Islam, Mohammed and the Muslims
ISLAM IN THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
The World War, Phase I (1914-1918), left Britain and France with zonal responsibilities in the Gulf and Eastern Mediterranean regions respectively (the Sykes-Picot agreement), to administer partition of the Ottoman Empire. The Balfour Declaration (1917) further changed the political balance—with historic portent—by favoring a Jewish national home in Palestine. A British mandate over Palestine had been granted, and other political solutions were continually sought to reconcile French and British interests in the Middle East with rising nationalism, etc., among the Islamic nations.
The World War, Phase II (1939-45), came with South Mediterranean coastal lands of Islam being overrun by the European combatants. In the aftermath, dynastic Arab rulers were beset by revolutionary movements of the political left, and many Jews migrated to Palestine in ever-increasing numbers from many lands. First France, then Britain, resigned politically manufactured and increasingly embarrassing responsibilities, and the current pattern of the Islamic world began to fall into place.
Following a United Nations resolution in Nov. 1947, calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine, the State of Israel was established in May 1948. This event had and continues to have an incalculable effect on the future of Islam and the Muslims.
The economic power latent in oil (so-called "black gold"), in a world where "gun-barrel diplomacy" had given way to the power of an international assembly, was realized by those who possessed it. Islam has been divided between wealthy "oil-states," which have cast off Western control, and those without oil and dependent. As this economic power is wielded for political ends, the dependence of the greatest nations on Middle East oil has become ever more painfully apparent.
Islam still wars between its factions, and the voices of religious intolerance are heard, strident behind the new bulwark of oil-power. Islam still bows toward the Kaaba, but forces of political change threaten as Russian influence vies with the West's influence, and arms from both flood into this most sensitive political area of the world.
The arms buildup in the Middle East has reached huge proportions, and the world is tense, in fear of a major conflict of terrifying destructive potential, erupting across the lands where once the Caliphs ruled. This, it is feared, will draw in various nations and engulf the world in devastation from which hopes of survival would be more relevant than victory or defeat.
Yet in these later days of peril, with the power and vitality of great nations draining away in an orgy of buying and building weapons, the cries of Islam are heard again. Some cry for justice, others for a jihad against Israel. Some cry against the materialism of the West, and/or against the atheism of Russia. Some cry for the coming of the Mahdi (counterpart of the Jewish and Christian Messiah), and some for a homeland west of the Jordan. Sunnites and Shiites cry against each other, while the cries of nationalism are raised against any attempt to reunite Islam under one Imam, Sultan or Caliph.
The industrial nations of the world, conscious only of their need for oil, look on in fear and in Occidental or Far Eastern puzzlement at this display of Koranic "logic," and can only hope for the best, while feverishly seeking, by any means, to avoid the worst.
WRITINGS AND TRADITIONS THAT ARE SACRED TO MUSLIMS
For a better understanding of writings and traditions that are sacred to Muslims, and of the rise of Islamic schisms and sects, a brief description of these may be helpful. It is often difficult to accurately convey the sense of oriental words to the occidental mind by translation. A reasonable approximation will suffice for present purposes.
The Koran and the Hadith
(1) The Koran, the sacred book of the Muslims, contains teachings Mohammed claimed were revealed to him in Arabic (sura 26:192-195) by God through the angel Gabriel. Parts of the Hadith (tradition) are more explicit on this than the Koran. The Koran is somewhat smaller than the Christian New Testament, with 114 chapters (called suras) arranged in order of length. Suras are not arranged chronologically because many are composite, embodying statements or discourses from different periods—not determinable with very much accuracy. The Koran's impact does not carry over in translation. When recited in Arabic to Arabs by one who is trained, it has a decided effect on its hearers, even after nearly 1400 years. The Koran text now in general use was prepared in the first century after Mohammed's death and has since remained the authoritative version.
(2) The Hadith (tradition) literally means a saying or statement. It is used also to denote the compendium of statements traceable to Mohammed's original "Companions," on what he said, did and/or approved. It is free from foreign influence and, in its six authoritative collections ("al-sihah al-sittah," the six genuine ones), largely free from accretions of non-"Companion" origin. Of these six the most scrupulously compiled is generally acknowledged as that of Al-Bukhari (died 870 A.D.).
