but he only received a revelation through the angel Gabriel according to the Islamic tradition. If Muhammad was not inspired; then, the revelation he received was the result of illumination which involved a spiritual being. This spiritual being could be an evil spirit, Holy Spirit etc. If Muhammad was not inspired; then, the revelation he received did not come from God. His book or revelation received is contemporary to the extra 14 books[5] which the Catholic uses that were not inspired; therefore, the Islamic religion is in error today. Their God is the god of vengeance which does not have relationship with humans. He is called the only One, Allah. The Islamic religion is pure Unitarian while the Christian religion is Trinitarian. Is the God of the Muslims the God of the Christians? I will emphatically say no because there are big differences between the Islamic religion to that of the Christian religion based on doctrine, practice, and theology.

BELIEFS AND BIBLICA APPROACH TO WIN MUSLIMSIN

            Every religion of the world whose belief is inscribed scripturally lies the authority of that religion; therefore, is it with Christianity as well. The authority of the Christian religion lies in the written word of God, the Bible. Similarly, the authority of the Islamic religion lies in the Qu’ran. It is the Qu’ran that speaks in the daily lives of the Muslims. The religious practices regarding the creed, rituals, righteousness, belief systems, and further requirements are dictated by the Qu’ran. Failure to keep the rules dictated by the Mother of books called the Qu’ran is a direct opposition to Allah and such individual will be held responsible for his or her action. If it is a violation that requires capital punishment, the individual will eventually die without religious clemency. The God of the Qu’ran is the God of retribution. According to Ernest Hahn in the article What Do Christians Need to Know about Islam and Muslims and I quote,

“The highest authority in Islam is the Qu’ran. As we have seen, Muslims believe that the angel Gabriel divinely revealed the Qur’an to Muhammad. Essentially is the earthly version of a heavenly book, the um-al-kitab (mother of all books). Muhammad was privileged to convey this earthly version along with special instructions.”[6]

            Muslims believe that the Qu’ran was divinely given to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel; consequently, it is the ultimate authority to guide all Muslims including the additional recorded in the Hadith, the book which records the tradition of what Muhammad did when he was alive. Not only do the Muslims believe in the Qu’ran, but there are other ritualistic practices that Muslims perform on the daily basis and one time in their lifetime. There are further requirements that Muslims should fulfill in their religious duties before Allah. They include the five pillars of Islam and the pilgrimage to Mecca once in the lifetime. These components of the religious duties are principal to qualify who a Muslim is.

            Every Muslim must recite the creed daily to indicate the commitment to Allah. It is a confession of faith which indicates conversion and submission to Allah and his prophet Muhammad. Let us examine the quotation taking from the article.

“Every Muslim must recite the creed of Islam—the word of witness—“There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the apostle of Allah. “From the creed we learn that Islam means “submission” to Allah (one God) and acceptance of Muhammad as the Apostle sent by Allah. When a person, family, society, city or country was to be added to Islam, a Messenger was sent carrying an invitation letter. The invitation was to either submit and believe in the creed, thus saving one’s life and property, or face the consequence of war.”[7]

            The creed in Islam is the bedrock of initiation into the religion of Islam. According to their belief, once an individual says this creed, he or she becomes or converts to Islam ceremonially and spiritually. It is a confession of faith that moves an individual from the status of an infidel to a status of the believing individual. It is an affirmation and authentication to the faith of Islam. It should not be taken lightly when this confession is made. Hicks states,

 “Islam is essentially a simple and straightforward system of belief and practice. At its core is the declaration that there is only one God and that Muhammad is his messenger. Implicit in this declaration is the belief that all other claims to deity, such as those made by Christians about Jesus, are false” [8]

