Crescent Moon on Islamic
Four Faces of Islam
by Andy and Berit Kjos
"According to Muslim scholars, the word 'jihad' appears sixty times in the Quran, Islam's holy book, and it means 'holy war' or 'holy struggle.' But struggle against whom? War against what?' ...Modern Muslims... take it to mean that an individual should constantly strive to be a better person...."
"It is compulsory for the Muslims to be loyal to each other and to consider the infidels their enemy."  From a Saudi Arabian high school textbook.
"The Americans... are trying to create a base here to control this region and the whole Muslim world." Disinformation near Afghan border
"Most Pushtun ["the warriors of the Taliban"] are Sunni Muslim adherents strongly influenced by Folk Islam... a mixture of Islam and animistic practices."
"It's important to understand what jihad is," said Zeba Yousufi, a Pakistani immigrant who lives in Colorado Springs. "In America, we have only heard of jihad as a war of some sort, but really, it simply means to strive, to do something better for Islam."
Sounds almost Christian, doesn't it? Indeed, America's quest for "common ground" in the midst of war has inspired even churches to "do something better for Islam." Opening their doors to their Muslim neighbors, some have joined in interfaith prayer and shared their pulpits. A church in Tennessee recently invited a Muslim spiritual leader, Ilyas Muhammad, to come and explain his faith from an Islamic perspective. "Our God and your God are one," said the imam.
Such inter-faith unity infuriates others. "We have declared jihad against the U.S. government because the U.S. government is unjust, criminal and tyrannical," says Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted terrorist. "Every American man is an enemy to us."
The two opposing voices illustrate the widening gap among the world's 1.6 billion Muslims. Islam embraces an indefinable assortment of sects and variations, but one simple questions can cut through the maze of divisions and identify the most obvious positions: How does a Muslim define jihad?
Andy and I met Muslims on both sides of this divide in the Middle East many years ago. Traveling lightly and cheaply around the world, we used local trains, boats, busses and jitneys (Middle Eastern "share taxis") whenever possible to save money and meet people. Along the way, many kind strangers -- both rich and poor -- opened their homes to us. Two memorable lodgings were a Buddhist temple in the jungles of Cambodia and a simple dwelling in a crowded Jordanian refugee camp. There, a kind Muslim couple treated us to the best Arab meals their meager resources could offer.
To them, we were just friendly wanderers welcomed into their lives for a moment in time. Like millions of Muslims who have moved to the West, they valued their family traditions and the five pillars of Islam: Reciting the profession of faith, prayers, paying the Zakat tax, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca. Murder seemed far from their hearts.
1. Moderate Islam
Our thoughtful Muslim hosts represent the first of four expressions of Islam shown on the chart below -- an excerpt from a larger chart which puts all major religions into five categories. Notice that historical "Christianity" [cultural, not Biblical Christianity], like historical Islam, has often drifted away from its foundations and conformed to popular cultures. As we look at the various expressions of Islam, we might also ask God to show us where we, who call ourselves Christians, are tempted to interpret our own Scriptures in ways that serve our human nature rather than God. Perhaps such an exercise would seal in our minds an old saying that draws us back to the foot of the cross: "There, but by the grace of God, go I."
(belief in one God)
Pantheism/Monism Personified deities
Polytheism: New Age, Impersonal Force
Before the cross Judaism Rampant evil (Gen. 6) Animism & Witchcraft
600 AD to 2001
Paganized "christianity" - a blend of Christian promises and pagan practices
Sufism (Whirling Dervishes) - Islamic Mysticism
Historic Islam has evolved through many stages and divisions since the 7th and 8th centuries when Muhammad and his militant followers swept through parts of three continents, slaying Jews, Christians and "idolaters" who refused to submit to Allah. Today, the call to "holy war" suggests a new, more tolerant meaning.
"War against what?" asks Colin Nickerson in his article, "Not easy to define 'jihad'". Pointing to the conflict between opposing views, he shows the modern response:
"'There lies the question,' said Anis Ahmad, dean of social sciences at Islamabad's International Islamic University and a leading religious scholar. 'Probably no other Islamic idea is both so widely misunderstood in the Western world and so regularly abused in the Islamic world.... Jihad lies at the heart of Islam, yet is perverted by Muslims who use teachings of the prophet to justify monstrous deeds."