The Sunna, Ijma and Sharia
(3) The Sunna (way, or custom) is a pre-Islamic word; Meccans were reproved by Mohammed for clinging to the "sunna" of their fathers after his revelation of the unchanging "sunna" of God. Strictly, "sunna" is used to describe those traditional usages not laid down in the Koran. In the Islamic sense, it is the primitive community's customs handed down orally—but differences occurred as to whether that community was solely that of Mohammed's day or if it should include also the community of Caliphs who were Mohammed's "Companions." The Hadith is the vehicle for the "sunna."
(4) Ijma (consensus) is a very difficult word to accurately define. It carries the sense of universal agreement and refers to the generally and traditionally accepted views of the Muslim world on what the Koran and the "sunna" mean in the formulation of Islamic doctrine and practice.
In its primary sense the Ijma has reference to the traditions and customs of the past, and is the historic justification whereby the beliefs and practices of the "Companions" of Medina gained and maintained authority. In a secondary sense it is a principle of toleration of differing "schools" within Islam, where these have resulted from conversion of peoples of other cultures who brought with them ways which modified the "sunna" for their own specific purposes. The "ijma" of the doctors and thinkers has always been subject, in final analysis, to the "ijma" of the community.
(5) The Sharia (literally, path to the watering place) covers the total way of life as explicitly or implicitly commanded by God and embodies all the doctrines (beliefs) and law (practice) of Islam. It is based on the Koran, Sunna, Ijma and "Qiyas" (analogical reasoning by which the meaning of the other three is interpreted).
The Five Articles of Faith
(6) These are the basic tenets that Muslims are required to believe:
(a) There is only one true God, whose name is Allah, who is all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful.
(b) There are good angels, with Gabriel as chief, who appeared to Mohammed, and the djinn (fallen angels, really), with the Shaitan as the chief.
(c) There are four God-inspired books: the Torah (the five books of Moses), the Psalms of David, the Gospel of Jesus and the Koran. The Koran is the most important, because it is Allah's final word to mankind.
(d) The prophets are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Jonah, Jesus and about 20 others. But the last and greatest, the sum and seal of all, is Mohammed.
(e) On the "last day" the dead will be awakened and guardian angels sent by Allah will witness to men's deeds and judge each one as worthy of entering Paradise (with sensual pleasures included), or else condemn them to a hell of eternal torment. Allah has determined what He pleases and no one can change what He has decreed.
The Five Pillars of Faith
(7) These are duties Muslims are required to perform in order to attain salvation:
(a) Publicly stating the Shahadah: "There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His Prophet."
(b) Prayers and ritual washings five times daily.
(c) Paying Zakat tax—alms—a tithe of one's income.
(d) Fasting (in the daylight hours only) during Ramadan, the ninth month, and avoidance of any unworthy act, which would make the fasting meaningless.
(e) Making at least one hajj—pilgrimage to Mecca—with its rites, during one's lifetime.
(Thus we see that Islam teaches salvation by works, which is contrary to the Bible teaching of justification by faith—Rom. 3:20; Eph. 2:8, 9; Gal. 2:16; Titus 3:5.)
ISLAMIC SCHISMS AND SECTS
Out of the foregoing criteria of Muslim orthodoxy, differences arose which at worst created schisms and at best variations among Muslims. Some divisions are not sects in the true sense, but are tolerated differences within Islam, for division has been made without physical separation. A description of divisions follows:
The Sunnites and the Shiites
(1) The Sunnites are the orthodox Muslims, who form about 85 percent of the 2 billion Muslims of our day. They accept the "sunna" of the community as well as of the Koran. The enormous influence of "Araberthum" (the Arab teaching) retained a primitive and stable orthodoxy among the Sunnites. Medina, birthplace of the Koran and the Hadith, was the universal school of Islamic theology, and schools in other countries had purely local significance. Thus law and conformity has prevailed among the Sunnites.
