Saturday, October 9, 2010

Comparing Jesus and Muhammad

- Jesus was a religious leader
- Muhammad was religious leader and a military leader

- Jesus never killed anyone
- Muhammad killed an estimated 3,000 people, including beheading 700 Jews of the Banu Qurayza tribe in Medina, A.D. 627

- Jesus never owned slaves
- Muhammad received a fifth of the prisoners taken in battle, including women (Sura 8:41)

- Jesus never married
- Muhammad had many wives

- Jesus never forced followers to continue believing. After Jesus made a difficult saying, "many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him. Then Jesus said to the twelve, 'Will ye also go away?' Then Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.'" (John 6:31-69)
- Muhammad forced followers to continue believing, "Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him." (Hadith al-Bukhari, Vol. 9, Bk. 84, No. 57)

- Jesus taught God was our Father (Matthew 6:10)
- Muhammad taught it was blasphemy to call Allah your father (Sura 5:18)

- Jesus taught man was made in God's image. (Matthew 22:20, ref. Gen. 1:26-27, 9:6)
- Muhammad taught Allah has no image. (Sura 42:11, Sura 112:4)

- Jesus taught "forgive those who trespass against you." (Matthew 6:10-15)
- Muhammad taught to avenge trespasses against your honor, family or religion

- Jesus did not retaliate when violence was committed against him, saying "Father, forgive them." (Luke 23:34)
- Muhammad retaliated when violence was committed against him, ordering the death of his enemies

- A martyr in Christian and Jewish thought is one who dies for his faith.
- A martyr in Islamic thought is one who dies for his faith while killing infidels

- Christianity teaches God wants a personal relationship with each individual.
- Islam teaches individuals cannot have a personal relationship with Allah, as he is transcendent and unknowable.

- Jesus' religion is known for forgiveness and love
- Muhammad's religion is known for obedience and fear

- None of Jesus' Apostles led armies. A village did not receive Jesus "and when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, 'Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, even as Elias did?' But he turned and rebuked them, and said, 'Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.'" (Luke 9:52-56)
- All of the caliphs who followed Muhammad led armies. (Caliphs Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Muawiyya, the Umayyads, the Abbasids, etc.)

- In the first 300 years of Christianity, there were 10 major Roman persecutions, and Christians were fed to lions in the Colosseum. Never did Christians lead an armed resistance against those who attacked them.
- In the first 300 years of Islam, Muslim armies conquered Arabia, Persia, the Holy Land, North Africa, Spain, Southern France, Central Africa, and invaded vast areas of Asia and Asia Minor.

Fighting is inconsistent with Jesus' example, but not Muhammad's, as the Sirat Rasul Allah records Muhammad personally led 27 raids.

Jesus' teaching on how to treat enemies:

- Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, pray for them which despitefully use you (Matthew 5:44).
- Resist not evil (Matthew 5:39).
- If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to them the other (Matthew 5:39).
- If someone takes your coat, give them your shirt (Matthew 5:40).
- If someone make you carry something one mile, carry it two (Matthew 5:41).
- Forgive and you shall be forgiven (Matthew 6:14).
- Judge not, that ye be not judged (Matthew 7:1).
- Blessed are the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).
- Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7).
- Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not kill, but I say who ever is angry with his brother is in danger of the judgment (Matthew 5:21-22).
- Treat others the same way you want them to treat you (Luke 6:27-36).
- Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick, whatever you do to the very least you have done unto me (Matthew 25:40).

Muhammad's teaching on how to treat enemies:

- Infidels are your sworn enemies (Sura 4:101).
- Be ruthless to the infidels (Sura 48:29).
- Make war on the infidels who dwell around you (Sura 9:123, 66:9).
- Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day (Sura 9:29).
- Strike off the heads of infidels in battle (Sura 47:4).
- If someone stops believing in Allah, kill him (al-Bukhari 9:84:57).
- Take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends (Sura 5:51, 60:13).
- Never be a helper to the disbelievers (Sura 28:86).
- Kill the disbelievers wherever we find them (Sura 2:191).
- No Muslim should be killed for killing an infidel (al-Bukhari 1:3:111).
- The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land (Sura 5:33).


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Who hardened Pharaoh's heart? (Part 2)

Pharaoh’s heart was hard, and that is why he would not let the people go. Repeatedly, he hardened his own heart even further (see Exodus 7:13, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 12, 34, 35; 10:20, 27). However, it is also true that “the LORD hardened Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 9:12; 10:20, 27; 11:10; see also 4:21; 7:3; 10:1). So how are we to understand this? Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Was Pharaoh’s heart hard because the Lord had hardened it? Or did God harden the king’s heart only as a punishment because Pharaoh had first hardened it himself? There are differences of opinion among commentators.

One viewpoint is that God did nothing to make Pharaoh’s heart hard. Those who take this viewpoint, that Pharaoh’s heart was hard because of his own choice, believe that God was actually trying to bring Pharaoh to repentance. The phrase “so that Pharaoh (or the Egyptians) might know that I am God” or a similar thought, appears frequently (Exodus 7:5, 17; 8:10, 19, 22; 9:14, 16, 29; 11:7). The knowledge of God mentioned is more than intellectual knowledge, so the statement is really an evangelistic invitation. The fact that a “mixed multitude” went up out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38) indicates that there were many Egyptians who did believe, and, therefore, the invitation was evangelistic in its outreach.

Another viewpoint is that God did everything to harden Pharaoh’s heart. Advocates of this viewpoint argue that the Bible says nothing explicit about God trying to bring Pharaoh to repentance. The first time anything is said about Pharaoh’s heart, it is God who is speaking to Moses, and He is saying, “I will harden his heart so he will not let the people go” (Exodus 4:21). Since that is the first reference to this hardening, it is probably right to think that Pharaoh’s later hardening of his heart was the result of God’s prior determination. (Of course, God can harden hearts simply by withholding a softening grace, since our hearts are both hard and also harden naturally apart from any direct action by God or anyone else.)

Furthermore, Exodus 9:16 reports a word of God to Pharaoh in which He says: “I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” The apostle Paul quotes this verse in Romans 9:17, concluding, “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden” (Romans 9:18). This means that God is sovereign in the matter of salvation and that He owes no one anything.

Whether God intervened in a positive way to harden Pharaoh’s heart or hardened it merely by allowing Pharaoh to harden it himself is beside the point. In fact, the manner in which Exodus mixes verses about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart and Pharaoh hardening his own heart indicates that the question of which came first was not even an issue with the writer. In the final analysis, God determines all things, regardless of what the immediately preceding cause may be. What matters in everything is the glory of God. As Paul shows in Romans 9, God’s power, wrath and justice are glorified in His passing by the unrepentant, just as His grace, mercy, and compassion are exalted in the salvation of those who are being saved. In this case, God glorified His justice, power and wrath in His judgments upon Egypt. He displayed His mercy in His redemption of the Israelites.

A third viewpoint is that God and Pharaoh were both involved in hardening Pharaoh’s heart. Sincere Christians have debated the question of the sovereignty of God and the free will of man for centuries. It would seem that both are involved here. Still providing for the sovereignty of God in hardening Pharaoh’s heart, there is also a circumscribed area of freedom in which Pharaoh was responsible for his own choice to harden his heart. Though God twice predicted what would be the outcome, yet it was Pharaoh who consistently hardened his own heart during the first five plagues, and only then does the text consistently say that during the second five plagues (six through ten), the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. God’s purpose of revealing Himself and His power can be effected in more than one way. This is not the only instance of God’s using a ruler to show His power and glory to His own people, as well as to the unbelieving world. In addition to Pharaoh, there are other instances in the Old Testament where God displayed His glory by hardening a heart, i.e., Sihon (Deuteronomy 2:30), the Canaanites (Joshua 11:20), Absalom (2 Samuel 17:14), and Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:15). On the other hand, Cyrus, whose position was similar to Pharaoh’s, also gave glory to God, in the fact that he very responsively and willingly let the people of Judah return to their land (2 Chronicles 36:22-Ezra 1:8; 5:13-6:14; and Isaiah 44:28-45:13). Pharaoh also could have been raised up by God to show His power and to proclaim His name in the same way that Cyrus did, but Pharaoh chose to be obstinate. In either case, the purpose that “they might know that I am God” was effected.

Christians believe in only one God. We are not polytheistic as the Egyptians were. But many things can take the place of God in our lives: our reputations, money, pleasure, another person, even an imagined right to use our time and talents as we ourselves see fit. God will not compromise with idolatry. The first of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall have not other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). What things are functioning as gods in your life? Are you willing to repudiate them?

Our false gods do not go by the name of “gods,” but anything that sets itself up against God is an idol and should be opposed by Christians. Godless philosophies, such as extreme nationalism, secularism, humanism, and materialism are idols that must be opposed, just as Moses opposed the false gods and goddesses of Egypt.

Pharaoh wanted to compromise with God once he understood that he was dealing with a power greater than his own. However, God will not compromise. He is sovereign, and those who oppose Him will be broken ultimately as Pharaoh was. Are you fighting against God in some area of your life, obeying when you must but trying to win as many concessions from Him as possible? It is important that you abandon such folly and give yourself wholly to Him who is all wise, all-powerful and wonderfully good.

(The above information is from BSF Notes, BSF International, Lesson 7, “Battle Against the Gods of Egypt – Exodus 6:28-10:29”

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who hardened Pharaoh's heart? (Part 1)

Exodus 7:3 says, “But I will harden Pharaoh's heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.”

And yet, Psalm 95:8-10 says, “Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness, "When your fathers tested Me, They tried Me, though they had seen My work. "For forty years I loathed that generation, And said they are a people who err in their heart, And they do not know My ways.”

So why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart, especially in light of Psalm 95, where God commands people not to harden their hearts?

The Bible says that, after the plague of blood, Pharaoh’s heart became hard; he would not listen; he turned, went into his palace, and did not even take this to heart. Later, after the plague of frogs, the Bible reports Pharaoh as saying, ‘I will let your people go; but when he saw relief, he hardened his heart and would not listen.’ After the plague of gnats, the Pharaoh still would not listen. Nine times in Exodus, the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is ascribed to God. Another nine times, the Pharaoh is said to have hardened his own heart. However, a careful examination shows that the Pharaoh alone was the agent of the hardening in each of the first five plagues. Not until the 6th plague did God confirm the Pharaoh’s willful action. Soft soil allows plants to be planted and grow, while hard, dry soil does not allow for the easy growth of plants. The seed of faith could not take root in the hard, dry soil of Pharaoh’s heart. So, then, why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart? He simply reinforced the attitude that Pharaoh already had. God was the One Who brought the plagues, so God could keep Pharaoh’s mind from being changed by them. Ultimately, it was to glorify the Name of the only One Who rightfully deserves to be glorified and praised. In order for God to demonstrate His glory (and His power over all the Egyptian gods, because each of the plagues was directed toward specific Egyptian gods) and bring about all the plagues He had planned to demonstrate, Pharaoh had to be held back until the last plague was complete.

Romans 9:14-27 says:
“What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, "I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION." So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, "Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?" On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, "Why did you make me like this," will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea, "I WILL CALL THOSE WHO WERE NOT MY PEOPLE, 'MY PEOPLE,' AND HER WHO WAS NOT BELOVED, 'BELOVED.'" "AND IT SHALL BE THAT IN THE PLACE WHERE IT WAS SAID TO THEM, 'YOU ARE NOT MY PEOPLE,' THERE THEY SHALL BE CALLED SONS OF THE LIVING GOD." Isaiah cries out concerning Israel, "THOUGH THE NUMBER OF THE SONS OF ISRAEL BE LIKE THE SAND OF THE SEA, IT IS THE REMNANT THAT WILL BE SAVED.”

(The above information is from BSF Notes, BSF International, Lesson 7, “Battle Against the Gods of Egypt – Exodus 6:28-10:29,” as well as NIV footnotes and my own notes)

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Message For Muslims: The Miraculous Food From Heaven

God has given us a beautiful universe, amazing in its vastness: the great heavenly bodies hanging on nothing, the tiny parts of each atom of life, the color, the variety, the rhythm and motion of everything. Even with such wonders and beauty all around them, people still find it hard to trust in God. They seek miracles as proof of God’s presence with his messengers and the truth of their messages.

According to the Qur’an, Jesus’ disciples asked him if God could send them a special sign. They requested a table spread with delicious foods as one would find at a banquet. Instead of granting their request, Jesus warned them, “Fear God, if you have faith.”

The disciples persisted in their request. They insisted, “We want to eat from that Heavenly table until our hearts are satisfied. Then we will know you have really told us the truth. We want to be witnesses of this miracle.”

Jesus then spoke to God. “O God, our Lord, send us this table from heaven set with choice foods that will be a festival for us and a Sign for thee. Provide our sustenance for you are the one who sustains us.”

God answered that he would send that table down but warned that if the disciples still resisted believing after that, he would punish them with a penalty that would be harsher than any other people had received.

Thus we learn that the disciples’ faith was not complete. They put an undue emphasis on physical food, and they had a childish desire for miracles or signs. You can read this story in Sura 5:112-115.

Since the Bible is my authority in matters of faith and truth about God, let me share with you a story of a miraculous dinner that Jesus gave.

“Late in the afternoon the Twelve [disciples] came to him and said, ‘Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” He replied, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They answered, ‘We have only five loaves of bread and two fish - unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.’ (About five thousand men were there.) But he said to the disciples, ‘Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.’ The disciples did so and everybody sat down. Taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve baskets full of broken pieces that were left over.” (Luke 9:12-17)

The people were astonished. Some decided that he must be made their king, but Jesus sent them away, and ordered the disciples to leave also, while he went up into the mountains to pray. Later, the same people begged him for food again.

“What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” (John 6:30-31)

Jesus’ reply startled the people and many of his followers left him because of these words:

“I am the bread of Life…I am the bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:35a, 41b, 54)

In this way Jesus discouraged the people from seeking miraculous physical food. At the same time he offered spiritual food to those who would believe.

All Christians regularly celebrate the ceremony called the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. Spiritual truth is experienced and rejoiced in while the participants eat small pieces of bread and drink small cups of wine or grape juice.

Are you tempted to seek miraculous signs instead of trusting God? Consider that Jesus Himself is the bread the Heavenly Father sent down. Consider these words of the prophet Isaiah:

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” (Isaiah 55:1-3a)

(The above information is from "Jesus Gives Peace: Jesus In The Qur'an and the Bible," written by Yusuf Abdallah) and from the book by the same title and author, pp. 29-31.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Jesus Interprets the Law: A Message for Muslims

Wise people heed their consciences and learn from their own experiences, and from these, they seek to interpret good rules for their lives. Even wiser are those who consider the experiences, ideas and teachings of others as well. But the wisest people of all are those who obey the words of God’s prophets. According to Islam, Jesus is one of God’s prophets. And His rules for life are true for everyone.

The Qur’an teaches that certain things that were forbidden before would now be permitted. Jesus would settle the arguments people had about certain behavior. To prove his teaching was from God, Jesus performed many miracles. They were signs that his message was true. Jesus urged people to fear and worship God and to obey Jesus’ teachings. (Sura 3:49b-51; 43:63-64)

The Bible, which is my authority in matters of faith, agrees that Jesus confirmed God’s law. Jesus said:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

The Bible agrees that Jesus permitted things that were once forbidden. Religious people often consider certain foods clean and lawful to eat, but they believe other foods are unclean and unlawful to eat. Jesus relaxed such laws. Jesus said:

"Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")" (Mark 7:18b-19)

Religious people often have very exact laws about fasting. When people complained that Jesus’ disciples ate during the times when people were supposed to fast, Jesus answered:

"How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast." (Mark 2:19-20)

In this way Jesus suspended the laws about fasting for those who were with Him.

Religious people often celebrate special holy days. The Jewish people called the last day of each week their Sabbath. It was a holy day and no one was to work on the Sabbath. When Jesus healed people on the Sabbath, they accused Him of breaking God’s law by working. Once Jesus healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath.

"Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath." The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?" (Luke 13:14-16)

Thus Jesus declared that it is right to do good to others on the Sabbath.

In many religions, certain places are considered sacred. Several times every year, Jewish people were required to offer sacrifices and worship at the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritan people, who only accepted the first five books of the Bible as God’s Word, believed they should worship God on the mountain where Moses worshipped instead of going to the temple.

Once, a Samaritan woman challenged Jesus about which place was the correct one to go to for worship. Jesus solved this argument between Samaritans and Jews by saying:

"…true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23b-24)

In other words, true worship is not done because you are in a temple or on a mountain. True worship is spiritual without pretense and can be done anywhere.

Jesus confirmed God’s laws, but freed people from the rules of clean and unclean foods. He freed people from rules about fasting and rules about holy days and holy places. He taught that true worship is not obedience to outward customs and ceremonies at specific places. True worship is spiritual. It comes from the heart.

(Most of the above information is from "Jesus Gives Peace: Jesus In The Qur'an and the Bible," written by Yusuf Abdallah)

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Jewish People

Someone once said that the fact that there are still Jews is proof that there is a God.

Six million Jews, including a million children, were massacred in the gas chambers and crematoriums during the Nazi Holocaust of World War II, which was a systematized program to eradicate an entire people, using all available technology and mechanized processes.

Jacob's twelve sons became the first Jewish family. Their offspring left the land that would later become the Holy Land, and settled in Egypt, where they eventually were enslaved for 430 years, after which they were miraculously delivered from Egyptian captivity.

Later, Jews were exiled, settling around the globe, experiencing two thousand years of forced separation from their homeland. Sometimes they were slaughtered, forcibly converted, and expelled. They were frequently targeted and scapegoated. They were the convenient people to blame for the Black Death in medieval Europe. When Bogdan Chmielnicki's Cossack hordes in the Ukraine fought their nationalist struggle, they wiped out a third of the Jews in the region. Jews were expelled - sometimes multiple times - from Portugal, Germany, England, France and other lands. The most famous expulsion - from Spain in 1492 - sent 200,000 Jews desperately seeking any place that would take them. Many did not make it, being killed along the way. Survivors went to Turkey, Amsterdam, and in following generations, to North and South America.

The Babylonians destroyed the first Temple, Solomon’s Temple, in 586 B.C. The second Temple was built and later destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D.

Jews as a whole have produced fewer serious criminals than other groups. For example, the prison population of the United States is about 1.5 million, of which about 1700 are Jewish, approximately one in a thousand.

In two dramatic airlifts, Israel brought over 36,000 penniless black Jews from Ethiopia to escape famine and political upheaval.

Misinformation about Jews is plentiful. If all the conflicting claims about Jews were assembled, the result would be ridiculously comical, if not for the tragic consequences to Jews who suffer because of them.

Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician and Christian philosopher wrote, "It is certain that in certain parts of the world we can see a peculiar people, separated from the other peoples of the world and this is called the Jewish people.... This people is not only of remarkable antiquity but has also lasted for a singular long time... For where as the people of Greece and Italy, of Sparta, Athens and Rome and others who came so much later have perished so long ago, these still exist, despite the efforts of so many powerful kings who have tried a hundred times to wipe them out, as their historians testify, and as can easily be judged by the natural order of things over such a long spell of years. They have always been preserved, however, and their preservation was foretold... My encounter with this people amazes me..."

"Most of our best words, in fact - new, adventure, surprise, unique, individual, person, vocation, time, history, future, freedom, progress, spirit, faith, hope, justice - are the gifts of the Jews." (Thomas Cahill, The Gifts of the Jews, pg. 240-241)

"The Jews gave the world ethical monotheism, which might be described as the application of reason to divinity. In a more secular age, they applied the principles of rationality to the whole range of human activities, often in advance of the rest of mankind…. The Jews have been great truth-tellers and that is one reason they have been so much hated…To them we owe the idea of equality before the law, both divine and human; of the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person; of the individual conscience and so of personal redemption; of the collective conscience and so of social responsibility; of peace as abstract ideal and love as the foundation of justice… (Paul Johnson, History of the Jews, pg. 582-585)

In the area of medicine, Israeli scientists developed the first fully computerized, no-radiation, diagnostic instrumentation for breast cancer.

An Israeli company developed a computerized system for ensuring proper administration of medications, thus removing human error from medical treatment. (Since every year in U.S. hospitals, 7,000 patients die from treatment mistakes.)

Israel's Givun Imaging developed the first ingestible video camera, so small it fits inside a pill. Used to view the small intestine from the inside, the camera helps doctors diagnose cancer and digestive disorders.

Researchers in Israel developed a new device that directly helps the heart pump blood, an innovation with the potential to save lives among those with heart failure. The new device is synchronized with the heart's mechanical operations through a sophisticated system of sensors.

In the area of technology, with more than 3,000 high-tech companies and start-ups, Israel has the highest concentration of hi-tech companies in the world (apart from the Silicon Valley).

In response to serious water shortages, Israeli engineers and agriculturalists developed a revolutionary drip irrigation system to minimize the amount of water used to grow crops.

Israel has the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita.

Israel leads the world in the number of scientists and technicians in the workforce, with 145 per 10,000, as opposed to 85 in the U.S., over 70 in Japan, and less than 60 in Germany. With over 25% of its work force employed in technical professions, Israel places first in this category as well.

The cell phone was developed in Israel by Motorola, which has its largest development center in Israel.

Most of the Windows NT operating system was developed by Microsoft-Israel.

The Pentium MMX Chip technology was designed in Israel at Intel.

Voice mail technology was developed in Israel.

Both Microsoft and Cisco built their only R&D facilities outside the US in Israel.

Four young Israelis developed AOL Instant Messenger in 1996.

A new acne treatment developed in Israel, the ClearLight device, produces a high-intensity, ultraviolet-light-free, narrow-band blue light that causes acne bacteria to self-destruct - all without damaging surrounding skin or tissue.

An Israeli company was the first to develop and install a large-scale solar-powered and fully functional electricity generating plant, in southern California's Mojave Desert.

All the above was invented while engaged in regular wars with an implacable enemy that seeks its destruction, and an economy that is continuously under strain by having to spend more per capita on its own protection than any other country on earth---this from a country just 55 years young, having started off on a very frontier-like basis, whose population had mostly just emerged from the devastating World War II years.

Here are some Jewish achievements:

Levi Strauss: Jeans (1873)
Maurice Levy: Lipstick (1915)
Lazlo Biro: Ballpoint Pen (1938)
J. Robert Oppenheimer: Atomic Bomb (1945)
Edwin Herbert Land: Instant Photography (1947)
Denis Gabor: Holography (1948)
Peter Carl Goldmark: Long Playing Record (1948)
Robert Adler: Television Remote Control (1950)
Edward Teller: Thermonuclear Bomb (1952)
Paul M. Zoll: Defibrillator (1952) Cardiac Pacemaker (1952)
Gregory Pincus: Contraceptives (1950s)
Charles Ginsburg: Videotape (1950s)
Gordon Gould: Laser (1958)
Stanley N. Cohen: Genetic Engineering (1973)
Jason Lanier: Virtual Reality (1989)
Sigmund Freud: Psychological innovations
Edward Land: Polaroid Camera
Abraham Stern: Adding Machine
Charles Adler: Traffic Light
Leo Sternbach: Valium
Emile Berliner: Microphone
Morris Michtom: Teddy Bear
Benno Strauss: Stainless Steel
Abraham Levis: Hot dog bun
Joe Friedman: Flexi-straws
Niels Bohr: Work on the structure of the atom.
Emilio Segre: Nobel Prize for his part in the discovery of antiprotons.

