The Apple Of God's Eye

June 14, 2009

The Violence Of Islam

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Editors Comment: I posted this article  from probe.org in its entirety because I thought it contained a good insight into a politically incorrect subject. Too many are willing to minimize what is plainly evident before our eyes today. Islam is not a religion of peace, though many practice it that way. From the outset, as the article states, Muhammad conquered with the sword and this philosophy is now manifesting itself again in a huge way worldwide. Any opposition is worn down through suppression – either violent or non-violent through political pressure by integration into other societies.
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On September 11, 2001 Americans found themselves confronted by an enemy they knew little about. We had suddenly lost more lives to a sneak attack than had been lost in the attack on Pearl Harbor and yet few understood the reasons for the hatred that prompted the destruction of the World Trade Center towers and part of the Pentagon. Even in the days that followed, Americans were getting mixed signals from the media and from national politicians. One voice focused on the peaceful nature of Islam, going so far as to argue that Osama bin Laden could not be a faithful Muslim and commit the acts attributed to him. Others warned that bin Laden has a considerable following in the Muslim world and that even if he was removed as a potential threat many would step in to replace him with equal or greater fervor.

Some argued that fundamentalist Muslims are no different than fundamentalist believers of any religion. The problem is not Islam, but religious belief of any type when taken too seriously. This view holds that all forms of religious belief, Christian, Jewish, or Islamic can promote terrorism. Robert Wright, a visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania writes that:

If Osama Bin Laden were a Christian, and he still wanted to destroy the World Trade Center, he would cite Jesus’ rampage against the money-changers. If he didn’t want to destroy the World Trade Center, he could stress the Sermon on the Mount. [1]

His view is that terrorism can be justified by any religion when people are economically depressed. He adds “there is no timeless, immutable essence of Islam, rooted in the Quran, that condemns it to a medieval morality.” [2]

This claim points to the question: Is there something inherent in Islam that makes it more likely to resort to violence than other world religions like Christianity or Buddhism? While it is important to admit that all religions and ideologies have adherents that are willing to use violence to achieve what they believe are justified ends, it does not follow that all religions and ideologies teach equally the legitimacy of violent means.

People have committed horrible atrocities in the name of Jesus Christ, from the inquisitions to the slaying of abortionists. However, it is my position that it is not possible to justify these actions from the teachings of Christ Himself. Nowhere in the New Testament does Jesus teach that one should kill for the sake of the Gospel, the Kingdom of God, or to defend the honor of Jesus Himself.

What about Islam? My contention is that Islam’s founder Muhammad, and the Quran, its holy book, condone violence as a legitimate tool for furthering Allah’s goals. And that those who use violence in the name of Allah are following a tradition that began with the very birth of Islam.

Muhammad

As mentioned earlier, there are followers in most of the world’s belief systems that justify the use of violence to achieve their religious or political goals. However, this says more about the sinfulness of humanity than it does about the belief system itself. It is important to look past the individual behavior of a few followers to the message and actions of the founder of each system and his or her closest disciples. In the case of Islam, this means Muhammad and the leadership of Islam after Muhammad’s death.

One cannot overstate the centrality of Muhammad’s example within the religion of Islam. One of the greatest Muslim theologians, al- Ghazzali, writes of Muhammad:

Know that the key to happiness is to follow the sunna [Muhammad’s actions] and to imitate the Messenger of God in all his coming and going, his movement and rest, in his way of eating, his attitude, his sleep and his talkGod has said: “What the messenger has brought–accept it, and what he has prohibited–refrain from it!” (59:7). That means, you have to sit while putting on trousers, and to stand when winding a turban, and to begin with the right foot when putting on shoes. [3]

Although considered only human, one Muslim writer describes Muhammad as “[T]he best model for man in piety and perfection. He is a living proof of what man can be and of what he can accomplish in the realm of excellence and virtue. . . .” [4] So it is important to note that Muhammad believed that violence is a natural part of Islam. Many passages of the Quran, which came from Muhammad’s lips support violence. Followers are told to “fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them (9:5),” and to “Fight those who believe not in God, nor the Last Day.” (9:29) Muhammad also promises paradise for those who die in battle for Allah, “Those who left their homes . . . or fought or been slain,–Verily, I will blot out from them their iniquities, and admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath;–A reward from the Presence of God.” (3:195; cf. 2:244; 4:95)

While living in Medina, having escaped from persecution in Mecca, Muhammad supported himself and his group of followers by raiding Meccan caravans. His fame grew after a stunning defeat of a large, well defended, caravan at Badr. Muhammad was also willing to have assassinated those who merely ridiculed his prophetic claims. The list of those killed included Jews, old men and women, slaves, and a mother of five children who was killed while she slept. [5] Also, in order to violate a long-standing ban against warfare during a sacred month, he claimed a new revelation that gave him permission to kill his enemies. [6]

Violent expediency seems to have been the guiding rule of Muhammad’s ethics.

