The following blog post is a part of our ongoing Global Awareness series. A group of people in our church family started talking about the world and all the suffering. Throughout the year, this group has committed to bringing attention and information about the world and its suffering to our church family. We will pray as a church family and, hopefully, as individuals. Through this process, our desire is that God will shape our church and our hearts to become more like him, that our concerns and dreams will be become more like his!
PURPOSE: To create awareness. To help us genuinely care. To learn to see as God sees, to think as God thinks, to do as God does.
NOT THE PURPOSE: To alleviate all suffering. To right all wrongs. To take political stands or statements on issues. To start a non-profit or website. To shock, scare, or guilt.
One member of this previously mentioned house church has done some research and written a blog on the topic of Islam. Continue on to read his post and find links for your own research.
GLOBAL AWARENESS: ISLAM
First up, a disclaimer: I am no expert, by any stretch of the imagination, regarding Islam. What you will read here is research done in an effort to understand (mostly Middle Eastern) people.
Secondly, I encourage you to do your own research by reading some books and articles, watch some videos and/or talk and listen to people who are Muslims or from the Middle East. Some resources you might start with are given at the end of this article.
Lastly, this information is shared to equip us to love God and love people.
HISTORY & PRESENT
Muhammad was born in 532 CE in what we know as Saudi Arabia. He seems to have been a determined, hard-working fellow and must have had a good head on his shoulders. Upon receiving a vision, he felt responsible to lead people away from a pantheism (worship that admits or tolerates all gods) and follow the one, true Allah.
His dedication to his calling resulted in some followers and also persecution. They fled the town of Mecca and moved to a town later named Medina. Over the years, Muhammad did a lot of persuading, a lot of fasting in the desert, and a lot of fighting.
(The following is not meant to criticize or state as true. It is what Islam thinks/believes.)
Muhammad received, from the angel Gabriel, what Allah wanted people to know. Muhammad was non-literate so he memorized what Gabriel told him and he taught others to memorize the same. At some point, people wrote it down and we call this the Quran. To Muslims, the Quran is more a message than it is a book. (Sound familiar?) Also, many think the Quran should only be heard/read in the Arabic language. Muhammad received the revelations from Gabriel over a period of more than twenty years.
When Muhammad died, he had no male children. There was a debate over who should succeed him. Some thought it should be a blood-kinsman (Shiite view). Others thought whoever was most qualified should be the next leader (Sunni view). Today, Sunni Muslims are far-more numerous of the two groups. The two have been at odds with each other for a long time.
It is somewhat simplistic to write that many of the current conflicts in the Middle East are due to the Sunni-Shia disagreement, but it is a significant factor. Another area of disagreement is the tension between Arab Islam and Persian (Iran) Islam. Some of the nations have monarchies while others have elected officials, religious leaders or dictators as government leaders. Some have enormous material wealth. Two more factors bear mentioning: 1) the involvement of Western governments has often had less than positive results; 2) the presence of Israel right in the middle of the region.
Some would argue that the recent violence is just that — recent. We should take a long-term view of the people, the religion, and the region. (I remember a college history class that looked at the numerous wars fought in ‘Christian’ Europe many years ago.)
The radical Islamists of today are motivated by many things and one stands out: they want Muslims to be true to and to be pure in their beliefs toward Allah and to the words given to the Prophet (Muhammad). The number of Westerners killed by al-Qaeda or ISIL/ISIS pales in comparison to the number of fellow, yet-unfaithful (in their minds) Muslims who have suffered terribly. In a resource below (MEMRI), you can find the Creedal Document of what ISIS thinks.
Interestingly, the Quran mentions Abraham and Jesus in favorable ways. Muhammad claims the Bible spoke of him but Jews and Christians edited him out. Therefore (according to Muhammad), we read a ‘corrupted’ Bible that can no longer be trusted.
Our Father in the heavens, you are the One True and Holy God.
There are many kingdoms in this world - may your kingdom come. May your ways of love and forgiveness become our ways. The things you do and want in heaven, please do them here, in us and among all people. Please make us kingdom people.
May our friends and our enemies have enough food, medicine, safety and water today and tonight. May there be enough comfort, kindness and gentleness for everyone today and tonight. May there not be enough bombs or bullets. May there not be enough hatred and the resources to express it.
Forgive us for being arrogant and willfully ignorant, as we forgive those who are arrogant and hateful.
Lead us away from the temptation to lazily think in terms of ‘us v. them.’ Lead us away from the temptation to not be a neighbor to those who don’t speak English. Lead us towards you, Lord. Lead those who are different from us towards you. Unite us all in your name.
Deliver us from the evil of hating our enemies and hating those who frighten us. Replace our hate and fear with love and prayers for all people.
Remind us, this month, to pray for the millions of Muslims devoting themselves to prayer and fasting all around the world. Put your love for all people into our hearts that we may truly live as your people.
To your name be all glory, honor, and praise. Amen.
We often have the tendency to think in an "us vs. them" mentality when it comes to any group of people that is different than us, especially when it has to do with what we believe. While challenging, it's worthwhile to move towards simply an "us" mentality. Each individual person has been created by the same heavenly Father; our Muslim neighbors are exactly that — our neighbors. Let's lean into the call to love our neighbors!
To read more about our Global Awareness series, go here.
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Radical vs. Moderate
I’m still learning what is a credible source of information and what is not. There is some propaganda going on in this article and, at the same time, some accurate info being shared.
Inside the Middle East
"Inside the Middle East" is written by an Israeli about the world around him. It has a bias in favor of Israel and yet is full of useful information.
Jesus and Muhammad
“Jesus and Muhammad” is written by a Muslim scholar who became a Christian. He is mostly objective. Again, useful information throughout the book.
Mapping The Global Populations of Muslims
A look at population figures worldwide.
Hürriyet Daily News
This is a Turkish-based, online newspaper. Turkey is a big-time player in the Middle East with a dictator and major ties to the USA and Europe. Turkey has its own ‘war’ against Kurds, many of whom live in Nashville.
Middle East Forum
Another good source of information and insights into the Middle East.
The Middle East Media Research Institute
And one more source of news, information and, sometimes, entertainment.
University of Denver: Middle East Studies
I occasionally watch videos on their Youtube channel. Most are dry presentations but I’ve learned some useful things.