By Jefferson David Tant
The neighborhood mosque” may not become as familiar as “the neighborhood church” anytime soon, but the fact is that the religion of Isalm is growing. Some sources give the number of adherents in the U.S. as 6 million in 1988, up from 2,000,000 in 1982. World figures are 860,000,000, up from 700,000,000. Much of the increase in the U.S. is immigrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Islam is now the eighth-largest religious group in the U.S., larger than the Episcopal Church and the Assemblies of God. About two-thirds of this number are recent arrivals on our shores.
“Islam” means “submission” to God. “Muslim” is from the same root in Arabic, and means “one who submits.” “Moslem” is the commonly accepted spelling, but since there is no “o” in the Arabic language, the preferred spelling is “Muslim.”
History and Background
The religion’s founder, Muhammad, was born in Mecca, Arabia’s principal city, in 570 A.D., in the midst of animism and idolatry. Like his ancestors, he was a trader and shepherd. His travels brought him in contact with Jews and Christians in Syria and Palestine. From them he learned something of monotheism. He was dissatisfied with the moral and social conditions, and in a period of mental depression in his 40’s, felt that he had been called to go forth and preach a religion of one absolute God. Chapter 96 of the Quran (Koran) is thought to contain the account of his first vision and appointment as a prophet of Allah (God).
His preaching of monotheism and condemnation of idolatry and infanticide brought persecution, and he fled for his life. He was 52. In time his preaching won followers and success, and he emphasized daily devotions, education in religion and aggressive zeal. In time he became a military leader and furthered his cause by persecution and killing, as when he slew 900 “unbelieving” Jews near Medina about 627 A.D. His estimation of himself at first was that of a humble, common man, whom God has sent to warn the people. He was illiterate, and disclaimed miracle-working power. Later many of his followers held him to be superhuman, and all consider him to be the last prophet of God, following Jesus Christ. A book, Life, written in the 15th century, contains 50 pages of miracles attributed to Muhammad. Other works proclaim his sinlessness, and state that the pronunciation of his name has delivering power and saving grace. In many passages in the Quran, obedience to the Prophet is a part of submission to God.
Muhammad’s militant zeal led to the spread of Islam through military conquest and great bloodshed throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Spain and Southern France. It is the majority religion in some 57 nations, with its strongest base in the Middle East and North Africa.
The system is based on the Qur’an, Islam’s sacred scriptures. Historic facts indicate that Muhammad wrote nothing, as he was illiterate. About a year after his death, Abu Bekr, his successor, ordered his teaching compiled from what could be remembered accurately and from otherwise preserved teachings. The Quran contains 114 chapters, or “Suras,” and is slightly smaller than the New Testament.
The main article of faith is simple: “There is no god but God (Allah), and Muhammad is his messenger.” Their concept does not allow for Christ’s divinity, although he is accepted as a prophet, one of 28 so named. Of these, 22 are from the Old Testament. Three are from the New Zechariah, John the Baptist and Jesus. They also include Alexander the Great, with Muhammad being the last and greatest, having been attested to by all the preceding prophets.
Judgment and the Eternal State
A judgment day is coming when balance scales will be used to weigh the good and evil deeds, even to the weight of a mustard seed. Hell is described as a place of fire and pain, much as the Bible does. But Paradise is described in more of a physical sense. It is viewed as a place where men will have dark-eyed maidens who will provide sexual delights forever (chap. 54). Furthermore, 56:18-19 talks of them “with goblets (shining beakers), and cups (filled) out of clear-flowing fountains; no after-ache will they receive therefrom, nor will they suffer any intoxication. ” The language appeals to sensualism.
The sensualism in their concept of heaven is but a reflection of the attitudes towards women in this life. Muhammad: “You may put off any of your wives you please and take to your bed any of them you please. Nor is it unlawful for you to receive any of those whom you have temporarily set aside. . . It shall be lawful for you to take more wives or to change your present wives for other women, . . . except where slave girls are concerned” (The Believers, p. 216, and The Confederate Tribes, p. 288). Divorce is easy, and men may take as many as four wives at once. Muhammad had nine wives by a special dispensation. Thus it seems that women are regarded as possessions. This is evident today in places like Pakistan, a Muslim nation, where women are commonly imprisoned or stoned as adultresses if they report a rape. Muhammad caused some confusion when he married Zanib, who had been the wife of his adopted son Zaid. “Zaid had accomplished his want of her.”
It appears that the Quran teaches that all that is done transpires by God’s decree, even men’s belief and unbelief (16:38). “It is not for any soul to die save by God’s permission, written down for an appointed time” (3:139). “Naught shall befall us, save what God has written down for us” (9:51).
Islam and Christianity
Although conciliatory words are often spoken, Islam declares that it is a sworn enemy of Christianity. In “The Proof” section of the Qur’an, we read: “The unbelievers among the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) and the pagans did not desist from unbelief . . . they shall burn forever in the fire of Hell. They are the vilest of all creatures” (p. 29). “When you meet the unbelievers (Christians or Jews) in the battlefield strike off their heads” (Muhammad, pp. 121-122). “Make war on them (Christians and Jews) until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme” (The Spoils, p. 309). Many such quotes can be cited, but these help to explain the terrorism that comes today from the Islamic world.
