Over the next week or two I intend to take a look at the beliefs of the Muslim faith, also known as Islam. For many Americans, this is a belief system that is totally foreign to them in a number of ways. What little they do know about Islam mostly has to do with terrorists, coupled with the current upheaval in North Africa and the Middle East.
I want to state up front that I am not intending to attack Muslims personally, but instead to point out the differences in Islam as compared to other faiths, particularly the Christian faith, the faith I adhere to, and which I also find antithetical to Islam.
As a Christian I want to say to any Muslim who may read this article that they are just as much loved by God as any other person or faith group, and that Jesus Christ came to save each and every one of us from sin and death by dying on the cross and rising again. This is why Christians celebrate Easter – Jesus rose from the dead – defeating both sin and death. Now that’s hope!
Many people today are very uncomfortable even talking about the Islamic faith because they aren’t sure if this will cause them to be a target of some sort of hate crime or retaliation. When cartoon caricatures of Muhammad stir up violent reaction from Muslims, and the cartoonist’s life is threatened with a fatwa, folks see this as a topic that is best left alone. I like the way author Ron Carlson put it in his book, “Fast Facts on False Teaching,” in addressing the topic of Islam. He writes, “Please understand that in a Western country, where the freedom of religion and freedom of speech are constitutional guarantees, we have the freedom to discuss, consider, and think about religious issues. We have the freedom to say what we want and write what we want. That freedom to think and to act for ourselves is vitally important, and is a major difference between our culture and faith, and that of Islam.”
The Islamic faith is complex and deserves to be carefully studied if we are going to understand why they believe what they say they believe. This is not an a priori statement that assumes acquiescence to Muslim teaching. There are numerous terms that are unfamiliar to non-Muslims that the media use freely in their reporting, but that does not take the time to explain, or more likely, that does not have the ethical standard to explain these terms truthfully.
I can come at this subject from a number of different angles, so bear with me as we peel back some of the layers and take a more careful, thoughtful look at a religio-political force in our world today that breathes threats against anything that opposes their beliefs, real or perceived.
There are many excellent books and articles that have addressed this religion which I will recommend during this series. Next week I will begin by delving into the Five Pillars of Islam which are the five duties required of every practicing Muslim. They are: Profession of Faith; Prayer; Charity; Fasting; and Pilgrimage to Mecca. This is at the core of Muslim faith and practice, so it is essential to our understanding of this faith to take time to review these acts which are required acts of devout Muslims.
I intend to present this faith in as even-handed a manner as possible. Obviously, my faith beliefs are diametrically opposed to Islam, but to quote again, author Ron Carlson, “In a western country . . . . we have the freedom to discuss, consider, and think about religious issues.” That is what I intend to do.
Hope you enjoy the journey!