A Primer on Islam: The Basics (Lesson 1 of 6)

Hi. I’m Pastor Bob. This is the first lesson of a multi-week class on Islam I taught for a large gathering of folks from multiple congregations: Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, recovering agnostics, etc. The class convened once a week; the conversations it engendered were always rewardingly lively. This material is hardly meant to address every aspect of a rich and multi-faceted faith tradition practiced by roughly a quarter of the world’s population. It is meant rather to launch and inform the conversation: Who are our Muslim neighbors?

A Primer on Islam

Lesson One

by Pastor Bob

Islam: One of the monotheistic religions closely related to Judaism and Christianity.

  • “Islam” means to “surrender” or to “submit” to the will of God.

Muslim: A person who is a follower of Islam.

  • A “Muslim” is literally one who surrenders to the will of God.

Allah: God.

  • “Allah” is a contraction of the Arabic al-ilah (“The God”).
  • Arab Christians call God “Allah.”

tawhid: Arabic word for affirming the unity of God (Allah).

  • Literally means “making one” or “asserting oneness.”
  • The word is technically not in the Qur’an, but its principle is found throughout.
  • Often mistranslated as “monotheism.” However, tawhid is not a static description, but rather dynamic action that is lived throughout one’s lifetime in faith and worship.

shahada: Basic Islamic Creed (“La ilaha illa Allah wa Muhammadu Rasul Allah”)

  • “There is no god except God and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.”
  • The first part of the shahada (“There is no god but God”) is the witness of tawhid.
  • Part of daily prayers (salat), tawhid as expressed in the shahada is heard at least 5 times/day.
  • The shahada expresses some fundamental ideas:
  1.  Strict monotheism: Muslims are very careful to declare that there is only one God. Muslims believe that Christians wrongly worship Jesus as God.
  2. Universality of Islam: Islam is meant to be embraced by all people as the one true religion. Roughly 20%-25% of the world’s population declares themselves to be Muslim.
  3. Importance of Muhammad: As the last “Messenger of God” Muhammad is highly regarded and his name brings to the lips of a Muslim: “peace be upon him.”
  4. Egalitarian nature of Islam: Anyone confessing this creed is considered a Muslim. All Muslims are regarded as equal including Muhammad.

Muhammad: The founder of the Islamic faith. He is considered by Muslims to be the final prophet from God to whom God’s final revelation was expressed.

  • An Arab businessman born in 571 AD, he later in life began withdrawing to the hills for contemplation and beginning at age 40, he received a series of revelations through the angel Gabriel (later written by his followers as the “Qur’an”). Muhammad couldn’t read or write.
  • These revelations from God among other things called for the denunciation of paganism and polytheism focusing instead on the existence of the one true God, the need for repentance and the Day of Judgment.
  • Muhammad was both a prophet and a statesman and with his followers, an empire was rapidly built with Islam its professed religion.
  • Muhammad is beloved by Muslims. The Christian equivalent would be devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus—an example to be emulated but not a substitute for worshipping God. Muhammad is most commonly referred to as “the Prophet.”

Prophets in Judaism, Christianity and Islam:

  • Muslims believe that God sent prophets all through the ages to lead people back to the one God. Beginning with Adam and including prophets such as Abraham, Moses, David, John the Baptist and Jesus, this message of tawhid was the same with its final form given through Muhammad.
  • Muslims therefore view Islam as being in continuity with Judaism and Christianity.

Qur’an: The sacred book for Muslims and is written in Arabic.

  • “Qur’an” literally means “recitation”
  • Its words are regarded as those words spoken directly by God to Muhammad and therefore it is considered complete and perfect.

Hadith: The written sayings and activities of Muhammad.

  • These writings are very important and are considered second in importance only to the Qur’an.

Shari’a: Holy law of Islam

  • It is meant to dictate all aspects of social, religious and political life.
  • There are 5 major schools of Shari’a expressing a range of opinions (sometimes contrary) with certain schools influencing certain regions of the world (refer to lesson two for more details).
  • The vast majority of Muslim-Americans deeply appreciate the American Constitution-based legal system; contrary to wanting to supplant or supersede it, they find it complementary to living in accordance with the values of Shari’a.

Sunni Muslims: The majority of Muslims (85%).

  • Essentially “mainstream” Islam. They follow the “sunnah” (the way) of the Prophet.
  • Regard tradition and communal consensus when making decisions.
  • They tend to have a practical, shari’a-oriented approach to life where God has set the rules and a good Muslim simply follows them.

Shi’a Muslims: The next largest group of Muslims.

  • Referred to as the Shi’ites.
  • Found largely in Iran and southern Iraq.
  • Rely on inspired teachers who are related to Muhammad’s son-in-law, Ali.
  • “Twelvers” refers to the majority of Shi’a Muslims who regard the twelve principle Imams. Iran is 90% “twelver” Shi’ites.

Sufi Muslims: Focused on mysticism, this group is comprised of both Sunni & Shi’a Muslims.

  • Famous poet, Rumi, was a “Whirling Dervish” Sufi.

Jesus (Isa)

  • Traditional Muslim understanding of Jesus: A great prophet.
  • Miraculous:
  1. Jesus born a virgin birth from Mary (Maryam)—only woman mentioned by name in the Qur’an
  2. As a youth: fashions a bird of clay and breathes life into it
  3. Later cures a leper and a man born blind
  4. Through God, raises the dead
  5. Causes a table spread with a feast to descend from heaven to feed his Apostles
  • No crucifixion (God would never allow a prophet to die such a shameful death):
  1. In his stead it was possibly Simon of Cyrene or an Apostle
  2. Jesus ascends to heaven at this time
  • At end of time:
  1. Comes back, vanquishes anti-Christ and ushers in an age of justice
  2. After 40 years will die and be buried in Medina with Muhammad
  3. God will then raise Jesus with everyone else in the general resurrection
  • What makes Jesus special within Islam?
  1. Does not die (common interpretation of the Qur’an 4:156-158)
  2. Names for Jesus: Spirit of God, Word, Messenger, Prophet, Servant, Son of Mary and Messiah (Christ)—but not the same as the Christian understanding of messiah.
  3. Titles for Jesus: a ‘sign’, a ‘mercy’, a ‘witness’ and an ‘example.’
  4. Jesus is beloved by Muslims.

Plurality of Faiths

  • Islam is not compulsory. The Qur’an directly addresses a plurality of people and faiths: “God could have created one single community but rather created many communities so that they would strive to work together and outdo each other in good deeds” (49:13).

shirk: To “associate” someone or something with God.