"....Modern Muslims... take it to mean that an individual should constantly strive to be a better person, struggle to follow the peaceful precepts of Islam.... struggle against temptation or evil, the inner quest for spiritual peace, or the battle against social wrongs.'"
Considering the aggression and swords that spread Muhammad's revelations far beyond Arab lands, you might question the shift in Muslim values. How did the initial "holy war" against infidels evolve to this modern view of social service?
Actually, the change has taken more than a thousand years. One of the more recent reforms began in the 18th century in the wake of the European Enlightenment. While Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and countless other Islamic lands and communities remained isolated from "enlightened" views of human rights and unity, others gradually moved from the ultra-strict religious demands of the Middle Ages to more of a social and moral contract. The Encyclopedia Britannica summarizes the process:
"The liberal modernist, in his social thinking, had, therefore, to take a further leap and enunciate the principle of a reinterpretation of Islam in the light of new situation. The main line of this reinterpretative activity has concentrated on the social institutions of family and slavery. The first task of the modernist was to emphasize the reform activity of the prophet... This done, the modernist was ready to underline the spirit of Islamic legislation for modern society....
"But the forces of conservatism remain very powerful and must be expected to erupt from time to time even if they cannot actually reverse the process of modernization."
The last sentence brings a sobering reminder that many ordinary people who live peacefully together one year may suddenly be aroused by political leaders, seductive propaganda and threatening circumstances to a raging hatred the next year. We watched that painful process in former Yugoslavia. Today, in countries such as Pakistan, many moderate Muslims are once again urged to take a militant stand, show loyalty to Islam by hating its declared enemies, and join the rising army of angry warriors bent on the 7th century view of Jihad.
"Christians" are vulnerable to the same shift, for human nature doesn't change with the diverse times and places. Just look at northern Ireland. Remember Nazi Germany where lukewarm churches turned from God's loving guidelines to political rage and sent the world a message that mocked the name of Christ.
We cannot follow God unless we have been joined to Christ by faith in what Christ accomplished through the cross. Neither Christian "good works" nor the "five pillars" of Islam can produce that inner transformation. In fact, when so-called Christians march to the tempting tunes of today's culture, many moderate Muslims -- with their commitment to family values and moral disciplines -- may demonstrate more loyalty to their God than we do to ours. Statistics for the Changing Church
"You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, 'Do not commit adultery,' do you commit adultery? ...You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For 'the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." Romans 2:21-24
2. Militant Islam
Note: We began this section with a statement quoted in the New York Times by Koranic scholar Anwar ul-Haque, chief pathologist at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences. He wrote to us personally and told us that he had been misquoted. Therefore we have removed his statement.
Today's expressions of Islamic jihad is backed by a history of aggressive warfare that many moderate Muslims prefer to forget. The Quran's call to "slay them wherever ye find them... " [Sura 2:191-193] is not merely a call to defensive warfare, as some claim. Instead, it justifies the vast Islamic conquests from the sixth century through the Middle Ages and into our times.
It was offensive, not defensive, doctrines that drove Islam's early leaders to conquer land masses stretching from Spain into China in a single century. They used the sword to crush all opposition, expand their territory and force the nations to worship Allah.
A short chronology of Islamic history and conquests
This zeal hasn't waned. The last decade saw deadly jihad in Islamic lands from the Sudan to Indonesia. Since the villains "who harm Islam" now include all who represent American capitalism, culture and crudity, militant Muslims see U.S. cities as valid targets. Yet Christian missionaries who dare share their faith seem to top the list. (John 15:20) Their death serves Allah's purpose.
Such violence isn't unique to Islam. History testifies to the cruel wrath of ancient Assyrians, Vikings, Mongols and others whose religious fervor was fueled by the dark spirit behind the world's unbiblical gods. That spirit has -- especially in times of Biblical ignorance -- accomplished many of its horrors under the banner of Christianity. [See "Biblical versus Cultural Christianity"]
For Satan doesn't hesitate to entice into his own armies those who claim the name of Christ. Masquerading as an "angel of light" [2 Cor. 11:14], he uses them for his purposes while spreading timeless lies that fit the "felt needs" of his current listeners. As 1 John 5:19 tells us, "the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one," and he commands a host of unseen troops who, like himself, are masters of deception.
