Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, August 9, 2020

Shavuah Tov,

Do You Need to Know More About Islam? Part 1

By Dr. and Senator Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: I begin a short series on Islam. I do not promote or endorse this faith, but I wish to educate RR readers better about a faith in which some adherents wish to eliminate Jew and Christians. At least ten percent of Muslims– radical (extremist, fundamentalist) Muslims– are at war with Jews and Christians. Although conflicts are relatively quiet at the moment, the fire burns in the hearts of fundamentalist Islamic leaders to dominate the world for Allah’s sake. It is profitable to study a few things about Islam. Unfortunately, I will only scratch the surface of a very complicated subject. Many weeks of weekly RRs would be required to do justice to this subject.

There are more than 1.8-billion Muslims in the world (nearly one-fourth of the world’s population), and this number increases rapidly. Only Christianity surpasses this number, claiming more than 2.3-billion persons (nearly one-third of the world’s population). The majority of Muslims live in the “10-40 window.” This “window” is a swath of land in northern Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, extending from latitudes 10° N to 40° N.(See map of predominantly Islamic countries:  https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/islamic-countries-in-the-world.html .)

There is widespread Muslim immigration to non-Muslim nations– such nations called, in Arabic, kafir (infidel) nations. Some immigrants are pitiful, poor Middle Eastern families, certainly worthy of any nation’s compassion. Many other immigrants are single men of military age. These young, single men raise the question of whether future terrorists are being welcomed into non-Muslim nations. How many from this influx of immigrants are jihadis (mujahideen, Islamic holy warriors), awaiting the appropriate time to advance by force the cause of Islam in non-Islamic countries?

Why do some Muslims hate America, Israel, and other nations? Why do some Muslims hate Jews, whom they call “people of the Book,” and Christians/ Believers, whom they call “polytheists?” Why do some Muslims hate other Muslims, whom they call “apostates?” Why is there discord and terrorism in the Middle East and elsewhere? Has Adonai previously warned about these warring peoples? In this RR series, I will attempt to answer these and other questions.

MY CONFESSION: Islam is a complicated religion, and even major Islamic sects disagree with other sects. Trying to discuss the nuances of Islam in this RR series is as frustrating as trying to discuss the nuances of Christianity or Judaism. For example, would a brief RR review of Christianity be embraced wholeheartedly by Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, and other denominations? Undaunted by this impossible task, I will take a stab at Islam in the next few RRs because I believe non-Islamic Believers need to know something about our Islamic enemies because:

** Islamic countries (Iran, for example) threaten Israel, the United States, and others with warfare, even nuclear warfare, when/ if Iran possesses such weapons;

** Islamic nations– Persia (Iran) and other Islamic nations– will join Russia (Biblical Magog) in attacking Israel in the future Battle of Gog and Magog (Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39); 

** Israel has been under assault from Islamic nations since 1948; and 

** The primary worldwide source of terrorism comes from Islamic jihadis.

Some may feel I should not refer to Muslims as “enemies” (preceding section). This linguistic problem may become better defined in future RRs. A minority of Muslims are the enemies of people of Judeo-Christian faith. All Muslims, though, are created by God and we should love them as our neighbors (Mark 12:31b): [Yeshua said] “The second [commandment] is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself….’” and (Matthew 5:43-44): [Yeshua said] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,….” 

A Believer’s duty to a Muslim is not to embrace his/her beliefs but to share the Good News of our belief (Matthew 28:19-20a): [Yeshua said] “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Ruach ha-Kodesh, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you….” 

I have never been a Muslim. All I know about Islam is what I have read in public sources. Some Muslims would say that I, a non-believer in Allah and the Prophet, are not entitled to discuss Islam. I would point out to such critics that Muslims themselves do not agree with each other about Islam. For example, Sunnis and Shiites have basic disagreements about matters of faith. 