  • The opposite of tawhid and the one unforgivable sin according to Islam.
  • During the expansion of Islam in the 700’s the Muslims established protection for the “People of the Book”: Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, and were charged a poll or head tax. They did not pay the required Muslim alms, but were not allowed to spread their faith. They became islands of faith communities and some have continued to this day (i.e. Egyptian Copts, Palestinian Christians).
  • Non-Muslims were offered three choices: (1) convert to Islam and become full members in the Muslim community; (2) retain one’s faith (if People of the Book) and pay a poll tax; or (3), be subject to warfare until Islamic rule was accepted. Note that “Islamic rule” does not mean forced conversion to the faith of Islam. Many Hindus, Buddhists, etc., would live under Muslim rule.
  • While tawhid unites Muslims with remarkable equality, tawhid also separates out non-Muslims and particularly those who commit shirk.
  • For Muslims, tawhid expresses right relationship with God and defines our humanity. To move away from tawhid is essentially to move away from our humanity. If taken to its extreme as in the case of militant, radical Islam, there can then only be two “abodes”: the house of Islam (Dar al-Islam) where tawhid is observed or the house of war (Dar al-Harb) where tawhid must be struggled for through jihad.
  • Middle ground: Dar al-Sulh (“house of contract”). The portion of the world that is not Muslim, but is in good relationship with Muslims.

jihad: Literally means “to strive” (or “to struggle”) and more specifically, to strive to do the will of God. The Muslim community is “to enjoin good and forbid evil” (Qur’an 3:110).

  • There are several meanings:
  • Strive to lead a good, virtuous life through self-discipline.
  • Strive for a moral and just society.
  • Strive to defend Islam through preaching, teaching or armed struggle.
  • With respect to suicide bombings:  It is prohibited to kill women and children. Also, suicide is prohibited in Islam. Those who commit suicide are condemned to repeat that act for eternity. However, those who die defending the faith are considered martyrs…and this is where it gets complicated. Somehow, those who are participating in the suicide bombings believe that they are fighting evil (regardless of the civilian casualties!) and consider their actions as legitimate jihad. Some have labeled this as “neo-jihad,” others as simply un-Islamic terrorism.

Role of Women in Islam:

Most importantly: As with any faith tradition, the role of women varies with context. Some Muslim women are extremely restricted while others enjoy great freedom (a former prime minister of Pakistan was a women—Benazir Bhutto).

  • Qur’an: Adam and his wife (she is not named “Eve” in the Qur’an) are created at the same time and both eat from the forbidden tree (she does not tempt Adam).
  • Muhammad: He was actually a progressive reformer of women’s rights in his time. Under his leadership, female infanticide was shunned and women gained the right to retain inheritance and their dowry during marriage as well as to divorce.
  • Polygamy: Today, it is uncommon and often illegal or considered socially unacceptable. According to the Qur’an, a man may marry up to four wives if he can treat them all equally (a practical impossibility). Islamic law (Shari’a) restricts polygamy further by requiring permission from the first wife. Interestingly, though Muhammad was allowed 13 wives, he remained faithful to his first wife, Khadija until her death, 25 years later, and then married mostly widows (two of which were Jewish) who had lost their husbands in the course of Muslim battles. After Khadija, only one of Muhammad’s wives bore him a child, a son who died at a young age.
  • Clothing: A complex and contextual issue. All Muslims are to dress modestly and both men and women are to be covered in the Mosque with women additionally wearing a scarf to cover their hair. The wearing of a veil is not mentioned in the Qur’an and the Muslim community during Muhammad’s time rarely wore veils. A couple centuries later (as Islam had expanded and come into contact with many cultures), the wearing of veils was associated with prestige, wealth, and later, modesty and piety. Today, wearing a veil is contextual as is dress in general.
  • Clothing terms: Hijab (General term for “covering” of head and body); Khimar (Headscarf hanging down to just above the waist—most common); Chador (A loose-fitting, black cloak covering the head and body—Iran); Abaya (A loose-fitting, head-to-toe black robe—worn mostly in Saudi Arabia); Burqa (Heavier and larger version of the Chador with a sewn-in mesh covering for the eyes—Taliban-controlled Afghanistan & parts of Pakistan and India).
  • An appraisal: Because of the real tension between the conceptually egalitarian nature of Islam and the patriarchal nature of its practice, the Islamic community has responded to women in varying ways over the centuries. Women are considered fundamentally equal as Muslims, but in practice, they are kept separate from men in public life (particularly worship) and play a largely subordinate role to men (not unlike many Christian women around the world). However, there have been great women scholars, politicians, etc. who have and continue to play a significant role within Islam. Women’s rights are becoming an increasingly important issue within the Islamic context.

Martin Luther and “The Turks”

  • The Ottoman Turks remained a tangible threat during Luther’s lifetime by marching into the interior of Europe. In 1529, the Turks reached the gates of Vienna and after multiple attempts to seize the city, finally gave up in 1683.
  • Early on, Luther viewed the Turkish threat as God’s judgment on a corrupted Christianity and as a sign of the End Times. This brought confusion from some of his followers as to whether they should fight the Turks if they were agents of God. Luther was also against the Christian Crusades of the Holy Land.
  • Later, Luther hardened his position towards the Turks, viewing them as agents of the Devil to be defeated in warfare he viewed as apocalyptic.
  • Finally, it is unlikely that there would be a Lutheran Church as we know it today if it were not for Islam. If the Ottomans had not put pressure on the emperor, Charles V, requiring the goodwill of Luther’s protector, Frederick the Wise, it is very likely that Luther would have been burned at the stake as a heretic.

 

More in this series:

A Primer On Islam: Groups, Sects and Shari’a (Lesson 2 of 6)

A Primer on Islam: Historical Outline (Lesson 3 of 6)

A Primer on Islam: History Behind the News (Lesson 4 of 6)

A Primer on Islam: Muslims in Context (Lesson 5 of 6)

Primer on Islam: Muslims in North America (Lesson 6 of 6)

[Note to commenters: Be nice; be respectful; keep it extremely civil. Anything else will get you booted. Thanks for understanding.] 

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • Terry Vaughn Abuali via Facebook

    Bless you for doing this, John…education is a great tool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Thanks, Terry; this means a lot to me. I REALLY want Pastor Bob to continue sharing with us his truly brilliant work, so it’s super-important to me that it be shared: that I can SHOW him that people are getting what he’s doing: that people dig it. Then he’ll give me more of his stuff. And that’s so what I want. So … thanks for helping me in that effort!