Apparently, such an "angel of light" spoke to Muhammad back in the seventh century. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, the founder of Islam heard an "imperious" voice - he thought it came from the Angel Gabriel. Then "a luminous being grasped him by the throat and commanded him to repeat the sacred word."
Muhammad must have obeyed, for the angel began to communicate a series of revelations which gave birth to the Quran (Koran), Islam’s holy book. The voice dictated strange, new versions of the Old Testament history so carefully documented through the centuries by meticulous Jewish scribes. Not only did it present Biblical prophets as mere forerunners of the Prophet Muhammad, it also altered the nature of God.
Between 622 and 631 A.D., the new Prophet united the tribes of Arabia into a military force "ready to conquer the world for Allah." His personal victory was short lived since he died in 632. But he left behind a call to battle that would soon reverberate throughout the Middle East and into Asia -- from Gibraltar (at the Western end of the Mediterranean) to the Himalayas and eastward into China.
The caliphs who succeeded the prophet were spiritually more lenient, but no less threatening. "So swiftly did Islam's onrushing armies advance that in the beginning they had time neither to convert nor govern their new domains," wrote the editorial staff of Life. Demanding tax and surrender, they marched forward, killing those who resisted their crusade. 
Some believe that today's Islamic terror is merely an aberration of traditional Islam. Michael Doran, a professor of New Eastern Studies at Princeton University, disagrees. "Many Americans seem to think that bin Laden is just a violent cult leader," he says. "But the truth is that he is tapping into a minority Islamic tradition with a wide following and a deep history."
This "minority" tradition is taught to school children in Palestine, Sudan, Iran and other nations that sound the call to militant jihad. For example,
"If you receive the curriculum in Saudi Arabia, you would see that it promotes any kind of extremist views of Islam, in the eyes of very devout Muslims," said Abdul Khadir Tash.... This extremism, born of the local, puritanical Wahabi brand of Islam, constrains life here, shaping the way people live and the way Saudi Arabia greets the world....
"These anti-Western views aid Osama bin Laden or other extremists in finding recruits, some Saudis believe, because they can mold the imperfectly formed religious creed of young, easily influenced men, convincing them that their faith condones violence against non-Muslims."
Rebutting a writer who argued that Islam was a peaceful religion, Mohammed al-Raheh of the Supreme Institution for the Judiciary declared that, to the contrary, Islam and the West are natural enemies. "He says that Islam means peace, while I say no interpretation ever said so, and God said to fight all the infidel," Mr. al-Raheh wrote in a popular Saudi newspaper.
The Muslim terrorists who assassinated President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in 1981 had written an elaborate theological justification for jihad against nations and rulers who abandon what they considered true Islam. Basing his beliefs on similar authorities, Osama bin Laden argues that murder of innocents is a noble act when committed in the name of Allah and for the cause of Jihad:
"Being killed for Allah's cause is a great honor achieved by only those who are the elite of the nation. We love this kind of death for Allah's cause as much as you like to live. We have nothing to fear..." From "Osama speaks: Inside the mind of a terrorist"
But as we look at Islam, we might also remember the history of Western culture. A world hostile to Biblical absolutes may well focus on the evils of the Spanish inquisition, militant crusades and mob rage of the KKK - historical signs of Cultural Christianity, not Biblical Christianity - and see little difference between those horrors and Islamic Jihad.
Why this comparison? Let me say it again: human nature doesn't change with times, places, cultures or the world's religions. Apart from the cross, by which Christ freed us to live by His Spirit rather than by our own disposition, humanity continues to drift toward the same kinds of physical, emotional and spiritual sins. We differ in specific weaknesses, but we all share a basic inclination to follow our feelings and go our own way. That's why I can look evil in the face today and say, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."
Paul said it well, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."Galatians 6:14
|"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matt 5:44-45|
3. Folk Islam - a blend of Islamic monotheism and animism
Tradition tells us that Muhammad was born in 570 AD. Growing up in Mecca, a vital trading post on "the ancient spice route between India and Syria," the young Muhammad watched camel-riding traders and pilgrims worship at various pagan shrines. His own family served as custodians to the most impressive of them all: the Kaaba (Cube), which included among its many idols the Black Stone -- a treasured meteorite from the heavens.