Study with me a few things about Islam in the next few weeks. We will, perhaps, all learn something about this important religion. Point out any error I make in this RR series by writing to me: raymondfinney@charter.net . If I err, I will admit the error and correct it in a future RR.

ISLAM– THE BEGINNING: Muslims teach that Islam is the original, true faith in Allah (in Arabic, “Allah” = “god”). This faith was originally embraced by such prophets as Yeshua, Solomon, Moses, Abraham, Noah, Adam, and others. Jealous Jews and Christians stole the pure religion of Allah worship, creating various false gods for their selfish, self-promoting purposes. These jealous infidels made Jews and, later, Christians Allah’s “chosen people.” They changed Allah’s name to names they gave their gods (such as, Yehovah and Yeshua). 

An angry Allah chose to reveal the truth to the Prophet Muhammad so that the true faith in Allah could be restored. To true believers (Muslims), Allah is the one and only god. The words of Allah were given to the Prophet Muhammad, who preserved them in the Holy (or, Noble) Koran (al-Quran).

To recap the preceding paragraphs, Muslims believe that their faith is of ancient origin, predating Judaism and Christianity. Jews and Christians were jealous that Allah had first revealed himself to Arabs. Their jealousy resulted in the following blasphemous actions of Jews and Christians:

** They changed Allah’s holy words into “the Book” (the Bible) for their use. 

** They called themselves “the chosen people.”

** Christians divided Allah into three gods. Prophet Isa (Isa = Arabic for Yeshua/ Jesus) was made preeminent over Allah. Allah was not even recognized as a god, but was replaced by Yehovah. Also insulting to the Muslims, Muhammad was not even recognized as a prophet by Jews and Christians. Isa (Yeshua/ Jesus) became the Son of Jehovah, although Allah has said he was not begotten (was not born) and did not beget (had no children).

** Islam is monotheistic (worship one-god), but Christians are polytheists (worship multiple gods). The three Christian gods form a family. Yehovah (Jehovah, Adonai) is the father; Miriam (Mary) is the mother; and Isa (Yeshua/ Jesus) is the son.

** An angry Allah sought out a man, Muhammad, to reveal his true words through the angel Jibreel (Gabriel). This Prophet, Muhammad, recorded in the Holy Koran (al-Qu’ran) Allah’s true words for mankind, restoring the original words which were destroyed by Jews and Christians.

** “Islam” translates to “submission to Allah.” A non-believer can submit to Allah in only one of two ways: either by conversion to Islam or by death.

SIDELIGHT: The holy books of Islam are the Koran (the book of first importance– a divine revelation from Allah) and Hadith (books of second importance– a biography of Muhammad and a collection of guidelines for a Muslim’s life):

** “Koran” (“al-Quran”) translates to “the Recitation.” Muslims believe that the words of Allah, given to the Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, are written in the Koran (al-Quran). The Koran is divided into 114 surahs (a surah is comparable to our chapter) and verses within the surahs. An English translation of the Koran may be read at: https://www.clearquran.com/ .

** “Hadith” translates to “talk” or “discourse.” Muslims believe the Hadith records the words, actions, and the silent approval of Muhammad. Muslims strive to emulate Muhammad. In fact, Islamic law (sharia) is based on what is “approved” (Muhammad did or approved of this activity) or “disapproved” (Muhammad did not do or deemed the activity inappropriate). Hadith is pronounced hə-ˈdēth. Click on the speaker icon at https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hadith to hear the correct pronunciation. 

** When writing the name of revered Islamic leaders in English, religious Muslims commonly add initials, called honorifics, after their names. For example:

… Following the name of a prophet or angel,

…… pbuh translates to: “peace be unto him;” 

…… asws translates to: “blessings and peace be upon him;”

…… sa translates to: “peace of Allah be upon him;”

…… after Muhammad’s name, saww or saws translates to: “Blessings of Allah be upon him and his progeny and grant him peace;”

….. And so forth (other honorifics are used). 