    • Donald Rappe

      Pastor Bob’s words are important to me. He speaks the good news in a way I can understand. For a few weeks, my vision has not allowed me to drive and I have not been getting to church or AA meetings. I need both a driver and to be awake at the right time. The latter is the real problem. I am sleeping more than 12 hours a day. In my 40′s I worked with a very faithful Muslim woman and we became friends. Everything she taught me about Islam is in agreement with Pastor Bob’s lesson.

  • Terry Vaughn Abuali via Facebook

    We struggle personally with the impact of people being illiterate of Islam…the more we can educate, the better. I am a “thru-way” Christian but hubby is of Islamic faith. I look forward to the series greatly!

  • Jack

    I bear witness that there is no God but Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and Jesus is God Incarnate risen from the dead.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      “I bear witness.” Very stirring, Jack. I can almost hear the buttons on your shirt front straining as you puff out your chest.

      • Stephen McBride

        But John, don’t Muslims say exactly the same thing? “I bear witbness that there is no god but Allah…”

        Perhaps Jack is being ironic, but surely if we are to be cnsistent, then we have to accuse islam of puffing out its chest.

        I DO like this website, I really do. I find it useful and thought provoking. But I also sense a political correctness at some of the comments, where if you differ from the overall consensus, you invite somewhat paronising comments.

        Surely we should celebrate differnce, and see it as a chance for real debate. Because that stimulates far more learning?

    • Wendy P.

      Thank you for that, Jack.

      This comment will not be well received with the regular commentators of this blog, as they are very hostile to any view that differs from their own.

      Jesus Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        Nobody on this blog has a problem with anyone taking pride in their religion. What we have issues with is arrogant stupidity. So, you know. Something to bear in mind.

        • Melody

          Exactly, John. In a way, it’s not unlike cultural heritage. For example, I’m proud of my Swedish ancestry, but I don’t think I’m better than anyone else for that. I know that ancestry isn’t chosen and religion is chosen to a degree, but neither of those aspects of our beings makes anyone better than the other. Be proud of your heritage, but don’t be racist. Be proud of being a Christian, but don’t be arrogant.

        • Mindy

          Apparently Jack didn’t see the sign outside your church, John. Bummer.

          Or Wendy.

          Maybe we should just call them on it now??

        • textjunkie

          Hear, hear!!

      • DR

        This is such a great example of those who actually can’t be challenged in their thinking do when they are – you know – challenged. They point a finger at those who ardently counter their view point and say “You’re being hostile to me so now I don’t have to talk to you”.

        Wendy P if you’re a true follower of Christ, like He did you’ll spend time with people who have a lot of different points of view and when they get angry with you because your beliefs hurt them or hurt the world? You’ll be mature enough to actually take it, to see past the emotion and connect with that individual regardless of your discomfort. Christians need to start leveling up our emotional maturity so you can do more than just drive-by comments of hostility and not stick around and really engage. That’s what kids do – they throw a rock and then run. If you have the courage of your convictions? Then stand up and debate, no one can actually hurt you on the Internet.

        • Christy

          Yes. Well said, DR.

      • L.SS.

        it’s not so much the idea, it’s the WAY of pushing the idea at people.

        (well, sometimes it *is* the idea, if the idea is a horrible one that has hurt a lot of people). but when people have the same idea, and some are imposing it in a belligerent way while others are offering it in a friendly way, that’s still a difference.

    • Christy

      Is it possible, for a moment, to consider that Islam so reveres God that the concept of the trinity is a stretch – theological gymnastics, if you will – or said yet another way: that the square peg of the trinity is rather difficult to pound into the round hole of monotheism…..seeing as Christianity took some time (and arguing) to work into accepting the trinity and monotheism as compatible?

      • Christy

        Especially in light of the cultural and historical period out of which Islam grew. As Pastor Bob pointed out, the region was polytheistic. This focus on the absolute, literal translation and understanding and practice of monotheism in a region of polytheism is completely understandable. This emphasis would be akin to us clinging to Paul’s letters to the churches in Roman enclaves encouraging them to denounce Roman traditions and hold fast to their faith…..or some of the trouble Moses had with the Israelites and idol worship.

      • Andy Jo

        Seems to me that the Trinity is a stretch for anyone… Even Christians. It is one of the most ignored and misunderstood aspects of Christianity, but also one of the most interesting.

        –Andy Jo–

        • Donald Rappe

          Yup!

    • Donald Rappe

      Jack, I think you present a great parallel between the creed Christians profess and the Islamic creed which is said at the times for prayer. In the first part, we all agree on the first commandment. In the second part, the difference is emphasized. We do not need a messenger like Mohammed because we already have God’s ultimate revelation given in the gracious gift of his Son. But there seem to be many who do need the Prophetic Messenger PBUH who seems to be called to redeem the illiterate. The People of the Book must have seemed to him to include primarily literate people. IMO.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    The whole series is up there now: at the end of the post are links to the other five lessons in the series. Anyway, thank you again

    • Christy

      Love your (not so) subtle humor.

  • Tina Badger via Facebook

    Thank you…thank you…thank you! I just got through watching Nonie Darwish say Islam should be conquered and annihilated and listening to Bryan Fischer of the AFA say Islam is nothing but dark energy full of vitriol and hate (really, Mr. Fischer must be looking in the mirror), so Pastor Bob’s lesson was a nice refresher coming from a Christian. We need to stand strong against the bigotry of those like Darwish, Fischer, Geller, and Spencer et.al. Thank you for this!

  • Ray Stewart

    Great start! As a lapsed Quaker, I’m easing back into my own personal faith, but I believe understand between religious faiths is important. Keep it up!

  • John Slattery

    Dear Mr. Shore,

    May I commend you for presenting this excellent lesson on Islam. I lived for twenty-two years in Islamic countries (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Indonesia) teaching English. When I returned to the US in 2003, I taught courses on Islam. The amount of ignorance and misinformation about that religion in the US is both amazing and frightening.

    Thank you for this contribution to understanding between faiths.

    Sincerely,

    John Slattery

  • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

    I posted something similar a while back on my blog (http://buzzdixon.com/christianity/the-handy-dandy-islamchristianity-equivalency-chart-re-post/) but Pastor Bob’s primer is far more scholarly & detailed.

    BTW, I too believe that Jesus Christ is God Incarnate but I try not to be a d!ck about it.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      That should be on a sign outside of every Christian church: “We try not to be a dick about it.”

      • Mindy

        …and if we ARE dicks about it, please call us on it, won’t you? Thanks.”

      • Allie

        This made my husband’s day.

      • L.SS.

        YES. totally.

