c) Saudi Arabia
Since the events of September 11, 2001 the world has been set on edge with what, for many, is seen as a renewed Islamic threat. And the question is how do we as “westerners” in a worldly sense and “Christians” in a religious sense respond to the whole situation.
When voices such as those of Usama bin Laden are raised against the “Great Satan” of the west there is normally a tempering response that these are the words of extremists and Islamic Fundamentalists. Thus, they are to be taken with a grain of salt. And, while they must be taken seriously in the sense that they can be acted upon via terrorist acts that can kill thousands of innocent people, it is to be understood that these words are those of a minority of Muslim people.
In order to place some truth behind this latter thought many North American Muslim Clerics and Scholars are called upon to assure the people of the Americas that Islam is basically a religion of peace. Only radicals who pervert the teachings of the Qur’an undertake such actions when incited to such irrationality by the extremist terrorist leaderships.
Yet, when the sober mind looks at Muslim societies around the world there seems to be a contrary message being sent to the “Great Shaitain” of the Western world. This message is that the “evil” is to be confronted by the Muslim world and that the goal of the this world is to effect, by force if necessary, the creation of one great community under Allah. And such has been the case in almost every country where the Muslim community gains the upper hand politically.
The “Great Shaitain” is epitomized by Imperialist powers that have undertaken colonisation in the Arab world at any time in the past. Also, the Muslim states are totally opposed to the existence of Israel (Zionism). They also see the Imperialist powers as being supporters of Israel and hence doubly worthy of Muslim hatred.
While some may attempt to argue that this is an Arab cultural matter and has little to do with religion. This vision results from an attempt by western people to impose upon the Arab/Muslim world the same concept of the separation between Church and state that is so highly flouted in North America. But, in the Muslim/Islamic mind such cannot be. For, if one is totally given to Islam, then there can be no separation between faith and politics for they emanate from the same source and are one and the same.
Thus, while the laudable intention is to have a meaningful dialogue between peoples of the Muslim nations and the West, there are many barriers to such discussions being carried on in a sincere environment. At the base of the problem is a failure to understand where the other is coming from in their thought processes. Further, such discussions must be undertaken in an atmosphere that allows for respect for the visions of the other without the requirement that either party agree with the other in the fundamental foundations behind each other’s worldview
One might see such a fundamental difference in the current situation in Iraq. The Coalition Forces have gained an amazing military victory in such a short time that it is incredible to think that such could be possible. However, having won the war, the problem is now one of how to bring fair government to the region.
The Coalition comes generally from democratic nations who live under the premise (some would say illusion) that democracy is the best way of life. Thus, since democratic government is the best form of government in these western eyes, it is seen as being the way the Iraqi people should really want to go if they are going to take advantage of their new found freedom.
But, such is definitely not the case with Muslim Islamic Communities. Government in these communities is seen as being best delivered in the form of a theocracy. In such a form of government the community functions under the Law of God as interpreted by the Imams. Shia Law is the rule and is interpreted for the people by the Muslim Clerics (scholars). Right and wrong is not a matter of community vote but one of understanding the will of Allah.
Hence, both parties are going to come at the concept of new government from two totally different points of view. Each will fight the other for the right to proclaim their method best. And civil unrest will be the result.
Such is the intent of neither form of government. The western powers will point to Saddam Hussein, Usama bin Lade, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, etc as being certain signs of the failure of such a form of government to guarantee the human rights of its citizens. And these governments will point to the evils of the “Great Shaitain” as being indicative of the failure of godless democracy.
The goal must be one that understands the other and respects the other for their position. Then, and only then, can a system of government be worked out that will not be pleasing to the western countries but will meet the needs of the people.
This is not a matter of idealism or necessarily agreeing with the resultant form of government and the underlying criteria upon which it is founded. Rather it is seeking the best case in a difficult situation.
And, so the whole problem flows over into a problem of how Christian Faith and Muslim/Islamic Faith can coexist. Given the missionary nature, albeit in different ways and by different means, of both the Islamic and Christian faiths, as in politics, the people of faith must learn to respect and understand one another while not being able to agree upon the bases of their faiths.
The goal of this paper is to bring forth such a form of thought whereby the Christian can understand the Muslim and respect the Muslim without compromising Christian principles.
Generally speaking liberal Christians do not have much problem interacting with the Muslim communities in North America. Since such Christians have no concept of there being only one way to Eternal Life and that being in Jesus Christ Who is Perfect God/Perfect Man perfectly united in one Perfect Human Being they are able to accept the Islamic faith as an alternative way to God (Allah). In this circumstance the conversation becomes one of “what is right for you may not be right for me but I can accept your idea of what is right for you.”
But, while liberal and generally politically left wing socialist Christians are able to dialogue easily with the Muslim community, such is not the case for conservative Christians who believe that Jesus Christ IS “The Way, The Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Him!” Further conservative Christians are adamant about the full Deity of Jesus as being of the Fatherhood of God and the Motherhood of Man wherein the Son took to Himself humanity and He died on the Cross and bodily rose from the dead on the third day. All of this flies right in the face of Islamic thought as presented in the Qur’an where Jesus is only a prophet who was not God and never was on the cross and therefore never died a sacrificial death and rose from the dead.
