My recent one-page article: "Islam: More than a Religion" has inspired a lot of emailssome positive, some negative. Whether you are for or against what I have written, I appreciate hearing from you. God has given me a deep love and a burden for Muslims. My wife and I have hundreds of friends and acquaintances who are Muslims. Since "9-11", many non-Muslims in the West have been quizzing me on Islamthe most common question being, "Is Islam a religion of peace?" I confess that I do not know everything there is to know about Islam, but based on two decades of living in a majority-Muslim country and hundreds (perhaps thousands) of hours spent studying the Quran and other Islamic source materials, let me attempt to answer this question from an Evangelical Christian perspective.
The Arabic word for peace is salaama word included in the Arabic/Muslim greetings. Islam is Arabic for surrender or submission. Muslim means one who submits. For many non-Muslims, the word Muslim is synonymous with angry mobs and suicidal bombers. Such stereotyping of Muslims is patently wrong. Most Muslims are ordinary, peace-loving people with their own set of dreams and problems and should be treated with the same respect we give to any other fellow human being.
For the record, let me say that Jesus Christ taught his followers to "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." (Injil, Matthew 5:44 NKJV). Notwithstanding Jesuss clear teaching and example, over the centuries, much violence and evil has been committed by those who call themselves "Christians". Just as there are many who call themselves Muslims who do not live according to the teachings of Muhammad, it is safe to say that many who call themselves "Christians" do not live according to the teachings of Christ.
Let me also say that I can identify with Muslims around the world who are upset with the shameful moral standards portrayed in so many American movies and other media forms which often glamorize violence and normalize anti-family/anti-God values. While there are still multitudes of people in the West who lead godly lives and enjoy close, loving family relationships, the media tends to ignore such examples, choosing rather to publicize the amoral ones. Unfortunately, many mistakenly equate such permissiveness and evil with "Christianity." Nothing could be further from what Christ taught and exemplified. While it is true that the American nation was founded on Christian principles, the USA is not a "Christian nation". In the strict sense of the word, it is wrong to speak of any country as a "Christian nation" since Jesus Christ said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." (John 18:36) The only "Christian nation" acknowledged in the Bible is made up of helpless sinners from "every tribe and tongue and people and nation" (Revelation 5:9) who have been "born again" (See Injil, John 3) or "saved" (See Romans chapters 3 to 5, and 10) by believing the Good News of the prophets concerning GODS WAY of Salvation. True Christianity is not a RELIGION, but a RELATIONSHIP with God through Jesus Christ. Ill comment on this further at the end of this article.
Now let us get on with our subject: DOES ISLAM PROMOTE PEACE? If so, what kind of peace? Recently, a Muslim young man gave me a pamphlet entitled "Islam Explained" (by the Islamic Circle of North America). It states that Islam "instructs people on how they may live together in peace and harmony regardless of race, class or beliefs." While I would agree that most Muslims are in favor of "peace and harmony regardless of race, class or beliefs", the question we want to answer is: Are Muslims for peace because of Islam or in spite of Islam? Does Islam itself promote peace and tolerance? Consider the following data ...
1. WHAT THE QURAN SAYS. The familiar term jihad, often translated holy war, literally means struggle. Many Muslims emphasize that jihad is about struggling against evil desires and, if necessary, defending ones homeland and religious heritage. "Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. God does not love the aggressors. Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is more grievous than bloodshed.... Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Gods religion reigns supreme." (Quran 2:190-192) [Note: Quranic quotes from N.J.Dawoods English translation (The Koran, Penguin Books, UK, 1993)]. A favorite verse of moderate Muslims is 2:256 which says: "Let there be no compulsion in religion. True guidance is now distinct from error." Militant Muslims, however, will point you to numerous Quranic texts where Muhammad (as Allahs spokesman) commands his followers to fight and subdue all who resist Islam. What leads young men to volunteer to die for the privilege of killing others "for the cause of Allah"? Could it have something to do with the fact that Islam offers no certain hope of heaven to any of its adherents, with one exception? Consider these few Quranic verses...
The Quran contains scores of similar verses.
