Islam: A Historical Perspective
Religion of Peace. Hijacked. Perverted. Radicalized. Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greater). Jihad. Greater and Lesser. Fatwa. Imam. Ayatollah. Dar al Islam (House of Islam). Dar al Harb (House of War). Abrogations. Hadiths.
These are words and phrases now familiar to most Americans.
Islam must be considered in its entirety. It is a fusion of faith and politics, of the spiritual and the temporal, a system of governance, based on the teachings of the Quran, with a religious overlay. It defines a total social order — a legal system (sharia), economics, religion, politics, military, human social relationships.
Are the Judeo-Christian God and Allah the same deity revealed to both Moses and Muhammad only centuries apart? Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? How are the theological differences explained? Are they reconcilable?
Islam means “submission.” It requires a life of total surrender and obedience to Allah. The Quran is believed to be the inviolable truth delivered to Muhammad in his dreams. Additionally, orally transmitted traditions called hadiths help form the foundation of the faith. Not everything that was transmitted to Muhammad ended up in the Quran. Those elements were abrogated. Abrogations introduced a human element into the “conversation.”
Are the Bible and the Quran the same playbook? Or, in this cybertech age, the same operating system?
Let’s start with the Decalogue as delivered to Moses and burned into stone without possibility of abrogation.
1.) I am the Lord thy God.
His message to those he delivered from slavery and bondage was that they abide by His commandments.
2.) You shall have no other gods before me.
One God. One human race. One moral standard.
3.) Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.
Don’t not commit evil in the name of God or in God’s behalf.
4.) Remember the Sabbath.
Free people, unlike slaves, are allowed a day to rest. Cherish your liberty.
5.) Honor your father and your mother.
The family and the child-parent bond is the foundation of a moral society.
6.) Do not murder.
The Bible commands the death penalty for murder but allows killing in war.
7.) Do not commit adultery.
Adultery threatens the family, the building block of civilization.
8.) Do not steal.
We cannot take anything that doesn’t belong to us…life, spouse, justice, another human being, private or intellectual property, a person’s reputation, dignity, or trust.
9.) Do not bear false witness.
Do not lie, period. Lying in court leads to injustice. Lies distort the truth.
10.) Do not covet.
Don’t covet your neighbors spouse, house, or stuff. Bad thoughts may lead to bad deeds.
Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic of the Serbian Orthodox Church, in 1917, said of the difference between Islam and Christianity: “Islam had in some sense a Christian ambition: to win the whole world. The difference was: Islam wished world-conquest; the Church, the world’s salvation. Islam intended to subdue all men and bring them before God as His servants. The Church intended to educate all men, to purify and elevate them, and to bring them before God as His children.”
Christianity was spread by “the Word.” Islam was spread by the sword. Christ died for his religion; Muhammad murdered for his.
Do Christianity and Islam overlap theologically? Do they share a common moral standard? What about concepts of individual liberty?
Bernard Lewis, writing in the WSJ, discusses Arab “liberty,” advising that the Arab language has no such word. The closest Arabic comes to “liberty” is “justice.” During her speech (in Alexandria, Egypt), Sec. of State Hillary Clinton said: “When we talk about supporting democracy, we mean real democracy. To us real democracy means that every citizen has the right to live, work and worship as they choose, whether they are man or woman, Christian or Muslim. Real democracy means that no group or faction or leader can impose their will, their ideology, their religion, their desires on anyone else.” The 1400-year history of Islam offers no examples of the level of tolerance now being demanded by our government. The concepts of individual liberty, as reflected in our founding documents, were germinated in the potting soil of Judeo-Christianity. The soil of Islam has shown itself toxic to "trees of liberty.“
Nathan Tabor writes, "God’s view of government dictates that it carries out a specified and limited role in human affairs. The church and civil government are made necessary by the same thing (sin), but do not have identical responsibilities (Matthew 22:15-21). The humanist view of the role of government is to perfect mankind. The Scriptural view of the role of government is to protect mankind. Throughout Scripture, God is clear that civil government is charged with a limited responsibility and that good leaders decide to take a Scriptural view of government’s role. We also see in Scripture that God has a welfare plan — people are to look to the family, then the church, then the community (1 Timothy 5:3-16, Leviticus 19:9, 10, 23:22). The humanistic plan is publicly funded, coercive, and creates cycles of dependency. God’s plan is community-oriented, voluntary, and empowers people.”
