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)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Islam and Christianity on Love


Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (10/129):

Love is a psychological sickness, and if it grows strong it affects the body, and becomes a physical sickness, either as diseases of the brain, which are said to be diseases caused by waswaas, or diseases of the body such as weakness, emaciation and so on.

And he said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (10/132):

Loving a non-mahram woman leads to many negative consequences, the full extent of which is known only to the Lord of people. It is a sickness that affects the religious commitment of the sufferer, then it may also affect his mind and body.

Ibn Taymiyah said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (10/185):

If a man is in love with a woman, even if she is permissible for him, his heart remains enslaved to her, and she can control him as she wishes, even though outwardly he appears to be her master, because he is her husband; but in fact he is her prisoner and slave, especially if she is aware of his need and love for her. In that case, she will control him like a harsh and oppressive master controls his abject slave who cannot free himself from him. Rather he is worse off than that, because enslavement of the heart is worse than enslavement of the body.

Shaykh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyah said in Majmoo’ al-Fataawa (10/135):

If the heart loves Allah alone and is sincerely devoted to Him, it will not even think of loving anyone else in the first place, let alone falling in love. When a heart falls in love that is due to the lack of love for Allah alone. Hence because Yusuf loved Allah and was sincerely devoted to Him, he did not fall into the trap of love, rather Allah says (interpretation of the meaning):

“Thus it was, that We might turn away from him evil and illegal sexual intercourse. Surely, he was one of Our chosen, (guided) slaves” [Yusuf 12:24]

As for the wife of al-‘Aziz, she was a mushrik as were her people, hence she fell into this trap.

Ibn al-Qayyim said in Rawdat al-Muhibbeen (147):

If love occurs for a reason that is not haraam, the person is not to be blamed, such as one who loved his wife or slave woman, then he separated from her but the love remained and did not leave him. He is not to be blamed for that. Similarly if there was a sudden glance then he averted his gaze, but love took hold of his heart without him meaning it to, he must, however, ward it off and resist it.

The Bible

Song of Solomon 8:7
Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot wash it away. If one were to give all the wealth of his house for love, it would be utterly scorned.

Genesis 29:20
So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days.

1 Corinthians 13:1-8a and 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails....And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Ephesians 5:25
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

Ephesians 5:33
However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

Colossians 3:14
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

1 Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

1 John 3:16
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.

1 John 3:18
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

1 John 4:8
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 4

To Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad, called the “seal of the prophets,” is the last of over 124,000 prophets going back to Adam. His name means “praised one,” and Allah in the Qur’an commends him.

Mecca was a center of idol worship in AD 610 when Muhammad first challenged the people to forsake idolatry and embrace Islam. Most Meccans rejected his message and many began to persecute the early Muslims, causing them to flee to the town of Medina in AD 622. This flight is known as the hijara and marked the first year on the Islamic calendar. Medina was more receptive to Muhammad and from this city, through battles and diplomacy, Islam was spread to the entire Arabian Peninsula before Muhammad died in AD 632.

Muslims try to follow Muhammad’s example, known as his sunna, or his way, in every detail possible. Everything is prescribed, from ritual washings before prayer, to hygienic practices in the bathroom. Such detailed behavior is known through large collections of hadith, accounts of Muhammad’s life, words, and behavior passed on by his early followers.

New Testament writers proclaimed Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law of Moses (Taurat) and the predictions of Old Testament prophets. These prophets are quoted in the New Testament. For instance, Matthew quotes various prophets concerning Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), his mother being a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), and even the killing of baby boys by King Herod (Jeremiah 31:15). The prophets also detail the suffering death and resurrection of Jesus (Isaiah 53; Psalm 16:8-11). The Bible points out that God carefully planned and carried out the details of the coming of Jesus in history (Luke 24:27; Acts 3:18).