Most Muslim Scholars see the world divided into two "houses"the House of Peace (Dar Al-Salaam) and the House of War (Dar Al-Harb). The general idea is that Muslims belong to the House of Peace, while those who have not yet submitted to Islam belong to the House of War until they are "utterly subdued." However, even this distinction is often blurred since militant Muslims (who take the above verses at face value) also include moderate Muslims in the House of War. Consider further...
2. ISLAMIC NATIONS AROUND THE WORLD. The concept of jihad is rooted in another conceptSharia (Islamic law). Many of the worlds more than forty majority-Muslim countries have embraced Sharia, and those that have not are under relentless pressure to do so. For example, over the past nine years in Algeria, some 100,000 Muslims have been slain by militant Muslims. The reason? These militant Muslims want political control of the nation. This is a growing trend in the Islamic worldeven though it is a trend despised by most Muslims.
In the 94% Muslim country of Senegal (where freedom of religion is granted and Sharia is refused), several Middle Eastern countries send over their Islamic teachers, build Islamic schools and finance more mosques in an effort to "purify" Senegals Islam. So what does "pure Islam" look like? Many Muslims will tell you that there is no country in the world that exemplifies true Islam. Yet Islam claims to be a religion that has the answers for society, a religion that offers peace and wholeness. So where should we look to get an example of what true Islam looks like? Iran? Afghanistan? Pakistan? Libya? Turkey? Indonesia? Egypt? How about Saudi Arabia?
While most Muslims decry the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as corruptit is nonetheless the "keeper of Islam" and the religious center toward which more than one billion Muslims face five times a day as they repeat their prayers in Arabic. In Saudi Arabia, freedom of religion is nonexistent. It is illegal to read a Bible or vocalize a non-Muslim prayer in the privacy of your own home. Under Islamic law, conversion to Christianity by a Saudi citizen is punishable by beheading. Saudis leaders do not support the idea that Islam "instructs people on how they may live together in peace and harmony regardless of race, class or beliefs." According to Amnesty International, the persecution of Christians in Saudi Arabia has "increased dramatically" since the Gulf War. More than a thousand cases have been documented in which Christian foreign workers have been arrested, imprisoned and/or beaten for participating in private worship meetings. Add to that the fact that numerous incidents go unreported, especially among Egyptians, Indians, Koreans, Filipinos and other Third World workers who fear further reprisals against them and their families.
A more moderate Islamic nation across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia is Egypt. I recently met a family who has fled Egypt to seek asylum in the West. The reason? Constant harassment because of their religious beliefs. In Egypt, Christians can't even paint their walls or do minor repairs on their church buildings without a building permita permit that is virtually impossible to obtain. One particular woman had her identity papers confiscated and is being kept under house arrestall because she left Islam to follow Christ. The charge of "denigrating Islam" is regularly leveled against Christians who are involved in leading a Muslim to Christ. Many Christians living in Upper Egypt have been pressured to pay "protection money" to Muslim racketeers. Those who refuse have been subjected to violent attacks. In October of 1995, Shehata Fawzi (a Christian farmer) was shot to death when he refused to pay 5000 Egyptian pounds to local Muslims. The Cairo-based center for Human Rights/Legal Aid reports the murder of dozens of Copts over the past several years. Last report, the government has failed to put a stop to it. Meanwhile, the militant Gamaa al-Ialamiya group wants to replace Egypts "moderate" government with a more strict Islamic state!
The harsh reality is that in every country where Sharia is embraced, non-Muslims face restricted religious freedom and harassmentfor nothing other than their religious beliefs. It should be said that there are times when governments, groups or individuals use Islam primarily as a pretext for carrying out their political-economic-cultural agenda. A horrifying example can be seen just south of Egyptin central Sudan, where, since 1983, the Muslim government of Khartoum has exterminated more than two million Sudanese. Another five million have been displaced. Burning of villages and farms, slavery, rape, torture, forced Quranic indoctrination of children, and bombings of churches are regular events. Meanwhile, over in Indonesia, Laskar Jihad, a well-organized, well-funded, and well-armed Islamic militia has waged a campaign to annihilate the Christian population there. Over the past several years, thousands of Indonesians have been butchered for refusing to convert to Islam. If Islam is for "peace and harmony regardless of race, class or beliefs"then where is the loud and clear, widespread outrage from the Muslim community over such carnage committed in the name of Allah?