The Muslim views the Qur’an as being sacred in the same way that conservative Christians view the Bible as being the Infallible Word of God. But the Muslim faith holds that to refute or dishonour the Qur’an is to dishonour Allah and his Prophet and is worthy of the death of one who so speaks. It is in this vein of thought that most Muslim countries do not even allow Christianity to exist within their borders. And, in those where Christianity exists, there are sever limitations upon the Christian Church and these Christians live constantly under the threat of death.
Thus, dialogue between conservative Christians and Muslims presents major difficulties right at the outset. It is here where it is necessary to approach one another with an understanding that there will be areas of disagreement. Then, there needs to be a concerted effort to work upon those areas where there can be agreements and discussion.
A further problem develops for all Christians when entering into dialogue with Muslims. This difficulty arises due to association with the “Great Shaitain.” Christians are seen as westerners, or at least sympathetic to westerners. The faith of a Christian become immaterial to the Muslim when the Christian is seen to be associated with that which is evil and to be an ally of Zionism.
When Yasser Arafat returned from exile and entered Palestine there was a large Christian community in Palestine. However, as the conflict between Israel and Palestine escalated Christians were seen as being sympathetic to the Israelis merely because they were Christians. This resulted in many Christians being surreptitiously slaughtered by the Muslim community while others, fearing for their lives, left the country. The result is that there are very few Christians left in Palestine.
Yet, in North America, where the Muslim communities are in a minority, much effort is being made by those communities to dialogue with the Christian Churches. And, such dialogue is good and needs to be undertaken so that mutual understanding in matters of faith and comprehension of each other culturally and politically is facilitated. There can never be a meeting of the faith bases concerning maters of Salvation and Eternal Life. But there can be peaceful coexistence that is far more than an artificial toleration – even in the most perverted of liberal senses
The work in this paper is aimed at gaining a better understanding of the Islamic ideals and tenets. While Christians, especially conservative Christians, can never accept the majority of such beliefs, understanding them is of great importance. Further, as the Muslim communities learn of our faith and the rationale behind they will begin to understand where Christians are coming from even if they do not agree with the Christian Faith bases.
OF MUSLIM FAITH - ISLAM
The late sixth Century world into which Mohammed bin Abdullah was born was one predominated by Tribal Groups ruling various regions in the Arabian Desert areas. He was born to a poor family of the Clan of Banu Hashim of the influential Koreish (Quraysh) Tribe that was prominent in Mecca (Makkah).
The Koreish were deeply involved in the economic and political scene of the region. They had an imminent interest in the Kaba (Kabah) shrine that housed the idols of the various gods of the region as many made regular pilgrimages to Mecca to worship these gods. The Koreish made Mecca a safe haven for the warring Bedouin tribes and a place of non-conflict where economic and trading conferences could be held without fear of war. Coincidentally these conferences coincided with the pilgrimages to the Kaba thereby further enhancing the income and influence of Mecca.
Mecca was situated at the juncture of North-South and East-West trade routes. Since it was not located on an oasis and did not have enough water for the promulgation of agriculture it was incumbent upon the people of Mecca to become very involved in long and short distance commercial ventures.
Also active in the region were variant forms of Christianity and Judaism. The Christian groups included Orthodox Christianity of Abyssinia and a remnant of the followers of the heretical Priest Arius. In fact, the Abyssinians are said to have invaded Mecca during the year of Mohammed’s birth.
The Abyssinian Christians followed the established Orthodox Faith that was centred out of Constantinople. Their expression of faith was entirely in accordance with the Holy Scriptures as interpreted by that Orthodox Church (not to be confused with expressions of orthodox faith even though the two generally coincide)
It was the teachings of the latter group that were repudiated by the council of Nicea in 325AD. It is important to note for the purposes of this study that Arius had taught that Jesus was simply a human being with whom God interacted in a very special way thus denying the established Christian belief in the Deity of Jesus. The Creed that emanated from the Council of Nicea contained most of the content of the current Nicene Creed that takes great pains to clearly establish the orthodox faith in the Deity and Humanity of Jesus the Christ.
The Arabian world also housed a significant Jewish community. This latter community existed primarily in Mecca’s sister city Medina. The influence of this group of people was strongly felt in the economy of the region.
The deities of the Kaba represented those of all the tribes visiting Mecca. The Arab religions of the day were localized and consisted of gods for various purposes along with spirit beings known as “jinn.” Within the Kaba was a seemingly superior god known as Al Ilah who seemed to fill in the gaps left between the other gods of the Kaba. To a few this Al Ilah was remotely associated with the Jewish and Christian God. To others the union of the “moon god” Al Ilah and the “sun goddess” had produced a trinity of goddesses known as al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat who were also deified in the Kaba. The synthesis of deities seems to have provided a system whereby persons of differing cultural and faith backgrounds could come together and function without any of them being belittled or rendered inferior. And such is often the means whereby trade relations have been historically facilitated.