After receiving his angelic revelations in 612 AD, the wealthy new prophet denounced the pagan idols of the Meccan trading center. To escape the wrath of its daily worshippers, he fled to Yathrib (later renamed Medina) in 622 AD. His religious zeal and political shrewdness (which appealed to the latent nationalism felt by many Arabs) inspired an army of militant supporters. He returned eight year later, leading an army of 10,000. According to National Geographic(July 1972, page 12), "Mecca surrendered without a fight." Muhammad then ordered the Kaaba cleansed of all idols except the Black Stone, declared amnesty, and turned the former pagan shrine into a sacred sanctuary for Allah.
In spite of Muhammad's hatred for idolatry, most of his early followers would open their hearts and homes to countless idols and "other gods." Even today, the masses in many Muslim lands find Allah too distant and demanding to meet their personal needs. Instead, they practice their own form of earth-based spirituality through Folk Islam. They turned to a pantheon of "helpful" powers -- spirits, fairies, dead saints, and ancestors -- for protection against spells, omens, "the evil eye," and other ills caused by harmful spirits.
This multi-faceted belief system would be familiar to all who have read the collection of mystical tales in The Arabian Nights or watched the Disney version of Aladdin. Many stories were set in Baghdad, the Islamic capital after 762 A.D. Here the Caliphs (rulers) ruled supreme during the Golden Age of Islam. In these popular fantasies as in pagan myths around the world, the people practiced magic and prayed to "good" spirits in their daily quests for the favors needed to battle evil spirits -- the supposed source of illness, barrenness and other painful conditions in life.
In much of the world, people have continued through the centuries to worship trees, stones, planets and angels. Muslims in most Islamic lands still communicate with spirits through dreams, visions, and divinations. They still appeal to occult forces using an assortment of amulets, charms, magic, astrology, sorcery, and witchcraft. To many, the waxing and waning moon -- honored on numerous Islamic flags -- plays a part in these rituals. Consider these current examples:
1.Afghanistan: The largest people group of Afghanistan are the Pashtun, the ethnic majority within the Taliban, a semi nomadic people. "The majority of Pashtun are Sunni Muslims. Their loyalty to Islam is fierce, but Pashtun culture often seems to supercede Islamic orthodoxy. Pashtun women pray regularly, but are not allowed to go to the Mosque. Consequently, they have woven their beliefs with superstition and animistic practices. Fearful of curses and evil spirits, they often wear amulets and charms for protection and good luck." The Afghan Uzbeks... identify closely with Uzbeks living in Uzbekistan. They are predominantly Sunni Muslim and are heavily influenced by Shamanism.
Baggara (Western Sudan and Eastern Chad, Africa): "Many tribes of the Baggara believe heavily in the `evil eye´ and wish to protect their cattle from jealous onlookers, even within their own villages. The presence of witch doctors is the second piece of evidence which ties the beliefs of the Baggara to that of 'folk' Islam. Children who are ill will often have either a bracelet or necklace tied to a small leather pouch which contains Quranic verses. This is a classic example of how Islam has been combined with the African traditional religions. The Baggara pray toward Mecca five times a day...."
Madurese (Nine million living on Java and the island of Madura): "...there is much folk Islam which focuses on seeking protection in life through the magic of either appeasing or controlling good and bad spirits. They have a strong belief in spirits, the use of amulets, black and white magic and the worship of ancestors. [They] also have a reputation for being rough, hot-headed and easily offended. ... People are afraid of their tough character and use of black magic. Some Madurese still practice the custom of "carok," which involves grabbing an enemy from behind with a knife and cutting his carotid arteries or his stomach. Reasons for committing carok include adultery, disputes about goods or cattle and loss of dignity."
Notice that "folk Islam" can be found across the spectrum of Islamic nations. Like moderate and militant groups of Muslims, its borders overlap the traditional divisions that followed the early disputes over Muhammad's successor. Most "people groups" that practice Folk Islam would also be labeled Sunni since "over 90% of Muslims worldwide are Sunni."  But, like the second largest division called Shi'ites , the Sunnis also feed the growing army of militants bent on Jihad.