    • Stephen McBride

      Buzz, I have to pull you up on this, where you equate Al Qaeda to the IRA. You could not be more wrong. Let me establish my credentials first – a history teacher, from Northern Ireland who took his history degree at the Queen’s University of Belfast.

      Whilst it is true that the vast majority of IRA members were/are Catholic, there is an important difference between them and Al Qaeda. At root, the IRA was a Marxist organisation. Their aim was a Socialist Republic of Ireland and to that end, they has as much of a quarrel with the govt. of the Irish Republic, as with the UK. They commited bestial acts, but at no time did they ever say they were killing in the name of God. they never ever used any justification for their actions from the Bible.

      Al Qaeda on the other specifically reference what they do in the name of Islam. They quote the Qur’an and there is certainly plenty of material in that book that they can use to justify what they do. their stated aim is the Islamicisation of the world. Does that mean I’m saying all Muslims agree with their actions? Of course not>

      Though it would be nice to see mainstream Islam condemn such terrorism a lot more vocally.

      • DR

        Stephen, you seem to want to paint Islam with a broad brush while insisting that other religions and fundamentalist movements that you might be more closely aligned with (for whatever reason) should be discussed using context and specificity. It’s inconsistent and not terribly logical.

        • Stephen McBride

          No, I’m a historian, and I just like people their history correct!! Once a teacher, I guess… :)

          Plus, as I’ve said, I AM from Northern Ireland. I would be appalled at myself if I didn’t show i could make the diostinction I made.

          It IS an important distinction though. Al Qaeda do do what they do within a specifically islamic framework. I’m not saying all Muslims agree with what they do. However, I do feel they need to be a lot more vocal in ensuring that the views o moderate Islam are heard.

          In the same way that I would be appalled if you thought that the IRA typified the views of all Irishmen.

          I’m not aligned to anything either!! You and I will clearly disagree, but you know, nothing could be more healthy. I can sense you don’t like what I say, but that doesn’t make it wrong. Just as me disagreeing with you doesn’t make you wrong.

          I found this a particularly insightful article. You may or may not agree. The important point for me is that it references a female Muslim writer, which I think adds weight to the overall article.

          http://www.fvuuf.org/index2.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=29&Itemid=184

          • DR

            I give up.

        • cat rennolds

          DR? I don’t get it. He was speaking specifically of Al Qaeda in this post, not Islam in general.

          “Does that mean I’m saying all Muslims agree with their actions? Of course not>

          Though it would be nice to see mainstream Islam condemn such terrorism a lot more vocally.”

          • Stephen McBride

            Thank you, Cat!

      • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

        I’ll grant you that, Stephen, which is why I put in the caveat re it being a “very rough equivalency” chart. There is no exact (well, at least no well known exact) parallel to Al Qaeda in the Christian West; the IRA was the closest I could come up with since they were a revolutionary organization dedicated to driving a foreign intruder out of their territory even if others had accepted them.

        • Stephen McBride

          But even there, Buzz, I’ll have to disagree.. “Their territory”? the IRA has always had minority support, not only in Northern Ireland but across the island as a whole. Moreover, until the advent of Sinn Fein, they never stood to be held accountable to the electorate.

          Arguably they never have, since Sinn Fein go to great pains to distance themselves from the IRA now!!

          But that said, thwy at least could be brought to the negotiating table, because they could be reasoned with. Organisations like Al Qaeda that see themselves on a mission from God cannot be, because they see their mission is such frightingly cosmological proportions.

          • Christy

            Right. You can’t reason with fundamentalist religion, because it is not based on reason but deeply held and unyielding convictions.

          • L.SS.

            one imam in the UK even made a fatwa against terrorism, ok?! it was like a year or 2 ago.

          • L.SS.

            sorry that comment went in the wrong place and i don’t know how to move it.

      • L.SS.

        they do, Muslims condemn terrorism til they are blue in the face, but it doesn’t get in the news.

    • L.SS.

      i like your shorthand chart.

      could you consider using // or || to indicate parallel, instead of = to indicate equivalent? it seems kind of more like “is the same as”, which feels confusing (or maybe it’s just me).

      anyway, it’s a cool idea and i think it could help people get a feel for a little bit of each other’s cultures.

      • http://www.BuzzDixon.com buzz

        That’s a good point re // instead of =. I use the tools available, what can I say. May “Topic A” >< "Tobic B" to indicate "more or less" ?

        • L.SS.

          i’m used to asian-style emoticons, so that looks like an abbreviated version of unhappy person (>_<) … but it might work just fine for others.

  • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

    John,

    Thanks good stuff. I’m always a student

  • Mindy

    I am going to share this with my sister-in-law, who returned a year ago after eight years of living in Kuwait, and is a fascinating spiritual being, in large part because of her experiences there. I believe she will love it, but I will let her speak for herself.

  • Dirk

    I certainly think it is important to learn as much about Islam as possible. Only then can we hope to engage the cultures so formed by that religion to relieve the misery of women and gays.

  • Allie

    I’m just back from a delicious lunch at a Muslim restaurant. It’s nice to know more about my neighbors there, who are always very generous and friendly. The owner knows I like dates so he gave me a package of dates when I was checking out. One gentleman had dyed his hair and beard red – I don’t know what significance this has, anyone know?

    I also met a Jain! We had a discussion about how she eats there because it’s one of the few local places with a good selection of vegetarian food. I know something about Jainism by way of my college religion classes but I had never met anyone who followed this religion before.

    Thanks again for the learning opportunity.

    • Heather Barbour

      Thanks for your interest. Dying hair is permitted in Islam, but not black. It is because of a prediction that states in the end times, certain people will dye their hair black, and these are not the people of God (idk, think goths and vampires?!) So to avoid being someone the prophecy talks about, people generally don’t dye their hair black.

      The main item used to dye hair both back in the day and today in the Middle East is henna, which gives a red hue. Personally I think it looks silly for older men to try to cover their gray with red, when their hair was naturally black, but whatever!

  • http://n/a Todd Smith

    I appreciate what you are doing. I’ve been studying Islam for a long time. Went and spent some years working in the Middle East and have gotten my Arabic up to a decent level. I think the story on apostasy in Islam needs more nuanced coverage than what you’ve presented above. The remarks about Luther probably could be contested too.

  • Karen Langford

    Thank you for these great articles! The more people know the truth about Islam, the more we can try to eradicate the fear about Islam and Muslims. This is an issue close to my heart because I really believe we are all one. Before 9/11, Islam and Muslims weren’t even an issue. And to blame 9/11 on all Muslims is like blaming all Christians for what the man who called himself a devout Christian did when he slaughtered all those children in Norway.