Mohammed bin Abdullah was born circa 570/2AD in Mecca in what is now Saudi Arabia. He would live until 632AD. Mohammed’s family, while being of the Clan of Banu Hashim in the dominant tribe of the Koreish, was poor.
Mohammed’s father died two months prior to his birth. His mother died when Mohammed was six year’s old and he was sent to live with a grandfather who died when he was eight year’s old. From this point on an Uncle, Abu Talib, brought him up.
Probably largely due to his having been bounced around so much as a child, Mohammed became a very pensive and sensitive young man. His life was characterized by special kindness toward women, children, and the weak members of society. Further, this pensive and introspective individual spent one month every year on retreat on Mount Hira.
While it is a matter of great dispute, there is some evidence that Mohammed suffered from some form of illness that brought on seizures. Some have identified it as a form of epilepsy. Others, building upon these theories, equate his “visions” of the Angel Gabriel to the effects of such seizures. On the other hand, the Muslim Scholars generally dismiss such thoughts as clear attacks upon the person of the Prophet.
Mohammed spent much of his early life as a shepherd of sheep and camels. In fact, in his later life he would often look back and say, “Allah sent no prophet who was not a shepherd.” While there is much to be debated here, it is certain that such work would leave the young man with much time to utilise his pensive and introspective nature. Much could be made of the influence of the gods, Allah, or even the jinn upon him during this time.
Later Mohammed began to undertake journeys as a trader and man of business. This is strikingly interesting as he is later characterized as being illiterate. He began to develop a high reputation amongst the people of the region for his shrewdness and his overall commercial acumen. It was not long until he was employed by a wealthy widow to undertake business ventures for her. Soon his reputation was further enhanced by the reports of a senior household member of his attendant spiritual fervour that complimented his business insight.
was a Christian who was also of the tribe of Koreish. While she was fifteen years his senior, Mohammed eventually married . She was later to become his first convert to Islam and the first Muslim. They had six children (two sons and four daughters). Both sons died early in life. All the daughters survived and were to play important roles in the development of Islam. Throughout the life of Mohammed was to have only one wife – the woman he seems to have truly loved.
During his marriage to Mohammed continued his practice of retreating to a cave on Mount Hira for one month each year. It was during such a time in the month of Ramadan in the year 610AD that Mohammed claimed a visit from the Angel Gabriel. Following this time the claim that Mohammed was illiterate came to the fore and thus what he was given was said to be he result of a miracle.
The Koran (Recitation) was purportedly given to Mohammed over the next twenty-two years until approximately 630AD two years prior to his death in 632AD. The Koran is said to be infallible in its oral presentation from the angel Gabriel to Mohammed, the final Prophet of God, and in the original Arabic autograph. It is claimed that translations cannot be considered authoritative, as the Arabic in which the Angel Gabriel transmitted the text of the meanings of the Words of Allah to Mohammed cannot be accurately translated into any other language.
Many problems exist concerning this delivery of the Koran and its mode of infallibility. For instance there is good evidence that Mohammed never knew a written version of the Koran. It would seem that, aside from sections recorded by those who sat at the feet of Mohammed there was no single collection of the sayings of the Koran for at least twenty years after the death of Mohammed. It was then that the Fourth Caliph, Uthman, standardised them into one collection. Then, some would say, there was no consistent collection for at least one hundred years.
Not surprisingly the first convert to Islam and hence the first Muslim convert was Mohammed’s wife . The second was Mohammed’s cousin Ali.
Mohammed began to preach the new vision of Allah (many think this is a development upon the Moon God from Kaba Al Ilah) as being the one and only true God. Of course this meant that Allah was not only superior to the other gods of the Kaba but also that these gods were not gods at all. And this greatly displeased the Koreish whose wealth and income were essentially based upon persons making pilgrimages to the Kaba.
The Allah presented by Mohammed as a result of his cave events was tied to the God of Abraham through his son by the slave girl Hagar, Ishmael.
During the early years Mohammed made a trip to Jerusalem with the hope of winning over the Jewish people to his cause. It was from what is now called the Dome of the Rock that he was said to have made a night journey to Mecca and back and from whence his soul was said to have departed to heaven.
In 622AD Mohammed was forced to flee to Medina due to the economic and political conflicts with the Koreish over his teachings. He was to remain there until he returned as a conquering force two years prior to his death in 632AD.
The Muslim (one who submits) acceptance of Islam (Submission) involved the holding to the Five Pillars of Islam:
The faith of Islam is based upon the teachings of the Koran that are purported to be the transmissions of the word of Allah through the Angel Gabriel to the prophet Mohammed. This Koran is not organised into the chronological order of their transmission. Rather the work is divided into thirty sections containing a total of one hundred and fourteen Sura (chapters) totalling six thousand two hundred and thirty-six verses. Thus, for the Christian used to reading the Holy Bible the order can be confusing and seemingly illogical.
All has ninety-nine qualifications on his name that represent his nature. Some of these names are beneficent, merciful, creator, generous, and perfect.
