Thursday, January 11, 2007

1 Chron 12:32 Watch, No 20: Backgrounder on Islam

Now, while we in the Caribbean are often “primed” to see the world through the bitter colouring of our own colonial experience at the hands of “Christian” Westerners, this can distort our ability to accurately see current events and understand the true nature of our times.

So, as we look a bit deeper at the No 2 tidal wave bearing down on our region, we need to explore Islam in a bit more detail. For, it is the historical and religious context in which Islamism became a global and regional challenge - though of course not all or even most Muslims are radicalised Islamists. Also, since there is massive ignorance on this topic (sadly: too often, cynically exploited by Islamist purveyors of spin - cf 2 Cor 4:1 - 2), it is necessary for Caribbean people to build up an independent, fact-based understanding of Islam anchored in its history and foundational documents.

Accordingly, I excerpt as below from the Kairosfocus reference page on this subject:

(1) In the early seventh century, the Angel Gabriel reportedly appeared to Muhammad, a merchant from Mecca in SW Arabia, and initiated a series of revelations that have been handed down in the Quran [“Recitation”] and the Hadiths [traditions and sayings of the Prophet]. These revelations and traditions are the foundation for Islamic teachings/belief and faith [iman], law [sharia] and community [umma], all of which are to be integrated, instituted and enforced in a properly established Muslim state.[28]
(2) Muhammad first hesitated — he wondered if he was going mad under demonic influence, and had to be encouraged by his wife, Khadijah — but then began to preach in Mecca, where he made but few converts. While his basic sincerity was clear, he found that his claims were rejected by the Christians and the Jews,[29] and by the majority of the pagan Meccans; some of whom threatened his safety and persecuted his followers. So, after being invited to be its ruler, he fled to Yathrib in 622, which was renamed Medina, the City of the Prophet.
(3) From the base in Medina, Islam then spread by alliance, conversion and military victories. Within a decade, Arabia was under Islamic rule. Jews and Christians were reduced to subject people status as dhimmis [protected persons], and were ultimately expelled from Arabia under Umar. It also seems that pagans were often viewed as having no religion, and were at least sometimes offered the options of conversion to Islam, or being put to the sword. All of this was in accord with the temper of the times, and it seems that at least some Christians in Syria saw the prospect of Islamic rule as an improvement over “Christian” Byzantine rule!
(4) After Muhammad’s death in 632, at the [approximate] age of sixty-three, the process of conquest continued under Abu Bakr and the other early Caliphs. Islamic armies swept over the Persian and Byzantine empires, spreading across the Middle East and North Africa, and on into Europe and India by 711. In the West they were stopped by Charles Martel at Tours, about a hundred miles from Paris, in 732. Reportedly, Islamic sea raiders attacked the Irish coasts as well.[30] (NB: This footnote discusses the crusades and related issues, with links to discussions by Bernard Lewis and Bat Ye'or.)
(5) Beyond those regions, Islam has been predominantly spread by traders and the teachings of Islamic holy men, especially the mystical Sufis. Thus for instance, Indonesia became the world’s most populous Muslim country, and sub-Saharan Africa saw a gradual Islamic penetration from the North from about the tenth century on.[31] (In recent decades, there has also been a large-scale, well organised Dawa, a missionary campaign to proclaim and establish Islam in all nations.)
(6) Islamic believers famously practice the Five Pillars of Islam: (1) Confession that Allah alone is God and Muhammad his Prophet/Apostle — Authoritative Spokesman; (2) Prayer to Allah while prostrated towards Mecca, five times per day; (3) Fasting (especially during Ramadan); (4) Almsgiving; (5) where possible, Pilgrimage to the Kaaba in Mecca.[32] Some add a sixth pillar, Jihad, or struggle: classically, in the sense of religiously motivated military conflict to extend the sphere of Islam, but the term is also used in the “higher” sense of spiritual/moral struggle.
(7) In the process of its initial territorial expansion, Islam viewed the world as divided into two zones: Dar al Islam [the house of submission to Allah[33]]; and Dar al Harb [the house of the sword/war]. In the former domain, those who hold to other religions — most notably Judaism and Christianity — may continue to practice their belief, but are often subjected to the conditions of the Pact of Umar, and are Dhimmis [“protected persons”] with sharply restricted Civil Rights relative to Muslim men.[34] From the Seventh Century on, this has materially contributed to the conversion of subject peoples to Islam, as people sought to gain the status of full members of the community.[35]
(8) Treaties with non-Islamic states, on this classic Islamic view, are inherently temporary truces,[36] and the expansion of Islam by military means is always an open option. (According to some observers, the classic example of this was set by Muhammad himself, who they say broke a peace treaty between Medina and the Quraysh of Mecca,[37] and so conquered his native city, putting to the sword key opponents and critics, including a poetess who had composed satirical poems challenging his integrity.) However, from the Middle Ages on, there have been Muslim scholars, jurists and statesmen who have argued for a more permanent character to such treaties.[38]
(9) Islam views the Old Testament prophets and Jesus as Prophets of Allah, and regards the Bible as inspired, to the extent that it has not been corrupted.[39] In particular, the concept of the Trinity is viewed as an attempt to elevate Mary — yes, Mary — and Jesus to divine status alongside Allah, that is Shirk,[40] and Christianity is therefore often viewed as idolatrous. Muhammad, as Allah’s final Prophet, has the last say on matters of revelation and fact.
(10) As Surah 4:156 – 158 records, the Quran specifically denies the crucifixion of Christ: “they killed him not, nor crucified him . . . . Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself.”[41] Thus, the Quran’s message is explicitly incompatible with the core gospel message: “on which [we Christians] have taken [our] stand. By this gospel [we] are saved if [we] hold firmly to the word . . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures . . . . And if Christ has not been raised [from the dead], our preaching is useless and so is [our] faith . . . [we] are still in [our] sins.” [1 Cor. 15:2 – 5, 14, 17.]
(11) As Dr Patrick Sookhdeo — who is familiar with Caribbean Islam from his upbringing in his native Guyana — also reports, “Muslims believe that Jesus will come back to earth as a Muslim, will marry and have children, then die and be buried near Muhammad. Some traditions assert that at this second coming He will destroy every cross, kill all Jews, convert the Christians to Islam, and reign as king of all Muslims.” [Sookhdeo, p. 22.]
(12) Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam [NOI] is somewhat divergent from mainstream Islam, as it is rooted in the rejection of racism in the United States, and views Islam as the answer for the Black man. It is somewhat syncretistic between Muslim, Jehovah’s Witness and more orthodox Christian beliefs, has Afrocentric elements and views the White race as the product of breeding experiments over six hundred years by an evil scientist. In some cases, NOI spokesmen reportedly may go so far as to view white people as incarnate devils.

For more details, you may wish to consult the Nehls and Eric online book on Islam here. In handling controversies and debate-points often used by Islamic and/or Islamist apologists and those influenced by them, their further work here may be useful. Also, the general Answering Islam site is very helpful. (DV, on the morrow, we will look at Israel, a major flash-point for Muslim and broader third-world feelings of resentment, and a context in which perceptions [even discounting for the fact that we all are fallen, fallible and often ill-informed or ill-willed], unfortunately, are too often grossly and even propagandistically distorted.)

In the meanwhile, I trust this basic backgrounder will prove helpful. END

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