    We can argue all we want (those that do argue) about who is right and who is wrong when it comes to what really happened way back then, but when it comes right down to it, we don’t really know. It all just comes down to beliefs. Now I just say “I don’t know; I wasn’t there.” I don’t know. No one does. So, how about if we teach everyone that unconditional love, as taught by all the great spiritual sages throughout time, is what it’s all about. Thanks again for the great articles! Keep up the wonderful work!

  • Liadan

    Many people will be surprised that Islam was a religion that could be considered ‘feminist.’ It professed equality in religion when Christianity was still deciding if women had a soul. Women were in the forefront of teaching and developing Islamic theology. It guaranteed women a lot of civil rights too.

    Middle Eastern women had more civil rights than Western women for a very very long time.

    In a weird way, I returned to Christianity because of my Islamic studies. I learned women didn’t have to be religiously abused.

    • Stephen McBride

      How can it be? Look at how women are gtreated in the islamic world. Women only just given the vote in SOME elections in saudi Arabia? A state that is about to flog a woman for driving a car? I’m not making this up. Check it out on the BBC!!

      A faith that legally considers the word of a woman to be half that of a man? A faith that says a woman bringing an accusation of rape has to have four male witnesses? These are all things that are either a part of Sharia, or are in the hadith.

      I know promoting tolerance is a good thing. I really DO believe that. Byt at the same time, to be wilfuly blind on issues like this and to portray Islam as feminist…. that staggers me.

      • DR

        Good Lord, you’ve inserted a lot of meaning here. There are Christians here in America that prevent their children from learning science or prevent their wives from cutting their hair. You’re analyzing countries that are relatively tiny to the US and drawing conclusions about *mainstream* Islam compared to Fundamentalist Islam. You need to apply some intellectual honesty when reading these comments and demonstrate a willingness to allow Islamic countries to have the same kind of issues with their religion as we do in our “Christian” nation.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          thank you.

          • Karem

            Thank you

        • Stephen McBride

          Yes, I agree with you DR. However, Liadan specifically made reference to the point that Islam can be considered feminist. I merely expressed the doubt that how can this be so, given how women appallingly treated in Islamic states.

          I can’t see that I’ve said anything disrespectful there. The stories I cited can be found on the BBC website. I wouldn’t describe Saudi Arabia as “relatively tiny” either. Not when the western world is so dependant upon their oil.

          Equally, when I live in the UK, why would I compare Saudi Arabia to the USA?! ;)

          As for allowing Islamic countries to have issues – sure they can have them, but I’m not going to be tolerant of how they treat women or gay people.

          I AM for dialogue and understanding each other better. But doing that doesn’t mean we all have to agree all of the time and pat eachother on the back. There are times when dialogue needs to confront difficult issues, or you never move forward.

          I’m from Northern Ireland. I saw how torturous the Peace Process there was first hand, because of the agony both communities had seen fit to inflict upon eachother for decadees. I also experienced that agony first hand, having had relatives killed by both the IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries. However, hothing wouldhave been achived by pretending that everything was nice, and hey, we all love eachother now!!

          Northern Ireland HAD to go through the yelling, screaming, weeping to lance all of those boils. The difficult issues had to be confronted and not ignored. And we still are very far from a perfect society.

          The same has to be done regarding the cultural collision betwen the west and Islam, because they do not embrace the same values. Maybe that’s more apparent in Europe than it is in America, simply because geographically we’re closer to the Middle East. whereas Muslims in the USA are probably Amerian first and then Muslim. I, on the other hand, teach teenagers who are frequently the victims of radicalisation. This is a huge problem in the UK.

          • Karem

            If I may, there is not even one Islamic state in existence at this time. May be by name only? :)

          • Dirk

            Ah, but Karem, given the murder, torture and abuse of gays and women in the Islamic countries already, I am not going to buy into that argument.

            It is precisely the argument which so many Christians use here in America – this is not yet a Christian country.

            Meaning, as soon as they can, they will turn it into a theocracy and all of us gays who don’t have a place to run to will get to discover that the comparisons to Nazi Germany weren’t made up.

            Until your religion absolutely turns away from treating women as half-human, until your religion stops murdering gays, there is nothing of value to it, at all.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Dirk, you’re a passionate guy. I appreciate that about you. But be careful, please (as I know you so often take care to be) not to couch your questions and concerns in language so inflammatory the value of your points is obscured by your manifested anger. You have a right to ask about Islam’s relationship to gays and women. But once you add “until your religion stops murdering gays, there is nothing of value to it, at all,” you’ve basically forfeited your right to a respectful response. That’s not what you want, I’m sure. Be respectful here, or I’ll bump you. Thanks, buddy.

          • Dirk

            But, John,until they stop murdering us, until they stop treating women like animals, there is nothing of value.

            I’m withdrawing from further comments on your website.

            Those who do not actively stop our murder abet it.

            It’s that simple.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            Dirk: Sorry to see you leave; you’re a passionate voice for causes which I support. It’s a shame that your response to my request to tone down your hostility is to simply leave the conversation. You don’t even know Karem; for all you know, he cares more about women and gays than you do. But you’re so busy screaming at him you can’t begin to hear anything he might have to say. Why choose your anger about a matter over your ability to help effect change of that matter? Oh, well. We’ll carry on the fight without you, of course.

          • DR

            That’s exactly the point, Stephen. There are elements of this religion that demonstrate feminism being alive and well which was the point of the original comment. You countered that by taking the extremist position on women and making a sweeping conclusion. Stop doing that please.

        • Jack

          \There are Christians here in America that prevent their children from learning science or prevent their wives from cutting their hair.\

          And this is NOT typical of Christianity as a whole.

          BTW–did you know that the Big Bang theory was originally proposed by a Roman Catholic priest, Georges Demaitre?

          • DR

            Yes, that’s the point. It’s not demonstrable of Christianity as a whole and making statements about Fundamentalist, extremist people who practice their Islamic faith in abusive ways do not speak to the whole of Islam. There’s no difference.

      • DR

        One more thing, Stephen: read up on the “7 Reasons Abused Wives Stay with their Husbands” thread and you’ll see hundreds of women who were terrorized into shame, silence and submission by their christian husbands. It’s an epidemic of abuse in the christian culture to abuse women in the name of “submission”. Open your eyes, please. This is not Islam-specific, this is everywhere.

        • Stephen McBride

          Again, I agree. But as I say, I was addressing what laidan said about Islam being feminist.

