All successful religions possess three things:
1) a doctrinal statement(s) - usually written down - which explains: where humankind came from, what future man can anticipate after death, and guidelines for proper behavior in this life.
2) a set of ritual practices, that raise the believer’s focus to things beyond their immediate concerns and promote bonding between and among believers. It is primarily through “ritual practices” that young people learn the “faith of their fathers”.
3) a priesthood that a) interprets and explicates the doctrinal statement to the faithful, b) sets forth the details of and history of the ritual practices, and c) attempts to encourage or enforce orthodoxy among the faithful.
The Koran is the most important doctrinal statement in Islam.
ABOUT THE KORAN -
Note: A chapter in the Koran is referred to as a surah.
The organization of this book is not chronological, it is not by subject, but it is generally organized by length of surah. The Koran sounds very melodic in Arabic particularly the older surahs (i.e. the first surahs written) , but it translates poorly - there is little logic “sentence to sentence”, “verse to verse” or “surah to surah”. The table at the end of this essay shows for each surah: its number, its length (number of verses in the surah) , Mohammad’s location when the Surah was revealed, and its chronological position compared to other Surahs.
Those Muslims, who actually study the Koran, tend to read one verse and then think about its content before reading another. However, it should be noted that few Muslims actually read or study the true Koran. Muslims are suppose to read the Koran in the original Arabic, and most Muslims don’t know Arabic other than to recite certain prayers that they have memorized in Arabic. (So much of what most Muslims know of their religion comes from the preaching they hear at their mosque. More studious Muslims tend to study commentaries on the various surahs and especially the “recollections” of those who knew the Prophet, Mohammad, during his life.)
Mohammad himself was illiterate. So the creation of the Koran was a convoluted process.
The Koran was written between 610 and 634 by scribes who received dictation from Mohammed who in turn had received what he dictated from the angel Gabriel who visited Mohammed in his dreams which were set in Jerusalem. Gabriel, of course, had received these revelations from God. Therefore, Muslims believe that what was dictated to the scribes was word for word from God through Gabriel and Mohammed. (Note: Following Mohammad’s death it became apparent that different Muslims had different versions of the Koran, so the third caliph (which means “successor”) had a standardized Koran created and all other version confiscated and destroyed.)
The period from 610 to 634 is divided into two smaller periods, the first was when Mohammed lived in Mecca (610 to 622) and the second was when Mohammed lived in Medina (622 to 634).
The first portion of the Koran is very spiritual, focused on salvation, talks about man’s relationship to God, descriptions of Paradise, etc. There are 86 surahs from this period. The short Surah that leads off the entire Koran is from this period and is very beautiful particularly when sung in Arabic.
The second period is (622 to 634). There are 28 surahs from this period. These surahs are less spiritual and more prescriptive and proscriptive. These surahs tell each Muslim how to behave in this life, who they should fight, who they may deceive, what to eat, who they may have sexual relations with, how to divorce their wife, etc. There is some backtracking and alterations from the first part of the Koran to the second part. To accommodate these differences, the Koran teaches the concept of abrogation 2-106 under which the newer instruction supercedes the older instruction.
For instance, Jihad is a concept that evolved from:
1) an internal struggle within each person’ heart as he/she struggles to resist evil doing to ......
2) the outward struggle against the pagans, the Jews and the Christians who have not yet agreed to live under the political control of Islam.
Note: Jews and Christians who agree to live under Islam, while retaining their beliefs, must pay a special tax as acknowledgment of their submission. Pagans who fail to convert to Islam must leave or be killed.
The Islamic calendar is dated from the year Mohammad moved from Mecca to Medina. (622 in the western calendar). This is the same year the revelations became less spiritual and more worldly; it is also the year Mohammed lost his wife, a wealthy widow, and migrated to Medina where political fragmentation had created an opportunity for him to gain political power and began organizing his followers into fighting units.
KORAN’s VIEW ......
..... of Man who was originally created from a clot of blood. There was a tree in Paradise but it was a tree of knowledge (not a tree of the knowledge of good and evil) which Adam (not Eve) wrongly approached and so they were banished 2 - 30, but they did not suffer shame. In Islam, Man is good (i.e. does not posses a fallen nature), and he is supposed to: 1) honor God, 2) follow God’s Koranic commands, and 3) help poor Muslims.
..... of God 112-1, 76-31 - God is all powerful and the creator of all things. God is so powerful he is able to be illogical. For example: 1) God can make laws and then abrogate those same laws, 2) scientific exploration is suspect because it implies that man has the right to explore for knowledge beyond that which God has revealed. Since the Koran is directly from God, it is perfect and it necessarily contains all the truth that God wants man to have. and ....
....... of Man’s relationship with God Here God will judge weighing the good a person has done as compared to the evil he has done. In life, God is said to sometimes show mercy, but at the time of the final judgement the process will be very mathematical (i.e. “a plus for a good work” versus “a minus for an evil act” type of calculation) Surah 56
HANDLING THE KORAN
As mentioned earlier, only a Koran written in Arabic is a true Koran. A translation is not really a Koran although translations are widely used because so few people know Arabic.
Since the Koran is exact word of God, its storage and handling is very important. The Koran is to be stored in a special place at the top of the believer’s book shelf or other place of honor. Ideally when picked up the Koran should be kissed three times. It is always to be carried above the waistline, never placed on the ground, only handled by a person who is ritually clean, never carried into a bathroom, etc. When studied it is to be put in a book holder or that failing on a clean white cloth. The Koran is never to be left open when not in use. If a Koran has to handled by a non-believer or an unclean person gloves should be worn.
