Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday is for Missions: Basic Philosophy of Islam

Islam was founded by Muhammad in the year 610 after he received his first revelation from the angel Gabriel in a cave in Mount Hira.(1) This revelation was then memorized and dictated to others (since Muhammad could neither read nor write) and this collection of writing, or recitation, came to be known as the Qu’ran. This simple beginning has now become one of the largest religions in the world and is likely the fastest growing religion at the present time.

The basic philosophy of Islam may be divided into two categories: beliefs and obligations. The major beliefs are what Christians would refer to as “non-negotiable” in manners of doctrine. Muslims believe in “God”, whom they refer to as Allah, however, he is not to be confused with the Trinitarian God of Christian Scripture. Rather, it is said that Allah “has no son nor partner, and that none has the right to be worshipped but Him alone.”(2) Allah is also all-powerful and all-knowing, having planned creation’s events since the beginning of time. “He knows what has happened, what will happen, and how it will happen. No affair occurs in the whole world except by His will. Whatever He wills is, and whatever He does not will is not and will never be.”(3)

The next major belief is the Muslim’s belief in angels. Since the angel Gabriel is said to have given the message of the Qu’ran to Muhammad, it is necessarily imperative that a Muslim testifies to the existence of angels.

The third major belief is the belief in God’s revealed books. These books include the Qu’ran, the Jewish Torah, the Psalms, and the Gospels. There are some groups of Muslims (Sunni Muslims in particular) who believe also in the authority of the Sunna which “includes the Hadith in which the sayings and conduct of Muhammad and his companions are recorded.”(4) Shi’ites, on the other hand, do not accept the Sunna as authoritative and prefer to view the Imam (a pope-like figure) as the final authority. Shi’ites still await the return of the twelfth Imam. Most Muslims agree, however, that the only book that remains in an uncorrupted state is the Qu’ran.

Another major belief for Muslims is to believe in the prophets who were messengers of God. “According to the Qu’ran, God has sent a prophet to every nation to preach the message of there being only one God. In all, 124,000 prophets have been sent…”(5) Many of these prophets are in the Christian tradition such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. It is uniformly believed, however, that “God’s final message to man, a reconfirmation of the eternal message, was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.”(6)

The final two beliefs for a Muslim are the belief in the Day of Judgment and the belief in Al-Qadar. On the Day of Judgment, “all people will be resurrected for God’s judgment according to the beliefs and deeds.”(7) Al-Qadar is the Muslim’s concept of predestination and it is required for the Muslim to submit to the will of Allah lest he not be considered faithful.

The next subcategory in the philosophy of Islam is the obligations which are also known as the Five Pillars of Islam. These are fairly straightforward and uniform throughout all of Islam. Some sects may add other obligations to this list, but none will come short of it. The first pillar is the “testimony of faith.” This is paramount to being a Muslim for it is here that the Muslim proclaims, “La ilaha illa Allahm Muhammadur rasoolu Allah” meaning “There is no true god [deity] but God [Allah], and Muhammad is the Messenger [Prophet] of God.”(8) The next obligation is to pray five times per day while facing Makkah (or Mecca). These prayers are performed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. I find it interesting that the Muslim, I.A. Ibrahim declares that, “in prayer, a person feels inner happiness, peace, and comfort, and that God is pleased with him or her.”(9)

Muslims are also required to give alms to the poor in the amount of 2.5% (or 1/40) of their income. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim’s lunar calendar, all Muslims are required to fast during the daylight hours “as a method of spiritual self-purification.”(10) The final obligation for the Muslim who is physically and financially able is the make the pilgrimage to Makkah (or Mecca), which is known as the birthplace of Muhammad. In Mecca, there is a large black box in the center of the mosque which is known as the “Kaaba,” which is the “place of worship which God commanded the Prophets Abraham and his son, Ishmael, to build.”(11)

These are the six major beliefs and the five obligations which make up the basic philosophy of Islam. In short, the individual is never quite assured of his or her salvation for he is always in fear of the scales. The Muslim believes has two angels appointed to him to record his good deeds and his bad deeds. If the good deeds outweigh the bad then Allah is pleased and he will be able to enter into paradise. However, if the bad deeds outweigh the good, then he will be cast into an eternal hellfire separated from all that is good. This works-based system of salvation has spread rapidly throughout the world seemingly because of its outward appearance to “do good to others.”

The call for evangelism among Muslims has never been greater. Many parts of the world are enslaved to the system and diametrically opposed to the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ which brings liberation from sin. The Muslim knows no such liberation as he lives in a constant fear of the scales. Pray that God may encourage the workers of his kingdom who work among Muslims in attempting to reach them with the gospel. Pray that he would be pleased to cause a burning hunger for truth within many who give blind allegiance to a god that they do not know and can not know personally.

Further resources: - Islam from an Islamic Persepctive - Islam from an Islamic Persepctive
Go West Africa - an IMB website

(1) Dean C. Halverson, The Compact Guide to World Religions, ed Dean C. Halverson (Bloomington, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), p 104.
(2) I.A. Ibrahim, A Brief Illustrated Guide to Understanding Islam, Second Edition, (Houston, TX: Darussalam, 1997), p 45.
(3) Ibid. p 46
(4)Dean C. Halverson, The Compact Guide to World Religions, p 105
(5) Ibid, p 106.
(6) I.A. Ibrahim, A Brief Illustrated Guide, p 48.
(7) Ibid, p 48.
(8) Ibid, p 65.
(9) Ibid, p 66.
(10) Ibid, p 67.
(11) Ibid, p 67

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