          • Christy

            The distinction, Stephen, is that all the Abrahamic faiths have degrees of liberals, moderates, conservatives, and fundamentalists. To use only one sect to characterize an entire faith is inaccurate. Sufis are particularly egalitarian, and the scholars I have talked to point out how the Qu’ran is often written from a feminine point of view, especially when looked at from a Jungian perspective. (An example: the story of the Queen of Sheba visiting King Solomon.)

            Authoritarian, Patriarchal, Paternalistic, Legalistic, Misogynistic character traits are common to Fundamentalist sects of religion, whether they are from Islam or Christianity. The problem is not Islam. The problem is Fundamentalism.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            You’re so good, Christy. Thank you for this.

          • DR

            Yes, exactly this. Amazing. Thank you.

          • Amelia

            Stephen- I believe Laidan was making the point that “Islam was a religion that could be considered ‘feminist.’” That was written in the past tense. As was most of the rest of Laidan’s post.

            The same things could be said about the laws in Leviticus. We look at them now and think they’re restrictive, but at the time they were quite advanced.

            Cultural influence has a lot to do with how any religion is played out.

          • Liadan

            Please reread my comments. I don’t think Islam is *feminist* compared to today’s standards, but compared to what was there *before* Islam and compared to all but the most recent of Christian history…it is indeed more enlightened than the West.

        • karem

          Women in Islam – Pointers for the Western mind

          Many people are both misguided and confused regarding the treatment of women in Islam. They believe the wrong media portrayal of Muslim women and they confuse Islam with male chauvinistic actions that are not supported by teachings in Islam or the example of our Prophet (pbuh)*. The question is: Have you ever studied Islam and seen for yourself what it teaches about the treatment of women? Most have not. But yet some “westerners” speak and write as authorities based on the false propaganda broadcasted in the media and the poor examples of some Muslim men portrayed in the Islamic world. The following may help present a few facts regarding how Muslim women are viewed and treated according to the teachings of Islam:

          http://www.ascertainthetruth.com/att/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=113:women-in-islam-&catid=52:women-in-al-islam&Itemid=71

      • Jack Heron

        Stephen, I think you’ve missed Liadan’s point. It’s not that Islam is some perfect shining beacon of feminism, but that the Koran says things that are rather feminist for the time – like how ‘an eye for an eye’ was rather forgiving for the time (because it limits revenge to an exact exchange), even if it’s not considered that forgiving these days.

        Take the four male witnesses: yes, this presupposes that women are unreliable. But on the other hand, it also presupposes that it’s the woman who is wronged by rape rather than the woman’s father or husband, which was a common attitude at that time.

        So it’s not that Islam sprung into being as a modern liberal religion but that it has had from its earliest days a concern with liberty and equality that, however imperfect at first, has the potential to develop into something truly admirable.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Well done, Jack. Thank you.

        • Stephen McBride

          I’m still not convinced, you know. If four men are witnessing a rape, I’d want to know why they are standing there witnessing it. Whay the merry hell are they not trying to stop it. I’m sorry, but I see such as law as the acme of mysoginy, rather than liberating for women!

          I think this is something where we’re just not going to agree, and i’ll be out of step with you all. But that is the nature of dialogue, and in deed it is good to have dissenting voice, because that stops dialogue becoming a monologue that can sound a little self congratulatory.

          I do have my puroses as an irritant!!! ;)

          • DR

            Ugh. If you want to stay immersed in a very ignorant kind of thinking, no one can stop you but you need to wake up to the ugly, evil, stupid things those of us who are religious do everyday. You’re not an “irritant”, exactly, your decision to resist acknowledging that in every culture there are varied levels of education, fundamentalism and enlightenment that cause people to do what they do is dangerous. You actually damage those who practice Islam as a whole, I find your light hearted approach to refusing to move from your stereotypes unsettling and, sorry, kind of gross.

          • Stephen McBride

            DR, I haven’t been rude to you. Please don’t be rude to me, by calling me ignorant. I differ with you. that doesn’t make me wrong!

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

            I’ve put McBride on moderation. (His last comment, which I deleted, was unacceptable. CLOSE to being okay–but, alas, no cigar.)

          • DR

            I didn’t call ::you:: ignorant. I called your way of thinking in this specific context ignorant. Huge difference, consider not putting words in mouths, I choose what I write very carefully.

          • Stephen McBride

            Even so. I think differently to you. I don’t see that that’s a crime. If you differ with me, tell me why and try and convince me why I’m wrong.

            Surely opoosing ideas aren’t that scary!

      • Nick K.

        Stephen – I think you might be confusing the four witness rule a bit here. I believe that according to the Quran, you need four witnesses to adultery not rape. This rule was revealed to the Prophet after an incident in which his wife Aisha was suspected of being unfaithful.

        But then again, I’m not a Quranic scholar and this rule could very well apply to rape as well. Could someone please clarify for me?

        Thanks.

      • Liadan

        Islam *started* as a woman’s rights religion. for its time, it treated women far and away better than Christians treated their women. Please remember the Islamic majority countries had been conquered and ruled by Western countries for generations. A lot of Western ideals were adopted, and many of those were abusive to women. also, the West progressed (in the 70s and 80s) for women, while the Eastern countries were still subjugated to the West and did not change. So, yes, there is a lot of work for Islam (or rather Islamic countries) to do…but we have to get out of their way and stop inhibiting their development. And we have to stop claiming the repressive countries represent *all* Islam.

        I was part of the Third Wave of Feminism and know how far women have come in the West in such a short time and how we are now regressing.

        But it is a matter of history that Muslim woman had far more rights than Christian women for hundreds of years.

        When I first started journalism, I was not allowed my name as a my by-line. I was referred to “Mrs. John Smith”, not “Jane Smith”. Yet, Islamic women were allowed their own names for over a thousand years.

        The property of Western women belonged to her husband, not to her. Doweries were paid to the father or to the husband (depending on culture).

        Islamic women owned their own property and it was not given up due to marriage. Doweries were paid to the BRIDE and it was hers to keep. Arab women frequently wore their wealth on their bodies and was inviolate. No one would rob her.

        Islamic women were doctors, lawyers, merchants, rulers, even clerics-nearly a thousand years before Western women (as rule, there some odd rare exceptions in the West).

        Paul was forbidding women from speaking in church and from teaching a man. Christianity was teaching submission, especially as women were easily tempted and could not be trusted.

        In my church, the pastor asked the women to cross their legs “to close the gates of hell.” My father had to give his consent to my mother’s medically necessary hysterectomy.

        No, *all* my studies of Islam point to a far more enlightened view of women than the West’s for a thousand years. And when compared to women’s lives under ancient Eastern paganism, Islam was indeed liberating.

