May 5, 2010
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
If you will recall, last time we began an examination of the religion known as Islam. I sincerely believe that every Christian needs to know what Muslims believe, what they really teach, and what is the agenda of the most vocal and visible branch of Islam. They are the most dangerous force in the world today in my opinion. When you encounter a group of people who live by a philosophy that to die for the cause is a benefit, and that to maim and kill as many of the “infidels” as possible; you are dealing with a formidable force indeed.
We began last time taking a look at the history of the founder of Islam, the so-called prophet Muhammad. We will continue along that line this week, and I believe demonstrate how Islam got to the place it is today.
During Muhammad’s time, there was much idol worship throughout Arabia. There were theological divisions among Christians, and the Jews and Christians were at odds. In the Arabian city of Mecca, a conflict arose among the merchants at the Ka’ba. If the people believed there was only one God, it would destroy the pilgrimage and the income from visitors who came to pray before their gods sitting on the stone. Many Arabs called Muhammad a liar, a fraud, and a false prophet. Eventually, Muhammad and his new followers were forced from Mecca, and they moved to a new city where they were received. Muhammad named the city Madinat al Nabi, meaning, “City of the Prophet”, today called Medina in Saudi Arabia.
Some conflicts arose between followers of Muhammad in Medina and the people of Mecca. Muslim groups began raiding the caravans. Muhammad began teaching that if his followers died fighting, they would go straight to paradise. The eight-year war finally ceased when the people in Mecca gave in to the Muslims. Muhammad declared Allah to be the true God, removed the idols, and made Mecca the center for the Islamic religion. The pilgrimages to the Ka’ba remained a central figure of his teachings, and today one of the five pillars of Islam requires a Muslim follower to pray at the Ka’ba in Mecca at least one time before death. This is called the hajj. The Islamic religion began to sweep through Arabia, as every day more Arabs began joining the religion.
At age sixty-two, Muhammad began complaining of severe headaches and fever. Some Muslims believe he was poisoned by one of his wives, who was Jewish. He never recovered, and one day, after saying a few prayers, he passed away.
During his lifetime, the followers of Muhammad claimed him to be a prophet. He brought forth a series of what believers called revelations. After the death of Muhammad, his sayings were collected and placed in a book called the Quran (Koran). The Quran is considered to be the sacred revelations of Islam, just as the Bible is considered God’s sacred revelation to Jews and Christians. The Quran contains 114 surahs, or chapters, starting with the longest surah and ending with the shortest. The surrahs were the alleged revelations given to Muhammad over a twenty-two year period. Muhammad was believed to be illiterate; therefore, the revelations were written down by his followers as they heard him recite it. The words were originally written on leaves, pieces of parchment, and even dried bones. The Quran was compiled after Muhammad’s death and written in the Arabic language.
Muslims believe that one hundred four sacred books were given by God to mankind. However, one hundred of these were given to Adam, Seth, Enoch, and Abraham, and have been lost. The four remaining books are the books of Moses (or the Torah), the psalms of David, the gospels of Christ, and the Quran. Other books contain the hadith (traditions), which are the teachings of Muhammad that were put together by his followers who knew him personally. Fourteen hundred years later, Islam claims an estimated 1.4 billion followers and is said to be the fastest growing religion in the world.
While Muslims claim to accept the Torah, Psalms, and the four gospels, they also claim the Bible has been tahrif, meaning “corrupted” or “altered”. Muslims believe that since Jesus did not write the Bible Himself, it is not accurate. Many stories in the Quran are very different from the stories in the Bible. For example, the Bible teaches that Abraham dwelt by the trees of Mamre and built an altar there to the Lord (Gen. 13:18). The Quran teaches that Abraham said, “O our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation, by your sacred house [Ka’ba]; in order, O our Lord, that they may establish regular prayer…” [Surah 14:37]. When you ask a Muslim about the contradiction, pointing out that Mamre is in Hebron and the Ka’ba is in Arabia, they will often answer, “The Quran is infallible. The Jews and Christians changed the Bible to make it fit for them.” This really is why witnessing to Muslims by simply quoting scripture seldom wins them to Christ. It is love and the presence of the Holy Spirit that can impact their hearts.
I want to make it abundantly clear that I have no intention to form a debate on the doctrines of Islam and Christianity. However, one will not understand how Islam will fulfill many of the Bible’s predictions of an eighth kingdom that seeks to destroy Israel and the Jews unless one understands certain Islamic beliefs and traditions.
The death of Muhammad left a void in the leadership of the Islamic religion. He announced no successor; therefore, the battle for the prophet’s successor began immediately. The Muslim elders elected Muhammad’s second convert and the oldest man in the group, Abu Bakr. Abu’s title was caliph. Most Muslims accepted this decision, but a small minority did not. The smaller group believed that Ali, Muhammad’s adopted son and the father of Muhammad’s two grandsons, Hassan and Hussein, should replace Muhammad. A struggle began that led to the deaths of many of Islam’s first caliphs. As a result, two branches of Islam developed – the Sunnis and the Shi’ites. The Sunnis accepted Abu as successor, and the Shi’ites believed the heir to Muhammad was Ali.
Abu Bakr, the first caliph, brought the tribes of Arabia under Islamic rule. The second caliph, Omar (634 – 644), began an expansion that lasted one hundred years. It was under Omar that the mosque in Jerusalem was built on the Temple Mount. During these hundred years, Muslim armies extended the empire into Iraq, Iran, and parts of Central Asia. As Syria came under Islamic control, the headquarters of the Umayyad Dynasty (661 – 750) was Damascus, Syria.
The third caliph, Othman, was assassinated, thus causing a war between the Sunnis and the Shi’ites that continues off and on to this day. As the years progressed, several different Islamic dynasties arose, and the headquarters of the Shi’ites eventually became Baghdad, Iraq. It was in Karbala, Iraq, that Hussein, the son of Ali, was murdered along with seventy followers. Each year during the Islamic month of Muharram the Shi’ites commemorate the death of Ali.
The division not only split the religion into two branches, but it also caused a split in opinions as to where the headquarters of Islam should be. While all Muslims consider Mecca and Medina to be sacred places, the Sunnis claimed Mecca as their headquarters, and the Shi’ites moved from Damascus to Baghdad. Today Tehran, Iran, has become the strength of the Shi’ite branch, and 93 percent of the Muslim population is Shi’ite Muslims.
I want to focus on uncovering some of the beliefs and traditions of the Shi’ite Muslims next time.
The Weekly Word is found in Revelation 13:1 – 6. Here the Bible says,
Rev 13:1 Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.
Rev 13:2 Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.
Rev 13:3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been mortally wounded, and his deadly wound was healed. And all the world marveled and followed the beast.
Rev 13:4 So they worshiped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?”
Rev 13:5 And he was given a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and he was given authority to continue for forty-two months.
Rev 13:6 Then he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven. [Rev. 13:1 – 6 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson