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                        "THE RELIGION OF ISLAM"

                     Is Islam A Religion Of Peace?

INTRODUCTION

1. The main tenets of Islam can be very appealing...
   a. A call to believe in one God, the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus
   b. A call to repentance and submission to the will of God
   c. A call to holy living, involving diligent prayer, fasting,
      charity, and pilgrimage

2. Yet the early history of Islam and recent events have many people
   wondering...
   a. Is Islam a religion of peace?
   b. Does Islam allow people to live together in harmony regardless of
      race, class or beliefs?

3. Most Muslims say they are for living together in peace and harmony...
   a. Especially those living in countries where Muslims are in the
      minority
   b. Yet one might ask, "Is this because of Islam, or in spite of
      Islam?"
   c. Would there be calls for peace and tolerance if Muslims were the
      majority?

[There are several things to consider as one seeks to provide an answer
to such questions.  First, let's take a look at...]

I. THE OBJECTIVES OF ISLAM

   A. TO MAKE ISLAM THE UNIVERSAL RELIGION...
      1. Islam is claimed to be the true religion
         a. "The Religion before Allah is Islam (submission to His
            Will)" - Qur'an 3:19
         b. "Generally this statement is understood to mean that the
            true religion in the sight of God is Islam and that Islam
            alone is the way of life acceptable with Allah." - S. Abul
            A'La Maududi, The Religion Of Truth
      2. It is to be proclaimed over all other religions
         a. "It is He Who hath sent His Messenger with Guidance and the
            Religion of Truth, to proclaim it over all religion, even
            though the Pagans may detest (it)."- Qur'an 9:33
         b. "We have not sent thee but as a universal (Messenger) to
            men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against
            sin), but most men understand not." - Qur'an 34:28
      3. It is meant to be accepted by all
         a. "Allah's Revelation, through the Holy Prophet, was not meant
            for one faith or tribe, one race or set of people.  It was
            meant for all mankind, to whom, if they turn to Allah, it is
            a Message of the glad tidings of His Mercy, and if they do
            not turn to Him, it is a warning against sin the inevitable
            Punishment." - Abdullah Yusuf Ali commenting on Qur'an 34:28
         b. "But those who reject Faith and belie Our Signs, -- they
            shall be Companions of Hellfire." - Qur'an 5:86
      -- Of course, at this point the same can be said of Christianity;
         but there is more...

   B. TO CREATE ISLAMIC POLITICAL STATES...
      1. "...in Islam there is no division or distinction between what
         in the West is called 'Church and State'. In fact westerners
         refer to the Islamic form of government as a theocracy."
      2. "Thus contemporary political-religious groups focus on social,
         political, and economic aspects of Muslim societies. They
         oppose the secular state and instead call for the establishment
         of a 'Muslim State'. " - Introduction To Islam, M. Cherif
         Bassiouni
      3. "Islamic law differs from western legal systems in at least two
         major respects:  scope and value."
         a. "Western systems of law govern one's relationship to the
            state and to fellow beings. The scope of Islamic law is much
            wider, since it regulates one's relationship with God and
            conscience, in addition to the state and to fellow-beings.
            In this sense, Islamic law is a comprehensive code of
            behavior that embraces both private and public acts."
         b. "Western legal systems adapt to the changing circumstances
            of contemporary society. Islamic law, however, is conceived
            as the immutable embodiment of divine will, imposed by God
            upon Islamic society.  The process of interpretation and
            adaptation of Islamic law is held to have been completed in
            the past with the crystallization of the legal manuals."
            - Solomon Nigosian, Islam: The Way Of Submission
      4. Islam is not content to be practiced as a personal religion;
         its goal is to create...
         a. The ideal ummah (Muslim community)
         b. Political states with all citizens required to submit to
            Shari'ia (Islamic law)
      -- It is this aspect of Islam that creates the potential for great
         conflict among nations

[Christians view the kingdom of God as spiritual (Jn 18:36; Ro 14:17),
where Christians can live under any form of human government (cf. 1 Pe
2:12-17).  Islam, however, will not be satisfied until all governments
and peoples conform to Islamic law.  Accomplishing this goal
includes...]

II. THE CONCEPT OF JIHAD

   A. AS REVEALED IN THE QUR'AN...
      1. The term "jihad", often translated holy war, literally means
         struggle
      2. When studied chronologically, the Qur'an concept of war appears
         to evolve:
         a. Stage one:  no retaliation (in Mecca)
         b. Stage two:  defensive fighting permitted (first instruction
            in Medina)
         c. Stage three:  defensive fighting commanded (revised
            instruction in Medina)
         d. Stage four:  offensive war commanded to kill pagans and
            humble Christians and Jews (after conquering Mecca)
         -- cf. Richard P. Bailey, Jihad: The Teaching of Islam From Its
            Primary Sources - The Qur'an and Hadith
      3. This may help us understand why there is diversity of opinions
         among Muslims as to the meaning and application of jihad today;
         especially when the Qur'an contains words as these:
         a. "Let those who would exchange the life of this world for the
            hereafter, fight for the cause of God; whether he dies or
            triumphs, We shall richly reward him. ... The true believers
            fight for the cause of God, but the infidels fight for the
            devil. Fight then against the friends of Satan ..." (Qur'an
            4:74,76)
         b. "The believers who stay at home -- apart from those that
            suffer a grave impediment -- are not the equals of those who
            fight for the cause of God with their goods and their
            persons. God has given those that fight with their goods and
            their persons a higher rank than those who stay at home ..."
            (Qur'an 4:95,96)
         c. "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them. ...lie in ambush
            everywhere for them. If they repent and take to prayer and
            render the alms levy, allow them to go their way ..."
            (Qur'an 9:5)
         d. "Those that make war against God and His apostle and spread
            disorder in the land shall be put to death or crucified or
            have their hands and feet cut off on alternate sides, or be
            banished from the land. They shall be held up to shame in
            this world and sternly punished in the hereafter: except
            those that repent before you reduce them ..." (Qur'an 5:34,
            35)
         e. "Make war on them until idolatry shall cease and God's
            religion shall reign supreme" (Qur'an 8:39)
         f. "Prophet, rouse the faithful to arms. If there are twenty
            steadfast men among you, they shall vanquish two hundred;
            and if there are a hundred, they shall rout a thousand
            unbelievers, for they are devoid of understanding." (Qur'an
            8:65)
         g. "Fight against such of those to whom the Scriptures were
            given...and do not embrace the true Faith, until they pay
            tribute out of hand and are utterly subdued." (Qur'an 9:29)

