20 Steps to Learning about Islam

UI – Part 354b – 20 Steps to Learning about Islam

We are making an assumption in this article that a Christian parent, with possibly a tinge of Islamophobia, is making the effort to inform, direct and educate their children with the truth about Islam. Be less than dictatorial and encourage the student to explore and research on their own too.  Muslim students can also see how to objectively approach their own ideology as well as another.   Here is what can be taught:

  1. Basics:  Who was Muhammad? Who is Allah? What is the Quran?  When did Islam begin?  Where did it begin? What is a Hadith?  What is a Sunnah? What are the Five Pillars of Islam? What is the Shahadah?  What does Allahu Akbar mean?  What is Jihad? (Answers at the end)
  2. Make them aware of the total worldwide population of Muslims.  Over 1.5 billion. The Arab Muslim is not the majority.  And as for ISIS and the like, there are more Muslims who disagree with their barbarism and intolerance than there are political Islamist fundamentalists.  However when Islam is taught the students learn of a heightened level of resistance toward those who are neither Muslim, nor fundamentalists, nor fully educated and informed about the rote basis of this ideology.  There is an inherent bias in the forum of learning under the tutelage of those considered Islamic scholars, or the ulema.
  3. Geographically the majority of Muslims live on the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant, along the northern coast of Africa (the Maghreb), Persia, India (and Pakistan), Bangladesh, Eastern Asia (Myanmar SE to Indonesia and parts of the Philippines), Turkey and Afghanistan.  Arab Muslims live primarily in the areas from the Western edge of the Arabian Sea (Persian Sea for the Iranians) west to Morocco along the northern coast of Africa. To the east of the Persian Sea Asian Muslims reside.
  4. Make note that as a religion not all Muslims are devout.  There are many countries where Islam is the dominant religion and culture, as in the areas mentioned, as well as a growing number in free nations (referred to as the West)(to include the UK and America), and yet the Muslims do not practice their religion. They are cultural Muslims, not scholars, having a greater connection to their homeland than to Islam. They are not regular attendees of their mosque – maybe every so often on Friday.  They are like the Christian that attends on Easter and Christmas.  They have not read the Quran in its original language, an ancient form of Arabic, nor have they studied their Scripture. Memorization of portions of the Quran is not uncommon, yet understanding what is memorized is not clear.  They probably have not attended madrases where the primary education is the Quran and documents that accompany the ideology called Hadiths (and the sayings of Muhammad – Sunnah). And they have not been exposed, in many areas to other religions (this is not the case in America or the UK where there is freedom of religion and the ability to learn about other faiths or ideologies).  Allah is just god, a mysterious Being to be honored, along with Muhammad, the example for followers.  What they learn about Islam is from hearing Imams speak, not from reading or studying the Quran on their own.   There are many who consider Islam an Ideology more so than a Religion. As an ideology is provides a total way of life for Muslims, from religious practices to laws and oversight of a population.  All members of an Islamic society are to be Muslim, or obedient and subservient to those who are.
  5. God, as we have learned from the Bible, is a loving God and cares for all people, Christian or not.  That is not the case for a devout Muslim. As an appellation (of which there are about 99) for Allah he can be ‘loving’, but with caveats. Allah is loving to those who do good to others, those who turn to him, those who trust in him, and those who abide by the ideology of Islam – as dutiful and steadfast.  Allah’s love is conditional.  Certainly God (Biblical) loves those who are devout; but also those who are cultural or not Christian or who have left the faith.  His love prevails in the hope of their return to embrace the saving grace of the Lord.  Unconditional love is not present in Islamic teachings from their Scripture (the Quran) and associated documents called Hadiths. The texts of Islam address to a greater extent a dislike for those who do not believe as they do.  They are called infidels.  Muslims who disagree with the more fundamental teachings of Islam, whom we may refer to as ‘moderates’, are seen as heretics by the highly educated fundamentalists and ulema (scholars).
  6. Read the Bible.  Read the Quran.  Compare the Scriptures.  Ask questions.  Have doubts.  Seek answers and they may erase doubts you have.  Be objective and open-minded.  However know that Muslims are discouraged from debate, even find questions about their religion objectionable, considering them a form of persecution.  Feeling attacked they resist and close their minds to other ways to think.  But you should remain open and welcome those who may ask you about Jesus.  A question asked about Islam suggests to a Muslim the one asking is a skeptic, a critic, and just by asking persecuting a Muslim because of what they may believe.  When one asks about Christ or what Christians believe it is viewed as an opportunity to relate and share the saving Grace provided for everyone.  Christians need to be better prepared to defend their faith.  If an individual has questions they can find answers in the Bible; not so from the Quran.
