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Understanding Islam And Its Radicals

November 11, 2001

by Ana Barrett Ana@ConservativeTruth.org

I was completely numb as I watched the videos of the attack on September 11. As the attack was investigated and we learned that the perpetrators were Islamic terrorists, I could not shake the thought that something in their religion made these attacks seem legitimate in their eyes.

So I started, very cautiously, to look into what Islam stands for and what it considers important. I did not want to jump to conclusions. I wanted to know the truth. As a Christian and a serious student of the Bible, I am familiar with the bloody passages of the Old Testament. For this reason I proceeded with caution in my research. My goal was to discover the truth about Islam. My research did include some limited reading of the Qur'an (known in the West as the Koran), but it mainly consisted of reading and listening to people who were very knowledgeable of the religion.

First of all, in order to understand Muslims we need to know what they think of Allah, and we need to look at their worldview. We need to understand moderate Muslims, but we also need an understanding of the radical point of view.

Dr. Samuel Schlorff, an expert on Islam with Arab World Ministries, has written an excellent paper on the religion. He makes a scholarly comparison between Christianity and Islam. Much of the information used in this article regarding the history of Islam was drawn from this paper.

Here are some key points of Islamic theology:

1. Allah is Absolutely Transcendent
Allah is unlike anything that exists. This means that Allah is completely mysterious. Muslims believe that they can know the truth about him, but they can't have any knowledge of him as a person. He is a distant god who lets only his will be known.

2. Divine Guidance
Muslims believe the Qur'an offers guidance for living life and it is usually referred to as "a guidance and mercy for believers." (Sura 27:77) Their law (the Shari'ah) consists of the Qur'an as well as other materials.

3. Islam is from Heaven
The Qur'an describes its revelation as a "sending down" of material from a heavenly being. Because it came in the Arabic language, it is referred to as a heavenly language. From this idea stems the thought that an Islamic community is of heavenly origin. Dr. Nabil Jabur was interviewed recently on Moody radio. He is the author of the book The Rumbling Volcano, which deals with radical Islam. He states that the Qur'an is comprised of recitations given by Muhammad, which Muslims believe came from Allah for specific situations. Thus, when Muhammad was experiencing a tranquil period in his life, the tolerant recitations came forth. When he was having problems with three Jewish tribes, the militant recitations came forth. The Qur'an teaches both peace and war.
Some verses dealing with tolerance are:
Sura 2:5-6 - There is no compulsion in religion.
Sura 5:82 - The nearest in affection to the believer are those who say we are Christian.
Dr. Jabur stated. "When only one side of the Qur'an is presented alone, that is not the truth."

4. A Community in Submission
The Islamic view of the world is that man is inherently good. If man is depraved by society, then any government can create a perfect society by enforcing Islamic law. Muhammad was the head of state of Medina, which Muslims believe was a perfect society. This form of Islamic government is considered by Muslims to be an example of living in true submission to divine law. This degree of submission is greater than any that exists outside of Islam. For Muslims such a community represents the kingdom of Allah on earth. They believe the future of Islam is to dominate the whole House of War (which is how they refer to the entire non-Muslim world) until it is controlled by an Islamic state. The ultimate goal is that the entire world be under Islamic law.

What does the word Islam mean? We have been told, that Islam is related to the Arabic word meaning "peace." This is partially accurate, except that the word means a specific kind of peace. A more accurate translation is "surrender" or "submission." It describes the calm that exists when a vanquished soldier lays down his arms in submission. Dr. Schlorff states, "The truth is that there is another side to Islam, a side that embraces violence 'in the way of Allah.'"

Sura 2:216 - Fighting is prescribed for you.
Sura 2:190-192 - Fight in the cause of god, those who fight you enslave them. Fight them until there is no more persecution and oppression and there prevails justice and faith in god.
Sura 9:5 - Fight and enslave infidels.

During his interview Dr. Jabur was asked what the typical Muslim would think of Osama bin Laden. Would they approve or disapprove of what he is doing? He stated that it would be possible for religious Muslims to have either opinion. Some are embarrassed by what bin Laden is doing. Others think that grievances which have existed for years have come to a head in a justified violent retaliation.

Dr. Jabur tried to illuminate the meaning of a phrase which is used by Muslims and which has not been explained to us. Jihad does not mean holy war. Jihad means "striving for god." It comes in three degrees: 1) Striving against sin in one's own life; 2) The act of motivating others to do good; and 3) Using violent means to stop a wrong act is justifiable if necessary. This third degree is the one with which we are most familiar.

After Muhammad died in Medina he was succeeded by four caliphs who ruled in his place. (A caliph is "one who comes after.") The leadership of Muhammad's Islamic society was divided. Sunnis accept that all four were legitimate. Shi'ites believe that only one, Ali, was the rightful successor. The result has been a division within the Muslim world pertaining to Islamic law and spiritual authority. That is why we do not have a single Muslim leader to whom the world can appeal to stand up and lead the Muslims of the world away from bin Laden.

Shortly after the Attack, Chuck Colson brought up some very interesting points on his radio show, Breakpoint. He stated that due to the lack of widely recognized Islamic leadership, bin Laden is attempting to unify the radical Muslims living in moderate Muslim states. He would like nothing more than to have them overthrow those states so that he can unify them and install himself as the leader of one large radical Islamic nation, and wage war against the West. As evidence of this, he pointed out that bin Laden has not shown much interest in the Palestinians in the past. Now he is speaking out in their behalf in order to gain their support.

Of course most Muslims do not support such violence as terrorism. However watching a Muslim country being bombed day after day might change the minds of even the most moderate and cause them to support bin Laden. Perhaps that is the plan: Goad Muslims into hating the West so much that anything goes. The Qur'an supports both violence and peace. They may think that they can use violence now and then have peace on their own terms later.


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