Early Islam

Muhammad’s life as a prophet was a precarious one. After fleeing Mecca and establishing himself in Medina, Muhammad was constantly being tested militarily by those who considered him a religious and political threat. Although at an initial disadvantage, Muhammad wore down his opponents by raiding their caravans, seizing valuable property, taking hostages and disrupting the all-important economic trade Mecca enjoyed with the surrounding area. [7] The turning point for Muhammad and his followers seems to have come in what is known as the Battle of the Ditch or the Siege of Medina. A large Meccan force failed to take the city and destroy the new religion. Suspecting that a local Jewish tribe had plotted with the Meccans to destroy him, Muhammad had all the men of the tribe killed and the women and children sold into slavery. [8] In 630 A.D. Muhammad returned to Mecca with a large force and took it with little bloodshed. He rewarded many of its leaders financially for surrendering and within a short period of time a large number of the surrounding tribes came over to this new and powerful religious and political movement.

Muhammad continued building his following by using a combination of material enticements, his religious message, and force when necessary. With the fall of Mecca, many other tribes realized Muhammad’s position as the most powerful political leader in western Arabia and sent representatives to negotiate agreements with him.

Muhammad’s death in 632, just two years after his triumphant return to Mecca, thrust an important decision on the community of believers. Should they choose one person to lead in Muhammad’s place or do they separate into many communities. The decision was made to pick Abu Bakr, the Prophet’s father-in-law and early supporter to assume the role of caliph or successor to Muhammad. Immediately, many who had submitted to Muhammad refused to do so to Abu Bakr. Several tribes wanted political independence, some sought to break religiously as well. The result is known as the Apostasy wars. At the end of two years of fighting to put down both religious and political threats, Abu Bakr had extended his control to include the entire Arabian Peninsula. Islam was now in position to extend its influence beyond Arabia with a large standing army of believers.

Violence and warfare seems to have dominated early Islam. Two of the first four caliphs were assassinated by internal rivals, and within the first fifty years of its existence Islam experienced two bloody civil wars. Rival tribal loyalties within and the religious struggle or jihad against the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires made the first century of Islam a bloody one.

Jihad

Historian Paul Johnson writes,

[T]he history of Islam has essentially been a history of conquest and re-conquest. The 7th-century “breakout” of Islam from Arabia was followed by the rapid conquest of North Africa, the invasion and virtual conquest of Spain, and a thrust into France that carried the crescent to the gates of Paris. [9].

From the beginning, Muslims “saw their mission as jihad, or militant effort to combat evil and to spread Muhammad’s message of monotheism and righteousness far and wide.” [10] Although many Muslims in America have argued that jihad primarily refers to a struggle or striving for personal righteousness, Bernard Lewis, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University writes that, “The more common interpretation, and that of the overwhelming majority of the classical jurists and commentators, presents jihad as armed struggle for Islam against infidels and apostates.” [11]

Although highly regulated by Islamic law, the call for every able- bodied Muslim to defend Islam began with Muhammad and has continued with the fatwas of Osama bin Laden in 1996 and 1998. Bin Laden argues that his attacks on American civilians and military has three specific complaints: America has placed infidel troops on holy soil in Saudi Arabia; America has caused the death of over a million Iraqi children since Desert Storm; and American support for the evil Zionist nation of Israel.

Regarding the history of jihad in Islam, an ex-chief justice of Saudi Arabia has written “[A]t first ‘the fighting’ was forbidden, then it was permitted and after that it was made obligatory, . . .” Muslims are to fight against those who oppress Islam and who worship others along with Allah. [12]. He adds that even though fighting is disliked by the human soul, Allah has made ready an immense reward beyond imagination for those who obey. He also quotes Islamic tradition, which says, “Paradise has one hundred grades which Allah has reserved for the Mujahidin who fight in His Cause.” [13]

Numerous passages in the Qur’an refer to Allah’s use of violence. A surah titled “The Spoils of War” states, “O Prophet! Rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you . . . they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the Unbelievers: for these are a people without understanding.” [14] Another says, “O ye who believe! When ye meet the Unbelievers in hostile array, never turn your backs to them. . . .” [15] It adds that those who do will find themselves in hell, a significant incentive to fight on.

Muslims and Modernity

Islam was born in the midst of persecution and eventually conquest. Muhammad was adept at both religious and military leadership, but what about modern Islam? Do all Muslims see jihad in the light of conquest and warfare?