(2) The Shiites (from shia, meaning party) are those Muslims who opposed the removal of the Islamic capital from Kufa to Damascus at Ali's death in 661 A.D. and sought to restore his house to the Caliphate. They regard as illegal the conduct of the community after Mohammed's death and the "sunna" of post-Mohammedan "Companions" to which it gave rise. The first three Caliphs—Abu Bakr, Omar and Othman—are not regarded by them as genuine successors to Mohammed. Ali is held to be the true successor; on this head, opposition of Shiites to Sunnites still continues, with occasional bloodshed. The Shiites are the main and historic schism of Islam and claim about 15 percent of Muslims. After some early deviations under esoteric influences, they settled down into three main groups:
(a) The Imamis, who recognize twelve Imams, claimed to be God-ordained spiritual leaders inspired by a special spiritual force. The last Imam, Mohammed al Muntazar (the Expected One), disappeared about 873 A.D. and his return is still looked for. This group is strong in Persia and has followers in Syria, Iraq and India.
(b) The Ismailis are the followers of Ismail, whom they regard as the seventh Imam rather than his brother Musa. From the Ismailis came the Karmations (a revolutionary movement in the Middle Ages), the Egyptian Caliphate of the Fatimids (969-1171 A.D.) and the Assassins of modern India and East Africa. The wealthy Aga Khan in India is their spiritual and temporal head.
(c) The Zaidis are dominant in Yemen. Believing in a continuing line of Imams who have no supernatural qualities and who have descended from Ali's day, they accept also that the community of the Medinan "Companions" were justified in their "sunna" and their Caliphate before Ali, under circumstances then prevailing. Of the Shiites they are closest to the Sunni.
The Kharijites, Sufis and Wahhabis
(3) In 675 A.D., shortly after Ali's Caliphate began, an opposition party called the Kharijites (seceders) was formed among the fanatically religious tribesmen of Mesopotamia and the Iraq border. In contention with Muawiya for the Caliphate, Ali had been selected by arbitration. While the majority upheld this, the Kharijites did not; they claimed that God alone was authorized to select (sura 6:57-62). They separated and fought Ali and (later) against the Damascus Omayyad Caliphs.
The Kharijites were a hardy people, who fought bravely. Despite comparative fewness they warred against the Islamic orthodox establishment and were notorious for their cruelties. Their power was broken with great difficulty; since then they have played a very minor role, mostly in North Africa and Eastern Arabia.
(4) The Sufis (this word means wearers of wool—woolen clothing was associated with spirituality even in pre-Islamic times) were a speculative, philosophical and mystical group and movement, which arose as a pietistic alternative to the more formal primitive Arabic Islam.
During the third generation after Mohammed, a great apostasy occurred which left the mystics clearly defined from the "law-and-practice" followers of the Medinan school. The mystics formed orders and brotherhoods, some of which merged, while others fell away as Sufism evolved. Dwelling on such Koranic verses as sura 2:115; 57:3; 50:16 and 8:24, Sufism teaches asceticism, absolute extinction of the ego and prostration in prayer and humility before God. Much meditation on God's nature and created things is done and the spirit of devotion raises it to a high level of mystical meaning.
In early, formative years varied material was used by preaching ascetics. Christian, Buddhist, Jewish and Zoroastrian legends and Gnostic beliefs rubbed shoulders with Arabian folklore and stories from ancient Syria and Babylonia, as the Sufi "Qussas" (story-tellers) gave sermons and commentaries on the Koran. Christianity (much of it apocryphal) and Gnosticism were in evidence but modified into conformity with Islamic teachings, with blurred lines between separate beliefs where Sufism predominated. The Christian Second Advent teachings are interpreted in Islamic terms as the Mahdi's coming, and the predicted conditions at his arrival are much akin to those forecast for the time of Christ's return.
Sufism with its ecstatic spirit of devotion swept through Islam, affecting rulers, aristocrats, intellectuals and ordinary Muslims. It promoted missionary zeal, thereby carrying Sufi ideals to all the old Muslim territories. It carried Islamic teachings also into India, Central Africa and Central and Southeast Asia after the Islamic conquests, and later across the Mongol empire.