Yes, accusations could be raised about horrible atrocities committed by many who have called themselves Christians (Crusades, Inquisition, slave trade, abortions, etc.). Yet, is there not a fundamental difference between the two? While the Bible clearly states that governments have a right to use the "sword" as "Gods minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil" (Romans 13:4), the use of violence to further Christianity is in absolute opposition to the teaching and example of Jesus who prayed for those who crucified Him, "Father, forgive them..." (Luke 23:34). On the other hand, the use of aggression to further Islam is, at times, in apparent harmony with the teaching of the Quran (see above verses in the first point) and the example of Muhammad.
3. MUHAMMADS EXAMPLE. History tells us that, at first, Muhammad did not use force to induce the Jews, Christians and pagans to accept Islam. Later, however, when people and circumstances turned against him and when he began to gather an army to himself, he began telling his followers that the latest "revelations from Allah" were saying things like, "Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home." (9:73) Thus began Muhammads career of warring in the name of Allah. Those defeated by Muhammad were offered protection if they would submit to the dictates of Islam. Those that refused to become Muslims had the "choice" either to pay tribute or to be put to death. This is the apparent "peace and tolerance" Muhammad offered to non-Muslims in his treaty with the people of Khaibar and to others. Non-Muslims were the Dhimmis (the people of obligation) and, as such, were to be "utterly subdued" (9:29).
About twenty years ago, a Muslim neighbor lent me his book on the life of Muhammad, hoping to attract me to Islam. Amid the many positive things recorded about Muhammad, one phrase that sticks with me to this day is that the Muslim author wrote that Muhammad could be both "compassionate and cruel." One of the better-known examples of Muhammads "cruel side" is recorded in several Hadiths, as well as in other writings such as the History of Tabari, Sirat Rasul Allah, and the Kitab Al Tabaqat Al Kabir ...
"A group of eight men from the tribe of 'Ukil came to the Prophet and then they found the climate of Medina unsuitable for them. So, they said, O Allah's Apostle! Provide us with some milk. Allah's Apostle said, I recommend that you should join the herd of camels. So they went and drank the urine and the milk of the camels (as a medicine) till they became healthy and fat. Then they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels, and they became unbelievers after they were Muslims. When the Prophet was informed by a shouter for help, he sent some men in their pursuit, and before the sun rose high, they were brought, and he had their hands and feet cut off. Then he ordered for nails which were heated and passed over their eyes, and they were left in the Harra (i.e. rocky land in Medina). They asked for water, and nobody provided them with water till they died." (Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 261: Narrated by Anas bin Malik.)
The oldest still-available biography of Muhammad is called the "Sirat Rasul Allah" ("Life of the Prophet of Allah"). This book was written by Ibn Ishaq a century before any of the major works of the Hadith. "Sirat Rasulallah" is considered the most authentic biography of Muhammad. On page 515, we read of an event that took place about three years before Muhammad's death. This specific narrative tells of Muhammads conquest of Khaibar, a large Jewish settlement with some of the best date palms in the region. The Jews of Khaibar were prosperous merchants, craftsmen, and farmers. Kinana al-Rabi, who was said to have had the custody of a certain hidden treasure, was brought to Muhammad who asked him about it. Kinana denied that he knew where it was. A Jew came to the apostle and said that he had seen Kinana going round a certain ruin every morning early. When the apostle said to Kinana, "Do you know that if we find you have it I shall kill you?" he said "Yes." Muhammad gave orders that the ruin be excavated and some of the treasure was found. When he asked Kinana about the rest of the treasure he refused to produce it, so the apostle gave orders to al-Zubayr Al-Awwam, "Torture him until you extract what he has." So he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then Muhammad delivered him to Muhammad b. Maslama and he struck off his head. Were Muhammads actions in keeping with a religion that is for peace? And this is only one such example among many.