A DIVE INTO A FEW SURAHS
Particularly the opening surah and from both the early and late group of surahs. - 1-1 (listen and read), 9-5; 5-51; 47-3; 2-106; 56-1+; 112-1; 76-31; 29-31; 2-30+ to get a flavor for this book’s content
.... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 7/12/18 )
Note: To see several pages of support material for the four essays on this page about the Koran (click here)
The Koran's View of Judaism and Islam's Claim to be the Only Authentic Abrahamic Religion
This part will address three things:
1) Islam’s claim that it is the only true monotheistic religion and that its roots go back to Abraham.
2) Islam’s statements about the Jews and Judaism that justify pushing Judaism aside and placing Islam in its place.
(Introductory Note: Many commentators feel when Mohammed moved to Medina he shaped some his teaches to attract Jews to Islam. There was a large group of Jews living in the Medina area. Most particularly the prohibition against eating pork in the Koran was likely placed there to attract Jews to Islam. Unfortunately, Jews did not convert in large numbers and Mohammad’s view of Jews evidently swung 180 degrees. This is reflected in the many negative statements about the Jews in the Koran and his treatment of Jews at the Battle of the Trench and the subsequent Siege of Banu Qurayza where hundreds of male Jewish prisoners were slaughtered and their wives and children enslaved.
The forgoing should be kept in mind as the Surahs about the Jews are reviewed.)
Part I - An overview
Koran contains an alternative Adam and Eve narrative that has them expelled from the Garden of Eden but retaining their basic good nature (not the fallen nature that Genesis reports).
The Koran also briefly recounts how Allah helped and protected Noah.
In Mohammad’s dreams he is told that it was Ishmael (not Isaac) who was suppose to be sacrificed. Ishmael is the older son (and the fact that he is the child of a slave woman makes no difference). Abraham tells Ishmael about God’s command and Ishmael agrees and is prepared to be sacrifice but is spared at the last minute and a ram is substituted. Because of this occurrence, Muslims sacrifice a ram once a year in Mecca.
Ishmael is sent to Arabia with his mother, the slave Heger, and they go to Mecca and set up a small Kaba shrine. Then Abraham comes and Allah helps him get a better, bigger rock. Heger and Ishmael at one point suffer from great thirst and Heger, by running between hills, finds and dams water for them to drink. After Ishmael marries Abraham disapproves of his choice, so he divorces and marries another wife that Abraham likes.
There is an ancestry narrative that puts Mohammed in Ishmael’s line of decent. Thus Mohammad is direct descendent of Abraham.
Because Abraham came repeatedly to Mecca and because he installed a bigger Kaba, the city is called the city of Abraham. (Medina is called the City of Mohammad.. )
The foregoing shows that Ishmael, not Isaac, was the founder of the true monotheistic religion, Islam.
Back in Israel, Moses goes up the mountain and receives a book (not the stone tablets). Joshua enters the Holy Land and drives out most of the Cannonites. The land is settled. Saul then David and then Solomon become King. The nation falls into apostocy and is sent to Babylon captivity and restored under the Persians. The Arc of the Covenant is lost but the Temple is restored. The scene is set for the arrival of Jesus.
Part II - From the Koran itself
A dive into several relevant surahs from the Koran:(need link to PDF)
...... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 7/21/2018)
Koran's View of Jesus, Mary and Christianity in General
The Koran speaks about Jesus and Christianity quite a lot.
For Islam, Jesus is the most important prophet until Muhammad came. The Koran explains Jesus’ birth, his mission in life, his “death and resurrection”, and his relationship with Allah, etc. as follows:
1) The Koran says Jesus predicted (that is prophesied) the coming of Muhammad. Jesus said “ I will send the Paraclete”. Christians feel this predicted the coming of the Holy Spirit. Muslim say this refers to the coming of Mohammad
This formulation aids Islamic theology in three ways: a) it inserts into Jesus’ statements a prophecy that Mohammad is coming which allows Muslim to point to a Biblical prophecy that predicts the coming of Mohammad just as Christians point to Old Testament prophecies as foretelling Jesus’ arrival, and b) it redefines and redirects Jesus’ announcement (that the Holy Spirit will come to help mankind once Jesus goes to the Father) to an announcement that Muhammad will come to lead and help mankind, and 3) it talks away one of the three person’s Christians see as being part of the Triune Godhead.
The foregoing works with Mohammad’s insertion of the angel Gabriel whenever the New testament refers to the Spirit. For instance, Mary conceived by the Holy Sprit becomes Mary conceives by the Angel Gabriel who was sent by Allah.
2) Under Islam, all of Jesus’ miracles are performed through the permission and with the direct help of Allah. Jesus himself has no independent power to do supernatural acts. However, Islam also teaches Jesus is sinless, Jesus is the Messiah, Jesus is the Christ, Jesus is the messenger of Allah, Jesus is in the ranks of the Righteous, etc. These formulations deprive Jesus of his divine status, but nevertheless accords him a very high place.
Islam teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross but either feigned death on the cross or was replaced by another man that Allah caused to take on the look of Jesus. Some say that other man was Judas, who died in Jesus’ place and was thus appropriately punished. This theory says Jesus was taken up to heaven by Allah before the passion began.
Regarding the Resurrection, Islam teaches it never happened because Jesus never died on the Cross. This deprives Jesus of his status as a member of the Triune godhead because as St Paul said the Christian’s “faith is in vain if Jesus did not raise from the dead”. Muhammad’s revelation, whether revealed by Allah or devised by Mohammad, did a very precise job of keeping Jesus in an important place as a prophet, while assuring that he would not be considered part of the divine godhead.
Note: Mohammad was probably not aware of the tremendous importance Jews attached to the title Messiah or Christ. The Messiah was to come from God to lift the Jews out of oppression and inaugurate a new order. If Mohammad had known this, it is unlikely he would given Jesus this August title.