Without firm control of excesses to which fanaticism led many Sufis, a strain was placed on Ijma as it stretched to embody the new ways. Scores of Sufi orders arose; over 70 are still active. Some degraded forms of Sufism have led to drug-taking, fire-eating, wizardry, dervish-dancing and snake-charming, but in general it has many sincere, devout adherents. Inevitably, the very nature of extreme mysticism creates strong parallels, and similarities exist between Islam and Hinduism and the recently emerging Western mystical cults.
(5) The Wahhabi reform movement, begun in 1744 in Central Arabia by Mohammed Ibn al-Wahhab, fought against Sufism and deterioration in the observance of primitive Koranic beliefs and practices among the orthodox. It gained support and strength as by word and arms it attacked compromise. Central and Eastern Arabia were overcome and the Ottoman Empire was challenged as Mecca and an Iraqi strong point were captured. Although the political and military aspects of the Wahhabi uprising were soon ruthlessly put down, its influence, especially in Saudi Arabia, has lived on in many Arab-oriented, traditional forms of opposition to Sufism.
Babis and Bahais
(6) The Babi movement arose in Persia in 1844 out of Shiite beliefs in the return of the last Imam (Mahdi, who disappeared about 873 A.D.) to establish peace and justice. It was founded by Mirza Ali Mohammed of Shiraz. The "hidden" Imam later allegedly made contact with followers through human agents styled "Bab." By using this title, Mirza Ali Mohammed taught that the Imam was communicating through him.
Later the Bab claimed to be the Mahdi, and his followers regarded him as a Divine being in the flesh. He commanded all rulers to be subject to him, beginning with the Shah of Persia. Shortly thereafter he and 20,000 were put to death, in a wave of frenzied persecution by the Shiite hierarchy and the state (1850 A.D.). Babi doctrine differs from Islamic orthodoxy in holding that Divine manifestation and revelation did not end in Mohammed and the Koran, although his teachings as to the Jewish Prophets and Jesus are adhered to.
The Bab referred to a successor God would manifest, linked by the mystical number 19 in a prophetic chronology, which gave rise later to Bahaullah and Bahaism. There are very few Babis today. The Bab's grave and shrine are on Mount Carmel in Israel.
(7) Mirza Husayn Ali (Bahaullah) founded Bahaism in Persia in the 1850s. Of noble lineage and a follower of the Bab's teachings, he was in 1853 put into prison by those who had caused the Bab's execution. There he became convinced he was the one foretold by the Bab.
As Bahaullah's fame and following grew, while still a prisoner he was transferred to Baghdad, then in 1863 to Constantinople, when in accordance with the Bab's mystical 19-year cycle (after 1844, when Babism was founded), he announced himself as "him whom God would manifest" and was named Bahaullah (splendor of God) by followers. Eventually he and his (Bahai) followers were imprisoned in Acre, where he died in 1892. Shiite persecution of Bahais continues in our day in Iran. Haifa, with the Bab's tomb nearby, is now the world center of Bahaism. There is a great center also near Chicago.
Bahaullah left his son, Abbas Effendi, called Abdul Baha (servant of Baha), as leader of the Bahais and interpreter of his message. He journeyed in Europe and America, lecturing on Bahai world peace views. Bahais believe all founders of religious movements are God-sent in a vast plan for mankind's uplift by education and promoting the brotherhood of all. They therefore advocate abolishing class, religious and ethnic prejudices and divisions. They have no priesthood or ritual form of worship. Abdul Baha's grandson, known as Shogi Effendi Rabbani (1896-1957), carried on the work. Since his death, it has been directed by a nine-member governing body elected by 27 custodians appointed by Shogi Effendi.
Bahaism's field is now worldwide, with local and national assemblies. Much missionary work is done through publications in over 350 languages, educational programs and personally. The movement is now far removed from its Islamic origins, though related through the claimed fulfilment of the Shiite prophecies about Mahdi.
THE BIBLE SUPERIOR TO THE KORAN
When we consider the ignorance, superstition, cruelty, etc., of the Arab world before Mohammed's day, we see that he was a reformer who brought a new national and social awareness and an unaccustomed and enduring unity to his people. He invested all his teachings with what he considered an unassailable authority by invoking upon them God's approval.