  7. Islam does not believe in the (Trinity) God the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.  Considered polytheism as they portray Christians worshipping more than one god.  But be prepared to defend the oneness of what is referred to as the Trinity. A useful analogy is the Sun. The Sun is God.  Rays project from the sun, always connected to the source.  The Ray is Jesus Christ. The Sun and the Rays are One.  From the sun and its rays we feel the warmth it projects.  That Warmth is the Holy Spirit. The Sun, the Ray and the warmth are One.  All are the composite of the Sun, the oneness of that which provides for life on this planet.  God is the creator and made life on this planet possible – in his image.  God made himself available to his people in the form of Christ, God incarnate, and did what only God could do, make the ultimate sacrifice for the sins of mankind so those who believe in Christ, the savior, his life, death and resurrection, can be righteous in God’s eyes.
  8. Islam contends in Deuteronomy there is a reference to Muhammad, yet a close reading of  18:15 suggests brethren or brothers of the Jews, in the lineage, and thus Christ. (“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—“).  Also in John 14:15,26, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you….But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”  This reference is to the Holy Spirit, not to Muhammad.  It is poignant in that it it clearly states ‘the world…neither sees him or knows him.”  Also the Spirit is to “dwell with you” as a reminder of Christ’s teachings and God’s presence in the lives of believers.  There is not a possibility this could be Muhammad.
  9. The Bible and the Quran have the story of Abraham and the sacrifice of his son that God requested. Abraham obeyed.  For the Christian it is Abraham’s son with his wife Sarah – Isaac.  For the Muslim it is Abraham’s out of wedlock son, Ishmael, the progenitor of the Arab nations, with his wife’s Egyptian maid, Hagar.  At the last minute God provided a substitute, a ram, to be sacrificed.  That ram is a foretaste of Christ as the substitutional sacrifice for the sins of mankind.
  10. God having a son – Jesus – is also a problem for Muslims.  The Quran does not deny the fact that Mary was a virgin; Jesus was her son – even referring to him as the Messiah and as Good News.  But the part Allah plays is because he can make happen, or ‘Be’, whatever he wants (Sura 5:47), but not as a father.  The Father is important to understand and appreciate.  From the Bible God is the ultimate parent, the overseer of the family of all humans.  We are considered children of god, but Jesus alone is his Son, made flesh and blood so humans would not fear his presence. God knows humans, everyone of us.  But humans did not know God or were even aware a relationship with God is possible.  With and through Christ God changed that for everyone.  Even as a birth child caused by Allah, how would Jesus not be different from every other human, having a divine element because of the  nature of the Being who made his birth possible?
  11. As Father, God, experiences with humans what many parents experience with their own children – rebellion, resistance, disobedience, defiance, disregard for orders, lack of respect, and in some cases an unexpected departure from their homes (leaving home – runaways.)  But the parent never stops loving their child.  The parent does not send forth a squadron (or order a ‘fatwa’) to kill those who leave their nest, the apostates of the parent’s ideology.  The parent, one who loves God or not, in either case, prays for the return of their child and would welcome their return with open arms. The Christian parent is to love, as God loves, and not to focus on the shame they may endure or their honor which is forsaken if a child leaves the faith.   Children experience, even desire, the love and guidance of a parent.  Love of a parent is wired in the brain of a child at birth.  It is only as they grow that a parent can begin, if not loving and caring, to erode the self-confidence of a child.
  12. God treats all people, men and women, as equals.  Humane practices towards every person are a commandment, inherent in the two most important commandments taught by Jesus; love God and love your neighbor.  This is not a policy of Islam.  They do encourage believers to be good persons and live in a community so as not to bring attention to themselves.  Blend in, but not as a true friend of a neighbor – a friend in kind, but not in truth.   There are many references in the Quran to this lack of love for others (making no friend of an infidel), one in particular, Sura 4.144, says, “Take not the disbeliever for friends, rather than believers.” In doing so it is ‘manifest proof’ to Allah of being a heretic (or non-believer in Islam.)
  13. Many religions have hypocrites – people who profess a given religion or ideology, but do not really practice.  Christians, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Hindus, Buddhists, even atheists, and others, are all guilty.  Understand what is secular – worldly, not religious; temporal – life today, in this time, this age. Practice tolerance – a fair, objective and permissive attitude towards the opinions, religion and practices of others. But be prepared to defend what you believe, as an apologetic – with facts and proper arguments, proof.  As a hypocrite being a critic without substance, just a phobia, as a fear of water (hydro-phobia), is wrong.  With knowledge and awareness fear, concerns, may be justified by what you learn, experience, hear and observe as unjust and inhumane. This is not to be applied only to Islam or Christianity.  Know this, however, the only ideology that seeks out heretics and disbelievers labeling them to be fought and/or to die, are Muslims who are most educated in the Laws of Islam – Sharia.  All of the mentioned religions can live side-by-side, compatibly, even when they are not in agreement, with the exception of Islam.
