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Islam, What You Need to Know in the Twenty-First CenturyA Primer for Peace
By Ronald Lee Cobb
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Ronald Lee Cobb
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Many Faces of Islam
Islam is frightening to many in the West. Islam seems full of violence, contradictions, beautiful architecture, mystical poetry, ancient wisdom, bombings, oil rich millionaires, ritual prayers, tribalism, devotion, and a labyrinth of ideas. To complicate this, Islamic culture expresses Islam in many different forms: Arabic Islam, Turkish Islam, Indonesian Islam, Egyptian Islam, Iranian Islam, Nigerian Islam, Kenyan Islam, and Pakistani Islam. All these forms of Islam are similar and yet vastly different. To add to these fears, thousands of new mosques are springing up in the United States, Canada, and Europe as their Islamic populations grow. After 9-11, the refurbishing of a well-established mosque just a few blocks from the World Trade Towers site, caused much consternation and fear within parts of the population of the United States.
The demographics of Islam are also changing rapidly in the world. As the European populations shrinks, the European culture shrinks with it. European families are not even replacing their own populations whereas large Islamic families with many children are the rule rather than the exception. As the Islamic population in Europe grows, the Islamitization of European culture increases. For some time the European population shift has been take place slowly, quietly, in inexorably. The Netherlands will be 50% Islamic by 2025. France will have over 50% of its population Islamic by 2035. In Germany over 50% of the population will be Islamic by 2050. The United States will have over 50 million followers of Islam by 2040.
Due to Mexican and Latino immigration into the United States and their high birth rates, it will be a very long time before the United States is 50% Islamic. However, the United States will become a Latino Nation majority in just a few decades. Because Latino families are generally dedicated Roman Catholics and oriented towards Christianity and because they share the heritage of hundreds of years of Spain's national movement against Islamic states on the Iberian Peninsula, there appears little chance that Latino peoples will convert to Islam. In 2008 the Vatican in Rome reported that "in five to seven years, Islam will be the dominant religion of the world."
Barak Hussein Obama and Islam
When Barak Hussein Obama became President of the United States, moderate Islamic peoples around the world hoped that Islam would begin to take its place among world religions in a more accepted way. Initially this seemed to take place when in Cairo, Egypt, early in his term, President Obama addressed the worldwide followers of Islam with respect, dignity, acceptance, understanding, and asked for a new interaction between Islam and the rest of the world. Obama's Kenyan grandfather had been Roman Catholic but had converted to Islam. Obama's father grew up in an Islamic family but became an atheist when he served as Kenya's Senior Government Economist. Every informed follower of Islam knew of Obama's Islamic heritage and that in Indonesia President Obama had briefly attended a moderate Sufi Islamic school that was not overtly hostile to Christian, Hindu, or Buddhist faith groups. His positive statements in Cairo, Egypt, early in his administration and his concerns for honest discussions with Islam as one of the leaders in the Western World was one of the reasons that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, in 2009. The world had become so much more volatile after the attack on the World Trade Center Towers on 9-11-2001 by extremists from Saudi Arabia. The relationship between Islam and the West needed to be directly addressed.
Why do I need to know about Islam?
It is imperative in the global village the earth has become that each of us know about our neighbors. There is no longer any place to hide on this planet. Knowledge of Islam is power for international peace, national peace, and personal peace in the Twenty-First Century. There are so many egregious stories constantly ebbing and flowing throughout world media about Islam itself and about the followers of Islam that the truths, majesty, and beauties of this faith are too often lost in the negative rhetoric. No matter what your faith background or inclination, I would urge you to try to keep an open mind as you read the words of this book.
To begin to understand Islam I would encourage you to purchase a translation of the Qur'an in your own native language and read it slowly. It is shorter than the Christian New Testament but its words are so concentrated and full of meaning it needs to be read slowly due to its intensely, a verse at a time. Followers of Allah as revealed in the Qur'an and in Islam today are imperfect, but the vision that Mohammad had of a Loving Creator is very much a growing force in this Century. Growth is an imperative for life itself and I hope you will grow in your understanding of this major world religion that is a significant reality in the Twenty-First Century. This book is dedicated to bringing a deeper, and beyond academic, understanding of Islam. This book's intent is to bring peace through knowledge: peace in the world, peace among nations, and peace in your own heart and family. Rightfully applied, knowledge, wisdom, and understanding about this faith are far beyond any price, just as serenity and peace are more valuable than gold to human hearts, and to this planet we all call home.
