Welcome to week 7, my fellow sojourners! I pray you are blessed by our study together. This week we move into less-charted waters, as we consider basic information about Islam and the Qur’an. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but have done my best to verify the information that will be shared this week. We are studying this subject matter, not to become experts in Islam, but to bring at least a degree of understanding to the Israeli-Arab conflict that has raged throughout their history. Today, we will examine the birth of Islam and its prophet, Muhammad; and tomorrow we’ll examine the Qur’an and the two primary Muslim sects (Sunni and Shi’ite).
Before we go further, it is important to consider this: Genesis 12:3 tells us that those who bless Israel will be blessed, and those who curse Israel will be cursed. However, I don’t believe Jesus takes an “either/or” position, but a “both/and” position. Scripture does not teach us to love either the Jews or the Arabs, but to love both the Jews and the Arabs. (Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27, 35; Matthew 5:9; Romans 12:18) Therefore, we will abide by these ground rules:
- Bashing Islam (religion) or Muslims (people) is not the goal or the intent, and is not valued.
- Sharing fact is important, but without evil intent.
- We are taught to stand firmly and boldly on Scripture, but with an attitude pleasing to the Lord.
- Though we may oppose false theology, we are commanded to love the people.
- Criticism and debate are to be avoided in favor of honor and civility.
So, with that, let’s dive in by reviewing some Bible history. God’s covenant with Abram (Abraham) is recorded in Genesis 12 (and reaffirmed multiple times in Genesis), making it clear that the covenant promises of descendants and land were to be carried out through “the son of promise,” born of Sarai (Sarah). Growing older in age, however, Abram and Sarai decided to “help God out” by sending Sarai’s handmaiden, Hagar, into Abraham to have a son.
That son was Ishmael, Abraham’s first born, but not the son of promise. At 90-years-old, Sarah later gave birth to Isaac, the son of promise. However, two religious systems evolved from the birth of those two sons. The descendants of Ishmael became the Arab nations who predominantly follow Islamic teaching, while the descendants of Isaac became the Jewish people, following Judaism.
The foundation of Judaism dates all the way back to about 2000 BC when God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees. Though Abraham’s family worshiped idols (Joshua 24:2), Abraham clearly heard God’s call and obeyed it. Later, God gave the law to Moses, instituted the tabernacle and worship, and led the Israelites through the wilderness. In about 1200 BC, Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Judaism was alive and well.
The foundation of Islam, on the other hand, is based on the god of Muhammad, and dates only to about 600 AD. Interestingly, Muhammad’s family likely worshiped the same pagan gods that Abraham’s family worshiped thousands of years prior. It is believed that both worshiped the moon god. Thus, Muhammad chose the moon god, Allah, as the god of Islam. Interestingly, the moon god was supposedly married to the sun goddess and their daughters were stars. We now find the symbol of Islam to be a crescent moon and star.
Interestingly, it seems apparent that the prophet Muhammad is more prominent in Islam than Allah. After all, it was the prophet Muhammad who chose Allah as the Islamic god, and it is Muhammad who Muslims seem to view as the most important figure in their religion. Muhammad was born in 570 AD. His father died before his birth, and his mother soon after, thus he was raised by an uncle. Uneducated, it is widely thought that Muhammad was illiterate until an angel squeezed him really hard, causing him to be able to read and write. Likewise, Muhammad was said to have been visited by angels who took out his heart, purified it, and put it back in.
At a relatively young age, Muhammad married a wealthy woman 15 years his senior and was very secure financially, giving him opportunity to seclude himself in caves. According to Islamic tradition, Allah gave visions to Muhammad and these visions became the basis for Islam. Muhammad began his ministry in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (known as the birthplace of Islam), where his family was involved in caravan trading. Up and down the caravan routes, Muhammad became familiar with many religious beliefs. In fact, he took Jewish and Christian concepts and twisted them into new theology. In Mecca, he amassed a small, peaceful following and he tried to entice others, including Jews and Christians, into the new Islamic theology. Being familiar with the apostle Paul’s teachings regarding false teachers, however, Jews and Christians resisted. Likewise, followers resisted a new teaching that indicated all should engage in jihad. Muhammad began tracking down Jews and Christians and killing them. Soon, there was an assassination attempt on his life. In response, Muhammad fled to Medina in 623 AD, where Islam became much more violent as the focus turned to jihad. 623 AD marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar.
Islam was born, and the prophet Muhammad was laying the foundation that would guide Islamic belief even to the present day.
Join us tomorrow when we dive into the Qur’an and the two primary Muslim sects, Sunni and Shi’ite.