3) Mary, the mother of Jesus, called Maryam by Muslims, was made pure so she would be a suitable mother to Jesus. She conceives by the Angel Gabriel and gives birth to Jesus under a palm tree after considerable birth pain. Mary is called by the Koran a woman of truth. She has been chosen by Allah before all other women. The Koran cuts Joseph out of the story, thus Mohammad breaks Jesus’ connection to the House of David which was a key factor in many Old Testament prophecies about Jesus.
The foregoing is carefully crafted (either by Allah or by Mohammad) to: a) deprive the Holy Spirit of his place in the Triune godhead, b) to deprive Jesus of his place in the Triune godhead as well, c) to deprive Mary of her position as mother of the God-man, Jesus.
However, in each case the Koran provides alternative explanation that still honors the thought, idea, or person discussed but puts Islam’s perspective in a pre-eminent position: a) The concept of the Holy Spirit is honored by substituting Mohammad and Gabriel, b) the person of Jesus retains great respect and many titles, and c) Mary remains the most honored of all woman. Additionally, it puts Allah in the command position by saying he empowered Jesus to perform his miracles.
Last week, we saw Mohammad making early overture to the Jews by prohibiting the consumption of pork and initially having Muslims pray facing Jerusalem not Mecca, but when this did not trigger the mass conversion of Jews, Mohammad decided to slaughter hundreds of Jews following the Battle of the Trench. The direction of prayer changed but pork remained verboten.
Mohammad wanted Christians to convert “en masse” as well. He sent letters to both Christian and pagan leaders suggesting they convert (or at a minimum accept Islamic rule) in exchange for good relations with the growing Islamic state.
These leaders reacted in various ways: a few were deeply impressed saying if God really revealed all this to Mohammad, he will have no trouble sweeping all obstacle away, but most felt the entire basis of Mohammad’s claims were mere fabrications. They could not find any clear connection between the God of the Old/New Testament and Islam. The only authority presented were Mohammad’s recorded dreams and the revelations from Gabriel contained therein.
At this time, the small Islamic state had many Christian (either orthodox or heretical) areas or cities within a 500 or 1000 mile radius; this included the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire to the north which was headquartered in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul). Additionally, the Byzantine Empire was in a lengthy war with the Persian Empire headquartered in modern day Iran. This war weakened both and allowed Islam, once it got organized, to attack and take all of Persia and much of the Byzantine empire as well. (However, this gets into the political and military side of Islam whereas our focus today is on its claims vis a vie Christianity.)
Christianity’s Intellectual Defense -
We studied, several months ago, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, which pointed out that Christianity has some strong intellectual tools to rebut Islam’s claims about Jesus, Mary, the Trinity, the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection. What follows is a re-statement of part of that earlier presentation: (Note: Recall that Nabeel is a Muslim pre-med student and David is the Christian pre-med student who are friends and are discussing religion.)
1) Was Jesus killed on the cross? Nabeel holds that Jesus did not die, but that he pretended to die and after being buried alive, got up, pushed the stone aside with help from friends, and walked away. This explanation is a standard Muslim explanation called the “swoon theory” (i.e. Christ pretending to be dead.)
However, David said the Roman crucifixion process did not allow the condemned to escape death. He pointed out that a man being crucified had to push up with his feet to be able to get air in. To speed death, guards would sometimes break the condemn’s legs so they could no longer push up to get air. To check if death had occurred they would spear the condemn’s side to see if pulsing blood came out or if just a weak flow of both water and blood serum. (When a person dies his blood separates into water and blood serum (i.e. the non-water parts of the blood)).
Roman history scholars that explained the details of the crucifixion process which Roman soldiers were trained in. The Roman soldiers who supervised Christ’s crucifixion followed this process closely.
David produced information about the Shroud of Turin which is a burial wrapping cloth from first century Palestine, which probably was Christ’s burial cloth, and which shows the Gospel account is correct. (e.g. blood serum had separated from water, there was an indication of a crown of thorns, there were signs of a flash energy source which sealed the shroud’s markings into the cloth. (This flash event squares with the report from the guards at Jesus’ tomb who experienced a high energy event, etc.)
2) Did Jesus rise from the dead? Nabeel’s explanation is included in the swoon theory (see #1 above). If Jesus was faking his death, all he had to do was pre-arrange with friends to come by and push away the stone in front of the tomb.
Mike, the history student, a friend of Dave happened to be invited to debate this issue with an Islamic scholar at nearby Regent’s University. Nabeel attended and noted that Mike made these points: a) there was a empty tomb otherwise the Jews would have paraded Jesus body around to discredit the apostles’ contention that Christ was raised from the dead, and b) there was testimony by disciples and even non-followers which indicated Jesus was risen. An actual resurrection is the best explanation of all this behavior. If, for instance, an actor was pretending to be the risen Jesus, the disciples would recognize the deception and walk away.
Dave and Mike pointed out that the swoon theory does not hold up. Even if Christ escaped death and got friends to get him out of the tomb, would these same friends face later persecution and martyrdom defending the reputation of a person who had arranged such a hoax.
3) Was Jesus truly God?
Muslims ask: why does God need a son? Is Jesus a demi-god, a half God and half man being? To Muslims, it doesn’t make sense ; and anyway didn’t Jesus say again and again that he was the “son of man”.
To answer this objection, David produced a mini book More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell which says Jesus creates all things including carpenters - “All things came into being thru Jesus” from John’s gospel . Also to answer the “son of man” objection David referenced the full quote from Daniel 7 “One like the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven who is worship by all and who sits at the right hand and would reign”. David then mentioned Ps 110 where the messiah is to “sit at my right hand”
Nabeel finally realized the Bible has to be studied as a series of stories whereas with the Koran individual verses are studied. Muslims then use commentaries to gain fuller understanding of these difficult verses. Nabeel realized that reading individual verses in the Gospels can be misleading; the Gospels are an integrated whole. Nabeel finally began to read the Gospels properly. Reading John Ch 1 it hit him like a truck; here John explains how the Father and Son are one and yet are separate with different roles.