Friends, do not take my word on this. Do your own research. Take a look at the above-mentioned biography (English translation: "The Life of Muhammad" by A. Guillaume; Oxford Univ. Press) or "23 Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad" (by Ali Dashti; Mazda), or read some of the Hadiths. You will even read of instances in which Muhammad had innocent people put to death (such as Abu Afak, a 120-year-old man and Asma bint Marwan the mother of five children, a slave woman mother of two children, and the one-eye shepherd, all murdered while they slept. Their only crime was that they somehow offended "the prophet.")
I am keenly aware that such information is both painful and offensive for my dear Muslim friends. Yet truth is truth. Jesus didnt beat around the bush when He said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheeps clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. ... False prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you before hand. ... Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch." (Injil, Matthew 7:15-17; 24:23,24; 15:14)
4. HISTORY OF ISLAMIC EXPANSION. Encarta Encyclopedia 99 says: "The remarkable speed of [Islams] religious expansion can be attributed to the fact that it was accomplished primarily through military conquest. Muhammad drew Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula to Islam by his forceful personality, the promise of salvation for those who died fighting for Islam, and the lure of fortune for those who succeeded in conquest. The caravan raids of the early years of Islam soon became full-scale wars, and empires and nations bowed to the power of this new religious, military, political, economic, and social phenomenon."
Yet in the booklet "The Basics of Islam at a Glance" prepared by The Islamic Cultural Center (Tempe, Arizona), we read: "There is no historical proof that Islam was spread by the sword. Even non-Muslim scholars now admit that this is nothing more than a vicious myth which cannot be substantiated by historical fact." However, on an Islamic question-and-answer website we find a more honest assertion: "Question: Some enemies of the religion claim that Islam was spread by the sword. What is your response to that? Answer: Islam was spread by proof and evidence, in the case of those who listened to the message and responded to it. And it was spread by strength and the sword in the case of those who stubbornly resisted, until they had no choice and had to submit to the new reality." (www.islam-qa.com - question #5441)
Many say, "Well, what about Joshua and the Israelites? The Bible records that they exterminated entire cities of people!" True. But a close look reveals a quite different set of circumstances. Just as God (after hundreds of years of patient forbearance) had judged evil with a flood in Noahs day, and fire from heaven on Sodom in Abrahams day, so God used the people of Israel to judge the Canaanite nations. God waited hundreds of years before judging these nations, giving them time to repent and turn from their wicked ways of idolatry, immorality and human sacrifice. They ignored the witness of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Joseph, Moses and the ten plagues that came upon the Egyptians. Thus, God, at this particular time in history, used the Israelites to carry out His judgments. But please notice that this was no random warfare! These battles were carried out under specific commands from God with limitations. Sometimes God forbade the children of Israel to take any part of the spoil. The victories included miraculous interventions from Godsuch as Jerichos wall falling outward (confirmed by archeology by the way) after the Israelites had marched around them on seven consecutive days. Notice also that God was fair and impartial in His judgments. For example, in the Torah, Numbers 25-31, we read how God first strikes the Israelites with a plague because of their idolatry and adultery. 24,000 Israelites die. Only after God had judged Israel does He send them forth to judge the surrounding nations.
Muhammads wars and later Islamic wars of expansion were very different from Gods acts of judgment as recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible. Muhammad would make treaties with the idolaters as long as he was still in the minority, but when he grew strong, he freely used the power of his human armytaking justice into his own hands. He gained great wealth from the war spoils. Muhammads wars were partialalways against non-Muslims, with little or no mercyquite different from what we see a loving, long-suffering God doing through His prophets and chosen people under the Old Covenant. Whats more, Muhammad totally ignored the long-promised "New Covenant" which Jesus established and in which He commands His disciples: "Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you. ... A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (Injil, Matthew 5:44; John 13:34,35)
5. TREATMENT OF APOSTATES. Under Islamic law (based on the Quran, the example of Muhammad [sunna] and the consensus [idjmaa]), whoever falls away from faith in Islam commits an "unforgivable sin." Such "apostates" must be taken into custody by force, and called on to repent. He who does not turn back to Islam has, according to Sharia, forfeited his life and is to be put to death by the state. While this is not carried out on a regular basis in most Islamic lands, the threat of it is there.