Scale-Model Train -- Joshua Lionel Cowan
Disc Records -- Emile Berliner
Sound movies -- Isador Kitsee
Telephone -- Jacob Reis
Kodachrome -- Leopold Mannes & Leopold Godowsky

Also see:

Israel's Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace

How and why have Jews survived through the ages? - The Big Picture

How the Jews Survived

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Message for Muslims: Qualities of a Disciple

What qualities do you admire in people? Do you look at the color of their skin, their physical shape and appearance, or what type of clothes they wear? Does your opinion of people depend on their health, whether or not they are confident, how honest they are, how popular they are, or whether or not they make a good leader? The Qur’an gives a guide regarding these things. There are two special qualities that the Qur’an commends. God has given these qualities to Christians, though the Qur’an admits that some Christians do not express them.

Let me share a few teachings written by three of Jesus’ disciples. In the following several verses, can you guess which two qualities the Qur’an attributes to Christians?

“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:8-9)

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:9-16)

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1:27)

“Mercy triumphs over judgment!” (James 2:13b)

“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13)

Now that you have considered these passages, written by three of Jesus’ disciples (Peter, Paul and James), which two qualities do you think the Qur’an mentions about Christians? You can check your answer by reading Sura 57:27:

“Subsequent to them, we sent our messengers. We sent Jesus the son of Mary, and we gave him the Injeel (Gospel), and we placed in the hearts of his followers kindness and mercy. But they invented hermitism [another translation says, “But monkery, they invented it"] which we never decreed for them. All we asked them to do was to uphold the commandments approved by GOD. But they did not uphold the message as they should have. Consequently, we gave those who believed among them their recompense, while many of them were wicked.”

We see that the two characteristics mentioned in the Qur’an about Christians are kindness (compassion) and mercy. When we think about people who are famous or rich or powerful, these are not qualities we usually notice. Compassion and mercy do not seem to elevate people who possess them. We tend to link compassion and mercy with weakness rather than strength; with women rather than men; with unheroic people rather than statesmen and politicians. This is because we do not understand God’s ways.

Why does the Qur’an value compassion and mercy? These qualities describe people who truly care about the needs and wants of others. According to Islam, these qualities are used to describe God (i.e., ir-rahman ir-raheem, etc.). A man whose character reflects the personality of God is truly a blessed one.

Much of what unbelievers admire and strive for is really useless and selfish. It is the person who is able to concentrate on others, caring for their needs, who comes closest to truly pleasing God. Perceptively, the Qur’an affirms that compassion and mercy are basic Christian beliefs and practices. The Bible says, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36) It is a great challenge for Christians to live up to this marvelous lifestyle.

(Most of the above information is from "Jesus Gives Peace: Jesus In The Qur'an and the Bible," written by Yusuf Abdallah)

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Message for Muslims: Jesus and Commitment

A leader needs people who will follow him through thick and thin, who will not fall away when the going gets tough. A leader needs people who are committed and faithful.

As we study Jesus in the Qur’an, we see that Jesus invited people to be committed to him and to his message.

Sura 3:52-53 says: “When Jesus sensed their disbelief, he said, "Who are my supporters towards GOD?" The disciples said, "We are GOD's supporters; we believe in GOD, and bear witness that we are submitters." "Our Lord, we have believed in what You have sent down, and we have followed the messenger; count us among the witnesses."

Sura 61:14 says: “O you who believe, be GOD's supporters, like the disciples of Jesus, son of Mary. When he said to them, "Who are my supporters towards GOD," they said, "We are GOD's supporters." Thus, a group from the Children of Israel believed, and another group disbelieved. We helped those who believed against their enemy, until they won.”

Jesus asked the crowds a question: ”Who will be my helpers in doing the work of God?”

Those who had already committed themselves to Jesus and his teachings did not hesitate to speak out, even though unbelievers surrounded them.

“We are God’s helpers,” they said. “We believe in God. Count us among your faithful.”

About those people who spoke up promptly and bravely, the Qur’an calls Jesus’ disciples---students or followers of Jesus. They were committed to Jesus.

Commitment is very important. But commitment is not automatic. Commitment is not just a sudden emotional response of loyalty. Commitment requires steadfastness. Our commitment grows as we experience greater and greater trust, and as we grow in understanding God’s commitment to us. In the Bible, Psalm 37:5 says, "Commit everything you do to God - trust Him to help you do it and He will."

The Bible also mentions how the disciples became Jesus’ committed ones. Multitudes of people followed Jesus to listen to his powerful teachings and to see his great miracles. Jesus’ twelve disciples had been personally invited by Jesus, and had left their families, their homes and their jobs in order to be with Jesus. They had left everything for the sake of following Jesus.

As Jesus’ popularity grew, the political and religious authorities began to fear him. They knew that he could easily organize his followers and start a rebellion against their authority. Spies were sent to watch Jesus and to report his every activity.

In such a delicate situation, it became dangerous to be too closely allied with Jesus. Although people still eagerly volunteered to join him, Jesus warned them that they had to be totally committed. Nothing must stand in their way of following Jesus. He must become more important to them than their security, their friends, their family or their property. He must be more important to them than their whole life. No sacrifice really means no commitment.

“Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

It’s amazing that people would still follow Jesus under such circumstances. Of course, there were many who turned back as the situation became more and more difficult. But of the twelve men that he personally invited and commissioned to be his apostles, 11 were with him when the authorities arrested him, 2 were nearby during his trial, and 1 saw every detail of his crucifixion and death. Several women were on the scene also, including his mother, Mary. After the resurrection, the 11 disciples and the women renewed their commitment to him.

Both the Qur’an and the Bible teach that Jesus demanded commitment from his disciples. The power of evil and sin are so strong that only persons who commit everything are of use in forming God’s Kingdom.

(Most of the above information is from "Jesus Gives Peace: Jesus In The Qur'an and the Bible," written by Yusuf Abdallah

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Message For Muslims: Jesus as a boy

What things do you remember when you look back on your childhood? Do you remember times of being sick, or times when you were hurt, or do you remember things like birthday parties and celebrations? Do you have mostly good memories or bad memories? Can you remember your first day of school? Can you remember games that you played as a child? As a Muslim, do you remember your first prayers at the mosque? There are usually quite a few memories we retain from when we were children.

There is a story about Jesus, as a child, making clay birds, which he then proceeds to bring to life, which is not found in the Bible, but is recorded in a book called the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (not to be confused with the absolutely different sayings Gospel of Thomas), which is a non-canonical, pseudepigraphical, apocryphal work attributed to "Thomas the Israelite" (in a medieval Latin version), about the childhood of Jesus that dates to the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

Sura 3:49 says, “As a messenger to the Children of Israel: "I come to you with a sign from your Lord - I create for you from clay the shape of a bird, then I blow into it, and it becomes a live bird by GOD's leave. I restore vision to the blind, heal the leprous, and I revive the dead by GOD's leave. I can tell you what you eat, and what you store in your homes. This should be a proof for you, if you are believers.”

Sura 5:110 says, "GOD will say, "O Jesus, son of Mary, remember My blessings upon you and your mother. I supported you with the Holy Spirit, to enable you to speak to the people from the crib, as well as an adult. I taught you the scripture, wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel. Recall that you created from clay the shape of a bird by My leave, then blew into it, and it became a live bird by My leave. You healed the blind and the leprous by My leave, and revived the dead by My leave. Recall that I protected you from the Children of Israel who wanted to hurt you, despite the profound miracles you had shown them. The disbelievers among them said, `This is obviously magic.'"

The Bible, in the book of Luke, records an account of Jesus as a boy, where Mary, Joseph and Jesus went to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem:

"When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."
"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:42-52)

We learn from this story that, even as a boy, Jesus knew a great deal about God. He felt the temple was his “home,” and he called God his “Father.” Even as a boy, Jesus was thinking deeply about life, God and his responsibility to God.

These stories help us understand that Jesus was a unique, very special boy with exceptional knowledge about spiritual truth.

Now, back to Sura al-Maidah 5:110, where we read, "And when thou createst out of the clay, by My leave as the likeness of a bird, and thou breathest into it and it is a bird by my leave."

And once again, the same is claimed in Sura al-'Imran 3:49, "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord I will create for you out of clay as likeness of a bird; and it will be a bird by the leave of God."

Al-Tabari (7:127) says that Christ created birds out of clay when He was a child. Christians, on the other hand, believe He is the Word of God and that all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made (John 1:3). Yet, they believe that, after He was born, He waited 30 years before starting to preach and work miracles (Luke 3:23).

The Bible affirms, definitely, that the first miracles He worked was at Cana in Galilee when He turned water into wine (John 2:11).

A book not found in the Bible, The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, Chapter 15, a non-canonical book (a gospel that was not accepted into the canon) that is also known as The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour, which was written around 400 CE., says:

1. “And when the Lord Jesus was seven years of age, he was on a certain day with other boys his companions about the same age. 2. Who at play made clay into several shapes, namely, asses, oxen, birds, and other figures. 3. Each boasting of his work and endeavoring to exceed the rest. 4. Then the Lord Jesus said to the boys, I will command these figures which I have made to walk. 5. And immediately they moved, and when he commanded them to return, they returned. 6. He had also made the figures of birds and sparrows, which, when he commanded to fly, did fly, and when he commanded to stand still, did stand still; and if he gave them meat and drink, they did eat and drink. 7. When at length the boys went away and related these things to their parents, their fathers said to them, Take heed, children, for the future, of his company, for he is a sorcerer; shun and avoid him, and from now on never play with him.”

Another book that was not accepted into the canon of the Bible, The Second Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, Chapter 1, which is also known as The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, written around 140 CE., says:

1. “I, Thomas, an Israelite, judged it necessary to make known to our brethren among the Gentiles, the actions and miracles of Christ in his childhood, which our Lord and God Jesus Christ wrought after his birth in Bethlehem in our country, at which I myself was astonished; the beginning of which was as follows. 2. When the child Jesus was five years of age and there had been a shower of rain that was now over, Jesus was playing with other Hebrew boys by a running stream, and the waters ran over the banks and stood in little lakes; 3. But the water instantly became clear and useful again; they readily obeyed him after he touched them only by his word. 4. Then he took from the bank of the stream some soft clay and formed out of it twelve sparrows; and there were other boys playing with him. 5. But a certain Jew seeing the things which he was doing, namely, his forming clay into the figures of sparrows on the Sabbath day, went presently away and told his father Joseph, 6. Behold, your boy is playing by the river side, and has taken clay and formed it into twelve sparrows, and profanes the Sabbath. 7. Then Joseph came to the place where he was, and when he saw him, called to him, and said, Why do you that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day? 8. Then Jesus clapping together the palms of his hands, called to the sparrows, and said to them: Go, fly away; and while you live remember me. 9. So the sparrows fled away, making a noise. 10. The Jews seeing this, were astonished and went away and told their chief persons what a strange miracle they had seen wrought by Jesus.”

Now, some Muslims say that the original Bible contained the apocryphal story of Jesus making and animating clay birds, and that the Qur'an was merely correcting a wrongful exclusion of these apocrypha from the canon. However, this is erroneous, as the sira tells how Muhammad, far from receiving these stories from Allah (via the angel Jibreel/Gabriel), heard it from three Christians:

“[Those who talked to Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, were Abu Haritha Ibn `Alqama, Al-`Aqib `Abdul-Masih and Al-Ayham al-Sa`id.] They were Christians according to the faith of the king with differences between them; they say: He is Allah, and say: He is Son of Allah, and say: He is the third of three [i.e., part of Trinity] and these are the claims of Christianity. [They use as evidence for their claim that He is Allah the argument that] he used to raise the dead, cure the sick, create from clay bird-like structure then breathe into it to make it a [living] bird. All this was by the leave of Allah, the Praiseworthy the Exalted {to appoint him as a sign for men} (Maryam:21). They also argue for saying that he is Son of Allah by saying he had no known father and spoke in infancy which is something never done by any human being. They use as evidence for their claim that He is the third of three [i.e., part of Trinity] the argument that Allah says: We did, We commanded, We created and We judged [i.e., by using the plural for Himself], and whereas if He was one, He would say: I did, I judged, I commanded and I created; but it is He, Jesus and Maryam. The Qur'an was revealed addressing all these arguments.” (Abu Muhammad `Abd al-Malik Ibn Hisham al-Ma`afiri, Al-Sirah Al-Nabawiyyah, 1998, Volume II, Dar al-Hadith: Cairo (Egypt), p 181-182.)

“The names of the fourteen principal men among the sixty riders were: `Abdul-Masih the `Aqib, al-Ayham the Sayyid; Abu Haritha b. `Alqama brother of B. Bakr b. Wa`il; Aus; al-Harith; Zayd; Qays; Yazid; Nubayh; Khuwaylid; `Amr; Khalid; `Abdullah; Johannes; of these the first three named above spoke to the Apostle. They were Christians according to the Byzantine rite, though they differed among themselves in some points, saying He is God; and He is the son of God; and He is the third person of the Trinity, which is the doctrine of Christianity. They argue that he is God because he used to raise the dead, and heal the sick, and declare the unseen; and make clay birds and then breathe into them so that they flew away; and all this was by the command of God Almighty, 'We will make him a sign to men.' They argue that he is the son of God in that they say he had no known father; and he spoke in the cradle and this is something that no child of Adam has ever done. They argue that he is the third of the three in that God says: We have done, We have commanded, We have created and We have decreed, and they say, If He were one he would have said I have done, I have created, and soon, but He is He and Jesus and Mary. Concerning all these assertions the Qur'an came down.” (A. Guillaume, The Life Of Muhammad: A Translation Of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, 1998, Oxford University Press: Karachi (Pakistan), p 271-272.)

According to the sira (biographies of Muhammad used to develop the hadith), the purported sources of the story are three Christians who spoke to Muhammad. These “Christians” were either heretics or they were unsure of doctrine. These errancies include Jesus animating clay birds, the talking baby Jesus, and the Trinity comprising God, Jesus and Mary (Father, Son and Mother). No true, informed Christian believes that the Trinity is composed of the Father, the Son and Mary.

(Most of the above information is from "Jesus Gives Peace: Jesus In The Qur'an and the Bible," written by Yusuf Abdallah and from Infancy Gospel of Thomas and also from Parallelism: Jesus Christ and Clay Birds)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Message for Muslims: Peace: Salam in Jesus

A new baby in a home is a wonderful thing. Friends and relatives will typically ask at some point if it is a boy or a girl. Women and girls will usually remark on how cute the baby is. The proud parents will happily show off their baby to others, and the mother’s conversation will typically be focused on talking about their new baby.

Babies are new lives brought into the world, and they give us hope of renewal, youth, better times and a new future. Probably no baby has inspired more hope and wonder than Jesus, the son of Mary.

According to the Qur’an, the presence of the baby amazed and shocked the people when Mary brought the infant Jesus back to her home village. All her neighbors could think of was that, since Mary was unmarried, she must have done evil and had sexual relations with some man. They felt disgusted and condemned her. “What is this amazing thing you bring to us?" they asked. “Your father wasn’t an evil man. Your mother wasn’t an unchaste woman.” (Sura 19:27-33)

The Qur’an says that Mary patiently listened to their accusations, but instead of explaining or defending herself, she pointed to the baby. “How can we talk to a baby?” they asked. Then, according to Sura 19:27-33 in the Qur’an, a response came to them from the unexpected source---the lips of the infant. The baby declared that he was a prophet who received revelation from God. God had commanded him to observe prayers and charity. God made him kind to his mother. He was neither rebellious nor overbearing. The baby continued talking, announcing that his total life---from his birth, to his death, and on to his resurrection from the dead---would be lived in the framework of God’s peace. God would bless him wherever he would go.

In this way (according to the Qur’an), Jesus defended his mother, while he announced his purpose in life and God’s plan for him. He would live within the framework of God’s peace.

The Bible also announces Jesus’ purpose and his peace. One such announcement is given by angels. A great group of heavenly angels appeared to some shepherds while they watched their flocks at night near the place where Jesus was born. The angel spokesman told the shepherds:

"Do not be afraid…Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)

Then the angels sang:

"Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14)

Another announcement was made when Jesus was eight days old. Mary and her husband Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord and to offer a sacrifice, as required by Jewish law. An old man named Simeon was led by God’s Spirit to meet them in the temple. He held the baby in his arms and praised God, saying:

"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

Therefore, in both the Qur’an and the Bible, Jesus’ life purpose was announced while he was still an infant. His life, death and resurrection are specifically mentioned in the Qur’an. His coming influence in both the Jewish and non-Jewish worlds are declared in the Bible. Above all, there is the blessing of peace. According to the Qur’an, Jesus would live in a framework of peace during his life, death and resurrection. In the Bible, that peace extends to all people who find God’s favor. The announcement is joyous, causing angels to sing and people to praise God.

Was there ever such a baby whose influence over all mankind was understood and proclaimed before he could crawl or eat solid food, while he was still an infant cradled in his mothers’ arms?

Would you like to experience the peace promised by angels that Jesus brought?

(Most of the above information is from "Jesus Gives Peace: Jesus In The Qur'an and the Bible," written by Yusuf Abdallah)

Also see:

Who is Isa al Masih? - the man in white

A Message for Muslims: A Woman’s Place

A Message for Muslims: Mary is Not Divine

SIGNS: A message for Muslims

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 1

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 2

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 3

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 4

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 5

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 6

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 7

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 8

Monday, April 5, 2010

SIGNS: A message for Muslims

Have you ever been lost? What is one of the first things you do? Look for signs. Signs can give us directions, instructions, and help.

Although, sometimes, signs can be confusing...

Signs made by people help and guide us every day. God Himself has placed signs in nature to help us. God warns us that a storm is coming by sending wind and dark clouds. A meteorologist can help us interpret such signs. God warns us that something is wrong with our health when we get a fever, fell dizzy or get nauseous. Sometimes we need a physician to interpret the signs for us.

The Qur’an teaches that God has also placed signs in this life to teach us about Him and His will for us. The created things teach us about God’s character, power and wisdom. Consider the stars, the flowers or the thousands of varieties of insects, animals and birds.

Sometimes God chooses people to be signs. According to the Qur’an, Jesus and his mother, Mary, are a sign from God.

“We made the son of Mary and his mother a sign, and we gave them refuge on a mesa with food and drink.” (Sura 23:50)

How can both Mary and Jesus be one sign? We would expect both of them to be signs. Since the Qur’an only mentions one sign, what is the message of that sign?

Perhaps Mary and Jesus are one sign because they shared one very intimate experience totally unique in history. Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born.

Some people may say the sign is used to prove Jesus’ teachings are from God. But I believe this isn’t the meaning of the sign. A person’s method of birth does not prove that he will speak the truth.

Others may say the sign is proof that Jesus’ miracles are truly from God. But in the Qur’an, Jesus’ miracles are also called signs. God would not use such a tremendous sign as the virgin birth merely to point to other signs.

Probably the virgin birth points to Jesus Himself rather than his teachings or his miracles. The virgin birth is unique. That means Jesus is unique.

What is unique about Jesus? The Qur’an proclaims the sign but does not interpret it. My authority, the Bible, also calls Mary and Jesus a sign.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son…” (Isaiah 7:14)

Do you have questions about the sign of Mary and Jesus? That’s good! Perhaps God has given you the questions. As you try to answer the questions, you may discover new truth.

In the New Testament, we read in the Gospel of Luke the words of Simeon, a righteous and devout old man. Simeon came into the temple at the time when the infant Jesus was being consecrated to the Lord. He spoke to Mary and Joseph, claiming Jesus was to be a light to all people and then remarked,

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (Luke 2:34b-35a)

If the sign of Jesus and Mary is pointing toward the identity of Jesus Christ, Simeon is saying that many people will speak against the identity of Jesus and in that way their heart reactions against God will be revealed. Ponder this. Ask God to give you insight.

(Most of the above information is from "Jesus Gives Peace: Jesus In The Qur'an and the Bible," written by Yusuf Abdallah)

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Message for Muslims: Mary is Not Divine

The true God who creates, sustains and judges all that exists, must be a very awesome Being. When we think about Him, we feel utterly dwarfed and insignificant. We cannot grasp the reality of one we cannot touch, see, hear or feel. Our hearts do not know how to search for One Who was, is and always will be, here and everywhere.

Therefore, although we know God exists, we tend to focus our attention, admiration, honor, respect and praise on people or things we can see, touch, understand and at least partially influence and control. Frequently, we choose people who seem to be close to God. Their suggestions become our guides for living. We value their prayers for us because we believe they have a greater influence on God. We feel secure because of them. Sometimes our Imam or priest or pastor is such a person. Or maybe we choose an especially saintly relative or friend instead. Sometimes we focus on a dead loved one whom we believe lives in God’s presence and can influence God on our behalf.

While this attitude may seem innocent enough, it is possible that this person we choose not only becomes a pathway to God for us, but a reflection of God Himself. This is wrong. It is blasphemy and idolatry.

Nevertheless, Jesus’ mother, Mary, has received such veneration. Even today, some people offer prayers to Mary, burn candles or incense in front of her statues and ask her to intercede to her son, Jesus, in their behalf. People will travel across the world to visit places where she is believed to have appeared. Shrines are built to her and people claim that she heals their sicknesses when they worship at these shrines.

In the times when the messages of the Qur’an were being revealed, such Christian heresies were in existence. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Qur’an condemns such elevation of Mary.

According to the Qur’an, Mary had no divine qualities. She drank, ate, and slept like all people do. (Sura 5:75) When it was God’s time for her to expire, she died. She had a particularly painful time at the birth of Jesus. (Sura 19:22-26) She did not have sex with God to conceive Jesus. Mary must not be considered divine, nor a consort for God, nor part of a trinity composed of God, Mary and Jesus. (Sura 19:35; 5:76-78) Such activity would have been improper for God, and it belittles and blasphemes Him to even suggest such ideas. (Sura 19:35; 4:171)

Clearly, the Bible, upon which I base my faith in God, does not elevate or glorify Mary. Apart from the virgin birth of Jesus, Mary is like any other woman who ever lived. She was awed and puzzled about her son, his work and his relationship to God, but was faithful to him. After his ascension into Heaven, she was one of several believers who formed the first church.

Jesus rejected the suggestion that people should praise his mother. He denied that there was anything divine about his human family. (Luke 11:27-28)

The Bible mentions only one time in Mary’s life when she spoke words inspired by God’s Holy Spirit. When she spoke these words, Mary was very humble, not exalting herself in any way, but giving glory, praise and worship to God.

"And Mary said: "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers." (Luke 1:46-55)

(The above information is from "Jesus Gives Peace: Jesus In The Qur'an and the Bible," written by Yusuf Abdallah)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Message for Muslims: A Woman’s Place

In many ancient cultures (and in many cultures even today), women knew exactly what their roles were. They were expected to marry, to serve their husbands and to bear and raise children.

In such a culture, women had two primary concerns. First, they were anxious to be chosen to be some man's wife. Women who were not chosen often remained in their parents' home for their entire life. Second, they were anxious about whether or not they could have children. When a married woman was barren, she felt unfulfilled and less than other women. She was often pitied and disdained. Her husband might divorce her. If such a woman were desperate enough, she might even choose the self-defeating life of being a prostitute. In that way, she might feel a temporary sense of worth.