This is the major confession or creed in the Islamic religion. This confession is made on the daily basis during the Muslim session of prayer. It is a basic for becoming a Muslim. It is a practice in that rules or regulations regarding the Muslim daily hours of prayer and religious ceremonies such as the steps to the Pilgrimage to Mecca must be straightly observed accordingly. Muslim religion is the religion of religious legalism. For instance, there are procedures a Muslim must observe when planning to visit Mecca. He or she must observe the seven components of the hajj commonly called the rituals of the pilgrimage. He or she must carry out spiritual groundwork before arrival. He or she must arrive in the city of Jidda and must pass through Saudi Arabia. Before entering Mecca, a Muslim goes through a state of purity. Men bathe, shave their heads, and don two triangular pieces of linen, and women are required to wear traditional Islamic robe and veil. All pilgrims must walk around the Kaba seven times and when they are leaving Mecca, every individual is required to drink from Zamzam. It is a religion of rituals and practices. Realistically speaking, Christianity is not a religion because it does not have to do with practices as compared to Islam and other religions of the world. Christianity is a relationship whose God is loving, merciful, considerate, reachable, and fatherly; unlike, the Muslim God does not have these attributes. He is a God of retribution. He is the Only One which means he has no connection with humans. The followers of this God don’t have assurance of salvation. According to the Muslim religion, their God decides who goes to heaven. The easy way to go to heaven according to them is to die for the cause of Allah. This is a reason they carry out Jihad or suicide bombing. L. Wilken states,

“Belief in God (Allah) is the first and central belief in Islam. He is depicted as a sovereign, king, ruler and master who is utterly other than his creation. His transcendent status is encapsulated in the familiar Muslim expression, Allahu Akbar (God is great). Idolatry, the worship of more than one God, is strongly condemned for Islam stresses the oneness or unity (tawhid) of God. He is one and has no partners and no children. Associating anything else with God is an unforgivable sin, referred to as shirk.”[9]

         This idea of Muslims’ view of God is quite different from the evangelical Christian view. To the Muslim, God is viewed as the sovereign, king, and master who is utterly other than his creation; therefore, attributing relational and human characteristics such as Father, loving, mercy, forgiving etc is blasphemous against Allah. To substantiate the validity and verification of these statements as implied to the Muslim religion, the statement “God is great,” is referenced to his transcendent status as encapsulated in the Muslim declaration. In the Muslim religion, the word “relationship” does not form part of the religious vocabulary.

         Islam as the religion during the Medieval era had been a religion of war; evidentially, the religion believes in war. This ideological belief had birthed a religious struggle in Muslim religion called the Jihad. Proponents of Islam are a war like a people; as such, the Jihad can be traced back centuries ago during the occupation of Islam in Jerusalem and the surrounding lands which belong to the Christians. Abdulrahman Al-Salimi in his article states,

“Even on the eve of the conquest of Jerusalem, when Arab armies had encircled the holy city and blocked the road to Bethlehem, the patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, assured the faithful.”[10]

            The result of the Muslims occupation of Jerusalem made Pope Urban II to declare the crusade with the goal to liberate Jerusalem and the surrounding lands from Muslim domination. The term “Crusade” was introduced as the result of Christian counter insurgent to liberate the land from Muslim occupation. Thomas F. Madden states,

“Pope Urban II proclaimed the first crusade at the council of Clermont in France on November 27, 1095. A holy endeavor to expel a people “enslaved by demons” would serve many purposes: the Selink Turks [the Muslims] had successfully occupied the holy lands, once part of the Byzantine Empire.”[11]

There are principles one can apply to reach a Muslim converts. It is necessary to use principles that the Qu’ran made reference of. Such principle includes using the Birth of Jesus and his mission encapsulated in his miracles while on earth. According to Proverb 11:30, it takes wisdom to win a soul. Looking at the principles discussed by Azumah (2008:101-121), it is expedient to deal with principles that appeal to the Islamic individual; as the result; the birth of Jesus and the mission and miracles of Jesus show expediencies to reach a Muslim with the Gospel since these areas are mentioned and affirmed by the Qu’ran. The Qu’ran states, “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one those brought near (unto Allah). He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he is of the righteous (3:45-46).”[12]

         “And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.”[13](Matt. 1:21[NIV]).