"It is plain that the beliefs and practices of ordinary Muslims contradict many formal aspects of Islamic faith," wrote Bill Musk in The Unseen Face of Islam. "They ... permeate the everyday life of human beings from Morocco to Malaysia."
Spiritual blends are also changing churches today. Like God's people in Old Testament days, many have become increasingly fascinated with popular occult practices that promise spiritual empowerment. Some see nothing wrong with bringing trance-producing rituals and pagan worship into their schools and sanctuaries as a pathway to peace and unity.[See A Twist of Faith, Chapter 6 and Is Earth Our Mother?] Others promote entertainment that encourages their youth to imagine and enjoy occult powers. God tells us to raise our children to love Him and see from His perspective, but many of our children are fed daily diets of occult suggestions through Harry Potter books, violent cartoons, and occult games. Small wonder the church shows the same moral corruption as the rest of American culture. [See Statistics for the Changing Church] God's Old Testament warnings fit our times well.
"When you come into the land which the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations.
"There shall not be found among you anyone who... practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out..." Deut 18:9-12
4. Islamic mysticism (Sufis or Whirling Dervishes -- a distortion of Islam according to Zara)
While Modern Islam and Folk Islam focus on the practical life and physical needs of this life, Sufism seeks oneness with the Divine. Like many "Christian" mystics in medieval times, the esoteric Sufi would escape the world in their quest for an intimate, mystical union with Allah. The Lonely Planet's guide to Central Asia describes them well:
"The original Sufis were simply purists, unhappy with the worldliness of the early caliphates and seeing knowledge of God through direct personal experience.... There never were a single Sufi movement; there are manifestations within all branches of Islam. For many adherents, music, dance or poetry about the search for God were routes to trance, revelation and direct union with God."
Their traditional woolen dress symbolizes this spiritual union and gave them their popular names. "Sufi" means "wool-weavers" or "wearer of wool," and "whirling dervishes" points to the ritual dance that linked their worship to the divine. The article, "A Glimpse at Sufism in the Balkans," lets you watch their trance-forming whirls for a moment:
"One by one, the dervishes entered the chapel, bowing profoundly at the little gate of the enclosure, took their places on the mat, and, bending down, reverently kissed the ground; and then, folding their arms meekly on their breasts, remained buried in prayer, with their eyes closed and their bodies swinging slowly to and fro.
...the dervishes, slowly rising from the earth... commenced their evolutions. ...for five minutes they continued twirling round and round, as though impelled by machinery, their pale, passionless countenances perfectly immobile, their heads slightly declined towards the right shoulder, and their inflated garments creating a cold, sharp air in the chapel, from the rapidity of their action.
At the termination of that period, the name of the Prophet occurred in the chant... and, as they simultaneously paused, and, folding their hands upon their breasts, bent down in reverence at the sound, their ample garments wound about them at the sudden check, and gave them, for a moment, the appearance of mummies...."
Sufism has left a lasting imprint on Islamic poetry, philosophy and academics as well as dance. It also serves as a cultural link between Asia and the Middle East. For its mystical beliefs and its emphasis on self-annihilation as a pathway to God joins it to Buddhist monism (all is one) more than Islamic monotheism (one God):
"All Muslims must believe that there is no absolute reality but God but only the Sufi carries this doctrine to its ultimate conclusion.... God alone is, whence the term 'oneness of being.' The doctrine of the oneness of being, which Western scholars term monism, is expressed by several verses of the Quran, such as 'Wheresoe'er ye turn, there is the face of God.'"
Mysticism has been welcomed into churches as well. Few spiritual teachers have done more to blend the biblical meaning of sacredness with eastern mysticism than Thomas Merton, the popular Catholic author who died in Asia searching the depths of Tibetan Buddhism. His little book, Ways of the Christian Mystics, published by Shambala, a prolific producer of occult literature, tells of a "sacred journey" with "origins in prehistoric religious cultures and myths." It echoes the theme of universal oneness.
"Our pilgrimage," wrote Merton, is "to the stranger who is Christ our fellow-pilgrim and our brother." He mentions some of his spiritual brothers: the Inca, Maya and aborigine who is "no other than ourselves, which is the same as saying that we find Christ in him."
