May 12, 2010
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
We have been in a series, of which this is the third installment; taking a look at what some say is the fastest growing religion in the world. Estimates vary at how many identify themselves as Muslims in the world, however the number is between 1.2 – 1.4 billion adherents worldwide. To put this in perspective, if the number is 1.2 billion; that would represent 22% of the earth’s population as Muslim. This would make Islam the second largest religion in the world, second only to Christianity, which claims about 33% of the earth’s population. It is further estimated that Islam is growing at a rate of about 2.9% annually, out pacing the global population growth rate, which is estimated to be approximately 2.3%.
These numbers need to be further clarified since as we pointed out last time following the death of Islam’s founder, the Prophet Muhammad, Islam divided into two groups. The largest of the two Muslim groups are known as the Sunnis, while the smaller; albeit more visible and vocal, are known as the Shi’ites. Most estimates point to there being about 800 million Sunni Muslims in the world. This means about 80% of all Muslims in the world would identify themselves as Sunni, while the remaining 20% would identify themselves with one of the many sects or factions of Shi’ia Islam. While both the Sunnis and Shi’ites claim religious veneration for the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran, it is the Shi’ites that are the more radical and violent of the two groups.
An example of the radical nature of the Shi’a Muslims can be seen in the nation of Iran. The desire for the Iranians to take over Iraq may be based on more than a need to acquire oil or a desire to control a land closer to Israel. It appears to be rooted in the concept that the Mahdi will reappear in present-day Iraq. To Shi’ite Muslims, Iraq held an important role in its past history and will do so in its future.
For many years the countries of Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon have been inhabited predominantly by members of the Sunni Muslim sect. The more radical Shi’ite Muslims have been centered in the country of Iran. It has been a plan of the radical Muslims to overthrow the governments of Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria and form a huge Islamic crescent under the control of the Shi’ite group. Eventually, Iraq will fall to radical Islam. Once radical Islamists control Iraq, they will have Syria in their back pocket! Lebanon was once an Arab Christian nation, but when radical Muslims took over the nation during the civil war of 1975 – 1990, many Arab Christians were forced to flee the country. Some were permitted into Israel, and others had to face severe persecution and even death at the hands of the fanatics.
Today in Lebanon, two radical Shi’ite groups, Hezbollah and Amal, are gaining ground in their desire to control the nation, populated by a larger majority of the Shi’ite Muslims than Sunni Muslims. The Shi’ite Muslims are quite different from the Sunni Muslims for several reasons:
- Many Shi’ite Muslims are involved heavily in occult activities. They practice palm reading and the reading of tea leaves. Many Shi’ites celebrate Ashura, the anniversary of the murder of Muhammad’s grandson Hussein thirteen hundred years ago, by beating themselves, slashing their back with knives or their heads with nails, or piercing their bodies with a sword.
- The Shi’ite Muslims often display pictures of their imams, which is normally not done by Sunnis. It would not be difficult to imagine seeing a group of Shi’ite Muslims, along with a group of apostate Christians, worshiping the image of the beast that will be brought to life through the demonic powers of the false prophet [Rev. 13:11 – 15].
- Shi’ites have a strong desire to take Jerusalem and destroy Israel. They are constantly calling for jihad, which is a holy war against Israel and any other groups or religions opposing radical Islam.
For the following simple reasons, I believe that out of a strong fanatical branch of Islam will come a man who will hold the world hostage with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. It appears likely he will come from the Shi’ite branch of Islam.
- The world’s final dictator will, according to Daniel, become strong with a small number of people. [Dan. 11:23b NKJV] The Shi’ites only make up about 15 percent of the Muslim population.
- Daniel also indicates that the Antichrist will be great…toward the east [Dan. 8:9]. East of Jerusalem, Israel, are the countries of Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, along with the southern Russian states. These territories are strongholds for the more radical Muslims. An estimated 93 percent of Muslims in Iran are Shi’ite Muslims.
- While many Sunni Muslims have Jewish friends and get along with Christians from the West, the Middle East Shi’ite Muslims have a tendency to be overly anti-Semitic and consider America “the Great Satan.” (It should be noted, however, that Osama Bin Laden and many members of al Qaeda are Sunni Muslims.)
Many Sunni Muslims say that the actions and the thinking of radical Islamists are not truly representative of Islamic teachings and are perversions of the traditions.
Today, the thread that ties the fabric of Islam together is the belief that Israel and Jerusalem will once again be in the total control of Muslims, with the Jews and Christians expelled permanently from the Holy Land.
This brings us to an importation juncture. What exactly do Muslims believe concerning the Last Days? It may surprise some Christians, but Muslims have a clearly defined eschatology. That is, a doctrine, a set of beliefs and things they are looking for to occur in the end of days. I want to take a look at some of those beliefs next time.
The Weekly Word is found in Daniel 11:38. Here the Bible says,
38 But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. [Dan. 11:38 NKJV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson