Ever since the Attack on America on September 11, 2001, we have heard a never-ending chorus of voices from government, academia, and the media assuring us that the Islamic terrorists who attacked the Trade Towers and the Pentagon are not representative of "true Islam." We have been likewise assured by spiritual leaders — even some Christian spokesmen — that Islam is a religion of peace, and that Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews.
"Our war is not against Islam," we have been told repeatedly. "Our war is against terrorism."
Well, what about it?
- Are Muslims the spiritual brothers and sisters of Christians and Jews?
- Do we all worship the same God?
- Are the Islamic holy scriptures, known as the Koran, inspired by God?
- Is Islam another path to God by which one can attain eternal life?
- Are the Islamic fundamentalists representative of true Islam, or are they a terrible aberration of an otherwise peace-loving religion?
- Is our war really a political one against international terrorists, or is it a spiritual battle against a demonic, intolerant, militant, and imperialistic religion known as Islam?
An Historical Perspective on Islam
Let's begin our consideration of these questions with some historical background.
Muhammad, the man who dictated the Koran and gave birth to Islam, was born in Mecca in the Saudi Arabian peninsula in 570 A.D. His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was six years old. He was raised first by a grandfather and later by an uncle.
Muhammad was illiterate throughout his life. Until the age of 25 he worked in caravans. During his extensive travels, he encountered many Christians and Jews. Through his conversations with them, he picked up bits and pieces of both Judaism and Christianity.
His life was radically changed at age 25 when he met a wealthy widow 40 years old who fell in love with him. Their marriage enabled Muhammad to live a life of leisure from that point on.
Fifteen years after his marriage, at age 40, Muhammad had a visitation from a spirit. Supposedly, this spirit told him that he was called of God to be a "prophet" and an "apostle." It is interesting to note that there was no tradition in Arabian religions of either prophets or apostles. These terms were obviously used by Muhammad to appeal to Jews and Christians.
Muhammad continued to have spirit visitations. They would throw him into a trance, and his utterances during the trances were written down by scribes. These ethereal statements became the Koran, but they were not compiled until after Muhammad's death. When the compilation was made, the utterances were not organized either chronologically or by subject matter. The result was a jumble of disorganized and often incoherent sayings which are frequently contradictory.
For example, the Koran gives four conflicting accounts of Muhammad's call to be a prophet [the word, Sura, means chapter]:1
- Suras 53 and 81 — God, or Allah as he is called in Arabic, personally appeared to Muhammad.
- Suras 16 and 26 — The call was from the Holy Spirit.
- Sura 15 — Angels issued the call.
- Sura 2 — Gabriel was the one who appeared to him.
At the time Muhammad received his initial visitation, there were over 300 gods being worshiped in Mecca by pilgrims who came there each year to pray at the Ka'aba, a small cubic building that housed a black meteorite and effigies of the various gods. One of those gods was Allah, the moon god.
Muhammad decided to proclaim that there was only one god — and he selected Allah as that god. That's the reason the crescent moon became the symbol of Islam. Muhammad also proclaimed that he was the prophet of Allah.
Initially, Muhammad expected both Jews and Christians to receive his new revelation. Thus, early passages in the Koran speak admiringly of "the people of the Book." These are the passages that Muslims in the West love to quote in their effort to prove that Islam is a tolerant religion. An example is Sura 5:82 which says, "You will find that those who are nearest in love to the believers [Muslims] are those who say, 'We are Christians.'"
But when Jews and Christians rejected Muhammad, he turned fiercely against them, and later passages in the Koran speak of them disparagingly:
- Sura 5:51 commands Muslims not to take Jews and Christians as friends.
- Sura 9:29 commands Muslims to fight against Jews and Christians until they either submit to Allah or else agree to pay a special tax.
- Sura 2:65-66 and Sura 5:60 contain references to Jews as "apes and swine to be despised and rejected." (Think of that! You can be sure that such a statement did not come from the true God of this universe who selected the Jews to be His Chosen People.)
Jews and Christians were not the only ones who rejected Muhammad's new revelations. The people of his own tribe, the Quraysh, also rejected him. In response, Muhammad succumbed to the temptation to appease his tribe by announcing that it would be okay for them to worship the three daughters of Allah — named Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Ma-nat.
This declaration led to the infamous "Satanic verses" of the Koran which were later deleted when Muhammad reverted back to monotheism. Muslims have tried ever since to cover-up this diversion from the faith. You may remember that in 1989 an Indian writer by the name of Salman Rushdie brought up this taboo topic when he wrote a novel entitled, The Satanic Verses. The Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran condemned him and called for his assassination. A three million dollar bounty was placed on his head, and he has been in hiding ever since.
The opposition to Muhammad in his home town of Mecca continued to grow until he was forced to flee 250 miles to Medina where his message was received. The Islamic calendar dates from this year when Muhammad fled to Medina and found a receptive audience, resulting in the formal establishment of Islam as a religion. It was the year 622 A.D., and that date represents year one of the Muslim calendar, which is a lunar calendar. The year 2001 is the year 1422 in the Muslim dating system.
After the death of his wife, Muhammad married at least 11 other women (some sources place the total as high as 16). He also took several concubines. He married one girl who was only six years old and had sexual relations with her when she was 9.2 According to the Koran, only the prophet could have unlimited wives. All other Muslim men are limited to four (Sura 4:3).
Muhammad died on June 8, 632 A.D. in Medina at age 63. He left no successor, and Islam soon broke into warring sects such as the Shiites and the Sunnis.
The Spread of Islam
All of those who survived Muhammad took up the sword, as directed by the Koran, and devoted themselves to advancing Islam through military might. The resulting spread of the religion was phenomenal. Within a century, Islamic forces had conquered Saudi Arabia, the entire Middle East, Central Asia, and large parts of India. The armies raged through Egypt and across North Africa, destroying corrupt Byzantine Christianity in their path.
In 710 A.D. the Islamic armies crossed the Straits of Gibraltar and quickly conquered three-fourths of Spain and Portugal.3 They then invaded France and took one-third of the nation. They were 125 miles from Paris when they were miraculously defeated at the Battle of Poitiers (also known as the Battle of Tours) in 732 A.D. by a French army led by Charles Martel. Their influence in Spain lived on for a few more centuries before they were slowly driven back to North Africa.
A second powerful attempt to subjugate all of Europe was made 900 years later in the 17th Century when the Turks began to expand their Ottoman Empire. They took Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, and parts of Romania and Hungary. By 1683 they had reached the gates of Vienna where once again the Western forces won a miraculous victory against overwhelming odds.
Following this second attempt to conquer Europe, Islam fell into a state of depression and stagnation until it was awakened in the 20th Century due to several factors:
- The Amassing of Great Wealth — due to the discovery of vast reservoirs of oil in Arab lands.
- The Re-establishment of the Nation of Israel — interpreted by Islamic clerics like Khomeini as a judgment of Allah due to Islamic stagnation and apostasy.
- The Positioning of U.S. Armed Forces — the placement during the 1990's of American troops throughout the Middle East in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
- The Encroachment of Western Culture into the Muslim World — due to the penetration of Western movies, television programs, and consumer goods.
- The Koran is available in many printed editions. A handy one that is fully indexed and which can be searched by words and phrases can be found on the Internet at http://www.hti.umich.edu/k/koran.
- The Hadith According to Al Bukahri, 7:64. This version of the Hadith is considered to be the most definitive collection of Islamic oral traditions. It consists of nine volumes. It can be found on the Internet at http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/reference/searchhadith.html.
- An excellent chronology of Islamic history can be found on the Internet at http://eawc.evansville.edu/chronology/ispage.htm.
The next article will explore the truth about the cultural nature of Islam.