According to the daily paper, Al Alam, King Hassan II of Morocco, also the imam of his country, presented the following state of affairs before a human rights commission on May 15, 1990: "If a Muslim says, I have embraced another religion instead of Islam, hebefore he is called to repentancewill be brought before a group of medical specialists, so that they can examine him to see if he is still in his right mind. After he has then been called to repentance, but decides to hold fast to the testimony of another religion not coming from Allahthat is, not Islamhe will be judged."
It is no wonder that a major section of the Muslim population in majority-Muslim countries like Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, and Indonesia resists the full introduction of Sharia. They do not wish to come under the frightening yoke of oppression which demands that thieves have their hands and feet amputated, adulterers be whipped, and converts to Christianity be killed. However, a significant minority of Muslims passionately demand the immediate adoption of Sharia and are prepared, in some places, to fight for it with the help of terrorism and revolutions. In each Islamic country, militants and moderates wrestle over the Sharia. Unquestionably, Islam is going through a global identity crisistrying to define what it will become in the 21st century.
In pointing these things out, let me remind you that I am not blind to the madness of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages, in which those who refused to submit to the "Church" were subsequently tortured and killed for their "apostasy". Once again, however, we must point out that this evil in Church history was in direct opposition to the law and spirit of Christ. Please keep this distinction in mind. In Jesus Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15), the father did not have his rebellious son followed, locked up, tortured, starved or killed. He gave his son freedom to choose (and to suffer the natural consequences of his choices). While God has committed much authority to individuals and to governments, torturing or killing those who refuse to believe and obey Gods way of Salvation is NOT something He has asked man to do! Ultimately GOD will judge every person. "For it is written: As I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God." (Romans 14:11,12; Isaiah 45:21-23)
6. TREATMENT OF WOMEN. Our search for an answer to the question "Does Islam promote peace and tolerance?" would not be complete without at least mentioning Islams treatment of women. This is a subject which requires a very balanced approach. Many Muslims point to the extremes and licentiousness of women in the West as portrayed on television as proof that only Islam can put a stop to such permissiveness. This is because they do not know what the Gospel of Jesus Christ does in the life of those who believe. The loose women flaunted in movies do NOT reflect what a true Christian woman is like. If you know some true Christian women personally, then you know that such godly women are characterized by a desire to obey the Bible, which teaches "the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed." (Titus 2:4,5)
While the status of women varies greatly between Muslim countries, I highly recommend two insightful books, "Not Without My Daughter" (by Betty Mahmoody) and "Princess" (by Jean Sasson). The first book opens a window on the lives of women in Iran, the latter on those in Saudi Arabia. We have all been made aware recently of the extreme oppression of women in Afghanistan. Though the Taliban has been ousted, much of their strict legal code remains intact. While the vast majority of Muslims condemn the extremes of the Taliban, few are willing to speak out on behalf of the women in their own lands. Muslims have a very difficult time understanding a true Christians marriage relationship, in which the husband is the leader, but a servant-leader who loves his wife enough to put her needs before his own. The New Testament Scriptures teach that "husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church." (Eph 5:28,29) Meanwhile the Quran says,"As for those [wives] from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them." (4:34)
We now come to the most important point of all...
7. THE MUSLIMS RELATIONSHIP TO GOD. As important as the above points are in answering the question "Does Islam promote Peace?", they all pale into relative insignificance when compared to this final point.
Islam sees Muslims as slaves of Allah. While the Quran says that God is closer to man "than his jugular vein" (50:16)such nearness is a technical nearness. For Muslims, God is great, but unknowable. Like so many who call themselves Christians, Muslims have religion, but they do not have a personal relationship with God. If you like religion, Islam has a lot to offer. But if you want a relationship with the one true God and the peace and assurance that comes from knowing Him personally, then you will need to look back into the Scriptures of the prophets and to the Gospel of Jesus.