Remember that Muhammad ornately sculptured himself had executed 900 men who would not renounce Judaism. Jesus commanded his followers to be at peace with all men, “so far as it depends on you” (Rom. 12:18). The violence and hatred of the Islamic code is in vivid contrast to the teaching of him who is the “Prince of Peace.”
There are many contradictions between the Qur’an and the Old and New Testaments, as well as within the Quran itself. Following are some illustrations, taken from a debate which brother Hiram Hutto had with Dr. Salah el Dareer, an Egyptian Muslim, in Birmingham about 1977.
The Koran Contradicts The Old Testament – No. 1
|1. Son drowned (11:42-43) (and wife? 56:10)||Noah||1. All saved (Gen. 7:1-5)|
|2. Left his father (6:75; 19:47ff)||Abraham||2. Did not leave him (Gen. 11:32; 12:4; Acts 7:4)|
|3. Stayed behind (26:171)||Lot’s wife||3. Did not stay behind (Gen. 19:16)|
|4. Potiphar near door (12:25-29)||Potiphar’s wife||4. Potiphar not home (Gen. 39:16)|
|5. Urged Joseph forgive her (12:29)||Potiphar||5. Put Joseph in prison (Gen. 39:20)|
|6. Imprisoned for resisting a group of women (12:30-34)||Joseph||6. Imprisoned for resisting Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:20)|
|7. Cupbearer tells interpretation (12:43-49)||Pharoah’s dream||7. Joseph tells interpretation (Gen. 41:4-13)|
The Koran Contradicts the New Testament – No. 1
|The Koran||The New Testament|
|1. Father silent 3 days (3:41)||John Baptist||1. Silent 9 months (Lk. 13, 20, 24, 57ff)|
|2. Polygamy encouraged (4:3)||Marriage||2. One wife – one husband (1 Cor. 7:2)|
|3. In paradise (52:20; 44:54)||Marriage||3. No marriage there (Lk. 20:35)|
|4. Easy – for many reasons (2:229-232)||Divorce||4. One reason only (Matt. 19:9)|
|5. Exchange wife (4:20)||Divorce||5. Married for life (Rom. 7:2)|
|6. Kill them (8:38-41; 9:29; 61:4)||Opponents||6. Love enemies (Matt. 5:44)|
|7. Permitted (66:2; 2:224-225, even break some)||Oaths||7. Swear not at all (Matt. 5:34; Jas. 5:12)|
|Contradictions In The Koran|
|1. Fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them . . . Find those who believe not in God nor the last day (9:5, 29)||1. “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:256)|
|2. “Any who believes in God whether Jews, Christians or Sabians shall have their reward with the Lord” (2:62)||2. “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam . . . never will it be accepted of him” (3:85)|
|3. Christ did not die (4:157)||3. Christ did die (19:33)|
The Weaknesses in Islam
While some things can be said for Islam (utter devotion to duty, strong teaching on morality, etc.), its weaknesses are its undoing in the light of truth and investigation. (1) No evidence as to the inspiration of the Quran, as there is with the Bible; (2) Reliance upon violence and force, in opposition to Christ’s teaching about peace and his appeal to faith based upon evidence; (3) Low esteem of women, while Christ upheld and honored women; (4) Pathetic weaknesses in the moral character of its founder, Muhammad (who was vindictive and revengeful at times, and whose behavior with his numerous wives often caused trouble), when compared to the sinless Christ. Others faults could be cited, but these will suffice.
Some of the difficulties in dealing with Islam have to do with getting a reliable English translation of the Qur’an, and the many divisions in the religion. A strong emphasis is placed upon reading the Quran in Arabic, and translations are frowned upon. And there is a suspicision that in some of the translations an attempt is made to soften some of the language that is more evident in the original. We must understand that there are various sects within Islam. Some authors cite at least 72 distinct divisions, sects or denominations. This is evident in the Middle East today, as the violent Iranian Muslims of the Shi’ite sect are denounced by the more moderate Sunnis and others.
The Islamic faith is growing in our nation, and we need to have some understanding of it so as to meet its false doctrines and uphold truth (1 Pet. 3:15).
Christianity Today, “The Mosque Next Door,” Terry Muck, Vol. 32, No. 3 (2/19/88).
Does God Exist?, “The Challenge of Mohammad,” John N. Clayton, Vol. 13, No. 6 (11/12/86); “Out of the Mosque into the Church,” Steve Masood, Vol. 14, No. 1 (1/2/87).
Hutto-El Dareer Debate, Published by Hiram O. Hutto, 1978.
“Islamic Friend, What Does the Messenger Mohammad Say About the Bible?, ” Bob Danklefsen, 1986.
Outline of History, The, H.G. Wells, Vol. 1, Doubleday & Cornpany, 1956.
Reader’s Digest 1983 Almanac and Yearbook, “Religion,” David C. Whitney, editor.
“20/20, ” C13S News, Sam Donalson and Diane Sawyer, (9/29/89).
World’s Living Religions, The, “Muhammadanism,” Robert Ernest Hume, Ph.D., Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952.
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 10, pp. 294-296
May 17, 1990