While it is probably safe to say that American born Muslims apply the teachings of Muhammad and Islamic traditions differently than Saudi or Iranian Muslims. The use of violence in the propagation of Islam enjoys wide support. Part of the reason is that the concept of separation of church and state is alien to Islam. Muhammad Iqbal, architect of Pakistan’s split from Hindu India, wrote, “The truth is that Islam is not a church. It is a state conceived as a contractual organism. . . .” [16] Responding to the inability of Islam to accommodate the modern world, an Algerian Islamic activist points to the example of Muhammad:

The Prophet himself did not opt to live far away from the camp of men. He did not say to youth: “Sell what you have and follow me. . . .” At Medina, he was not content merely to be the preacher of the new faith: he became also the leader of the new city, where he organized the religious, social and economic life. . . . Later, carrying arms, he put himself at the head of his troops. [17]

The powerful combination within Islam of immediate paradise for those who die while fighting for Allah and the unity of political, religious, and economic structures, helps us to understand the source of suicide bombers and children who dream of becoming one. Young Palestinians are lining up by the hundreds in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to volunteer for suicide missions. Eyad Sarraj, the director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Project, detects a widespread zeal. “If they are turned down they become depressed. They feel they have been deprived of the ultimate award of dying for God.” [18] Palestinian support for suicide bombers is now at 70 to 80 percent.

Islam and Christianity both require its followers to sacrifice and turn from the world and self. Yet while Islam equates political conquest with the furtherance of Allah’s reign, Jesus taught that we render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. Christianity recognizes that the advancement of God’s kingdom is not necessarily a political one. The New Testament did not advocate the overthrow of the Roman Empire. Muslims are given the example of Muhammad’s personal sacrifice in battle so that Allah’s enemies might be defeated. Christians are given the example of Christ who gave His life as a sacrifice, so that even His enemies might believe and have eternal life.

Notes

1. Robert Wright, http://www.msnbc.com/news, 10/30/2001.
2. Ibid.
3. Norman L. Geisler & Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993), p. 82.
4. Ibid., 84.
5. Ibid., 175.
6. The Quran states, “They ask thee Concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: ‘Fighting therein is a grave (offense)’; But graver is it In the sight of God To prevent access to the path of God.” (2:217)
7. John Esposito, The Oxford History of Islam, (Oxford University Press, 1999), p 10.
8. Geisler & Saleeb, p. 79.
9. Paul Johnson, National Review, October 15, 2001.

10. John Esposito, The Oxford History of Islam, p. 13.
11. Bernard Lewis, “Jihad vs. Crusade,” The Wall Street Journal, September 27, 2001.
12. Sheikh Abdullah Bin Muhammad Bin Humaid, “Jihad in the Qur’an and Sunnah,” http://islamworld.net/jihad.html, p. 4.
13. Ibid., p. 8.
14. Qur’an 8:65.
15. Qur’an 8:15-16.
16. Kenneth Cragg & Marston Speight, Islam From Within, (Wadsworth Inc., 1980), p. 213.
17. Ibid., p 228.
18. Eric Silver, “Bomber quit intelligence service to join Hamas two days before attack,” Independent Digital (UK) Ltd, 03 December 2001, www.independent.co.uk.

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February 23, 2009

There Can Only Be One True God!

There are thousands of religions in this world, with the eight major ones comprising Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Taoism. Besides these, there are hundreds of sects, cults, beliefs, practices and man-devised idols of bizarre appearance.

For many people, religion is a system involving one supreme God. Other religions have a number of different gods, while some have no specific deity to be worshiped. There are also those who practice their religious beliefs in their own personal way, largely independent of organized religion.

Regardless of participation in a religion, only one God IS God. Therefore 99.9% of all worship is wrong because they abound with homespun ideas of God. Men prostrate themselves before carved stones, wood or even photographs – anything to which mankind has affixed the label “God.” None understand that their practice falls far short of the God of the Bible!

Now, you won’t hear many of them call their practice pagan, but neither did ancient Israel when they worshipped a molten calf at the base of Mt. Sinai (Exod. 32:1). They called it a feast to God (verse 5), even though this golden calf was a mere idol! How did the real God feel about this? Read it yourself:

“Thus they changed my glory into the similitude of an ox that eats grass” (Ps. 106:20).

So that biblical occasion was prophetic of what mankind has done ever since. Modern religion is not much different from the ancient Israelites. There are thousands of gods called the true “God, with myriads of pagan idols, worships and practices running contrary to the Bible. Can all of them be right, or is it as Jesus Christ said: “ I will build My (singular) Church…(Math. 16:19). He does not speak of multiple churches or practices. Someone (or most) have to be wrong. Jesus Christ cannot be wrong!

Which God?

So here’s an analogy. If we have two objects (one true and one false), and call both by the same name, does it make both objects identical? Of course it doesn’t! In the same way, if people worship another god, he is still a false god, no matter if the name of the true God is affixed to him.