“Allahu Akbar” (Allah is the Greater) has been heard on cockpit voice recorders and shouted as triggers are pulled on AK-47s. This is evil being committed in God’s name. Have these actors hijacked a peaceful faith or justified their behavior on some perverted interpretation of Islam’s tenets? Are the bearded faces we see on the nightly news those of a radicalized or extremist minority, members of an incorrigible fringe death-cult? According to Recep Erdogan, the current president of Turkey, “‘Moderate Islam’ is an oxymoron and an insult to Islam … there is no ‘moderate Islam’, only Islam.”
Those of us in the West who interact regularly with Muslims grasp their dilemma. They are walking a tightrope. “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s; unto the Lord, that which is the Lord’s” is a Christian concept. A Muslim’s mere acceptance of secular governance is an act of apostasy. Calls for an Islamic Reformation are made difficult because Islam’s religious component is not hierarchical, does not have a central authority, and is not independent of Islam’s political and legal authorities. There is no Islamic pope and no college of cardinals. Islamic religious doctrine is based on the Quran whose text is considered the inviolable word of Allah. Given those constraints, believers are loathe to challenge that which is decreed. The penalty for apostasy is death. What is Jihad? Greater Jihad describes those activities to spread the faith. Lesser Jihad is described as the personal spiritual journey one takes to get closer to Allah. Islam sees the world in binary terms, an “us” and “them” dichotomy. Dar al Islam (House of Islam). Dar al Harb (House of war). Greater Jihad is employed to expand Dar al Islam against those in Dar al Harb.
A couple of other terms that are important to learn to understand Islam: Taqqiya — the deliberate lying to infidels in the service of the faith. Hijrah — the mass movement of Muslims into infidel lands to Islamize through demographics. Let’s fast-forward to today. We are experiencing an Islamic resurgence not unlike the Islamic expansions of the past. History provides ample evidence of Islam's previous jihads — Tours (732); Kosovo Polje (1389); Spain (1492); Gates of Vienna (1683); and Shores of Tripoli (1805). Thomas Jefferson responded to the Barbary pirates by “sending in the Marines.”
Winston Churchill wrote in 1899, “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property — either as a child, a wife, or a concubine — must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the Queen; all know how to die; but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of ghout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science — the science against which it had vainly struggled — the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”
The chains of Islam lay heavily on the faithful. The cultural differences, the levels of achievement in all areas of human endeavor, are not genetic. They are not pre-ordained by DNA. They may be explained directly by religious philosophy. The new Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, Muhammad Badi, said: “Arab and Muslim regimes are betraying their people by failing to confront the Muslim’s real enemies, not only Israel but also the United States. Waging jihad against both of these infidels is a commandment of Allah that cannot be disregarded. Governments have no right to stop their people from fighting the United States. They are disregarding Allah’s commandment to wage jihad for His sake with [their] money and [their] lives, so that Allah’s word will reign supreme” over all non-Muslims.“
All Muslims are required by their religion to fight:
"They crucially need to understand that the improvement and change that the [Muslim] nation seeks can only be attained through jihad and sacrifice and by raising a jihadi generation that pursues death just as the enemies pursue life.”
What about today’s terrorists? Are they psychotic or mentally ill? Not according to those who study such things. They view themselves as soldiers engaged in a just war. Participating in jihad is an integral part of their belief system, ideology, and psychology. Those who declare that jihadism, and its acts of terror, have nothing to do with Islam have simply chosen to remain willfully blind. When we measure Islamist jihadist tactics against the moral imperatives of the Decalogue, the violations are glaring. Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? Given the evidence, it is hard to answer in the affirmative.
For those of us in Western societies who have welcomed Muslims into our midst, we, too, are at a crossroads. We are forced to discern what lies within the hearts of our new neighbors. Is their allegiance to their adopted country or to a militant 7th century prophet?