Nabeel realized that if there was not a good refutation of John Ch. 1 then God the Father and Son are one. So he told David, John’s gospel wasn’t valid because it focuses on different things than the other gospels and is written in a different style. Perhaps John is taking about a different Jesus?.
So David produced a second 800 page book by McDowell. Nabeel wanted to see proof of divinity in the synoptic gospels. David pointed out Mark 14:62 where the Jewish high priest asked Jesus if he was God; Jesus said “I am”. This admission led to his death.
Muslims feel the earliest Christians felt Jesus was God because of Paul’s misleading epistles. Nabeel had been told that Paul was a Jew who gave up his Jewish faith to gain power in Christianity. David countered that Paul was a successful Jew and well positioned for a high position among the Jews; he gave all this up to become an itinerant traveler promoting a new religion.
(This point was particularly difficult for Nabeel because Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet but not God. For Muslims it is major heresy for someone to believe that Jesus is God.)
4) What factors tend to affirm the accuracy of the New Testament? Historians use rules for textual criticism to rate the quality of an old text. With the Bible, the accuracy is affirmed by the fact that the four gospels tend to support each other and that they were written within 35 to 50 years of Christ’s death, when eye witnesses were still alive to affirm their accuracy, and that some facts mentioned in the Bible are supported by non-Christian sources. For instance a character mentioned in Luke 3:1 was affirmed by archeological investigations that showed that a Lysanius lived at Abilene during Jesus’ ministry. Also a Jewish historian, named Josephus, recorded Jesus life and death albeit in an unflattering way.
The Gospels tell stories, of miracles, teachings, etc., so some differences in the reporting are to be expected. This is very common when one is receiving multiple eyewitness reports of a single event; people remember details differently. Also the gospels have been translated by many different people into many different languages. Differences in word usage and phraseology results from the preferences of these translators.
Muslims tend to focus heavily on these differences. The Koran, unlike the Bible, is composed mostly of short commands, permissions or admonitions. (Of course, throughout the Koran, there are many contradictory statements. This problem is resolved for Muslim by the doctrine of abrogation under which verses written later in Mohammad life take precedence over earlier verses if a contradiction exists.)
5) Is the Godhead composed of three persons Father, Son, and Spirit? Here Islam is adamant. Belief in the Trinity is a form of polytheism. Nabeel had great difficulty understanding the Trinity especially since its details are a mystery. Some Christians attempt to explain the Trinity by noting that H2O can appear as steam, ice, or liquid water. This didn’t help Nabeel.
When Nabeel asked David where the Holy Spirit appears in the New Testament. David mentioned the Spirit descending upon Mary when Jesus was conceived, he mentioned the Spirit coming upon the assembled crowd on Pentecost Sunday 50 days after Christ’s death’s. Finally there is the quote from Jesus who said to the apostles I will send “my spirit”.
Later when he was studying genetics one day, he suddenly thought it might make sense to say that three perfect people share one perfect nature just as millions of imperfect people share one imperfect human nature.
Materials other than Koran (Qur’an), used to create this handout were:
1) Understanding the Koran by Mateen Elass
2) The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran by Bert Spencer
3) The Outline of History by H. G. Wells (see the section on Islam page 410 and following)
4) The Islamic website Speaking Free particularly: https://www.speakingtree.in/allslides/sacred-rules-for-handling-and-reading-quran
5) Introduction to Islamic Theology and Law by Ignaz Goldziher
6) Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes by Tamim Assary
7) The Bible and the Qur’an: A Comparative Study - a course by Gabriel Reyonlds, PhD available at www.NowYouKnowMedia.com
.... .(prepared by Hugh Murray on 6/22/2018)
Twenty-Four Additional Points About the Koran
This week the discussion will focus on several Muslim practices, faith doctrines, terms, and events that grow out of the Koran that might interest non-Muslims because they are foreign to the non-Muslim’s personal experience and ways of thought.
1) Koran’s view of the Nature of Allah - He is austere, remote and stern. Allah is possess all traits in infinite amounts. His status is so distant and so infinite that no comparison involving Allah with something else (anything else) is allowed. A Muslim will not allow Allah to be represented in any way (e.g. drawings, statuary, etc.) because any representation will some how limit Allah. This prohibition extends to Mohammad, Allah’s last and most important prophet. (Surah 7:180)
2) Reasons to Believe in Allah - First, Allah will punish you in this life if you don’t believe in Him. (However, he says you may suffer even if you do believe in Him). Second, Allah will give you the possibility to get to heaven if you believe in Him. Third, you should believe just by looking around you at the universe which was created by Allah. (Surah 16:114)
3) View of the Relationship of Allah to Man - Since Allah is austere, remote, and stern, Allah’s job is to keep a ledger of each person’s good acts and evil acts so each person can be properly judged at the end time. (Surah 2:257)
4) Why is Allah called the Merciful and Compassionate - He earns these appellations because He has given man the Koran which contains within it all the steps needed to obtain salvation.(Surah 2:218, 1:1)
5) Allah may not be Diminished in Any Way - Any attempt to explain Allah by reference to something else is verboten (e.g. a remark like “the beauty of the noonday sky makes me think of Allah” is suspect because Allah is so much greater than that sky and so this remark may be construed as limiting Allah’s greatness). Muslim’s do not even restrict Allah’s greatness by logic. Allah actions are completely beyond man’s understanding. They are not restricted by any need for consistency. (Surah 5:17)
6) The Koran understanding about the Cosmos - Allah lives in paradise above the sky with his angels. (Surah 2: 161 +) The fallen angels, who rebelled at the time of man’s creation by refusing to bow before Adam, are constantly trying to sneak into heaven to discover what Allah is saying to his angels, but they are being repelled by projectiles that can be seen. (e.g. shooting stars at night). These devils, operating on earth, are trying to get people to do evil acts or simply fail to pray properly. So angels come to men to “shoo” the devils away, many Muslims therefore always thank the angels as they finish prayers because the angels have allowed them to finish their prayers successfully. Muslims also believe in jinns, another evil creature, who where popularized in books and the movies (e.g. Arabian Nights, etc). (Surah 6:100, 18:50 +)
7) Resurrection and Judgement - Souls sleep from the time of their death until the end of the world; then these souls and resurrected bodies are reunited and go to be judged. After that they go to either heaven or hell. Those who die fighting jihad are exempt from this long wait. These fighters are judged immediately after dying. (Surah 2:259 - 260 +)
8) Very “Earthy” Descriptions of Life in Heaven and Hell - The Koran contains very detail descriptions of the life that will be experienced after judgement. (Surah 50:6) Food is described, perfumes, valleys, buildings are described, etc. However, details for women are left out, so Muslim scholars have written what women will experience by using the tools of analogy. (Surah 2:206 +) Hell is described as men half alive, half dead being viewed by those in heaven as they are partly consumed by fire. However, surprisingly some scholars hold that after the evil people have been in hell for a time they get to go to heaven, which Muslims call Jannah.