  14. What is ‘common law’?  When governments pass legislation it is to be for all the people, not for a given individual, a specific community (such as gays or blacks or hispanics or a cultural minority), or a religion.  Everyone is to be treated equally under the law, and punished accordingly.  In Islam, from a political Islamic perspective, common law and the Law of Islam, called Sharia, are the same.  Thus there is no freedom of religion; it is but one religion that dictates the way every person must live.  There is neither freedom nor independent thought.
  15. Humility and Superiority.  The New Testament stresses believers in Christ to be humble.  From Philippians 2:3-8 – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”    From the Quran, Sura 11:27 refers to infidels as liars’ if they do not see Muslims as ‘superior.’  Sura 9.29 reads, (paraphrased), “Fight those who believe not in Allah, nor forbid that which Allah and His Messenger have forbidden (much interpretation from the Quran and Hadiths comes into to play here), nor follow the Religion of Truth (Islam)…until they pay the tax (called jizya) in acknowledgement of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.”
  16. Sin: Christians are born sinful (Original Sin) as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve.  Muslims are without sin, as Allah is said to have forgiven Adam.  Christians are saved who admit they are sinners and have a heart for Christ, are thankful for his sacrifice and resurrection, voice their belief, and have Christ as their example.  Muslims are measured by the good they do in life more than the evil.  Good can offset evil; and as a measure of weight those with greater good in their lives may be saved;however salvation remains at the discretion of Allah.
  17. Muslims claim the Quran is the corrected copy of Scripture; that the Bible has been corrupted over time.  This is false when considering the multitude of copies of the Greek scripture of the New Testament that were widely distributed in the early years of the compelling voluntary movement to follow Christ.  All were in total conformance to the Bible.  How could so many be wrong or corrupted by future translations into other languages or interpretations.  Comparisons are always possible to a copy of the ancient text.  Ancient texts of the Old Testament were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls with a copy of Isaiah that was most complete.  In contrast the Quran, written in a dialect of Arabic few understand, had multitudes of interpretations in use, not all in total accord, until 1924 (The 1924 Cairo Quran).  It was then an attempt was made to find the one interpretation all Muslim sects might agree upon and be used universally.
  18. Contemporaneous corroboration and documentation of the events is Christ life, his death on the cross and resurrection came about from 30 to 70 years after they actually took place.  There were witnesses, persons alive that could have disputed texts and architectural evidence.  They could have destroyed such evidence as is the practice of ISIS.  There were  non-believers that made records of events.  Muslims often question this timing.  Yet for much of the structure of Muhammad’s history and what he said, 150 to 300 years passed before the appearance of any recorded history, the Hadiths, thousands and thousand of them, from which chosen passages, depending upon the scholar, have been used to construct practices in Islam today.  An example is the 5 pillars of Islam, which are not put forth in the Quran, neither is the Shahadah, the confession of faith, nor death for apostasy.
  19. The Cross:  Christ’s death on the cross, crucifixion, has been researched and attested to by not just Christian scholars but the vast majority of non-Christian, non-Muslim, scholars.  Muslim scholars claim it was faked, and is so noted in the Quran.  It is a form of denial. Consideration given to the events leading up to a victim being put to death on the cross suggest a horrific form of punishment, including flogging with whips attached with sharp animal bones to rip deeply into the skin with each strike which by itself caused death to many convicted criminals before they ever reached the cross.  To test that Christ was dead a soldier pierced his side with a sword as insurance.
  20. Resurrection: Without the resurrection there would be no Christians.  It is the heart of the basis for believing Christ’s divinity and affirmation of the truth spoken during his tenure on earth. Buried in a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers at the risk of their lives if anything should happen, Christ rose from the dead to leave it empty, only the shroud in which his body was wrapped left behind. A woman was a witness and her testimony accepted, a rarity at the time.  In addition Christ appeared to hundreds after being risen, to include the apostles, in fact dining with them. Many of the witnesses were foes.  All the apostles, but John, died a martyrs death, never denying the divinity of Christ. They had been with him after his resurrection. If they had not believed, choosing to lie instead, why would they have suffered so badly for what they knew was a lie – it thus was true.  John died on Patmos, an island for criminals, beaten, broken and crazed.

