Dear Rev. Know it all,
Where do Muslims and the Muslim religion come from?
Charlene “ Chari” A. Law
This is difficult topic, but an important one. First let me say that the issue is not one of better or worse as much as it is one of clear distinctions.
When I was in seminary after the heady days of the council, we were much enamored of theologian Karl Rahner's idea of the “anonymous Christian.” He theorized that non-Christians could “accept the salvific grace of God, through Christ, although they may never have heard of the Christian revelation.” In other words all good people were Christian whether they knew it or not.
This struck me as a most arrogant idea. “You may think you’re a Buddhist, or a Muslim or a Hindu, but you’re a nice guy, so you must really be a Christian, even though you don’t know it. I suspect that this is still believed by politically correct young liberals who, as they approach the age of 80, still control the diocesan bureaucracies. So it is, that our excessively polite society cannot admit that there are people whose ideas are genuinely different from our own. It is dishonest, shallow, and worst of all, disrespectful of other religious frameworks and those who espouse them. To say that all beliefs are essentially the same is as foolish as it is arrogant.
It is more genuinely respectful of Islam to recognize the real differences. From the perspective of Muslims there are things that Christians believe and do that are wrong. From the perspective of Christians, there are things that Muslims believe and do that are wrong. It is not helpful to begin by saying that one is better, the other worse. The most useful thing one can do in this multi-cultural mélange in which we modern and progressive westerners live is to know thoroughly and precisely what Islam teaches as well as what Christianity teaches. The inquirer must know as much as possible and make his own decision as to which belief and way of life is preferable, or if neither is.
The original question, “Where do Muslims and the Muslim religion come from?” is very simply answered. Muslims would answer, “from Allah.” (The Arabic word for god, a god, or the gods is “Allah”) It is the word used by Christians as well as Muslims in the Islamic world. For clarity’s sake I will refer to the god worshiped by Muslims as “Allah, using the word “god” for non-Muslim deities, and while I’m at it, Islam is an Arabic word, meaning submission (to Allah) and a Muslim is “one who submits.” There has never been a true religion but Islam. In this sense, Islam pre-dates Muhammad. Thus, Muslims believe that all true prophets are Muslims. Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus are among the Muslim prophets.
Muslims believe that the religions that look to Moses or Jesus as their founder have falsified the teachings of those true prophets. Above all, Jesus is not a god nor divine. He did not die on the cross, but was hidden away by Allah. The text of the New Testament is a falsification of what Jesus actually said, just as people in the “Jesus Seminar” and some feminists claim. The true Jesus, the Jesus of history preached the pure religion of Allah which was corrupted by the followers of Jesus. So, all true religion is Islam, and all true believers are Muslim.
The answer for non-Muslims is a bit more complicated. In a certain sense Islam is Muhammad Ibn `Abd Allah Ibn `Abd al-Muttalibth, whom Muslims call the apostle and prophet of God, the last and greatest of the prophets, and the most perfect. He is the perfect man, to be imitated in all things. He was born in 570AD in Mecca, a trading city in western Arabia. He was a merchant, and, at 25 married Khadijah, a prosperous widow, fifteen years his senior. Muhammad started to spend time alone in the desert in prayer and meditation and in 610 he told his wife that he’d had a vision of an angel who commanded him to recite: “Proclaim! in the name of thy Lord and Cherisher, Who created man, out of a clot of congealed blood.....” and so began the series of visions and revelations that Muhammad shared with his disciples who in turn wrote them down and which form the Koran.
At first Muhammad thought he was being attacked by a demon, but his wife and her Christian cousin, Waraqah ibn Nawfal, reassured him. Eventually he started to preach one god, Allah and to denounce idolatry. Mecca, in addition to being a trading city, was famous for the Kaaba, a cube shaped stone building that housed the many idols worshiped by the pre-Islamic Arabs. Mecca's most important idol was Hubal, placed there by the Quraysh, Muhammad’s own tribe.
In 622AD, Muhammad and his little band of followers were forced to flee to Medina, a city north of Mecca. Mecca was a largely Jewish city, and Muhammad saw himself as a restorer of Judaism. Those Jews who did not accept his reform were either executed or expelled from Medina, to which, like Mecca, entrance is prohibited to non- Muslims.
The Muslims and the Meccans continued to skirmish until in 624. At the battle of Badr, Muhammad decisively defeated his own tribe, the Quraysh and executed those most opposed to the Muslims, such as two Quraysh who had dumped a bucket of sheep excrement over him during his days at Mecca. In 628, Muhammad signed a truce with Mecca freeing him to attack the Jewish oasis of Khaybar. He then sent letters to Heraclius, Christian Emperor of the Byzantine Empire, Khosrau the Zoroastrian Ruler of Persia, the ruler of Yemen and to others, inviting them to except Islam or to suffer the consequences of their stubbornness against Allah’s revelation to him. They neither responded nor submitted.
Eventually, in 630, the truce with Mecca broke down and Muhammad attacked with 10,000 troops. After the surrender of the city, he cleansed the Kaaba of its idols, leaving only the Black Rock, possibly a meteor, thought by Muslims to have been placed there by the prophet Abraham and his son Ismael, which is there to this day. He declared an amnesty, excluding ten men and women who had mocked him. Of these ten, some were later pardoned, some were executed. Most of Mecca accepted Islam and Muhammad’s rule.
(To be continued.....)