The question of heaven for non-Muslims and for those who die in infancy have been studied by scholars. Again some Muslim scholars hold that heaven is available to good people in both these categories. Others disagree.
9) Koran’s Connection to Mohammad - Because the Koran is so intimately tied to Mohammad (the person to whom Allah revealed The Koran) and because Islam has no other important prophets one understands why Muslims tie Mohammad up in their prayers and declarations with Allah. For instance, the declaration which turns a non believer into a Muslim called the Shahada is “ There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is His messenger.” (Surah 33:40 +) However, it should be noted Islam does claim certain old Testament figures and Jesus are lesser prophets.
10) Is Allah just Another Name for the Judeo-Christian God? - There is much disagreement on this point. Muslims do not accept the Jewish idea of a loving God. They do not accept the Christian idea of a loving father figure God or a fellow human, as a brother, who also is God, or a Triune godhead with a Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
In Malaysia, a majority Muslim country, there is actually a law prohibiting Jews and Christians from referring to their God as Allah.
Protestants tend to agree with the forgoing analysis - they say there are so many differences one can not equate God to Allah. However, Catholics have officially accepted the Muslim’s Allah as being the same as the Christian God. This difference is more than semantic because if Allah is just another term for the Christian God then Islam should be considered a Christian heresy; if not, Islam is just a false religion that has expropriated stories from the Old and New Testaments to establish a false connection to Abraham and Jesus.
11) Shiria Law in Civil Society - Many Muslim scholars claim the legal proscriptions and requirements of the Koran (called Shiria Law) really effectively comprise a functioning Constitution for majority Muslim countries. The Muslim Brother and ISIS are examples of groups who use the Koran as the bases for civil gov’t. (Surah 4:16, 7:144 - 145) It should be noted that many modern Muslim scholars agree with the forgoing.
12) Family Law in Islam - A Muslim man may marry a Jew or Christian but a Muslim woman may not marry a Jew or Christian. If a Muslim man can afford the expense, he may have up to 4 wives. Divorce in Islam is different for the man than for the women. Women must initiate a proceeding and show good cause. Men can simply pronounce his intention to divorce his wife several times with witnesses there. ...... (Surah 2:221, 2:227 - 233 + ) This is a very complex area of Islamic Law. For instance, a non Muslim women, married to a non Muslim man and living in a Muslim country, can convert to Islam and immediately claim she should be divorced.
Since in Islam there is no idea of community property. Divorce creates a need to attribute assets to each spouse by looking at the source of each asset.
13) Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) - It is widely believed that FGM. is required by the Koran. It is not. Nor does the Koran does require the secluding of women at home with them being clothed head to toe on the few occasions that they do go out in public. There are Hadiths and interpretations by scholars elsewhere which support these practices.
The extensive covering of the female comes from the Koran’s call for general female modesty particularly in public (Surah 33:50)
Since FGM is a common practice in the Muslim countries of North Africa, many westerners feel the practice is part of Islam. It really is an optional practice in Islam because the Hadiths disagree. FYI - the six countries where FGM is performed on 70% or more of the young women are Egypt, Guinea, Sudan, Mali, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
14) Killing of those that leave Islam - Any Muslims that apostasies and leaves Islam is subject to being killed by any Muslim that wants to (Surah 2:217; 9:73 - 74; 47:25).
It is true the Koran says there will be “no compulsion in religion” (Surah 2:256; 111 - 135) and that is generally true, however, this is not true for a Muslim who chooses to leave Islam. However, it is true for the non-Muslim (Christian or Jew) who shows submission to Islam. A Hindu, Bundist or other non-monotheist believer that comes under the control of Islam has to convert to Islam, leave the area, or accept death. But this latter rule has historically been ignored by some Muslim conquerors who have allowed non-monotheists to live in peace within Islamic controlled areas. The Hindus of India benefitted from such forbearance in the past.
15) Honor Killings - The Koran allows a parent or husband to discipline a wayward family member but is silent on whether killing is allowed? (Surah 18:65 - 81). Though not specially sanctioned by the Koran the foundation is there. Most honor killings are directed at daughters who wish to: dress differently, go out with non-Muslims, wish to get additional education, object to marrying the man selected by their family, etc.