In addition:  Read books about Islam and Blogs on the subject – to include this site (Understand-Islam.com), and more (just click on to access) – www.nation.comwww.atlasshrugs.comwww.islamalert.comwww.thequrandilemma.com   www.counterjihadknight.wordpress.comwww.islamreligion.comwww.pjmedia.com,    www.actforamerica.org, www.islamophobia.org, www.martinkramer.org/www.campus-watch.org/, www.danielpipes.org/www.meforum.org/, www.jihadwatch.org/, www.irshadmanji.com, www.counterjihadreport.comwww.clarionproject.org,    www.frontpagemag.com, www.sheikyermami.comwww.mahdiwatch.org, www.shariahthethreat.org, http://pushbacknow.netwww.kafircrusaders.wordpress.com, www.shariaunveiled.wordpress.com, www.themuslimissue.wordpress.comwww.defenddemocracy.orghttp://www.andrewbostom.org/, www.gatestoneinstitute.org www.theblaze.com, www.allenbwest.com

Read stories of people who have turned away from Islam – and Why! Understand their reasoning.  Names such as Ergun Canter, Nonie Dariwish, Nabeel Qureshi – and more (from Wikipedia – List of converts to Christianity from Islam) – Ibrahim Abdullah, Magdi Allam, Mohammad Christophe Bilek, Donald Fareed, Hazam Farraj, Ayaan Hirshi Ali, Jessica Iskandar, Sabatina James, Pinkan Mambo, Shams Pahlavi, Abdul Rahman, Majeed Rashid Mohammad, Nabeel Qureshi, Emily Ruete, Walid Shoebat, Hakan Tastan, Turan Topal, Mosab Hassan Yousef, Ramsi Yousef (AQ member).  Research names of others – many of the aforementioned are writers and have a level of prominence, but many who have converted out of Islam are common citizens, often educated and awakened to the reality and truth of Islam.  A result of independent thinking and a choice not to fear Islam any longer. – There is a great book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi.

Look for debates between Christians and Islamists (Christians and Muslims) – read them or watch them – of which many are available on YouTube.

If there are Muslims at your school that are willing to discuss their religion and allow you to discuss yours, then try to meet with them.  Listen and learn.  Be observant.  Have a teacher organize a meeting to interact. Ask the children what they have heard at school.  Especially from those who defend Islam and even call it a religion of peace.

A must read is Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, by Nabeel Qureshi, which details a study of the doubts of one individual leading him to become a Christian and finding answers to his most challenging personal questions in the Bible.  It was not an easy or comfortable process which took many years.  It was possible only with the ability to explore both the Bible and the Quran, Jesus and Muhammad, and the history of the religions, objectively.

Following this outline, as a start, will lead any reader, child or adult, to better understand Islam.  Certainly reading this blog – Understand-Islam.com, will also help you learn.  Purchase the novel, The Damascus Quran, at my website (TomBalderston.com), from the publisher (TomBalderston.TateAuthor.com) or Amazon, for an interesting read with much greater detail on the history of the beginnings of Islam and the character of Muhammad. All this is done in a novel format – the mystery will fascinate you.

Grace and Peace

Answers (Questions in line #1):

Muhammad – A self-proclaimed prophet that founded the ideology, becoming the example for followers.  His family was in Mecca.  He received revelations in caves from god, via the angel Gabriel, which became the basis for the Scripture of Islam. He was illiterate and memorized what he was told instead of writing it down.  He then shared the words with close followers, referred to as Companions. He was a mortal and did not lead a perfect life – as was the case for Jesus.  Jesus is an important prophet for the Muslim and his perfect life is recognized.  He is called Isa.

Allah – Allah is the Islamic name for God, but questions arise as to whether Allah and God are the same; and if they are then the assumptions about God differ.