What happens when God begins to act in such a culture? God’s ways are not our ways. He values women as individual persons, regardless of the roles society gives them. In each society where God's word is honored, the status of women is elevated. Some women have been given a very special role in God's plan for mankind.

One woman in particular stood out in religious history as a unique person, specially chosen by God for a very important task. Her culture might easily have ignored or pitied her. She was unmarried. Like other women of their day, she was illiterate, with no hope and no desire for advancement. Her family was of no importance. She was neither famous nor rich . Yet God chose her to have a central place in His plan. That woman’s name was Mary.

According to the Qur'an, Mary was so important in God's eyes that the angels argued about who would have the privilege of guarding and caring for her. They chose the winner by casting lots.

"This is part of the tidings of the things unseen which We reveal unto you by inspiration, you were not with them when they cast lots with arrows as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary, nor were you with them when they disputed." (Sura 3:44)

The angels informed Mary that God had honored her, choosing her from among other women, purifying her. In the Qur'an, we read that an angel told Mary that she would bear a very special son, whose name would be Christ Jesus (Isa al Masih, or Jesus the Messiah---"Messiah" means “the anointed one”).

The angel described Jesus. God Himself would teach him. He would be honored in this world and the next. He would be among those nearest to God. He would be a prophet, giving his message both as a child and as an adult. He would be righteous. He is God's Word, a Spirit sent from God and an apostle to the children of Israel.

"Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee- chosen thee above the women of all nations. "O Mary! worship Thy Lord devoutly: Prostrate thyself, and bow down (in prayer) with those who bow down." This is part of the tidings of the things unseen, which We reveal unto thee (O Apostle!) by inspiration: Thou wast not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor wast thou with them when they disputed (the point). Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah; "He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous." (Sura 3:42-46)

(See also Sura 19 for details of Mary's trip into the wilderness, the appearance of the angel, etc.)

Mary asked the angel how she could have a son, since a man had never touched her. The answer was that God would create the son as He had created Adam, an easy thing for God to do.

God often chooses unmarried, childless women for special roles in His plan for mankind. Their destiny was selected for them just as Mary's was. Some of the world’s greatest scientists, politicians, doctors and social workers have been women. Consider Madam Curie, Mother Teresa and others.

Because God respects, honors and often chooses women for special places in His world's history, His true prophets must also honor women and teach others to do so. Mary's son, Jesus, certainly did. As he is revealed in the Bible, Jesus held women in high regard, no matter what their status in society. He was even kind to the adulteress and the prostitute. Their downfall was partly caused by the negative way others thought of them.

Once, while Jesus was teaching in the temple, some religious leaders brought a disheveled woman to him, accusing her of adultery and demanding that she be stoned to death, as the law required. Jesus calmly told them:

"Let any one of you who is without sin be the first a throw a stone at her." Being convicted of their own sins, her accusers left the woman alone with Jesus. Jesus told her, "God now, and leave your life of sin." (John 8:4-11)

The value of each woman is raised, and she is given dignity by Jesus' words. If you are a woman, whether you are unmarried or married, fertile or barren, God places a high value on you. You deserve respect and honor. You are a woman!

The Bible expresses the words the angel used when he spoke to Mary:

"Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

The angel described the son Mary would bear in this way:

"Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High." (Luke 1:28-32)

In gratitude for God's favor, Mary sang:

"My soul praises the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me - holy is his name." (Luke 1:46-49)

When Mary's kinswoman, Elizabeth, received Mary into her home for a visit, her first words were:

"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!" (Luke 1:42)

Like Elizabeth, all of us can rejoice that God chooses to use humble women in His world for His purposes. Women have a very important place in God's world.

(This information is from the book, “Jesus Gives Peace: Jesus in the Qur’an and the Bible,” by Yusuf Abdallah)

Also see:

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 7 (The Role of Women)
Islam and Women
Oppression of Women

Monday, March 8, 2010

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 8

Muslims understand religion as a whole and integrated way of life. Secular, Christian-influenced cultures can confuse and even anger Muslims who see things through their holistic worldview. They often view “Hollywood sexuality” as “Christian,” or a military action as a “Crusade.” To them, the cross is a military symbol.

The Islamic Community

In Islam, brotherhood and consensus is emphasized, and individualism is avoided. The “community of the faithful” is responsible to enforce the moral code. This can explain how a lone Muslim, outside a community support structure, does not feel as guilty when breaking the code. However, bringing shame on his family or community would be a great sin.

Avoiding shame and protecting honor are primary motivations of most Muslims. Shame and honor are community-related, as contrasted to an individual sense of guilt.

Radical Muslims, known as Islamists or Jihadists, use this sense of community honor and shame to recruit and motivate their followers.

What Christians Believe

Followers of Jesus believe that they are to impact culture for Christ by going into all parts of the world to bring the message of Jesus to the people that live there (Matthew 28:19-20). In the West, a division exists between culture and religion. Religion is separated from government, and some people object to any influence of religion on state institutions and symbols.

Community in the West

Followers of Jesus do influence Western culture and institutions, but they seem to be a shrinking influence. Western culture affirms individualism and some people avoid community responsibility. Tolerance of sin and unbiblical practices continue to dilute the true Christians message; evolutionism and atheism also continue to influence the increasingly secular West. Only a minority of those in the West consider themselves followers of Jesus Christ. Most simply consider themselves Christian by name only, and do not follow the teaching of the Bible, of which they are largely ignorant. Generally, Western culture does not have a sense of the “community of the faithful.”

The Misunderstandings

In June, 2003, Time magazine ran a cover article asking the question: “Should Christians Convert Muslims?” The artwork featured a militant-looking clenched fist holding a metal cross, reminiscent of a Crusader’s sword. This imagery correctly symbolizes some typical Muslim misunderstandings, especially when viewed with the cigarette advertisement on the back cover. The advertisement features a sensual goddess-like model with men fawning at her feet. These pictures display some fears of Muslims: to be dominated militarily and corrupted morally by “Christianity.”

Correcting the Misunderstandings

The challenge is to present a correct view of the cross. Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ” has been seen by Muslims all over the world. They have seen the cross as a symbol of suffering, not as a military or political icon. Followers of Jesus, through their words and actions, are called to show Muslims that God loves all people so much that Jesus died on the cross. He also defeated Satan and death by rising from the grave. Jesus made it possible for all of God’s children to live with Him forever. This “good news” should be attractive to Muslims.

The above information is from "Islam & Christianity" by Rose Publishing

For more info, see: Islam vs Christianity - Comparison Charts

Friday, February 26, 2010

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 7


The Perspective of Muslim Women
Muslim women generally consider themselves protected and satisfied within their culture. Their fulfilling social life is usually gender-separated and happens primarily within extended families and some close neighbors.

The Protection of Muslim Women
Women are valued in Islam. In fact, Muhammad brought an end to the practice of female infanticide, widely practiced before his time. The honor of women is a major concern in Muslim societies. The reputation of the family is linked with the women. Islam helps maintain roles and expectations that predate Muhammad. The modest dress code is to protect women. If seen without loose clothing or a veil, men might judge a woman based on her appearance or may try to abuse her. Muslim women do not need to wear a veil or loose clothes at home or when only women are present.

Since marriage and child bearing are highly valued in the Middle East, polygamy is allowed and yet controlled. Islam limits a man to four wives and requires equal treatment for each.


The Perspective of Christian Women
Christians believe that the Bible teaches that both man and woman were created in God’s image, had a direct relationship with God, and shared jointly the responsibilities of bringing up children and ruling over the created order.

“Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground." (Genesis 1:26-28)

Christian husbands and wives are to mutually submit to one another. Women are to respect their husbands; husbands are to sacrificially and selflessly love their wives, just as Jesus Christ loves His church.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:21-25)

The Protection of Christian Women
Christian women are to dress modestly.

“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.” (1 Timothy 2:9)

And all followers of Jesus are to flee from sexual immorality.

“Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” (1 Corinthians 6:18)

Not Conforming to the World
Followers of Jesus believe that they must be transformed by renewing their minds and avoid conforming to the patterns of the secular world.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2)

Problems arise when Christians adapt to the Western secular culture more than to the Bible. When this happens, there is a decline in morality, which leads to an increase in sexual immorality, drunkenness, deceit, selfishness, rage and other sins.

How to Correct Misunderstandings

The Misunderstandings
Western values conflict with Muslims regarding women perhaps more than any other category. There are several problems in Muslim societies in regard to women. However, secularism and women’s liberation have brought the “Christian” West several problems as well.

Correcting the Misunderstandings
Christians, often focused on the plight of Muslim women, fail to see that many Western “solutions” are more to be feared than the problems they address. Many Muslim women prefer their lifestyle to lonely singleness, sexual exploitation, and the desire for money that makes home and family unimportant.

Societies long dominated by Islam have problems that need to be addressed, but before Christians can address these issues, they must deal with their own cultural problems. As Jesus said, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)

Information is from “Islam & Christianity,” Rose Publishing

Also see:
Islam and Women
Oppression of Women

Monday, February 22, 2010

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 6

The Qur’an says, “For those who reject Allah, there is a terrible penalty: but for those who believe and work righteous deeds, there is forgiveness and a magnificent reward (Surah 35:7). This great reward is janna, a garden paradise, an eternal place of sensual and spiritual pleasures.

In Islam, there is no savior. That is not to say that salvation is impossible, for Allah is merciful and compassionate. He can always forgive---for Allah’s will is supreme---but He is primarily the judge. There are many descriptive warnings about hellfire and punishment in the Qur’an.

All men should fear Judgment Day, in which each person’s deeds will be weighed on a scale. “Recording angels” keep a list of every deed, both good and bad. Islamic teachers assign credits to deeds related to the pillars of Islam. It is unthinkable for Muslims to abandon their accumulation of credits and trust a Savior.

Muslims find God virtually unapproachable. There is no concept of relationship with God as in Christianity, and no assurance of heaven, except though martyrdom. In Islam, there is no guarantee of salvation. The only possible guarantee is to be martyred for the cause of Islam, usually in jihad, and that is what the terrorists are told. It is much easier for Muslims to go into paradise through jihad/martyrdom, than to perform all the rituals and duties and still not know for sure whether they will go to paradise or not. The Qur’an says that martyrs killed in the way of God, or fighting for Allah, will go straight into the paradise of Allah.

Christians believe that, after death, all people await the final Judgment, when both believers and unbelievers will be resurrected. All will be judged according to the deeds they have done, but believers will be saved, because God removed the record that contained the charges against them. He destroyed it by nailing it to the cross of Jesus. Colossians 2:14 says, “having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” This would therefore remove the list of bad deeds kept by any Muslim’s “recording angel.”

In Christianity, God does not judge on a curve. He does not compare one person to another. Neither does He weigh your good deeds against your bad deeds. Instead, He compares you to Himself. In order to get into Heaven based on your works, you have to be as holy and perfect as He is. Matthew 5:20 states, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” And 1 Peter 1:16 says, "for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." This is precisely why we need a Savior.

Even if one’s list of good deeds outweighed their list of bad deeds, it would not make them acceptable to God. The Bible says this would only cause boasting and pride, as though someone could impress God by his or her good deeds. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Instead, God has credited Christians with the righteousness of Christ, so salvation is a gift, not earned by anyone---not even martyrs---but bought with a great price---Jesus’ blood (See 1 Corinthians 6:20 and 1 Corinthians 7:23).

In addition to this great gift, God the Father adopts those He saves into His family so they may live with Jesus in Heaven. To be saved involves being “born again” into a new relationship with God. John 3:5 states, “Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.”

Thinking about Allah as Abba-Father is difficult for some Muslims. Any negative view of the earthly father role will twist one’s view of God. In Western cultures, parenting trends err toward permissiveness (more love than discipline). In the East, fathers tend to be negligent or authoritarian (more discipline than love). God is a Father Who shows both love and discipline. He wants loving followers, not just slaves or spoiled children.

This view of fatherhood makes it easier to relate to God as Abba and to come to Him as a humble child, ready to be loved and disciplined. Jesus said one must enter God’s kingdom as a little child. “I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Mark 10:15)

The final book of the Bible describes the future scene of a huge family gathering with many from every tribe, tongue, people and ethnic group gathered around the throne of God, as shown in Revelation 5:
“Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth." Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

Boasting of good deeds would be unthinkable, because Jesus, the Lamb of God, sits upon the throne. Everyone in this great crowd honors Jesus as their substitute sacrifice, just as God pictured beforehand when He provided a ram to die in place of Abraham’s son, as in Genesis 22:
"Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied. Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you." Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?" "Yes, my son?" Abraham replied. "The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?" Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!" "Here I am," he replied. "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me." Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba. Some time later Abraham was told, "Milcah is also a mother; she has borne sons to your brother Nahor: Uz the firstborn, Buz his brother, Kemuel (the father of Aram), Kesed, Hazo, Pildash, Jidlaph and Bethuel." Bethuel became the father of Rebekah. Milcah bore these eight sons to Abraham's brother Nahor. His concubine, whose name was Reumah, also had sons: Tebah, Gaham, Tahash and Maacah.”

Most of this information is from “Islam & Christianity,” Rose Publishing; and from the DVD, “Radical Islam On The March.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 5

The ritual practices of Islam are the pillars of their religious system. Although beliefs are important, the substance of their religion is the accomplishment of these five pillars.

· Confessing the Faith (Shahada)
· Prayer (Salat)
· Giving of Alms (Zakat)
· Fasting (Sawm)
· Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

The Muslim’s objective is to follow Muhammad’s pattern (his exact words, motions and timing) found in the sunna, as they accomplish the pillars.

Some Muslims would include a sixth pillar, Holy Struggle (Jihad). This struggle could be internal (a struggle in the soul to do the right thing) or external (an effort against the enemies of Islam). The interpretation of jihad can determine the difference between moderate and radical Muslims.

Their belief in the nature of the final Judgment Day motivates Muslims to faithfully accomplish these pillars. In the Qur’an, these practices are of great importance.

The Bible teaches that salvation is a gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ (Isa Al Masih) and there are no rituals or practices that anyone can do in order to get right with God (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Even though good works can save no one, followers of Jesus serve Him, imitate Him, and do what He commanded, by the power of the Holy Spirit that indwells every believer. Jesus said, “If you love me you will keep my commands, and my commands are not burdensome.” He gave seven specific commands:

· Repent and Believe (a turn of heart)
· Pray (as a lifestyle, from the heart)
· Give (with a joyful heart)
· Celebrate the Lord’s Supper (remember Jesus)
· Love God and Others (greatest command)
· Be Baptized (with water)
· Make Disciples (among all peoples)

Making disciples involves worship, fellowship, fasting, studying Scripture, and sharing the good news of eternal salvation through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that His disciples would be recognized by their love for one another (John 13:35).

A Muslim can be confused by Christian symbols and rituals, such as the cross (considered a military symbol to Muslims), and also the Lord’s Supper, when wine is used (because alcohol is prohibited in Islam). Christians are confused by some of the Muslim rituals as well.

If Christians and Muslims can communicate and completely understand the meaning behind these symbols and rituals, meaningful relationships can be built and truth–sharing can take place.

Following the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7) is perhaps the best way for Christians to imitate Jesus and share with Muslims. The “Sermon on the Mount” challenges all followers of Jesus to live a righteous lifestyle of humility and love. Unfortunately, today in Western culture, Christian practices such as prayer, fasting and giving are not emphasized.

Muslims need grace-motivated Christian friends who follow the disciplines of Jesus. Jesus calls His followers to pray as a lifestyle, frequently and effectively. By confronting evil and bringing healing, believers can introduce Christ to their Muslim friends.

(Information is from "Islam & Christianity," Rose Publishing)