Muslims are quick to say, "We believe all the prophets!" and "We believe in Jesus! He was a great prophet!" In response to these statements, I ask my Muslim friends, "What does it mean to believe a prophet? Does it not mean to understand and believe their message? And where do we find the message of the prophets? Is it not in the Scriptures of the prophets?"
The Quran frequently mentions the Torah (Taurat), the Psalms (Zabur) and the Gospel (Injil) as being the Word of God (5:44-46; 4:163; 40:71; 10:94; etc.), and that "the Word of God shall never change. That is the supreme triumph." (10:64) If the Quran is trustworthy to a Muslim, and if he is honest, there is no way that he can reject "the previous scriptures" (Quran 20:133). Yet all of my Muslim friends reject the message of these books, saying that they have been altered, corrupted, changed, ad nauseam. After twenty years of asking, I still wait to hear who changed what and when. As is the case to this very day, many of the Jews and Christians were guilty of twisting their Scriptures with their tongue (Quran 3:71,78), but the fact is that the Scripture was considered intact during the time of Muhammad (3:93; 10:94; 21:7; etc.).
The Scriptures of the Bible are based on tens of thousands of ancient copies of manuscripts. Some of the scripts of the Old Testament go back to the 3rd century B.C. and some of the Gospel (New Testament) scripts go back to the 1st and 2nd century A.D. with complete New Testament scripts dating back to the 4th century A.D. The Bible has been wonderfully preservedespecially when you remember that the oldest books of the Bible have been copied by hand over a period of about 2900 years (before they were first printed). For the Quran this period was 2000 years shorterand it certainly shows no fewer variations between its many ancient copies. Contrary to what so many have been led to believe, the Bible is by very far the best documented and preserved script of antiquity. There is more evidence for the reliability of the text of the New Testament than there is for any ten pieces of classical literature put together. The New Testament text is in better textual shape than the 37 plays of William Shakespeare which were written a mere 300 years ago (after the invention of the printing press!). Yes, there are minor variations between the thousands of copies of Scripturea word here and there, a paragraph omitted in some and included in othersbut these variations in no way affect the message of that which the prophets have written. By the way, it is important to see how the Scriptures of the Bible prove themselves to be the Word of the one true God. One of the main ways the Biblendreds of precise prophecies about nations, cities, individuals and the Messiah. Though written hundreds of years beforehand, history records the precise fulfilment of these prophecies. Folks may try to brush aside the hundreds of fulfilled prophecies recorded in the Bible, but they cannot deny them. The Quran cannot measure up to this standard in the slightest. If me saying this upsets you, please do write to me personally and I will be happy to back up this point with a list of fulfilled Bible prophecies. Listen to what God Himself has to say. "Present your case," says the LORD. "Bring forth your strong reasons ... Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods ... Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination." (Isaiah 41:21-24)
Over a period of 1500 years, God inspired some 40 prophets and apostles to write down His words and His dealings with mankind. God wants us to understand who He is and what He is like, why He made man, the nature and consequences of sin, and how helpless sinners can be brought into a close relationship with a holy and perfect God and enjoy peace with Him forever. This is the message of Gods prophets.
The sad, hardcore reality is thatwhile Islam professes belief in "all the prophets"IT DENIES THE CENTRAL MESSAGE OF THE PROPHETS. What is the central message of the prophets of the Bible? That God, in His infinite plan and unmeasurable love, would "become flesh" in order to fulfill the symbolic meaning of millions of animal sacrifices and hundreds of detailed propheciesby willingly shedding His blood as the perfect substitutionary sacrifice to pay the sin-penalty for helpless sinners, and then conquer death by rising from the gravethus establishing an everlasting peace between the one true God and all who believe in HIM and HIS way of salvation.
Muslims feel that God is "too great" to need to become a man in order to reveal Himself to us. If you feel this way please keep in mind that there is more than one kind of "greatness." There is the "greatness" of a king who lives in his imperial palace, surrounded by wealth and luxury and slaves to keep Him comfortable, yet remains indifferent to the pains of his subjects. There is also the greatness of a skilled doctor who forsakes a lucrative medical practice in his homeland to go to the poorest of the poor and serve them, heal them, and lay down his life for them. Which kind of greatness do you think is most worthy of a merciful and gracious God?