From Judaism, which supplied most of the raw material for Mohammed's understanding, came the strongly marked sense of justice and the concept of the line of prophets sent by God. From Christianity came the sense of universality lacking in Judaism and a glimpse of the resurrection of the world (John 5:28, 29). From his personal experiences of received revelations (real, hallucinatory or by deception) came his sense of personal commission and office.
A basic weakness of Islam is that it was drawn from an imperfect understanding of the Old Testament, and also an almost total ignorance of New Testament writings—strange to relate, where Mohammed did understand them he seemed to accept them. One wonders what would have resulted if he had been exposed to Christian truth rather than to the errors and sectarianism which he so frequently encountered.
Mohammed labored under a great disadvantage in living when the true Church was entering its 1260-year Wilderness condition, which began in 539 A.D. (Rev. 12:6; Psa. 107:1-7). Most of the Christians he met were Nestorians, and Gnosticism's effects also were then widespread among Christians and Jews of the Middle East and Asia.
Mohammed's Claim for the Koran Refuted
Mohammed claimed that the Koran replaced the Bible (both in the Old and New Testaments). But the Bible alone is God's revealed Word (Deut. 29:29); it was completed and made unchangeable about 100 A.D., when the Apostle John transmitted the book of Revelation for the resurrected Jesus (Rev. 1:1-3). The Bible clearly states, "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book" (Rev. 22:18, 19).
Through the substitution of the Koran with its errors, Mohammed and his "Companions" took away many of the true teachings of the Bible and added much—including much that contradicts the Bible. Rev. 22:18 specifically addresses "every man that heareth [understandeth] the prophecy of this book [which Mohammed did not]" (compare Acts 17:30). Jehovah in His infinite mercy will doubtless hold Mohammed much less responsible for setting aside His Word (John 17:17; Isa. 55:11) than those who have ignored His warnings after having come to know the Truth (Heb. 10:26, 27; Matt. 6:23). Mohammed's erroneous claim was not necessary to his early reform work, and this wrong step marks his departure into bypaths.
The Bible Alone is God's Word
The Bible alone in its two parts is the fully integrated, harmonious and complete Word of God to mankind in this present evil world. Outstanding events recorded in the New Testament were foreshadowed in the Old: John the Baptist as the Messiah's forerunner (Isa. 40:3, compare Mark 1:2, 3); Jesus as Deliverer (Isa. 51:9; 53:1; 61:1-3, compare John 12:38; Luke 4:17-19), as Redeemer (Isa. 59:20; 52:3, compare Rom. 11:26; 1 Pet. 1:18-20), as Messiah (Isa. 9:6, 7, compare Eph. 1:20-23), His crucifixion (Num. 21:8, 9, compare John 3:14, 15), and His death and resurrection (Psa. 16:10, Jonah 2:2, compare Acts 2:31; Matt. 12:40, 41). The twelve Apostles were foreshadowed in the twelve wells at Elim (Ex. 15:27, etc.).
The New Testament in turn refers to the salient features of the Old as the source of its understanding, as proof of the validity of its teachings and as its guide to aspects of God's great Plan of the Ages which are yet future. Both Testaments combine harmoniously as one book in witnessing ("the Mouth of the LORD"—Isa. 40:5; Acts 3:18-21; Matt. 4:4) to the Divine Plan and its outworking in all its many facets.
As we shall see later, Mohammed mistakenly believed that both he and Islam were foretold in both Testaments. Nowhere is Mohammed, Islam or the Koran referred to in the Old or New Testament as having an active pre-Millennial part in God's Plan for accomplishing His purposes, either in the elective calling (Phil. 3:14; Heb. 3:1) or restitution (Acts 3:18-21). On the contrary, Mohammed and all Muslims, together with the rest of the unenlightened "groaning creation" (Rom. 8:22), must await the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom to become beneficiaries of the work of God, Jesus and the glorified Church under the terms of the New Covenant.
It is interesting nevertheless to note that the conscientious Muslim's willingness to submit to the will of Allah (Islam — surrender, submission), however doctrinally in error he may be now, will stand him in good stead when with the rest of the world of mankind he must submit in obedience to the rule of Christ or else lose life (Phil. 2:9-11).