The Koran is often repetitive throughout. Also, it refers to the books of the Law and the Gospel. But, it claims that the pure Law and the pure Gospel has been lost. Hence the only available infallible work is that of the Koran. Thus, the reference of the Koran stands supreme despite that its final written form is not found for up to a century following the death of Mohammed.
The Koran is so revered that to speak against the Koran or its author Mohammed is to speak against Allah. Such an action is worthy of death. Hence the Muslim lives by Shiria Law based upon the Koran and the appropriate Haddith and total dedication is expected.
life progressed and he encountered the conflicts with Mecca and Jerusalem his
views and the tenets of the Koran changed considerably. The early Koranic
position was one of a love for peace and freedom of religion. Sura 73:10-11;
and Sura 16:125 give the work of conversion over to Allah. Sura 2:256 states
that there is to be no compulsion in matters of religion. But, as time went on,
these changed to a call to warfare and forced conversion. Sura22:39; 4:74; and
61:4 call upon Muslims to fight back. Sura 9:5 and 9:29 are examples of the
call to force the conquered to turn to Islam or kill them.
As Islam surpassed the time of its founder it became necessary to write down the memories of what Mohammed and his inner circles had said in addition to the production of the written Koran. This came in the form of Haddith in two sub groupings of the sayings of Mohammed and the sayings of his inner circle plus the Sunna that are said to record the examples of the method and lifestyle of the prophet.
Within Islamic scholarship there are two ways that these works are understood. Some say that they are on a par with the Koran and are hence word of Allah. Others say that they are only valuable in that they explain the Koran but only the Koran is word of Allah.
As can be expected, these diversities of opinion only served to increase the already developing divisions in the budding faith.
It was almost immediately upon Mohammed’s death that divisions began to creep into Islam. The Shiite Muslims felt that only a relative or descendant of Mohammed should undertake the Caliphate. Hence Ali was their choice and he was the only one accepted by both Sunnis and Shiites. The Shiite expression of Islam is more spiritual and dependant upon ongoing Divine Guidance while the Sunnis see all necessary Revelation in the Koran, Haddith, and Sunna. The Shiites are open to finding “hidden meaning” in the Koran while the Sunnis look to the literal interpretation of the work. A sinless Imam guides Shiites but the Sunnis look to a consensus of scholarship for interpreting the Koran. The Shiites believe in saints and shrines while the Sunnis will have nothing of such expressions of faith.
The Sunnis are by far the largest of the Islamic Muslim sects and are more open to forms of secular government with input from Islam. On the other hand, the Shiites are emphatic in their belief in the unity of faith and politics. Both are seen as coming under Islamic Shia Law and find their expression in a theocratic state political structure. The Governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, etc. are examples of secular political leadership under Sunni rule that is very conscious of the faith of the Muslim Community but not politically lead by such even though, as in the case of Syria, the submission to Islamic Law is written into their constitution. Iran is an example of a Shiite state where political and faith rule come under one head.
It is popular in our day of revisionist tolerance to want to see all religions as being equally viable and equally leading to the same end in God. It is further popular to state that we are all worshipping the same God but in different ways. Thus, sincere following of any of these faiths leads to salvation.
However, in order to undertake these views, one has to be willing to subjugate both the Holy Bible and the Koran to fallible mind of humanity. There are so many diametrically opposed teachings in these two works that one cannot possibly hold to the veracity of the one without denigrating the other.
This is in spite of many seemingly equivalent teachings in the two faiths. Both trace their history to Abraham; both adhere to Moses; both hold high moral codes; both recognise Jesus as the promise of God; both believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus; both look to the future of heaven; and both look for the return of Jesus but with major differences.
But the differences prevail and establish insurmountable barriers. For instance, any Christian living in a Muslim country under Islamic Law is living with his/her life in constant danger. The Holy Bible states that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate and much more than a prophet. This flies in the face of Koranic teaching that states that Jesus was simply a man who never died on the Cross and was never resurrected from the dead. To hold to the biblical viewpoint is to say that the Koran, and hence Mohammed, was wrong. And that is an insult to Allah and worthy of death. While it would be possible to find a plethora of North American or European Imams who would try to treat this symbolically, it is clear that Muslim Governments do not so interpret in this manner and look to the literal understanding of the Koran.
Allah loves those who receive him and hates those who reject him (Sura 22:39)
God loves all of His Divine Creation and grieves for those who refuse Him
Men are a step above women (Sura 2:228;4:38)
Men and women are equal before God (Galatians 3:28)
Jesus was merely a prophet of God – not God
Jesus IS God
Christians are polytheists as they worship three gods
Christians believe in the Blessed Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy spirit – Three Persons - One God
Concept of forced conversion (Sura 9:5; 4:91; 2:191)
God calls us to reach out with the Gospel but respects peoples right of choice
Jesus did not die on the Cross and was not raised from the dead (Sura 4:157)
Christianity is based upon the Death, Bodily Resurrection, and Bodily Ascension of Jesus
Trace roots to Abraham though Ishmael and thus equate Allah to Yahweh
Trace roots to Abraham through Isaac – the child of promise. Ishmael was always to be a thorn in the side of Isaac (Genesis 16:11-12)
Further, the Koran blatantly contradicts God’s Holy Word in the Holy Bible in many other ways:
Thus, it can be seen how difficult it is for either Muslims or Christians who really believe in and hold to the literal interpretation of their Holy Book to dialogue in any meaningful way concerning their faith. The primary goal of such dialogue should be to reveal to each other where each stands firm and the source for such a stance.