** When writing the name of Allah in English, religious Muslims commonly add initials, called honorifics, after his name. For example:

… swt translates to: “glorified and lofty;” and

… azwj translates to: “prestigious and majestic.” 

Of interest to me is the care Jewish scribes have taken over many centuries to make letter-perfect copies of the Tanakh. The Dead Sea scrolls are virtually identical letter-for-letter to the Tanakh purchased from any bookseller today.

The Koran started to be compiled in ca AD 610, as Muhammad heard the voices. He frequently heard these voices while in prolonged seclusion in the Hira cave. This cave (grotto) is in a mountain near Mecca. Literacy was an uncommon skill in seventh-century Arabia. Many believe that Muhammad was mostly illiterate. He originally recited (presented orally) the words from Allah, rather than writing the words for others to read. The degree of Muhammad’s literacy is controversial. We now have abundant written resources at our disposal, but this was not the case in seventh-century Arabia. Recitation (oral communication) was far more popular and a necessity. In fact, “Koran” is translated “the Recitation.” 

Muhammad’s favorite wife, Aisha, told of Muhammad’s first contact with Allah’s revelations: “The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allah’s Messenger [Muhammad] was in the form of good dreams, and then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him. He used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira’ where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He said that the angel [Gabriel] came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read.” The Prophet added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon, he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read?’ Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists), created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.’ Then, revelation continued, and orders came to Prophet Muhammad to proclaim his message and call people to the worship of Allah alone. The Prophet undertook this duty fully and started inviting people to forsake the worship of idols and worship Allah, the Most High. Allah (Glory be to Him) revealed upon Muhammad the Qur’an; a miraculous book that astonished people for its matchless style and perfection. The people of Arab Peninsula were renowned for their eloquence and purity of language. The Qur’an challenged them in what they were well versed in, and excelled them. Allah challenged them to bring something like the Qur’an or even a chapter like one of the Qur’anic chapters but they failed. They found that the Qur’an is inimitable in its style and articulacy. Ibn Hisham reported that Abu Al-Walid Ibn `Utbah was well known for his fluency and eloquence. He went to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and attempted to divert him away by offering him money and high position among people. When Abu Al-Walid finished his speaking, the Prophet recited some verses from the beginning of Surah Fussilat to him. Abu Al-Walid returned impressed by the style of the Qur’an and said to his people, ‘By Allah, I heard some words that I never heard alike. By Allah, it is not poetry, magic or soothsaying.’” 

By whatever method (personal writing by Muhammad? dictation to a scribe?), the compilation of the Koran lasted approximately twenty-three years until the Prophet’s death. Of course, no electronic devices were available. Writing materials were scarce, especially for a moving army. It is said bits of the Koran were written on any available surface (leather, palm fronds, etc.), as Gabriel spoke to Muhammad. The Koran bits were stored in Muhammad’s tent, under the stewardship of a wife (Hafsa bint Umar?). It is alleged that a goat ate part of the Koran pieces. 

Sidelight: After Muhammad’s death (in AD 632 in Medina), the text of the Koran was carried away by companions. The text was eventually compiled by Zayd ibn Thabit and other scribes in a book that we today call “the Koran.” The full history of the early origin of the Koran becomes controversial and murky. Such history is probably of no interest to us. Only the present copy is of interest because this version is what modern Muslims use to guide their actions. END sidelight.

In the seventh century AD, Arabia was mostly populated by nomadic Arabs. They combed the mostly arid land, searching for water and pasture. In this time and place, Muhammad was a young man married to an older, rich widow, Khadija bint Khuwaylid, usually merely referred to as Khadija. She had inherited from her first husband a rest stop in Mecca. We have no comparable business now, but it was vitally important and profitable at the time. It was like a combined motel (boarding house) and livery stable. Slaves did the work, freeing Muhammad to think about and discuss matters that interested him.

I will conclude Part 1 at this point. In next Sunday’s RR, I will discuss more about the origins of Islam and why all Believers need to know more about this religion. Shalom and Maranatha.