    • Jack

      \It professed equality in religion when Christianity was still deciding if women had a soul.\

      BTW, this is not true–it is at best an urban legend, and at worst, slander.

      • Melody

        Example?

        • L.SS.

          i got curious so i googled it … i don’t know this Nolan guy but he spends several webpages debunking the story. here is one. i don’t know enough church history to judge, but just providing it for general interest.

          http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/12/002-the-myth-of-soulless-women-3

          • Melody

            Well, he’s gonna have to condense it for me to read it. I have neither the time nor the patience to read something like this that can’t be summed up in a few paragraphs. Usually, if you have to write an entire thesis to prove something to the layperson, it’s not worth it.

          • L.SS.

            sorry, my intro sentence was unintentionally misleading. that WAS the short version. i think a thesis by the same guy was at another link which i did not include.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003407107972 Davida

      Apostasy must be made easier. The only hope for Europe is to find some way of binakreg through the intimidation and getting the majority of Muslims to become apostates. Otherwise the future is bleak indeed.There are three possible future scenarios for Europe:(1) Progressive Islamisation ending in Shariah and Dhimmitude for the natives.(2) Progressive Islamisation ending in a reaction of violent de-Islamisation (and probably a World War as Muslim countries attempt to protect their European co-religionists from the Fourth Reich’s ‘Final Solution’)(3) Gradual De-Islamisation of Muslims already living in Europe.Options (1) and (2) are both nightmare scenarios, so that leaves us with (3) as the only way out, no matter how difficult that may be.Option (3) is indeed difficult, but not impossible. Islam rests on two foundations – (i) The character of Mohammed and (ii) the Koran being the ACTUAL WORD OF GOD (not a human interpretation as liberal Christians view the Bible). If you destroy the foundations, the house of Islam will certainly become wobbly. What you then have to do is give the inhabitants somewhere else to live. Most people aren’t (willing) atheists. They need some form of religion. The trick here will be to design a religion (memetic engineering) which appeals to recovering Muslims. I’m not being sectarian about this, but I would imagine that some form of ‘broad-church’ Christianity would have more appeal to the ex-Muslim than, say, Wicca or Zen. It’s also important to replace the community function of religion which is so important for Muslims. So here are the 4 R’s of eradicationg Islam in Europe – Rationalism, Ridicule, Revulsion and Replacement.RATIONALISM – expose the contradictions, illogicalities, and scientific absurdities within the Koran showing that it can’t possibly be the word of God. Also publicise scholarly investigation of the origin of the Koran and strange Pagan features such as meteorite worship.RIDICULE – Islam, as we have seen, is hypersensitive to satire, especially any jokes against Mo. Islamic beliefs should be made objects of derision and contempt rather than fear. Mohammed himself should be revealed as the murderous pervert that he was. Islam must not be given the respect it so desperately craves.REVULSION – how many Muslims know the full depths of barbarity and depravity within their religion. eg practices such as mufa’khathat ? REPLACEMENT – Encourage conversion of Muslims to any other religion. Churches and other organisations who are successful in this dificult task should share their know-how with others. Ex-Muslims should be debriefed to discover what caused them to leave Islam.The alternative to eradicating the disease would be the Serbian solution of culling the carriers. If we ever get to that stage then European civilisation will hardly be worth saving.

      • vj

        Or, we could just love individual Muslims we might meet (serve them, welcome them, demonstrate God’s kindness towards them), and trust God to know what He is doing – you know, like Jesus told us…

        Any systematic and deliberate ‘ridiculing’ of an entire class of people is just never going to end well!

  • http://allegro63.wordpress.com/ sdgalloway

    I took a comparitive religions class last summer, and Islam was one of the religions we studied. I was a bit disappointed with the tone the teacher took who, being a baptist preacher, couldn’t quite distance himself from his own views to teach about each religion objectively. Thankfully another student helped me ask some really out of the box questions, which made me enjoy the class thoroughly.

    At the time I was in the midst of a bitter divorce and was not feeling comfortable with Christianity, well mainly reactions by Christians to my situation. That class brought me more to focus and forced me to really look hard at my faith and exactly where I stood.

    That class opened my eyes to the fact that although different religions can differ vastly on concepts of how to worship, just what is the construction of deity and the afterlife, there was a lot of common ground there as well. I decided right then to focus more on the common ground and less on our differences. Then I discovered John Shore’s work and the amazing information he and others bring to the table, and knew I was on the right path.

    This class is quite similar to what I learned in that class last year, but better, being simply objective and informative.

    Thanks! I look forward to more.

  • Dirk

    It occurs to me – and I am frankly going to say it, my travels in the mid-east have left me less than impressed with Islam in general and 21st century Arabian culture in specific (it’s a lot like what the tea party wants America to be in a wide swath of the Arabian world) – that is a very easy religion to criticize and a very hard religion to truly understand.

    This is one reason I welcome this chance to learn more. I admit to being biased. The continuous murder of gay men, the oppression of women (calling people feminist who only stone some women to death in 2011 is a bit like saying, because not all Catholic priests rape children, none do). The mildew which the religion has laid upon what was once a culture which virtually gave us writing, the maths, music, medicine, and so much more yet today produces all most nothing in the hard sciences, the, well, one can’t just argue it’s the culture not the religion because, of course, the culture before the religion was so far advanced beyond the our area of the Eurasian continent of the time we have the records to compare.

    Well, we have to understand them far far better if we are ever going to move forward from our current conflict. And we have to understand them if we are ever to hope to end their murder of women and gays.

    • Melody

      Very well said, Dirk. I think most of us have some degree of bias, but the difference between us and certain posters here is that we admit those biases and are willing to try to see past them to learn and find common ground.

      • Dirk

        It is not easy for me Melody. I look at the pictures of the young men murdered recently in Iran for being gay and that is Islam. There is just no way around it.

        As for the ‘feminist’ nonsense, sheesh. They stone women to death.

        That’s like saying, because NOM can’t (quite yet) have us gays put to death, they are tolerant of gay rights.

        I welcome this opportunity to learn because I want to understand why this religion has become the source of so much torture, evil and misery. I want to see if there is any common ground upon which to build an entente, a truce if you will.