The Muslim world, in holding to Islamic faith, sees no separation between Islam and the State. While Sunni and Shiite Muslims have different approaches to this position, their concept of political life being included in the life of faith is the same. Political Life and the Life of Faith walk inseparably hand-in-hand.
This view can be more simply stated as the Muslim community is the State and, as such, must be governed in accordance with the teachings of Allah as given through the Prophet Mohammed in the Koran. The governing rule is Shiria – the law as scholars have developed it from the Koran with input from the Haddith and the Sunna.
In an Islamic state Islam alone is to be accorded official recognition and support once it has achieved supremacy. Imam Suyuti, the author of Itqan Fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an wrote (a Haddith), “The command not to fight the infidels (Q2:256;Q9:73) was not abrogation but was delayed until the Muslims become strong, but when they were weak they were commanded to endure and be patient.” This interpretation has also been others\wise stated as, “When in a position of weakness we make treaties and agreements with the infidels. But when we are in a position of power, we kill them.”
While there may be arguments with this thought structure from both origins, the fact remains that it is commensurate with the Muslim vision of Dar e Salaam and Dar e Harb as well as the practice in many instances in modern history.
Dar e Salaam is the House of peace. Dar e Harb is the House of War. The goal for every Muslim is to dwell in Dar e Salaam. However such cannot be achieved until the whole world has become Muslim or Muslims have been vanquished. Thus, all are living in the Dar e Harb until one of those conditions is achieved.
Modern day history certainly attests to this process. 2 Million black Christians have perished at the hands of Muslims in the Sudan. 300,000 Christians were killed in East Timor prior to the separation. There have been countless Muslim confrontations with Christians in the Balkans, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, Malaysia, Singapore, and throughout Africa. Just recently Muslim riots have broken out in Nigeria that eventually caused the Miss World Pageant to be cancelled there and moved. Muslim Palestine is dedicated to the eradication of Israel and Christians in Palestine have been mysteriously disappearing.
This Golden Age of Islamic Civilisation occurred between 750AD (about one hundred and 30 years after the death of Mohammed) and 950AD. It was during this time that much of Southern Europe and Northern Africa was conquered by the Muslim Peoples.
During this time the Muslim civilisation lead the world in the sciences, arts, and literature. They established great institutions of learning to which people came from throughout the world to receive top level education.
The Moorish invasions furthered the Kingdom to Spain in the North. But, eventually the invasion was beaten back. It was just following the destruction of the Turkish power in Spain that Ferdinand and Isabella were able to release funding for Columbus’ venture to what has become North America. Yet, as late as the 16thC A.D. one sees the Islamic community knocking on the doors of Paris.
While the invasion was driven back progressively until even Egypt was defeated and the Muslims were forced back into traditional Arab territories, the Ottoman Empire lasted into the 20th Century. In fact, Usama bin Laden points to the fall of that empire in 1917AD as being the final insult to Allah.
The Islamic Political System, as has been previously stated, is one that is inseparable from the Sharia Law of Islam. The purpose of that state is the establishment, maintenance, and development of those virtues by which Allah wishes human life to be enriched. Further, the State exists for the prevention and eradication of those evils in human life that Allah finds abhorrent.
In order to accomplish this the Political System is based upon:
In all of this is clearly seen that the Muslim system is an all embracing system whereby it is impossible to separate or compartmentalize the various aspects of life. All are wrapped up in, and under subjection to, Allah. There is no other acceptable way for the Muslim.
The post-WWII actions of the United Nations in re-establishing the country of Israel caused must much unrest and consternation in the Muslim World as a whole. This 1947 decision for the 1948 re-establishment of Israel, while seen by many as the fulfillment of the restoration prophecies of Ezekiel 37 following the expulsion from Israel in 70AD.
This caused a major Palestinian refugee problem for the surrounding Muslim predominated Arab Nations Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. The problem for these Muslim Communities was the large number of Palestinian Christians involved in the group of 700,000 Palestinian families together with the fact that the surrounding nations were not exactly keen on hosting the Palestinian people in the first place.
The result was a determination within these Arab Nations, together with Egypt, to destroy and expel the Israelis as soon as possible. The Arab Nations undertook a major military expansion campaign during the next 15 years. They purchased major military armament and Russian Military trained the their soldiers.
As they began to feel strong enough there was much sabre rattling until finally, in May 1967 specific acts were undertaken by Egypt to cause Israel to believe they were about to be attacked. These consisted of ordering out the United Nations Troops from the buffer zone that had existed since 1957 and lacing a blockade on the Straits of Tiran leading to the port of Eilat. Then, on May 30th Egypt and Jordan signed a mutual defence pact. Finally, on June 5th Israel launched a pre-emptive attack on Egypt and took control of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza strip.