   B. AS ESPOUSED BY MUSLIMS TODAY...
      1. "Jihad, as an Islamic concept, can be on a personal level --
         inner struggle against evil within oneself; struggle for
         decency and goodness on the social level; and struggle on the
         battlefield, if and when necessary." - 1st Islamic Web
         (http://islamicweb.com)
      2. "Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of
         religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled
         forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat
         that include prohibitions against harming civilians and against
         destroying crops, trees and livestock. As Muslims see it,
         injustice would be triumphant in the world if good people were
         not prepared to risk their lives in a righteous cause." - ibid.
      3. There is diversity of opinion among Muslims regarding the
         meaning of jihad
         a. "Some Muslims, like Sufis, promote the conquest of one's
            self as 'the greater holy war', while they disparage
            conflict with unbelievers or infidels as 'the lesser holy
            war'."
         b. "Others put forward the argument that fighting, or holy war,
            is justified only in self-defense."
         c. "Still others, like Zaydi and the Ahmadiyya, reject the idea
            of fighting or holy war and advocate peaceful negotiation as
            the most effective means for upholding the principles of
            Islam." - Solomon Nigosian, Islam: The Way Of Submission
         d. Of course, there are the extreme Islamic fundamentalists,
            who make it clear that their concept of jihad includes the
            killing of innocent civilians in an offensive war for God

[When the more radical concept of jihad is applied to accomplish the
ultimate goal of Islam (creating political Islamic states), there is
bound to be war.  The question as to whether Islam promotes peace can
also be answered by looking at...]

III. THE EXPERIENCE OF ISLAM

   A. IN THE EARLY HISTORY OF ISLAM...
      1. Muhammad adopted the Arabic custom of ghazu (raids), raiding
         caravans for booty to support families
      2. After the death of Muhammad, the first four successors to
         Muhammad (known as the Rashidun, the "rightly guided" caliphs)
         were men of war...
         a. Abu Bakr, Muhammad's close friend and early follower, found
            himself preoccupied with the wars of riddah (apostasy)
         b. Umar ibn al-Katthab, another associate of Muhammad, sought
            to preserve the unity of the ummah by extending the ghazu
            (raids) to neighboring countries
         c. Uthman ibn Affan, another associate of Muhammad, continued
            the ghazu (raids)
         d. Ali ibn Abi Talib, cousin of Muhammad, whose rule was marred
            by a five year civil war known as the first fitnah (time of
            temptation)
      3. For the next 300 years, the history of Islam involves...
         a. Expansion through military conquest
         b. Civil wars as various Islamic factions struggle for power
         c. Assassinations, massacres, executions, inquisitions of
            Muslims by Muslims
      4. "People of the Book" (Jews and Christians) were dhimmis
         (protected subjects)...
         a. Allowed to practice their faith and offered military
            protection
         b. But forced to pay a special tribute (jizya), and unable to
            convert Muslims, marry Muslim women, or hold high government
            office

   B. IN MODERN ISLAMIC NATIONS...
      1. In every country where Shari'ia (Islamic law) is embraced...
         a. At best, non-Muslims face discrimination, social ostracism,
            harassment
         b. At worst, non-Muslims face prison, torture and death for
            practicing their religion
         c. Muslims may not convert to another religion, under the
            threat of death
      2. In recent events, we see terrorism against innocent civilians
         in the name of Islam...
         a. Approved by many Muslims in Islamic nations
         b. Condemned weakly if at all by Muslims in non-Islamic nations

CONCLUSION

1. Is Islam a religion of peace?  It is difficult to say "yes" in view
   of...
   a. The objectives of Islam, as held all Muslims
   b. The concept of jihad, as espoused by many Muslims
   c. The history of Islam, as manifested in both the past and present

2. Present-day Muslims appear to be going through an identity crisis...
   a. Moderates seek to redefine Islam (and jihad) as a spiritual
      struggle for peace
   b. Extremists seek to define Islam (and jihad) as a literal struggle
      for peace

Which view of Islam will prevail remains to be seen.  But the true
religion of peace is that proclaimed by the Prince of Peace and His
apostles who renounced the use of the sword to further the cause of
truth...! - cf. Jn 18:36; Ro 12:17-21; 2Co 10:3-5; Jm 3:17-18; 1 Pe
2:11-17
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