        I doubt it. If anything, America after the elections of 2012 is going to more resemble the Islamic world than Europe.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Dirk, if you really “welcome this opportunity to learn,” and are looking for “a truce,” then stop doing things like declaring Islam the source of “so much torture, evil and misery.” You’re sounding too crazy. Exercise the discipline necessary for speaking the language of peace, or go speak somewhere else. Think of yourself, please, as a diplomat. People will listen to you that way. Screaming furiously just makes people plug their ears, and keep walking. Either the power of what you have to say is strong enough to warrant respectful attention, or it’s not. Your added personal hostility doesn’t help either way. Back off of that. I don’t have the time to monitor you. Help me not have to.

        • Melody

          You’re putting words in my mouth. I never said Islam was a feminist. Far from it. I’m aware of their track record regarding women and gays, but what about Christianity’s record? Why haven’t you stopped being Christian, then?

          • Patrice Wassmann

            Christianity has been “the source of much evil, misery and torture” as well. I don’t think this statement of Dirk’s is disrespectful, it is just true. Ok, I guess you could say it is the individuals that abuse women and gays in the Muslim faith that are responsible, instead of it being the fault of Islam. But isn’t that basically saying the same thing? Followers of Islam have abused and oppressed others. Followers of Christ have done the same.

          • DR

            No Patrice, it’s not the same thing for a lot of us. It might be for you but if we’re really going to *solve* this we need to start identifying the role of active abusers vs. passive abusers (those who are aware but silent and refuse to take a stand or are afraid to take a stand). The first group is much easier to deal with and the second group, via non-action, also responsible. The latter group is larger and once activated and aware or shook out of whatever causes them to allow the abuse to continue ? Very, very powerful. But it’s a complex, layered conversation to have with them and if you immediately lump them in as “murderers”, you give them a reason to not participate in the discussion anymore. So you lose them.

          • Stephen McBride

            And above you’ve just described why I have problems with Islam, DR. In the UK, at least, there are too many of all faiths who stand and are complicit. My own country of Northern Ireland is all too typical of this.

            But in the mainland United Kingdom, the problem is all too often that Muslims stay silent and do not condemn things like the 7th July bombings, the radicalisation of their youth. many stand by and wring their hands, but no-one will grasp the nettle.

            And that doesn’t help British Muslims because the rest of our population sees this, and concludes, most probably wrongly, that silence equals tacit support.

            Seeing Mirza’s comments above were refreshing. Theologically I don’t agree with them, but big deal. There’s a lot I don’t agree with in Christianity. However, Mirza’s comments were both insightful, and vert true of the UK’s Islamic population. I has given me much food for thought.

            However, do you really have to be condescending when you reply to people? Patrice differs with your opinion, The tone implied in the comment “It might be for you…” is as judgemental as any of the right wing fundemantalists that are rightly condemned in these pages.

            What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and if we are as inconsistent as thiose we criticise…

  • Karem

    First, I would like to thank you, John Shore, for posting this primer on Islam by Pastor Bob, whom I have come to know in the past 5 years as a wonderful and knowledgeable human being. If I may post the following comment:

    The statement “Islam is meant to be embraced by all people as the one true religion,” could imply that Islam and the Muslims deny Judaism or Christianity as the other religions of Allah (God). On the contrary, Muslims believe the two religions are God’s religions. However, it is believed that those two religions were reinstated or renewed by Allah in the religion of Islam, the message of which Allah revealed to the last Prophet (sealer of prophets), Mohammad (peace be upon him).

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Karem! It is very good to hear from you. Everyone: meet Karem, a man so gracious and gregarious that two minutes after meeting him even I momentarily considered being nice to strangers. Turns out I wasn’t quite ready for a lifestyle change of that magnitude—but if anybody could inspire such a change, it’s Karem. Truly, I’m a better person for having met him.

      • Pastor Bob

        Welcome Karem. Your comment is excellent. John, I think you are getting nicer to strangers! :)

      • Karem

        You are very kind, John. Thank you.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

          Karem: You made me feel welcomed and comfortable in an environment entirely foreign to me. That is a gift that you have, and I am happy and enriched to have been the beneficiary of it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.conard Tim Conard via Facebook

    fascinating article. we have so much in common and yet we are so easily turned against one another. god must be saddened…

    • Donald Rappe

      I’m not sure how easy it is. Sometimes the devil does some heavy lifting. Fear of the other is one of his best tools.

  • L.SS.

    at the college where i work we are doing some multicultural awareness things as part of the professional development this semester and i think we have the… what i would call “Everything you ever wanted to know about your Muslim Neighbors but were afraid to ask” scheduled for December. do you think it would be ok if i cut&paste this series and made a handout that i could email to any faculty members who wanted a Christian perspective about Islam? i would credit Pastor Bob and link to this blog, and to Pastor Bob if he has a link.

    • Pastor Bob

      Sure. I hope it’s helpful.

      • L.SS.

        i think it will be!

  • Mirza Farrukh Beg

    Sorry Friends, because of my incompitance, my message got lost. Following is my first message:

    Thank you John and thank you Bob for your in depth study of Islam. Speaking about myself, I admit I a Muslim know far less about Islam than what Bob has acquired. And I am not alone, out of a billion and half so called Muslims unfortunately most of them are more ignorant about true Islam and its message to all Humankind. M0hammed never claimed to be the founder of Islam. As Bob rightly said Islam means submission to God’s will. When you submit to His Will how can you hate any of His Creation. And His Message has always been the same through all His Messangers, right from Adam to His last Messenger Mohammed including Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Treat every other being as you would like to treated yourself. Mirza

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      This is so beautiful. Thank you, Mirza.

  • Narelle Friar via Facebook

    a good read!! Love it <3

  • Robin Vestal via Facebook

    Yes…I shared it and read most of the series. It’s an excellent read and very helpful.

  • Rabia

    Thank you Pastor Bob, and John. It’s a pleasure to read such an unbiased, calm synopsis of my religion.

  • Aliya Chapman via Facebook

    Really well done. Thank you!

  • http://guulo.wordpress.com/ Guulo

    I came across searching for “how to blog for the huffington post” and came across this post as well. A pleasant surprise to not come across forthing at the mouth bigots as often i do when it the subject concerns my beloved faith. Nice blog. Cheers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dwayne.g.mason Dwayne G Mason via Facebook

    Thanks to you and Pastor Bob for providing this much needed objective information.
    I can’t find lesson two …

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Dwayne: THANK YOU for alerting me to that messed-up link! We’ve fixed it. Lesson two is here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2011/10/21/a-primer-on-islam-groups-and-sects-lesson-two/

  • Vivian

    I have just found this and I think the conversation has been wonderful. I haven’t read all of the lessons yet, but I have been living in Egypt for over 12 years. Thank you. I am sharing Pastor Bob’s lessons on Facebook with a recommendation that all my friends and family read it.


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