16) The Hadiths - The Koran is a difficult document to read and understand. So those who knew the Prophet, his companions, were in the habit of writing down their recollections on what Mohammad said or did. They were hoping that their work might cast more light on the meaning of the Koranic passages. These writings are called Hadiths.
The Hadiths is many times larger than the Koran itself and the Hadiths is actually growing even in our day as scholars do historical research and think more deeply about how two or more pieces of earlier Hadiths or the Koran might fit together and be understood.
Different weight is obviously given to different Hadiths. Earlier work and work done by those who had been close to Muhammad are given greater weight.
With so much written material it is possible for numerous versions of Islamic belief and practice to emerge. In fact that is what has happened. And with no established central authority (i.e. a Caliph) it is impossible to check any of the abhorrent and/or violent variants that might emerge. (e.g. ISIS, female genital mutilation, etc.)
17) Shiria Law - The Koran is very proscriptive about things that are really rather secular (i.e. having to do with everyday living like how a will should divide property, how a man divorces his wife, etc.) This is augmented by the Hadiths and Fiqh that has defined and expanded Sharia. (Surah 7:144-145)
18) Daily Public Prayer 5 times Daily - Muslims pray five times a day (e.g. dawn, lunch, mid afternoon, dusk, and at bedtime.) facingstanding, bowing and kneeling all while facing Mecca this is called Salah or Salat. (Surah 11:114) This requirement to pray is seen in operation in the typical workplace at lunch, mid afternoon, and at dusk. In workplaces where workers have to cooperate in their work (e.g. on an assembly line) a lot of disruption can occur for all workers at these prayer times if only a few Muslims are on staff.
19) Woman’s Testimony in Legal Matters and Inheritance - One interesting feature of Shiria is the fact that a women’s testimony is given half the weight of a man’s at a trial.(Surah 2:282) Also a women’s inheritance is dictated by the Koran and is less than her brother’s. (Surah 4:11)
20) Islam’s relationship to other religions - Islam accepts Jews and Christians and allows these people to live in a state of submission in dar el Islam (i.e. lands under Islam control)(Surah 9:29). Submission is generally shown by requiring Jews and Christians to pay a special tax, called the jizyah. Additionally Muslims are forbidden to be real friends with Jews and Christians (Surah 5:51 - 57)
21) Fiqh - This is the name given to the laws that are used in Islamic Courts. This whole system is referred to as Shiria. Some scholars argue that Hadiths and Fiqh should be merged into one comprehensive body of laws and rules which would govern a Muslims behavior in all things from how to pray at the mosque to the intricacies of trying a case for breach of contract to exactly what the meaning of the term “oneness of Allah” means.
22) The first four Successors to Mohammad were called the Rightly Guided Caliphs; their 30 year rule is called "the Rashidun Caliphate". These men are: Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman ibn Affan, and Ali. This title evidently developed from an old Sunni saying attributed to Mohammad .... "Hold firmly to my example (sunnah) and that of the Rightly Guided Caliph”.
Since the Koran itself is disjointed and lacks connecting threads of thought, much of Islamic practice, as recorded in Hadiths, comes from the period of the first four Caliphs (which means successors to Mohammad). These men all knew the Prophet quite well and lived humble lives; but worked energetically to bring as many people as possible under the political control of Islam, not through pursuation, which takes time and has less chance of success, but rather at the point of a sword, where discrimatory taxes and laws might be established to hurry the process of conversation. Those who write Hadiths today usually refer to the written remembrances of these four men extensively. Umar, for instance, recorded over 500 writings of his recollection of what Muhammad did and said. These recollections are more readable than the Koran itself.
23) Sufism - This Islamic orientation emphasizes the spiritual, prayerful side of Islam. It roots go back to the time of Mohammad and particularly to the 4th Caliph, Ali. Sufism hold that each person must find their own special practice(s) that bring them closer to Allah. So some engage in deep meditation while others engage in circle dancing and are called Whirling Dervishes. The absolute requirement is to first be a faithfully practicing Muslim, then acceptance into a Sufi order is possible. Sufism think of themselves as the opposite side of Islam from those that obsess on shiria law and the political side of Islam. The British tried to emphasize sufism as an alternative to political Islam and shiria following WWI so that the Muslims might more readily accept British rule. It did not work very well. Sufism do not reject shiria; their emphasis is just different.
The Shia branch of Islam (e.g. Iran) has been adverse to Sufism because Sufism believes there always exists one or more perfect men on earth who should be followed and who should be honored as saints after they die. In Iran, the Shia Muslims hold that all should look to the chief Imam as the perfect leader to be followed, so there exists a doctrinal conflict. Despite persecution, Sufism does exist in Iran. Turkey, a secular Islamic state, has tried to ban Sufism as well, but underground activity exists.
24) Salafism - The Salafi movement is both an outgrowth of Wahhabism (of the late 1700's) and a response to the heavy European influence following WWI. Under this doctrine the restoration of true Islamic practice following the model of the first two centuries of Islam is the goal. This ideology has manifested itself under several well known names (e.g. ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Quida, etc.) These various manifestations have different immediate goals and certainly different temporary tactics, but the ends sought are always similar. The expulsion of non-Muslims ideas and influences from Islamic majority countries.
Concluding Thoughts on the Koran and Islam -
To begin, a brief review of Islam’s history is in order.
During its first few centuries, Islam faced weak opponents, it expanded steadily, the central caliphate strengthened, educational achievement was encouraged, and intellectual achievement honored. However, when Islam began to suffer military set backs, paricularly at the hands of the Mongols, Muslims became more religious and less interested intellicual and scientific achievements.
Then the west began to expand and Islam came under even more pressure. Eventually the weakened Ottoman caliphate was disbanded and the west occupied the heart of Islam. The Muslim response was an even greater emphsis on religion particularly its militant aspects.
