Contend Earnestly: What Is Up With All These Posts on Islam? Part I

Monday, January 11, 2010

What Is Up With All These Posts on Islam? Part I

If you read, or even glance at this blog, you have noticed some major concentrations on Islam lately. You might be asking, "why?" Why has a white dude who grew up in Oklahoma, now in Seattle for the past 20 years, care about Muslims or focus in on them? I want to answer this question, so you can see that this isn't just some sort of "kick" I am on with no real purpose. The point is, there is real purpose for why my focus has been on truly understanding Islam.

What I Used to Believe About Islam

Many have asked what books I have read on Islam. Before a month ago, the list was mostly apologetical books and articles that have dealt with Islam as an evil and terroristic religion that we should fear. Most of these books are written from those in the West, and when I posted book reviews, got a few emails from Muslims saying that they don't believe what the book represents. Being argumentative, I just ignored their plea and hammered them with Qur'anic passages that I felt proved my case on why they "should" believe instead of what they actually believed. Some of the books that aided me in this type of prideful and ignoramus response were:

Islamic Invasion by Robert Morey

A Christian's Pocket Guide to Islam by Patrick Sookhdeo

The Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin

and many other books and articles that I can't find links to, or were not formally published.

The one book that was a lot more balanced, but I did not care for because of my hatred for Islam was, Light in the Shadow of Jihad by Ravi Zacharias. Here was my synopsis (dated early 2006):

I thought this was going to take more of a stand against Muslims and Islam. But what I found is really a fight against evil and really against what the "extremists" believe in Islam. If I hadn't read or listened more of Ravi than just this book I would think he was partial to the "peaceful" Muslims. He did talk about the Islamic countries in bits and about their oppression but never really came down on the crux of this religion that, based on their own Koran, they are told to be "killing machines" to all those who are not Muslim, to wait in the bushes to ambush the infidels. So what happened on 9/11 shouldn't have been a shock to those educated on what Islam stands for.

The book was good in parts but left me wanting more arguments for why Christianity is based on love and Islam is based on a vengeful and hateful allah to even his own people. Instead all you get is more generalities and universal arguments from a worldview standpoint instead of a point by point argument or discussion on basically "Why Christianity and Why not Islam" Because truly Christ is the only Light in any shadow.

This embarrassing review is one that I do not hold to now, but gives a good insight to where I used to be. Namely, I hated Islam and believed it to be a religion based on fear and terror, that hated Jesus and everything he stood for.

I held this belief until about a month ago. It has been a whirlwind of a month and study.

What Were Some of the Things That Challenged Me?

First, the person that challenged me was an elder at my new church. I started to attend a new church, Harambee (You can read a post on why my family attends Harambee here), and was starting to really be challenged, especially by this one individual. I kept hearing that he was truly reaching out and becoming friends with Muslims in our area. Not only that, but he was given the opportunity to speak at some of their gatherings. As we spoke more and more, I finally just asked, "What books should I read to understand your position on Islam?" Before this question, I didn't believe that Muslims worshiped the same God, believed they should be terrorists if they obeyed the Qur'an and that Muhammad was a war monger who was also a bit of a sexual deviant. Let's just say things have changed. The elder has been very patient with me and so far, I have read these books:

Pilgrims of Christ on the Muslim Road by Paul Gordon-Chandler

Muslims, Christians and Jesus by Carl Medearis

A Deadly Misunderstanding by Mark D. Siljander

No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan (about half way done)

I have also listened to all of Carl Medearis' talks (found here), read other articles on some of the misunderstandings and had great talks with the elder at Harambee on further issues that he is facing with Christian/Muslim relations. As you can has been a whirlwind month or so.

Some of the things that have really challenged me were the misconceptions I had about Muhammad and Islam in general. I also read the Qur'an in the past, looking for reasons to hate it. So, when doing that, I always trusted the Western apologetical commentaries on it, or trusted militant Islam in their interpretations. What I was challenged on was what Carl Medearis asked in one of his talks. He asked, "Don't you want to be fairly represented when someone is discussing what you believe?" He went on to say that most of us in the West tell Muslims what they believe, and they don't agree. We draw up straw men and don't allow them to tell us what they actually believe. I have brought it up before, but this would be the same if a Muslim believed that we were more like Fred Phelps and represented us in that light to all of the Muslim world. What Fred Phelps is to us, militant Islam is to most of the Muslim world. This struck a cord with me pretty deep.