But we don't find Christ in those who don't know Him. Tearing down the Biblical separation between the holiness of God and the unholy spirits behind pagan religions may sound compassionate, but it blinds the reader to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. He said, "I am the truth, the way and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me." (John 14:7) The "tolerant" view that all spiritual paths lead to the same destination brings illusion, not peace or unity. It also brings endless striving on the part of those whose religions promise spiritual favors in return for "good deeds" and specified rituals. In contrast, God tells us that no human deeds can buy eternal peace. Instead, He opens His arms to anyone who seeks Him and accepts His gift of eternal life -- offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We need to recognize the difference, understand the hearts of those who follow the world's enticing gods, and pray that He will lead us to those who long for an eternal relationship with our God. He loves them far more than we can understand, and "is longsuffering [gently patient] toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." [2 Peter 3:9] The last three words may not be politically correct, but they carry the key to eternal life.
"...thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place.
"For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life." 2 Corinthians 2:14-16
A Biblical View
The Book of Daniel in the Bible gives us a glimpse of Middle Eastern history from behind the scenes. The conquering Babylonian army had brought the Jewish youth, Daniel, and other strong, healthy captives to the court of their pagan king, Nebuchadnezzar. In Babylon (Iraq), Daniel excelled in wisdom and, by God's miraculous intervention, won both respect and authority. In this land of exile, God shows him several prophetic visions of the world's end-time struggles, then sends the angel Gabriel to explain the message. The angel said,
“Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.” Daniel 10:10-14
The real angel Gabriel had faced a battle unseen to any observer. His opponent was a fallen angel, an advanced officer in a dark and different spiritual army -- a part of the hierarchy of demonic warriors best described in Ephesians 6:10-18. It tells us that
"...we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God...." Eph 6:12-13
The invisible war between God's armies and the "rulers of this world" may seem far less significant than the more obvious battles documented by today's news media. But the tiny fraction of this spiritual war which can be discerned by our human senses is little more than the tip of an iceberg.
It's not surprising that many Jihad assaults would be aimed at Jews and Christians. As Jesus said, "If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you.... for they do not know the One who sent me." (John 15:20-21)
But, all too often, Christians have faced hatred because we demonstrated our own human nature rather than God.
Today, the Church stands more vulnerable than ever. We are ignorant of God's Word and weakened by compromise. Meanwhile, the "enlightened" world around us has written a new, politically correct criteria for the Church, one that prohibit God's moral standard. Outlined in UNESCO's Declaration on the role of religion in a culture of peace, it has already colored the world's media-trained consciousness. This international criteria lumps Biblical Christianity together with radical Islam and denounces all who cling to old-fashioned absolutes and refuse to join the march toward global oneness.
This attitude is shared by Frank Johnson, who writes for the British Daily Telegraph. Analyzing the recent assaults on America, he blames, not radical Islam, but all religions that refuse to conform to liberal idealism:
"The airwaves fill with voices, Muslim and otherwise, warning that we should not blame Islam. That is so. We should blame religion.... Edward Gibbon, in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ascribed that decline and fall to "the triumph of barbarism and religion." Thus Gibbon perhaps even regarded the two as synonymous.
"Gibbon did not mean religion as practiced by most religious people today. That is because religion practiced by them is religion moderated by the Enlightenment.... We may be sure that, had pre-Enlightenment Christianity believed itself to be the victim of some 'Great Satan' -- as fundamentalist Islam today believe America to be -- it, too, would have brought forth fanatics prepared to martyr themselves for the cause.
"New York fell victim to religion as understood and dreaded by Gibbon, a man of the Enlightenment. In the West, the Enlightenment is the force for which -- perhaps paradoxically -- we should thank God."
Mr. Johnson has no real intention of thanking God for anything. He doesn't know our God; nor does he understand Christianity. He doesn't realize that our God is a God of love who sends His true friends into distant and dangerous lands to show His compassion, care for the sick, and give their lives to bring hope to the oppressed.
Apart from a committed remnant of disciples, the Western Church has been sliding away from such discipleship. We have become spiritually near-sighted. The world's bright lights have dimmed the glory of His eternity. Therefore we hardly know the meaning of God's love -- the kind of love that enables us to sacrifice -- even lay down our lives -- in order to follow Him and share His truths in a world.