Quran – The Quran is the Islamic Scripture, based upon the bible with roots leading back to Moses and Abraham, proof of an awareness by Muhammad of the bible and much of its history.  It differs in many ways to include Muhammad as a Prophet, when Jesus was the last prophet; denial of the divinity of Christ; considers Muhammad as the counselor to follow Christ, when the Bible clearly indicates it is the Holy Spirit;  Christ did not die on the cross; the Trinity is Father, Son and Mary; Muslims are born without sin, whereas the Bible from the outset, when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, imbued man with Original Sin (yet all Muslims sin and seek forgiveness); Jesus is not God, Jesus is not divine; claims Muslims are superior to all who are not followers, offering little humility; Non-Muslim women can be treated as slaves; provides the foundation for Islamic Law or Sharia, which is applied in communities of Muslims, when possible by local laws, and in Islamic Theocracies; written in the Arabic of Muhammad’s family (Quarishi); God is not Jesus Father; instructs Muslims to ‘fight’ the non-believer until all the world is only for Allah.  

Begin – About 20 years before his death Muhammad received revelations and made his commitment to Allah. You can say Islam began then, or after his death and the first 30-40 years following when the early Caliphs, followers and military leaders under Muhammad who assumed his totalitarian role, laid the groundwork for Scripture, the rule of law under their autocracies and ground gains (imperialism) using Allah as justification. Some believe the military expansion of the Muhammadians came about for want of nothing else to do and having already established armies that benefited from the spoils of war under Muhammad, useful in building a treasury and rewarding the soldiers to fight for the ideology of one god – Allah – that Muhammad embraced.

Where Begun – Mecca (Saudi Arabia) is today’s center for Islam and the destination to which all Muslims face when they pray.  However Muhammad left Mecca early in his ideological development feeling persecuted for disrupting the status quo.  He left Mecca for Medina where he was well received and established his forces.  As he grew in numbers and strength, even locals who then objected to his methods were extirpated so that Muhammad could proceed unimpeded. Medina is where, many believe, the Islamist’s hatred for Jews was founded.  Muhammad captured Mecca and made it the focal point anew.  Most early in his religious career Jerusalem was the target for Muhammad’s prayers. Muhammad died in Medina.

Hadiths – The Hadiths are collection of documents written 200 years (and more) after Muhammad’s death in 632 a.d. providing examples from Muhammad’s life, as to his habits, practices, treatment of others in various situations, commentary and attitudes and punishment. Scholars vary as to which Hadiths are important, yet these documents are second only to the Quran is establishing Islamic jurisprudence. There are thousands and thousands of Hadiths to choose from.

Sunnah – These are the (purported) actual sayings of Muhammad, orally dispersed over many, many years before being recorded in the Hadiths hundreds of years after.  It includes his teachings, deeds, sayings, approvals and disapprovals.

The Five Pillars – These are 5 basic acts for Muslims. The foundation of Muslim life. They derived from the Hadiths, not the Quran.  They include Faith, saying the Shahadah; Prayer (salat), a rote saying of what amounts to the first book (Sura) of the Quran to be conducted 5 times each day, Charity (Zakat), a requirement for giving money (2.5%) to support the needy, Fasting (Saum), mostly during Ramadan, no food during the daylight hours; and a once in a lifetime, as a minimum, pilgrimage (the Hajj) to Mecca.  The Pillars are also a component, a requirement, of Islamic Law.

Shahadah (declaration of faith) – a testimony that Allah is the only god. “There is no god by Allah (God); Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.” 

Allahu Akbar –  means ‘Allah (god) is [the] Greatest.’ or ‘Allah (god) is Greater.’  It is used by Muslims as an expression of what they believe, as a call for help, and as a declaration of victory.  We have experienced recently barbaric Islamists using the term as a war-cry as they attack a perceived enemy. It is as a verbal banner displayed by the more fundamentalist Muslims – thus associated with Islamic extremism.  It is called the Takbir.

Jihad – Muslim are to remain devoted to their faith.  The struggle to stay focused and devoted is jihad.  It can be an inner spiritual struggle, as well as an outward overt physical struggle against those who are not Muslims, or the ‘enemies of Islam.’ The form can be violent or not violent.  Translated it is called ‘Holy War.’  It is understood mostly in a military sense as a struggle against wrong doers.  Armed with swords or modern weapons, the Islamist can conduct his resistance against those who do not believe, even resist the belief of Muslims, in a cruel fashion if necessary.  Allah will reward the warriors that die in the struggle for Islam with forgiveness and a place in paradise.  It is a religious duty, unofficially as the 6th pillar of Islam.  Retaliation against any who resist the progress of Islam, as critics or as military forces against encroachment on new territories (non-Muslim), provides justification (by Allah) for jihad.

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