Jordan undertook to attack Israel from the East as did Syria while Egypt attacked from the southwest, Saudi Arabia attacked from the Southeast, and Lebanon attacked from the north.. These actions caused Israel to take over the West Bank from Jordan and the Golan Heights from Syria and Lebanon in addition to the above mentioned conquests from Egypt. During the commentaries on this war, this writer remembers adding up all the claimed Israeli aircraft destructions given by the Arab nations, adding them up, and finding that the Arab nations had shot down the Israeli air force 2 ½ times. But, by the end of the war on June 10th (after only six days of combat) the only aircraft in the air were Israeli.
This stunning and embarrassing defeat of these five Arab nations by the little country of Israel consisting of around 5 million people at that time did not cause these Muslim predominated nations to rethink their policies concerning Israel. Rather, the humiliation caused them to become even more adamant in their resolve to destroy and eliminate Israel.
However, the route that has been undertaken is to fund terrorist groups so that they can continue to harass Israel and attempt to weaken their resolve to stay. Thus, groups like Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, the Palestinian Liberation Front (PLF) in Palestine, and Islamic Jihad in Egypt and Palestine receive much of their funding from the surrounding Arab nations. Sometimes this funding is funnelled through individuals rather than the political arms of these countries. But, the effect is the same. Hezbollah receives funding from Syria and Iran via Syria. Saddam Hussein, until his recent demise, was paying up to US$25,000 to the families of suicide bombers from Hamas, the PLF, and Islamic Jihad. Much funding comes to these groups along with Al Quaida from well to do families and individuals in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia was also allowing money to be sent to these families.
Politically, Syria has four references in the Preamble of its constitution to opposing imperialism (western and specifically the USA) and Zionism. Many, including Iran and Syria, accused the USA in its recent liberation of the Iraqi people from the tyranny of Saddam Hussein of really trying to secure the oil of Iraq for themselves and Israel.
In further understanding the situation in today’s Israeli/Palestinian conflict is to note that Yasser Arafat began his career as a communist rebel before becoming a terrorist leader in Lebanon. Following an 18-year exile in Tunisia he returned to become involved in the political arm of the Palestinian authority.
These terrorist groups use a fundamentalist view of the Koran to justify their actions against imperialism and Zionism. The jury is out as to whether this impetus uses the Koran to justify their acts or the Koran drives them into these acts.
In 1979 the Iranian people overthrew the Shah of Iran. He had been depicted as a puppet of western civilisation and a sympathiser with corrupt imperialist western values.
This allowed for the introduction of a Shiite Muslim theocracy under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini. Strictly interpreted Shiria Law was the rule. This law was as interpreted by the Shiite Ayatollah (senior scholar). As a result, there have been stonings of women caught in adultery, thieves having their hands cut off, death contracts being put out on those who have “insulted Allah” in their work or lives, etc.
Further, this theocratic state has outlawed any faith save Islam under the penalty of death. Thus, there are no Christian Churches in the land. Any semblance of being a Christian Missionary is worthy of death. And certainly, any Muslim who converts to Christianity, or any other faith, will have a contract placed on their heads.
The Shiite lead political view is totally antagonistic toward the “Great Shaitan” – the west. They are seen as being ungodly people who oppose Allah and are therefore anathema to the Muslim Nation of Iran.
Both Mecca and Medina are in the modern day Saudi Arabia. Hence the whole country takes on an aura of holiness in the eyes of the Muslim Community. Moses and the Israelites would have travelled through this country on their way to the promised land from Mount Sinai.
The country is ruled by a Monarchy. But this predominantly Sunni Muslim country is run under fundamentalist Islamic Law. In this country women cannot work alone with men, cannot drive motor vehicles, and are generally subservient to their men.
Christianity along with all other faiths are outlawed in Saudi Arabia. Even the American and other western embassies are forbidden from having Christian Services on their premises. It is a crime to have or read a Bible – even in your own home.
Because of the holiness of the land, many Muslims consider it a sacrilege to allow foreign troops on sacred soil. Hence the strict Muslims of the commuity see the presence of the American Military since the Gulf War of 1991 despite their being there for protection of the nation as an intolerable profanity.
In fact, Usama bin Laden, despite his having worked for the Americans during the Iran Contra Affair laundering money for them, often refers to this outrage. He had offered to commit troops to the defence of Saudi Arabia against Iraq but was turned down by the Saudi leadership. This served to enhance his hatred of the Americans and his pressure for funds from disenchanted Saudis.
Overall, the Muslim Community sees the Great Satan of the West as being a major threat to their civilisation. As has been seen in the Iraq situation, the Muslim Community sees any aggression upon even an internally feared and hated nation that is Muslim as being a threat to Islam demanding a Jihad (Holy War). Together with this sense of aggression, memories of western oppression, colonialism, and the backing of Israel are seen as further evidence of the satanic nature of the West and its ultimate desire to destroy Islam.
The west sees the Muslims as being a hard intolerant people. However, with the Islamic concept of Muslim life being totally integrated under Shiria Law, the Muslim sees this perceived harshness as a clear dedication to the Supremacy of Allah and thus clearly justified.