Such lives of faith, love and courage can often be seen more clearly in former Muslims than in Western Christians. A recent Voice of the Martyr, tells about "Asif", a young Pakistani who gave his life to Jesus Christ after a painful accident. When he began to tell others what Jesus had done for him. his landlord became enraged. "Why are your preaching the gospel? he demanded. "These are Muslims people. Why are they accepting Jesus?
Since Asif refused to deny his Lord, he was beaten severely. The landlord and others stomped on him and broke his leg. "You dog!" they shouted. "You are a low-class person! Why did you come here and make our people become Christians."
Asif cried out to God for strength and began to pray for his tormentors. Realizing, as Jesus did on the cross, that "they know not what they do," he became all the more determined to share His joy and peace with others. Later, when asked what Bible verses encouraged him during the trials he faced, he quoted Philippians 1:29: "For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for his sake.
His story puts me to shame, for I fall far short of such love. Here in the West, it's hard to understand the persecution that has pursued His faithful ones through the centuries. But -- in a world that increasingly equates "hate" with Christianity -- that may soon change. Will we be ready?
May His wise Spirit break through the distractions and distortions that hide the wonders of life in Christ from our minds, so that we, too, would be as bold in proclaiming our faith. May we be as brave as Asif and other former Muslims as we face a world that would silence God's message and the hope of His eternity. And may God fill us with His love, so that we might draw the lost and hurting to the foot of the cross, the only place of genuine oneness and lasting fulfillment.["What it means to be a Christian"]
"I will love Thee, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high Tower. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies."
Crescent moon and five-pointed star: During the 20th century, many Islamic countries adopted the crescent moon and the five-pointed star as symbols of their faith and emblems on their national flags. Together, they represent the waning moon and the sign for the morning star, the planet Venus. The five points of the star symbolize the five pillars of Islam: Reciting the profession of faith, prayers, paying the Zakat tax, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca.
The Quran: "...slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out.... But if they desist, then lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah."
Sura 2:191-193 The Quran.See another version of The Quran at http://islamicity.com/mosque/quran/ : "...take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other." Sura 5:51 The Quran
1. Not easy to define 'jihad'.
2. Neil MacFarquhar, "Anti-Western and Extremist views pervade Saudi Schools," New York Times, October 19, 2001.
3. Colin Barraclough, "Corner of Iran furious over U.S. attacks," San Francisco Chronicle, October 13, 2001.
4. Behind the scarf
5. Osama speaks: Inside the mind of a terrorist
6. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 12 (Chicago: William Benton, 1968), page 670.
9. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 15 (Chicago: William Benton, 1968), page 640.
10.The World's Great Religions (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1958), page 79.
11. Ibid., page 88-89.
12. Robert Worth, "The Deep Intellectual Roots of Islamic Terror," The New York Times, 10-3-01.
13.Osama speaks: Inside the mind of a terrorist
14. Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 21 (Chicago: William Benton, 1968), page 373.
18. Karakoram (Lonely Planet, 1998), page 41.
19. Shi'ites (prevalent in Iran) make up the second largest division within Islam. From the beginning, it looked to hereditary leaders called Imams, while Sunnis elected their leaders, called Caliphs. Less formal than either the Sunni or the Shi'ites are the Ismaili, who broke away in the 8th century after a later dispute over succession. Several million strong today, they have settled in Pakistan, India, East Africa, Iran and Syria. While they generally would fit among the moderate Muslim, they also are subject to the timeless attraction of traditional animism and universal pagan practices.
20. Bull Musk, The Unseen Face of Islam (Eastbourne, Great Britain: MARC, 1989), 223.
21. Central Asia (Melbourne: Lonely Planet, 2000), page 70.
22.A Glimpse at Sufism in the Balkans at
23. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol 21 (Chicago: William Benton, 1968), page 373.
24. Thomas Merton, Ways of the Christian Mystic (Boston: Shambala, 1994), pages 1, 49-50)
25. Frank Johnson, "We can only hope for an Islamic Enlightenment," The Daily Telegraph, September 15, 2001.
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Chart: Five Types of Religious Expressions