Not only that, but I read an article about what the Muslim believes we think represents "The Son of God." (click here to read article) To be precise, they only have one Arabic term for "son" and it literally means "one who is brought forth because of sexual relations." Meaning, they think we believe that God had sex with Mary to bring forth Jesus. The Arabic term for "son" isn't even used for an adopted son in the Arabic culture.

One other thing that really hit me was the fact that the interpretations of the Qur'an into English can be quite a bit different. One that struck me quite harshly, that has me desiring to look into other surahs, is the most famous aya ,or verse, about Muslims being allowed to beat their wives.

4:34. ‘Men are in charge of (or overseers of - qawwamuna) women, as Allah has given them more (strength) than the other (sometimes translated as made them superior to the other), and because they spend of their wealth (to provide for them). Therefore women who are virtuous are obedient to God, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what God would have them guard. As for those women on whose part you fear rebellion (nushuz), admonish them and banish them to beds apart, (and last) beat (adribu) them. Then, if they obey you, seek not a way against them. For God is Most High, Great (above you all).

But then, as I was reading "No god but God", Aslan gave a quite different way to interpret this verse from the Arabic to English. Aslan also points out that the way that Muhammad treated his wives, and the way that he highly valued them, would point more towards this second interpretation (other things are given as examples and reasons are given why many Muslim nations adopted the first interpretation):

‘Men shall take full care of women, with the bounties which God has bestowed on them more abundantly than upon the latter, and with what they may spend out of their possessions. The righteous women are the truly devout ones, who guard the intimacy which God has ordained to be guarded. As for those women whose ill-will you have reason to fear (on whose part you fear nushuz – disloyalty, rebellion, ill-conduct), talk to them persuasively, then leave them alone in bed (without molesting them) then (adribu) them (ie. either separate from them, or resume sleeping with them when they are willing and seek peace); and if they return to obedience, do not seek an excuse for blaming them: For God is Most High, Great (above you all).

All of the sudden, this surah has no issues within it at all. Because of the above mentioned thoughts, and many other findings, I have changed my views on Islam as a whole. I will go into, with my next post, why I am starting to care about Muslims as a whole and desire for them to know Jesus, not Christianity. I want you, the reader, to know the answer to your many questions to me when you ask, "Why concentrate your 'efforts' with Muslims?" I also want all my readers to understand, I am not saying that Islam leads to heaven. I believe that only those who trust and follow Jesus will be in heaven, and no religion will ever get anyone to heaven, including Christianity. I also have been writing to hopefully aid in a healthier understanding of Islam, through the eyes of people who desire to follow the ways of Jesus, instead of the ways of the West. I want those that follow Jesus to understand Islam instead of ostracizing and hating them. When this happens, we can then take the conversations to Jesus, instead of merely trying to win a stupid debate that gets no one anywhere but pride.

May we all be challenged by ALL of what Jesus did and said, instead of those we deem culturally acceptable.


Mike said...

What specifically in Kingdom of the Cults did you object to? Was it the data or the characterization of a bonafide religion as a cult?

Seth McBee said...

I would have to go back to take a look at specifics. I was trying to put forth those books that helped form my opinion of Islam as a whole.

Thanks for asking.

Becky said...

Interesting post. I have a question, though. You said that in the past you did not believe that Muslims worship the same God. Then, you said that things have changed. I just wonder, do you think that the God that we worship is the same God without Jesus? Obviously, I would bring up the same point with Judaism. Just a thought.

Seth McBee said...

good that I will write a post on...but yes, I believe that Muslims worship the same God, but does not fully know him because they do not know Jesus to be their mediator and sacrifice for their sins.

Again...will write a full post with specific scriptures that will bring this to light.

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