Today, the west is beginning to have difficulties of its own. Internal discord is everywhere, birthrates are down, religious belief and practice is spotty, and solidarity on morals and mores is lacking. Western societies are changing rapidly.
So you have a culturally weak society, the West, right next to a culturally consolidating society with a long history aggressive expansion. The stage is set for Islam to once again move toward the west. Actually we see this is already happening with two pheomomens: immigration and terrorist attacks.
Are these two going to be effective for Islam? Obviously mass immigration accompanied by differential birth rates between the natives and the immigrants will overtime cause the immigrats to takeover. Terror seems to be counter productive in the west because it makes average citizens more aware of the challege of Islam. However, in Muslim countries terror seems to enhance Islamic solidarity.
So what is the likely outcome here. Let’s say a western country today is 10% Muslim and these Muslim families have 5 children each. While the native families have 2 children each. In four generations (100 years) doing simple math, that country’s Muslim population will be 40%.Of course, if additional Islamic immigration is permitted the 40% will be low, perhaps quite low.
The obvious questions are “but wouldn’t a substantial number of Muslims convert and join different religions as westerners tend to do?” and “wouldn’t the Muslim birthrate decline and come into alignment with the rest of society?”. Of course, it is impossible to know the long term with certainty, but early trends do not indicate that either of these is happening. Muslims like to live near each other. Their intense prayer life combined with their propinquity seems to discourage any real change of behavior.
The non-Muslim world is blessed to have large strong countries like Russia and China who seem prepared to say to their Muslim minorities “this far and no further”. So Muslim migration is not likely to go north or east from the Muslim heartlands.
However, Muslims are free to move west and south, so Islam is likely to increase its numbers in Western Europe, southern Africa, North America, and even South America. It seems the countries most influenced by Enlightenment ideas (e.g. democracy, rule of law, tolerance, etc.) are most likely to experience a process of slow motion self destruction via Muslim immigration.
................ (prepared by Hugh Murray on 6/17/2018)
THE CHURCH SINCE VATICAN II -
Before Vatican II
Before Vatican II, the Catholic Church was doing a fairly good job of fulfilling the call of its creator, Jesus Christ, to “feed my flock” and to “go forth and convert.” More particularly:
- It was presenting an integrated, complex set of doctrines regarding faith and morals that explained to the faithful who made them, where they came from, where they might be going (heaven or hell), how to lead a virtuous life, and how to deal with their sins and failures.
- It was offering a Latin based mystical and magisterial set of devotions and sacraments, particularly the Mass, that engaged most people in an uplifting, traditional way.
- The Church was able to staff its churches and schools with enough priests and nuns to provide for a lot of one-on-one engagement with Catholics, particularly the young. This allowed the faithful to gain a fulsome understanding of the Gospels and of the intricacies of the many Church doctrines that grew out of a close analysis of the Gospels. This group was also able to lead the faithful in the practice of its many devotions, rituals, and Sacraments.
In summary, a social scientist (e.g., a cultural anthropologist) might say the Catholic Church was doing a good job—not a perfect job—of:
- setting forth an integrated set of doctrines
- providing ceremonies and practices that fit with those doctrines
- offering the faithful a clerical class of adequate size to convey the doctrines and encourage the faithful to remain strongly involved.
The Vatican II Period with John XXIII and Paul VI
In 1958, Pius XII, a former Vatican diplomat who had seen the Church through WWII, passed away and the Cardinal Archbishop of Venice, Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, became the new Pope and took the name John XXIII. He had grown up in very modest circumstances but was blessed with a deep faith, a pleasant open personality, and a good mind. Pope John, being one of 13 children and a former soldier, said the Church’s rituals and pastoral approaches had not been looked at since the Council of Trent (1545-63). He used the term “Aggiornamento”, which means to bring up to date or “freshening up,” to describe his goal for the Church.He decided to call a Council of the Church (Vatican II), and he appointed the conservative Archbishop Marcel-François Lefebvre to organize its agenda. Archbishop LeFebvre, a Holy Ghost Father, had been stationed in Africa as a bishop and had overseen the Church’s very successful missionary effort there.
The Council assembled in October 1962 with perhaps 3,000 bishops, their advisers, and observers from other faiths present. Once organized, the Council rejected the limited LeFebvre agenda, deciding instead on a more wide-ranging scope. According to Church tradition, once assembled a Council of the Church is in charge of the Church, that is why in four centuries Popes had called only one Council (Vatican I) which had ended abruptly when the Franco Prussian War erupted.
During Vatican II, Pope John died and a new Pope Paul VI was elected. Additionally, during this period the birth control pill came on the market. Pope Paul decided not to expand the scope of the Council’s deliberations to decide the morality of this product; instead he made that decision himself and issued Humanae Vitae on July 25, 1968, which condemned use of “the pill” because it interfered with God’s desire to keep each marital act open to conception.
The Council ended on December 8, 1965. Four major documents, three declarations, and nine decrees were issued. Most important for normal Catholics, the Council permitted the Mass to be celebrated in the vernacular, meaning using the common language of the people attending the Mass. Immediately the various bishops moved to implement something called the “spirit of Vatican II.” This meant for most Catholics the traditional Latin Masses disappeared quickly and were replaced with Masses in their local language(s). These new liturgies were composed in a rush by local bishops or even parish priests. Many were not faithful to the rules about which liturgical elements needed to be included in a Mass. Most statues were removed from Catholic Churches. The music used at Mass was “updated” just as quickly. Guitars and tambourines replaced organs in many churches. Many felt these Masses had lost any semblance of their historic mystery and majesty. However, the use of local languages did give the people a more direct understanding of the words being used. They no longer had to depend upon the translations set out in the pews.