The Bible shows that we have to look behind the label “God” to see if the religion we practice is of the true God. He has to be defined, just as Moses had to define the true God from Isis, Osiris or Ra to the Israelites, all which all had the label of “God” (Ex. 3:13). This cuts through the bewildering array of denominational ideas of “God.” You need to be sure you have the right God — your Creator!

Creating Gods

The Bible describes the process of man creating his own gods.

“To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship” (Isa. 46:5-6).

Now Christians may argue with this, but don’t they believe that their Saviour has long flowing hair and soft features? Don’t they know that the Bible states that it is a shame for a man (their Saviour) to have long hair? (I Cor. 11:14).

Where do they get their ideas associated with the term “God”? It isn’t from the Bible! Rather, it was formed from childhood Bible stories, from what parents and friends said, from what was read. People don’t question what they have learned; what they have absorbed from their environment, observed about them at home from parents or heard spoken from the pulpit. Religious prejudices, loyalties and various teachings grow up with them, according to what other people in their lives have come to believe. Religion is also identified with social customs and taboos, so what is religion to one is nonsense to another.

Though a person may adopt a totally different set of convictions later in life, such changes are often based principally on the emotional knowledge that they contrast to former ideas. Few approach scripture with the attitude of correcting their misconceptions. Rather, they simply “choose new gods” (Judges 5:8). Yet, though people change, God says “I change not” (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8).

A different god for different circumstances

Each nation creates its own gods and they always resemble their creators in emotional makeup, power structure, image and patriotic leanings. The earth has a long history of gods who were revengeful, savage, lustful, and ignorant — partial to the people who created them by assisting in robbing and destroying others. Their concept of God can be nothing but their own personal human ideas — unless they know where to go to find the real answer.

Others – free thinkers – have looked at history and spotted this flaw, ultimately concluding that there is no God. But this is an erroneous assumption based on faulty research. They did not look past the false gods that man created, and rejected their merciful, living Creator!

Is God Like Man?

If you really want to know if your “God” is God, then study the Bible, which describes His personal characteristics. God possesses feet (Gen. 3:8), hands (Ex. 31:18), ears (Isa. 59:1), and has a mouth (Isa. 58:14). Various other scriptures show God has feelings, emotions, reason and will. Man is created in the bodily shape and form of the real God (Genesis 1:26-27), with a creative mind like God’s for the vital purpose of being born into the family of God (I John 3:2; Ps. 17:15). Most of this world does not understand this plan of salvation and actually rejects it. But man is wrong in ascribing his wrong motivations to God:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).

Though man resembles God in physical form, he has much to learn about the characteristics of God’s mind, which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance (Gal. 5:22, 23). The Bible describes the characteristics of the natural human mind as adultery, fornication, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, murders, drunkenness, and similar things (Gal. 5:19-21).

This is important to understand as man has used his false religions to justify covering the earth with blood. Torture, killing, rape and other atrocities were perpetrated for service to this “god.” Great churches were built for worship false images, while dungeons housed prisoners in filth. Clouds were said to be filled with angels, while the earth was stocked with slaves. These acts of evil were done in the name of false gods; as were mistakes in astronomy, in geography, in philosophy, in morality. In other words, their gods were as wise or dumb as their creators, and had the same doctrines (a cruel hell fire or eternal torment) and values (many times murderous) as their creators.

Even today, many people continue to deny their Creator as an infinite fiend because of false assumptions. These belie the truth of God which states, “Love your neighbour” (Lev. 19:18). In fact, any man that hates his brother cannot love God, (I John 4:20). How then can most major religions today, which have a long and bloody history, claim to be guided by God? They are deceived by imputing their own evil nature onto their Creator.

The True Christian Approach

The teaching of the Bible states that a man must acquire God’s divine nature (II Pet. 1:4) and mind (Phil. 2:5) — and give up his own nature. Christ is the Captain and example of our salvation (Heb. 2:10, I Pet. 2:21), and He was  stamped with the very character of God, and with the mind of God (II Cor. 4:4; Phil. 2:5-7; Heb. 1:3). Any opinion of the nature or character of God that conflicts with this example is of our own creation! How unlike what we have just read.

God’s mind comes by the gift of God’s Holy Spirit, which requires repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). It also requires us to discard our own thoughts and ideas of what God loves or hates, what He will do or won’t do. Everything else is invalid unless backed by God’s Word, the Bible! Otherwise, we are as guilty of creating God in our image as any pagan idol maker. Do we perceive the glory of the true God:

“The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth” (Ex. 34:6).

Why settle for an inferior product? If you want to know if your “God” is the true God, then search the scriptures and find the truth.

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