Matthews 1:21 and Sura 3:45-46 talk about Jesus being a son born as the divine and being declared as a righteous person. The Sura 3:45-46 supplements Matthew 1:21; therefore, these will be a good start to win a Muslim and have him or her converted to Christianity. No one can save human person without that person being holy. The person whom  we can attribute holiness to is God. In explaining the birth of Jesus, you will also be explaining his divinity to the Muslim. You can use one stone to throw two stones in order take down a stronghold in the lives of the Muslims.

         The second principle useful to win a Muslim is the mission and the miracles of Jesus. He states, “Jesus was a sign from God for humanity, strengthened by the Holy Spirit[14]. He was taught scripture by God (3:48)”[15]

The St. John 3:16 gospel talks and affirms that God sent Jesus into this world to save mankind. According to Sura 5:110, if Jesus was a sign from God for humanity, then; he can be the Savior to the world of non-Muslims and Muslims. The John Gospel and the Sura 5:110, 2:87 can be used to win Muslims to Christianity.

CONCLUSION

            In conclusion, the study of Islam as it relates to its origin, its founder, and its belief systems and authority is paramount to understanding the synoptic segments of the study of the Islamic religion in context to enable the evangels to reach the Muslim communities with the Gospel.

Bibliography

Al-Salimi, Abdurrahman. Themes of the Ibadi/Omani Siyar: Journal of Semitic Studies, 54 no 2 (Aut 2009).

Ames, Donald P. The Extra Catholic Books: The Truth Magazine. Vol. XIII, November 1968.

Azumah, John. My Neighbor’s Faith: Islam Explained for Christians. Michigan: Grand Rapids, 2008.

Corduan, Winfried. A Christian Introduction to World Religions: Neighboring Faiths. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998.

Hahn, Ernest. What Do Christians Need to Know about Islam and Muslims: Christianity and Islam; Missions to Muslims; Pillars of Islam .Missio apostolica, 10 no 2 (November 2002).

Hexham, Irving. Understanding World Religions: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Michigan: Grand Rapids, 2011.

Hicks, Rosemary. The Question of Authority, Deracinating Race, Repositioning Religion, and Regenerating: Comparative Islamic Studies, 4 no 1-2 (2008).

Levine, Mark. What is Fundamentalism and How Do We Get of Rid of It: Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 42 no 1 (Wint 2007).

Madden, Thomas F. Inventing the Crusade. Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2009.

Wilken, Robert Louis. Christianity Face to Face with Islam: First Things, no 189 (Jan. 2009).


[1] Irving Hexham, Understanding World Religions: An Interdisciplinary Approach (Michigan: Grand Rapids, 2011), 400.

[2]Winfried Corduan, A Christian Introduction to World Religions: Neighboring Faiths (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 78.

[3] John Azumah, My Neighbor’s Faith: Islam Explained for Christians (Michigan: Grand Rapids, 2008), 16-17.

[4] Robert Louis Wilken, Christianity Face to Face with Islam: First Things, no 189 (January 2009): 19-26.

[5] Donald P. Ames, The Extra Catholic Books: The Truth Magazine, Vol. XIII, Page 12-14, November 1968.

[6] Ernest Hahn, What Do Christians Need to Know about Islam and Muslims: Christianity and Islam; Missions to Muslims; Pillars of Islam .Missio apostolica, 10 no 2 (November 2002): 57-65

[7]Mark LeVine, What is Fundamentalism and How Do We Get of Rid of It: Journal of Ecumenical Studies, 42 no 1 (Wint 2007):15-28

[8]‘Rosemary Hicks, The Question of Authority, Deracinating Race, Repositioning Religion, and Regenerating: Comparative Islamic Studies, 4 no 1-2 (2008):  p 213-227.

[9]Robert Louis Wilken, Christianity Face to Face with Islam: First Things, no 189 (Jan. 2009):  p 19-26

[10]Abdulrahman Al-Salimi, Themes of the Ibadi/Omani Siyar: Journal of Semitic Studies, 54 no 2 (Aut 2009):  p 475-514.

[11]Thomas F. Madden, Inventing the Crusade (Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2009) 136.

[12]ibid

[13] Matt. 1:21

[14] Sura 5:110

[15]ibid