The Increase of Islamic Believers in the Midwest in the Twentieth Century
In I began an intensive study of the Qur'an. At that point I had taken three graduate level classes on world religions: each one separately for my M.Div., M.A., and D.Min. I knew the general tenets of Islam, but in 1980 I wanted to discover more and get into the depths of Islam. Much like Thomas Jefferson, a seminal thinker, one of the architects and founders of the United States, the third President of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia, it is my belief that without fear we can courageously follow truth wherever it leads us. Jefferson studied his own personal copy of the Qur'an. As a result of my 1980 studies I presented a public, eight-week series on Islam and Christianity. The weekly series was advertised in the Topeka Capitol-Journal Newspaper and was held at Oakland Christian Church in Topeka. I was surprised to meet numbers of former Roman Catholic Christians and Lutherans, American born citizens, who had quietly converted to Islam. At this time there was not even a mosque in the Capitol City of Kansas, in part of what is called the central "Bible Belt" of the United States. I was expecting a fairly large group of Black Muslims to attend which they did. All of the followers of Islam were respectful and intent on learning during the entire eight week series.
I was again surprised, that, at the end of this series not one of the followers of Islam who attended had any disagreements regarding my interpretation of the Qur'an as it related to the Hebrew Scriptures and to the Christian Scriptures. After the eighth and final presentation, the Black Muslim group honored me with a large, two-volume edition of the Qur'an. It was translated into Elizabethan English that was quite similar to the 1611 translation of the King James Bible, in an attempt to make it more familiar to many Christians who lived and breathed Fifteenth Century English.
Islam is an Abrahamic-based Faith
Islam is a adaptation and a modification of the Christian faith and of the Hebrew faith. It began in Arabia over 600 years after the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In the pages of the Qur'an are many of the teachings of both Christians and Jews. For example I was sitting in the conference room of Mufti Husein Kavazovic in Tuzla, Bosnia-Herzegovina. I noticed a very large, framed Arabic passage from the Qur'an. When Mufti entered the room I asked him about it. He replied, "That is a passage from the Qur'an which reads, 'He who saves one life, it is as if he has saved the entire world.'" This passage is a paraphrase of a similar passage in the Hebrew Bible.
Often in the West, Islam is viewed as a totally different faith. Even though Jews and Christians disagree with the conclusions of Islam, it should be understood that Islam and the Qur'an combine the concepts of Christian and Hebrew Scriptures with the revelations of Mohammad. The ancient Hebrews and the modern Jews claim Abraham as their biological father through the descendents of Isaac; Christians claim Abraham as their spiritual father; and Islam also claims Abraham as its father. Christians and Jews believe Isaac was the blessed son. Followers of Islam believe that, as the eldest son of Abraham, Ishmael and his descendents are to be given the highest places of honor. A careful reading of the Qur'an shows that it is written to the descendents of Ishmael. Also note that in the Qur'an Isaac is both mentioned and honored. In Mohammad's day and in the hundreds of years past, many Jews and Christians have converted to Islam and there is probably one reason, the Qur'an respects both Christians as Jews.
Interesting DNA Studies of Arabs and Jews
A University of Chicago DNA study of Jews, Palestinians, and Arabs showed that particularly Palestinian genomes and Jewish genomes are similar as indicated not only by similar genes on related chromosomes but also by similar genetic illnesses and predispositions for certain, specific health problems. The ancient Jews were called Hebrews, but after the destruction of the ten northern tribes of Israel the name "Hebrew" dropped out of use and the name Jew began to be used. The Jews take their name from "Judah" since only Judah and part of the tribe of Benjamin survived after all of the people of northern Israel were destroyed or scattered throughout Syria and Mesopotamia. Other Middle Eastern DNA studies have indicated that Arabs and Jews had the same biological father in the distant past. This should come as no surprise. Students of the Hebrew Scriptures know that many places in virtually every book of the Hebrew Scriptures it is directly written, implied, and discussed how Jews are the biological descendants of Isaac, Abraham's second son through Sarah his first wife. Students of the Hebrew Scriptures also know that Abraham's oldest son was through Sarah's Egyptian maid servant, Hagar. Again, the Qur'an states that it is written to the descendents of Ishmael, because the Jews already had their own Holy Book. The Hebrew Scriptures make it clear that they are written to the descendents of Isaac. The Christian Scriptures, particularly the Book of Hebrews, make it clear that Christians are the spiritual children of Abraham by faith in the same God as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth. Christians have a love/hate/support relationship with their Jewish progenitors. Jews have a love/hate relationship with both Christians and followers of Islam. Nevertheless, Jews, Christians, and followers of Islam share exactly same spiritual heritage and often exactly the same biological heritage in Father Abraham.