The Bible contains numerous warning about false teachers and prophets. Jesus predicts the end times will be full of these (Matthew 24:11). Therefore, every teaching must be judged against the truth already revealed in the Bible. Jesus also promised that the Holy Spirit (“The Spirit of Truth”) would guide truth seekers into all truth (John 14-16).

In conversation with Muslims, Christians should remember not to attack Muhammad. Since so much is determined by imitating their prophet, to insult Muhammad is to attack their entire life and culture.

It is wise to find common ground and agree that Muhammad has much in common with Old Testament prophets. Like David and Solomon, he was a political and military leader with multiple wives. Like Moses and Joshua, he united tribes and led them in battle. Like Elijah and many other prophets, he destroyed idols and confronted the corrupt political and economic powers of his day.

Just as Old Testament prophets looked forward to the coming Messiah, Muhammad looked back with respect and admiration to Jesus as the Messiah. The Qur’an calls Isa Al Masih (Jesus) “God’s word” and a “Spirit from Him” (Surah 4:171). It affirms His virgin birth and special role in the end times.

Followers of Jesus do not have to deny or embrace Muhammad in order to exalt the Messiah. It is important to lift up Jesus, not tear down Muhammad.

Information is from “Islam and Christianity,” produced by Rose Publishing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Comparing Islam to Christianity, Part 3

According to Muslims, there is only one trustworthy Holy Scripture, the Qur’an. Many prophets before Muhammad were also given Allah’s Word, among them Musa (Moses), who was given the Taurat (Torah), Dawud (David), who was given the Zabur (Psalms), and Isa (Jesus), who was given the Injil (Gospel). However, Muslims are taught that all these writings were corrupted. Allah appointed Muhammad to receive the Qur’an in order to correct this corruption.

How did Muslims get the Qur’an? According to Islam, in AD 610, Allah sent the angel Gabriel to Muhammad in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Over the next 22 years, Gabriel revealed suras (chapters) to Muhammad with the command to recite it to others. Shortly after Muhammad’s death in AD 632, his followers gathered the suras into the Qur’an. The third caliph, Uthman, had scholars compile an official Qur’an, in written form, and had all other variant texts burned.

The Qur’an today is considered divine in its original Arabic form, and Muslims memorize and recite it only in this pure language.

As a comparison, how did Christians get the Bible? Followers of Jesus believe the Bible is the authoritative, inspired Word of God, composed of 66 different books, transmitted through at least 40 prophets, apostles, and holy men. The first 39 books, written before the coming of Christ, are called the Old Testament. The Old Testament was written over many centuries by various authors, in diverse cultures, using the Hebrew and Aramaic languages. The remaining 27 books after Christ are called the New Testament. They were written in Greek, the dominant language of the first century. The New Testament contains collections of eyewitness reports of the life and teachings of Jesus, followed by a history of His disciples over the next 50 years, including letters from His apostles and a vision of the end times called the “Revelation.”

The Christian view of inspiration is that God “breathed” His Word through many people. Therefore, the Bible reflects cultures as diverse as Abraham’s nomadic lifestyle, to the royal court of King David. The result is the Book of beautiful human diversity, interwoven with divine unity.

Muslims feel sorry that Christians follow a corrupted book, and most Muslims avoid the Bible. Even among Western-educated Muslims, the great diversity of Bible versions and translations adds to their belief that the Bible is corrupted.

Muhammad, however, did not question the accuracy of the Bible. The accusation that the Bible had been corrupted came centuries after Muhammad, at a time when Muslim scholars realized there were contradictions between the Qur’an and the Bible. Yet, the Qur’an points to the Bible as truth over 120 times. The text of the Bible is better preserved than the writings of Plato and Aristotle. Furthermore, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the reliability of the Bible.

To a Muslim, it is impossible to think that any man could corrupt the actual Word of God, and diminish God. By His reputation, God is committed to protect His Word. In the Bible, in the book of Psalms, chapter 138, verse 2, it says: “I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.” For Muslims, the best defense of the Bible’s integrity is the nature, power and reputation of God.