Most religious orders of nuns adopted more open lifestyles (e.g., living outside of convents in apartments, wearing habits that could easily be mistaken for business suits, etc.). Many nuns, particularly those with useful training and credentials (e.g., in teaching, social work, or nursing) actually chose to leave their orders. These manifestations of the “spirit of Vatican II” were particularly hard on the Catholic grade schools all across the United States, which were forced to hire lay teachers. Tuitions rose and many schools closed.
Vatican II also removed the Church’s former statement that “for those aware of the Catholic Church” there was no salvation outside the Church. This provision had for centuries sent a message to non-Catholics that the Catholic Church thought they were hopelessly lost. The wording in Vatican II was much more welcoming to non-Catholics by simply saying there was much good and truth in these churches and the sincere following of their beliefs could lead to salvation. This opened the door for the many ecumenical discussions that have occurred over the last 50 years. In fact a Lutheran-Catholic discussion in Sweden actually decided there were not doctrinal differences between the two Churches on what was needed to gain salvation.
The implementation of these liturgical changes caused traditionalist Catholics to react negatively. One of those reacting was Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, who created an order and movement called the Society of St. Pius X. His priests pledged to retain their exclusive attachment to the Latin Mass. Several years later, he consecrated four new bishops so the society could survive his death. The reason his departure was not a complete rupture with the papacy was his insistence that his group rigorously follow all the sacramental procedures that were in force prior to Vatican II. Since Vatican II had not outlawed or banned these older practices, he was still following acceptable Church rubrics. Of course, his ordaining four priests as bishops was a violation of a Church rule that required the Vatican’s specific advanced approval of the consecration of any bishop. This led to the excommunication of Lefebvre and the four new bishops. (Later Pope Benedict XVI lifted these excommunications.)
These changes caused discord in most parishes. With the traditionalists arguing with the reformers in every parish around the world At the same time, vocations began to decline. Some argued that young people who might be drawn to a religious vocation began to have second thoughts; they noted that young people attracted to a life of commitment are generally seeking a stable environment in which to serve others. Others argued the decline was attributable to the general societal unrest of the 60's and 70's. In any event seminaries started to close. Orders of nursing and teaching nuns felt the greatest declines. The exceptions were the traditionalist groups: the Society of St. Pius X, other priestly groups that remained traditional, cloistered Carmelites, and other groups of nuns that simply retained their traditional habits and practices. All these held their own or actually gained recruits.
The situation was so desperate that a few years after Vatican II closed, Paul VI said in a homily in 1972 that “the smoke of Satan” had been let loose inside the Church. Exactly what he was referring to is unclear. Was it the widespread abuse of the liturgy? Was it the discord that arose within most parish communities? Was it the creation of traditionalist groups like the Society of Pius X? Perhaps it was all of these.
When Marcel Lefebvre died, he had three seminaries operating at full capacity: one in the Argentina, one in the U.S., and one in Switzerland. Today the Society operates worldwide with 650 priests, 442 locations, and has increased its number of seminaries to six. Its country of greatest penetration is France and half of its seminaries are in Europe.
The John Paul II and Benedict XVI Period
However, all stability was not lost. After John Paul I, Pope Paul’s successor, died after only a month in office, the Cardinals elected John Paul II who was to serve for 26 years until 2005. His gregarious personality, his opposition to Communism, including its Catholic manifestation called “liberation theology,” his decision to issue a completely new updated Catechism, his strong support for traditional marriage, and his globe-trotting habits kept the Catholic public enthralled.
All this occurred while his right-hand man, Cardinal Ratzinger, who later followed John Paul II as Benedict XVI, began to bring order out of the chaos that had erupted after Vatican II. The Vatican reasserted strict control over all Mass liturgies used in all languages. The Vatican began looking at all seminary curriculums and faculties to make certain they were orthodox; many changes had to be made. Homosexuality had gotten into several seminaries as standards had been reduced to get more recruits; these seminaries experienced Vatican initiated “house cleanings.” The music used at Mass was subjected to limitations—it had to be theologically sound and uplifting, not jarring. There was strong encouragement to use old Latin hymns and to reinsert Latin Prayers (e.g., the Creed or the Our Father) into the liturgy. Theologians who had pushed the envelope on innovations were reined in. The Vatican reasserted its control over the orthodoxy of the faculty at schools calling themselves Catholic. Several Jesuit schools dropped the word Catholic from their literature rather than insist on such orthodoxy from their faculties.
Then John Paul II, with his successor Benedict XVI, actually managed to stabilize the number of vocations. They quieted the traditionalists within the parishes, who for the most part made their peace with the reforms once the flow of changes stopped and a new liturgical status quo settled in. The regular attendance seen in the pews across Western Europe and North America stabilized at roughly 50% of the pre-Vatican II attendance. In Latin America there was a continuing slow exodus to Pentecostal Faiths. In Africa, a surge of converts sent the overall number of Catholics worldwide up.
One scandal really rocked the John Paul II papacy. There was a highly successful conservative order called the Legionnaires of Christ founded in the 1940’s by Marcial Maciel, a Mexican priest. This order attracted many young men and was expanding into many countries. However, it turned out Maciel was an active bi-sexual. He had fathered children out of wedlock. He was using his position to demand homosexual favors, and then demanding silence, from his abused subordinates in the order. When the scandal came out, the Vatican cashiered Maciel (January 2005) and considered forcing the dissolution of the Legionnaires. In the end, the Legionnaires, after Vatican investigations, were allowed to continue to do their work in 21 countries with their 600 priests.
The number of Catholics in Europe is now roughly equal to the number in Africa, but the European number is shrinking as birth rates fall and atheism gains adherents. The numbers in Africa are growing as people there wish to move away from tribal religions, move toward things western, and want more unity to resist the violence of the encroaching Muslims ........... (prepared by Hugh Murray on 7/10/2018).
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