Six Fundamental Beliefs About Islam
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So it picks off in Medina. And as it spreads, as it gets a bigger following, Muhammad gets an army of 10,000 people and he goes back to Mecca. When he goes back to Mecca, he tells the Meccans, “Look, your polytheism is over, it’s over for you. You can either engage in war or submit.” And they say, “We’ll submit.” So not one drop of blood is spilled, and Muhammad takes over Mecca, takes over the whole city. And that’s where it really begins to take off. Now you see on these slides, the vast expansion of the Islamic Caliphate or the Islamic empire. Of course, in Saudi Arabia, it begins, it has its most strength. It spreads into the middle Eastern areas, the Levant like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, all these places goes into Iraq and Iran. It covers all of North Africa and it gets as far as Spain before Charles Martel beats them back out of Spain.
And their influence of course is very, very strong in Spain. If you go to Spain now, when you go to the Alhambra, the Alhambra was a Catholic Church. The Muslims took over, made it into a mosque. And it’s covered wall to wall floor to ceiling in etchings that are the Koran words from the Koran. It’s all over the place. And in fact, they left it that way when Martel kick them out. The Spaniards didn’t destroy it and say, “We got to get rid of that stuff.” They up there. It’s quite something to see. So that was it in its early days before the fall of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I actually. Islamic rule today, however is much bigger. Now it’s not a Caliphate, It’s not an empire per se, it’s the Islamic world.
What I’ve shown you here is… Now this is kind of an outdated map to some degree because you’re starting to get pockets of Muslim influence in Europe that are even bigger than what’s shown here. Islam is spread everywhere. I mean, Northern Africa, all the way to Eastern and Southern Africa dominated by Islam. Of course, the middle East is majority Muslim. There are some large Christian populations, of course. And of course the State of Israel, all the way through Kazakhstan and India, there’s a huge number of Muslims in China. And then of course, Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world with like 240 million people, 200 million of them are Muslims. So nearly a quarter of a billion or 20% of a billion live in one country. That’s Indonesia. It’s quite a lot. It’s a huge, huge religion. Some say, it’s the fastest growing religion.
Now this is hotly disputed, it’s about 1.3 by most estimates, billion Muslims in the world. Which means about one seventh of the world is Muslim. Now it’s growing. It is growing fast, whether it’s the fastest one, I’m not sure about, but it is growing pretty fast. It’s growing fast for a couple of reasons. The largest reason, the most important reason is birth rate. Muslim families tend to have about six kids per family on average. Now that’s sort of an unscientific way to look at it because people don’t go in and say, “How many kids do you have in Indonesia?” You don’t go to and start asking Muslims, “How many kids do you have?” But they have large families. In Europe that’s happening as well. They have a huge families compared to the average Christian home or non Muslim home. In Europe we have about two kids per family. So you’re going to have expansion based on birth rate alone.
Immigration is a big part of it too. As they come to the West, it’s growing very fast here in the US. South America, there’s millions upon millions of Muslims. I have relatives in South America, Brazil, Venezuela, all these countries. There’s tons of Muslims there. I have a cousin who actually owns a Lebanese restaurant in Thailand. They’re everywhere. So it’s growing quite a bit.
Now what is it that mattered to me? What are the things that made me a Muslim? I want to go into six beliefs and five practices. Now some of you may have actually know about this stuff. I don’t want to spend tons of time on it. I want to spend some time on it. There’s tons of books with this material in it. I want to tell you why it mattered to me a little bit here and there, but I don’t want to go into too much detail about this stuff because there’s tons of material on this. So I’m going to breeze through it. If you want me to stop, please raise your hand, interrupt me. Don’t worry about that. I’ll stay on track relatively easily. I think I will.
So there’s six fundamental beliefs about Islam. These are the things that I held and I cherished quite greatly. The first one is monotheism. Islam is fiercely monotheistic, fiercely monotheistic, not only in distinction to polytheists, but they’re monotheistic in distinction to Christian Trinitarianism. They’re Unitarians. In other words, they reject any idea of a Trinity at all. They consider the Trinity to be blasphemous. I thought when I was growing up, I thought Christians were just confused tri theists. “You thought you’re monotheists, but if you have the Father who is God, the Son who is God, the Holy Spirit who is God, that’s three gods. You’re a tri theist. I know you’re trying to sort of mash up the words and make it look like there’s one God, but you’re a tri theist.” That’s what I would say.
I have since come around, but I thought Christians were just confused tri theists. For the Muslim, God is one in his nature, and one in his personhood. He is an undivided undifferentiated, absolute. There is no differentiation within God at all. He is one and only one. This is a doctrine called Tawhid. It’s one of the most important doctrines about God in Islam. Tawhid is spelled T-A-W-H-I-D. Muslims all over the world will say, “That’s the most important aspect about God.” But I want to share with you something that was important to me as a Muslim. That is important to every Muslim I’ve ever encountered.
I’ve written quite a lot about this in my book that, I think it’s upstairs or wherever the bookstore is, Grand Central Question. The idea is this, for the Muslim, God is the greatest possible being. Now, that’s true for Christians too. You’ll see a commonality here. Of course, we’re monotheists as well, but a Muslim has this view that God is the greatest possible being. And anything that even remotely suggests that God is less than great, or that hints that he needs something is considered blasphemous. So the idea that God would need sort of a community within himself like Father, Son, Holy Spirit is considered a blasphemy.In fact, it’s considered the only unforgivable sin there is in Islam, which is called shirk, S-H-I-R-K. That’s the idea that you attribute partners to God.
So the Muslim says that the Trinity is blasphemous because you’re taking away from God’s greatness. You’re denigrating his greatness by saying he needs partners. Of course, that’s a fundamental understanding of the Trinity Muslims think, because, you’ve heard this phrase, right, Allahu Akbar. You’ve heard this? You’ve all heard this, where you watch the news. I presume you watch the news or read the news on whatever device you use to read the news because watching the news is sort of per se. But you’ve seen this phrase Allahu Akbar. Now unfortunately in the media, whenever you see someone see Allahu Akbar, something explodes, right? Kaboom! Allahu Akbar, boom! Something bad happens. This is actually not a terrorist chant. Terrorists use it as sort of their battle cry, but it’s not a terrorist chant. It’s actually a very common phrase most Muslims use all the time.
Allahu Akbar literally means God is greater. God is greater. God’s greatness is the fundamental doctrine of all of Islam. Every doctrine they hold to. And every Christian doctrine they reject must be viewed in this light. Every question they claim Islam answers is viewed in the idea that God is great and it’s unlimited in any way, shape or form. So when I was a Muslim, I would hear Muslims or I would do this too. You walk into a house, you say, Allahu Akbar. It’s a blessing on the house. If you get bad news, like someone got hurt or you got fired from your job or you’re sick, whatever it might be. You say Allahu Akbar, God is greater. You rely on God’s greatness. So it’s the fundamental doctrine.
Now what this means though, is that for the Muslim, God is essentially arbitrary and capricious. He can do whatever he wants without limitation. So if God wants to, God can lie. He can lie to people who believe in him. He can send you to heaven if you’re good enough. But if you’re good enough, he can say, “You know what? I don’t feel like sending you to heaven. You’re going to hell.” And he can send you there. He is unlimited in his capacities.
Now you and I believe that God is also unlimited, he’s omnipotent and all powerful. But we believe that God can do all things that are reasonable for God to do consistent with his nature. So because God is ultimately good and pure, there is no falsehood in him. He can’t lie. He won’t lie. The scripture says that God’s not a God that he should lie. But in Islam, that’s not the case. They don’t want to take away from his greatness in any way. So they think that if I allow him to do anything, then I’m not taking away from his greatness and not insulting him. But they result in sort of moral problems for God, as you can tell.
So God is the creator of the universe. He’s the only non created thing. He existed, always eternally. He creates everything. He’s the judge. Islam gives them these, what are called the 99 beautiful names. The 99 beautiful names, most Muslims memorize all 99. And they’re taken from the Koran. The Koran, like you see how in the Bible you have Jehovah-jireh, Jehovah-nissi, all these names for God. Well, Islam has a similar thing. So in every chapter of the Quran, for example, except for one, it begins with these words, Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim, in the name of God, the beneficent, the merciful. The beneficence, the one who gives good gifts or gives good things or does good things. And the merciful, of course, the one who always exhibits mercy.
Those are two of his 99 names. Those describe who he is. So it’s important for a Muslim to understand that God is in a sense relational because beneficence and mercy and love, it calls him Al Wadud for example. Al Wadud means the friend or the loving one. So Islam does have a concept of a God who is very relational, not in an intimate sense, but in the sense that he does have relational capacity. So, that’s who God is in Islam. But he’s also arbitrary, he’s also called the schemer and the bringer of death and these kinds of things. So this is who God is in Islam.
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