Further, strict interpretation of the Koran, Haddith, and Sunna provide a strong argument for fighting the infidel. Defeating the infidel and compelling him/her to become Muslim are seen as clear steps against Dar e Harb and toward Dar e Salaam. And since the true Muslim does not see any distinction between faith life and political life he cannot tolerate any longer than necessary an environment where Shiria Law is not the norm of his society. Further, because of the Muslim’s own worldview such is subconscious transposed onto western society. Thus, any confrontation of a Muslim Nation is seen as an assault upon Islam.
Thus, in order to understand each other, it is necessary to see where the other is coming from. This does not mean that the Christian must accept the validity of Muslim thought. Indeed, such cannot be the case in many circumstances. However, in order to respect the Muslim individual and community, it is necessary to understand the sincerity that is behind their expression of their faith in all aspects of life.
IN THE LIGHT OF CHRIST
The world of the twenty-first century is very big on the concept of tolerance. And Christianity, in its purest form, is amongst the most tolerant of faiths.
However, modern revisionists have been redefining the concept of tolerance. And, such redefinitions are causing major problems in society today.
Traditionally tolerance has always meant that, while there may be disagreement between individuals or groups on various matters, every individual or group has a right to think the way they do whether they are right or wrong. While there may be disagreement amongst these factions, no faction can force its views on the other and no faction is required to accept the views of the other or to see those views as being equal in value to their own views.
The redefined vision of tolerance states that all views are equally valuable and correct. Since the modern worldview is one in which there is no absolute right and absolute wrong, tolerance is defined as every individual or group needs to accept the views of other individuals or groups not only as involving their right to differ and not be compelled to conform but also to be accepted as being equally correct with respect to the opposing views in the eyes of those holding such opposing views. The only view not to be tolerated in this revisionist definition of tolerance is the view that holds to absolutes of right and wrong.
The Christian who is a Bible believing individual has a real problem with this revisionist form of tolerance. The Bible puts forward God’s absolutes of right and wrong. Jesus is presented as “THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE” and in saying that “no one comes to the Father but by Him” Jesus becomes the only way to Eternal Life. Without going into more detail, which would be a work in itself, it is easy to say that, in order to accept the modern version of toleration, it would be necessary to throw away, or at least ignore, the Infallible Holy Word of god! And the bible believing Christian cannot do this.
Hence, any thought of a dialogue that would require the view the Islam worships the same God as Christianity worships is impossible. The Bible believing Christian would not only have to deny himself but also God - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in order to undertake such a dialogue. And the true Muslim who follows the Five Pillars of Islam and view the Koran as the infallible word of Allah would be placed into the same dilemma.
The true dialogue that can occur is one in which traditional tolerance predominates. In such a dialogue, while presenting infallible truth from their own point of view, each group hears and respects the other’s right to present and hold to the divergent view. Such dialogue, while confrontational in some ways, also accomplishes much more in terms of mutual understanding and respect. All positions are on the table and out in the open. The background and foundations for such opinions and beliefs are clearly expressed. And each is left to make their own decision on the validity and absolute correctness of the arguments.
Since Christians in the west live in democratic countries, there is a great impetus to want to have Muslim Communities move toward forms of democratic government. But there are several problems with this western oriented desire.
As has been shown, the Muslim Faith sees no difference in any aspect of life. All comes under Allah. Thus, faith, social life, political life, working life are all seen to be explicit parts of the whole expressed in Islam.
Thus, it is difficult to see the Muslim communities voluntarily moving toward democracy as it is known in the west.
Is western democracy essentially a superior system? The proponents of such would certainly maintain that this is so. However, it is not necessary to look far to see the shortcomings of the democratic system. Graft and coercion are considered normal parts of democratic political life. Decisions made according to party policy that go against the wishes of those who elected the persons involved are seen as being for the greater good. Once elected, the political party is more important than the people who elected its members. Under the table deals that border upon if not cross over the delineations of legality are undertaken with the only concept being “how much can we get away with.”
And, in most democracies today, Christian faith, or any other faith system, are considered anathema. And, it can be posited that these pious exclusions made in the name of multiculturalism or some other form of weak-kneed rationalisation are, in reality, excuses for not seeking that which is moral. This thought is upheld when one looks at the recent parliamentary debate concerning life and death of unborn human beings, the significance of marriage, the demonising of traditional religious faith in favour of moralizing that, which is traditionally, immoral, etc. Recent court decisions involving all of the above and such matters as child pornography have shown the judiciary as being without moral basis or concern.
Is it any wonder, when the concept of democracy is put forth to Muslim people that they respond in horror and disgust? Before democracy is presented as an alternative to the Muslim people it is necessary to consider whether or not it is really a superior system.
And then it is necessary to examine the roots of the Christian faith in the light of democracy. Certainly, the Holy Scriptures do not lead toward democratic positions. God did not suggest that Moses take the 10 commandments to the people for a vote. Rather God gave them and offered an agreement (testament, covenant) between Himself and the people that was written by Him in accordance with His Divine Will. The only choice the people had was to accept or reject God.