The Bible's Power
The superiority of the Bible is shown in its supernatural power to promote the general good and in the fact that it has evoked bitter opposition from Satanically motivated sources of evil. Particularly during the Dark Ages the light of Bible truth was feared and its messengers were hated—the suppression of both was considered essential by the apostate Christian church (see The Time is at Hand, chap. 9).
The setting free of Bible truth by the worldwide publishing of the Bible in vernacular languages led to the partial uplifting and enlightening of the whole race, in the raising of the true torch of liberty, equality and fraternity, making impossible the absolute rule of the Papacy over the modern world. There followed wide reforms in the education and liberation of the "common man," such as his obtaining the right to vote, and in the establishment of rights for women and the protection of children.
In contrast the "light" of Islam, which led to the age of splendor in Cordova, Baghdad and Bokhara, came, not from the Koran, but was borrowed by Mohammed from Jews, Greeks, Hindus, Egyptians and Northern Aryan races. Significantly, this "light," while leading to the setting up of great centers of learning for the privileged (while Europe was still in medieval darkness!), did little or nothing to relieve the condition of the needy, the enslaved or the socially deprived (to this day zealot Muslims enforce social inferiority upon their women).
Furthermore, since the Koran has never been bitterly opposed, suppressed, counterfeited, distorted or discredited (as have the Bible's true teachings for over 1800 years), the indication is that Satan sees in the Koran's teachings no threat to his design to keep the world enslaved by deceit, and spiritually blind, deaf and dumb (2 Cor. 4:3-6; Matt. 13:15-17; John 5:19—Diaglott).
The Bible Inspired by God
The superiority of the Bible (God's written revelation) over other writings is shown in part in its compilation during about 1700 years from the writings of individuals of widely differing historical, social and cultural backgrounds. The harmony of its testimony and the unity of its presentation of God's Plan, from Paradise Lost (the Fall of Adam) to Paradise Regained (Restitution, in the Millennial Kingdom), bespeaks one Divine Author. Indeed, the New Testament (2 Pet. 1:21) affirms that "prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." The Bible is indeed "inspired" (inbreathed) of God (2 Tim. 3:16, 17), so that through the Scriptures we by faith can have life—everlasting life (John 5:39; 6:63, 68).
Mohammed obviously was not "moved by the Holy Spirit," for since he sought to approach God directly and not as one justified by faith and under the blood-merit of Jesus, he could have no standing in God's sight, but was still in his sins. Ours is not to say from where or whom Mohammed's revelations came, but to show that they could not be from God, for Jehovah reveals His Truth only to the sanctified in Christ Jesus and only by the operation of His holy Spirit. His Spirit is in His Word—and that Word Mohammed did not have (John 15:26; 16:13).
We feel that no one who has carefully studied and has been properly enlightened as to the deep truths ("strong meat"—Heb. 5:14) in such Bible books as Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, etc., in the Old Testament, and in the Gospels, the Apostle Paul's epistles and Revelation in the New, could be led to believe that the Koran could replace any part of the Bible. Even those feeding on the "milk" of the Word (Heb. 5:13), once having received and appreciated the forgiveness of sins and justification by faith that comes only by grace (not works, as Mohammed taught!) through faith in Jesus the Crucified One as Savior and King, should feel no yearning in the Spirit after the dead works (James 2:20) required of followers of Mohammed.
The depth and breadth of the Koran's teachings as compared to the Bible seems to be as those of a shallow roadside puddle compared to the deepest ocean. Surely the only reason we can find for Mohammed's claim that the Koran replaced the Bible was his ignorance of the Bible in both word and understanding, except for the smallest part—and that garbled by those from whom he learned it.
This is in no way to downgrade Mohammed. Isaiah (Isa. 8:20) clearly states, "To the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Examining Mohammed's teachings in the Koran, it is evident that at best he had a little light, borrowed from the Bible, especially through what he heard about it from others.
For those who care to look more deeply into the structure, nature, content, purpose, history, canonicity and proof of the Bible as a Divine Revelation, a careful study of the book, The Bible (which we supply), is recommended. It will amply show that the Bible is far, far above the most elevated view one could take of the Koran or any other book ever produced.
Would you like more
information on this subject?
Contact us for more details.