No one should therefore be surprised that because of their faith in the same God of Father Abraham, that Christians have had a love/hate and yet somewhat supportive relationship with their Jewish brothers and sisters and vice versa. Jews also share the same ambivalent feelings towards Christians.
Jewish and Islamic peoples share a similar belief that Jesus was a great prophet but he was not the long-awaited Messiah. They also share a similar belief that Jesus did not die on the cross but merely went into a coma and later revived. Some Jews believe that Jesus died on the cross and that his followers hid his body. Both the Jewish faith and the Islamic faith believe that the early followers of Jesus created a false rumor that Jesus rose from the dead, and therefore the Christian religion is based on a falsehood.
All of these beliefs became more apparent and focused after the State of Israel was founded in 1948 as a refuge for Jews following the Holocaust which saw the murder of 6 million Jews by Adolph Hitler and his Nazi's in World War II. Israel since that time has relied for support on political friends in the West, particularly Britain, the United States, and other English speaking nations which interestingly are predominately Christian nations.
The two Arab-Israeli wars which displaced many thousands of Palestinian Islamic villagers and Christian villagers are at the core of the angst and hostility that the Arab countries have against Israel, especially those nations that surround Israel. It is interesting that under the former 30-year dictatorship and almost Pharaoh-like rule of Hosni Mubarak, was the first modern Arab power to make a long-term treaty with Israel, creating a parallel to the shelter Egypt gave to the ancient Hebrew descendants of Abraham for over 400 years, over 3,000 years ago.
Most of the Arab nations surrounding Israel have become increasingly hostile towards the Jews. The reason for this anger can be found in the words of many Twenty-First Century newspaper headlines. These papers have repeatedly reported to the West and to the rest of the world, the systematic building of Jewish settlements in appropriated Palestinian farms, orchards, pastures, grazing lands, and villages in the Jordon River Valley. The de facto military action is against unarmed Arabs who have lived on these properties for thousands of years. Gradually, steadily, the State of Israel has annexed hundreds of pieces of land for Jewish settlers who then organize their settlements at strategic military geographic points.
The Majestic Greatness of God
Islam has an incredibly high regard for Allah's greatness. Allah is the Creator, the Sustainer of the Cosmos, the All Magnificent, the Everlasting Refuge, and the All Glorious One. God was never begotten, never created, and has existed from beyond the beginning of time. Like the Jewish faith, Islam teaches that God is One. These two Abrahamic religious are clear on this point. There is no God but God. This high concept of God is repeatedly found in both the Hebrew Scriptures and in the Qur'an. To both Jews and followers of Islam, it is heresy to think God could be born in a human manner and take on human form. Christian creeds teach that Jesus of Nazareth was begotten, that he was physically born, of the union between Mary and the Holy Spirit of God. It is heresy to think that the Majestic Creator of the Universe could become human flesh. God is so awesome that He could never be called "Father" as Jesus of Nazareth called God.
Islam believes that Jesus was a great prophet. The Qur'an teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin. Islam believes Jesus performed great miracles. He cast out demons. He healed the sick. Jesus even raised the dead to life. Mohammed compared himself to Jesus' miracles and said, "The only miracle I have performed is the Qur'an." Islam teaches that Jesus was mistaken in thinking he was the Messiah. As mentioned earlier, they believe he did not die on the cross but that because of his loss of blood and the trauma from his beatings, Jesus became unconscious on the cross. He later revived when his followers took his body down from the cross. When Jesus awoke, he appeared several times to his followers, once to over 500 people, not because he had risen from the dead but because he was still alive after the crucifixion. He had not risen from the dead; he had never died. Followers of Islam and some Jewish leaders say the reason the Christian Scriptures put such a strong emphasis on the spear piercing Jesus' side, and report the blood and water gushing from his side from the water-filled pericardium around his heart (John 19:34) was to prove that Jesus had really died. Thus, Christians want us to believe, Islamic teaching says, Jesus did rise from the dead, proving that he was the Son of God. Therefore, some Christians view Islam as a heresy of Christianity, much like the early Arian Christian heresy, because Islam believes everything that Christians believe about Jesus except that he was God-in-human- form. Therefore the cross that Christians of all faith-groups use as a symbol is assiduously avoided in all Islamic nations, particularly in Arab Islamic nations. This is the reason that many Arab cities have no paned glass windows that could look like a cross and no architecture of any kind that could even remotely resemble a cross. A Christian cross is an affront to the majesty of Allah.
Excerpted from Islam, What You Need to Know in the Twenty-First Century by Ronald Lee Cobb Copyright © 2011 by Ronald Lee Cobb. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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