In jumping to the New Testament, Jesus never requested a vote on what He said, what He did, or who He claimed to be. He may ask opinions in some circumstances. But such was simply to come to His forgone conclusion. Jesus did not ask if the people like His being the only way to Eternal Life. He merely stated it and left it to individuals to accept or reject His divine Offer. Christianity is not democratic. Rather it is theocratic in nature and based upon the Will of Almighty God to which humans can ascribe or reject it.
The Church today seems to have made a major blunder in trying to bring democratic vote into the establishment of doctrinal positions. Persons who have no training in the Holy Scriptures and the development of theological position from the teachings of Almighty God contained therein are placed in the unfair position of having to vote upon that which is in the providence of God. Hence individuals are developing doctrines based upon feelings and personal desires rather than upon the pure Will of God contained in His Infallible Holy Scriptures.
The positing of the concept that these people call upon the guidance of the Holy Spirit before voting is entirely invalid. Firstly, many undertaking such a vote have very little concept of just Who the Holy Spirit is let alone being ready to listen to Him. Secondly, many undertaking such votes have been inexorably moved by the passionate arguments put forth and really have little care for what God’s Word has to say about any of the decisions being made. Thirdly, these people are more affected by the secular world around them than they are by the content of the Holy Word of God. Thus, they are more likely to make world friendly votes than they are God centred undertakings. And, unfortunately, these concerns apply to ordained persons, including Bishops, just as much as to the untrained laity.
Muslim Communities look at the results of “democratic action” in the Christian faith and quite rightly wonder what part God really plays in our faith. To the theocratic Muslim who seeks to follow Islam explicitly in ever facet of life, democracy as seen in the Christian Church is a farce that is leading to the ultimate demise of many forms of Christianity.
Is there any reason to expect Muslim nations to become democratic? In asking this question it is necessary to beware of the pitfall encountered by Christians throughout the ages. It is necessary to beware of deifying that which is really cultural and has little to do with faith expression.
The early Church lived in an environment where the Emperor of the Occupying nation believed himself to be a god and required worship. Since his authority was absolute it could mean death not to be obedient. On the other hand, the Christian faith flourished in such an environment.
Throughout the ages Christianity flourished under the rule of Emperors, Kings, dictators, tyrants, etc. It is relatively recently that Christianity has existed in democracies. Yet we have tended to deify that form of government.
As has been seen throughout this work, Muslim nations tend to be theocratic by nature. The problem is that such theocracies, as in the Christian experience, tend to become corrupt and some individual or group to maintain despotic control uses the theocratic base. However, that does not remove the need for and desire for a Muslim theocracy. And if such can be established with the necessary protections to ensure the basic human rights that should be implicit within such a religious system there is no reason to oppose such. Certainly, democracy cannot prove itself to be a superior mode of government.
In responding to the Muslim community they have to faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This means holding fast to the teachings of Jesus as they are contained in Holy Scripture while avoiding the deification of other facets of life. It means respecting the Muslim person while not agreeing with them concerning the person of Jesus the Christ the Son of God.
St. Peter and St. John, when they were commanded by the Sanhedrin not to speak any more in the Name of Jesus simply asked the Sanhedrin, “Whom should we obey? You or God!” And this has to be the Christians first position.
Yet the Christian has to realise that there is much to be learned from the Muslim people. While the tenets of their faith are generally untenable to the Christian, the tremendous dedication of the Muslim person to Islam is a powerful example to the Christian person. The Christian God calls the Christian to a position where He is to be first and foremost in the life of that Christian. And this priority is not to be only in matters involving formal worship. Rather Christian Faith is meant to permeate every corner of life in the Name of Jesus and through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
The God Who truly loves all of His Creation is to be reflected by the Christian Person. God longs for those who reject Him. He reaches out in love and Divine concern for those people. But, in His Love and Mercy, He calls them to His Grace but allows individuals the right to make up their own minds for or against Him. It is up to the Christian person to be the reflection of the love of Jesus that moves people to listen to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit.
The Christian is not to hate, berate, belittle, or shun the Muslim person. Rather, in Christ, the Christian is called to befriend these people and to try to explain Christianity to them. Jesus calls us to do the work of missionaries in exhorting people to know Jesus. There is no alternative for the Christian. However, this is accomplished in loving care the allows persons of God’s Creation to exercise their freewill in accepting Jesus or rejecting Him.
However, Christians must reject the call that comes from within and outside the Church to not try to convert. It is said that it is an insult to the Muslim and his faith to try to bring him to Jesus. It is said that such is a lack of respect for the Muslim person. Adhering to such fallacious rationale is to submit to Satan. Jesus has given His Missionary commands. Jesus has given the example to follow. Jesus has given the tools through His Holy Spirit to accomplish that to which the Christian is called. There is no excuse not to so work and move.
Christians must always be prepared to fulfill the evangelistic calling of Jesus. But this can only e successful if undertaken in love and respect for the Muslim individual. To give the impression, in any way, that the Muslim lacks dignity or intelligence due to his faith position will certainly drive him away. It is only in reaching out as Jesus would do that true conversion can be undertaken.