Listen to what the prophet Isaiah wrote concerning the coming Messiah 700 years before Jesus was born. "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel [meaning, "God with us"]. For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given ... and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. ... He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed." (Isa. 7:14; 9:6; 53:5)
Seven centuries later, the promised Prince of Peace was born into our sinful world. The night before His crucifixion, He told His disciples, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. ... Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down ones life for his friends. If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. ... If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. ... But all these things they will do to you for My names sake, because they do not know Him who sent me." (John 14:27; 15:13,20,21)
Hours later Jesus willingly allowed the religious leaders to arrest Him, try Him and turn Him over to the Roman authorities to be crucified. Thus, in the same hills where Abraham, some 2000 years earlier, had killed a ram in place of his son and predicted the greater sacrifice that was to comeJesus died as the once-for-all sacrifice to pay for the sins of the worldso that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but should have eternal life. This was Gods plan from the beginning.
As predicted, on the third day after Jesus died, He came out of the grave, the triumphant Savior and Lord of all who believe in Him. That same day, Jesus met with two Middle-Eastern men who did not understand how Jesus, who had been crucified, could be the Messiah. Jesus said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Messiah to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself." (Luke 24:25-27)
Muslims are much like those two Middle-Eastern men. As with most Jews, the concept of a crucified Messiah is a contradiction in terms (like a married bachelor!). They do not understand "all that the prophets have spoken." Muslims even go so far as to deny the historical record of Jesus death since the Quran states: "They denied the truth and uttered a monstrous falsehood against Mary. They declared: We have put to death the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of Allah. They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but it appeared so to them." (4:157) Amadou Hampatť Ba in his book "Jesus as Seen by a Muslim" writes: "Any disloyalty to Jesus must be punished in the same way as blasphemy against Mohammed. There is no doubt about it, in Islam, that the one who blasphemes against Jesus is promised hell fire." Yet concerning Christs death Ba writes: "On this point, we differ with our Christian brothers. For us, Jesus will certainly die, but he has not yet died."
Dear friend, if Jesus did not die on the cross, then please tell me, WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THE ANIMAL SACRIFICE? And WHY ALL THE PROPHECIES ABOUT A SUFFERING MESSIAH? And WHY DID JESUS HIMSELF KEEP TELLING HIS DISCIPLES THAT HE WOULD BE CRUCIFIED AND BE RAISED AGAIN THE THIRD DAY? I invite you to read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 for starterstwo Old Testament passages which predict with precision how the Messiah would suffer and die as a sacrificial payment for the sins of the world. God is holy and His holiness requires that sins be paid for. "The payment for sin is death!"NOT good worksbut death and eternal separation from God! Jesus died in our place. He took our hell, so that God can count us righteous and allow us to live with Him forever.
The Senegalese people of West Africa have a proverb that says: "A woodcutter doesnt cut down the village's main tree!" Located on the edge of the Sahara desert, each village has its primary, centrally located shade tree under which folks pass the time of day, drink tea, and hold important meetings. What would happen if a woodcutter started to chop down the villages biggest, most central tree? Yes, the villagers would become very angry ... and they would put a stop to it ... immediately!
To my dear Muslim friends who reject the historical and prophetical record concerning Christs crucifixion I say: How do you think God feels when you chop at His "main tree"? All of Godís prophets pointed to the sacrificial death of the Messiah. Nothing is more basic to Gods plan of salvation. Yet Islam teaches that there is no need for such a sacrifice ... and that it, in fact, did not even happen!
Friend, it is unwise to chop at Gods "main tree"" Listen to what Jesus said to His disciples some months before He willingly gave Himself up to die for our sins. "From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!" But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." (Injil, Matthew 16:21-23)
Does Islam promote peace? How can it promote true peace when it denies the very means God has provided to establish a lasting peace between God and man, and between man and man? All the prophets bear witness to the fact that Jesus"made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight... For [Christ Jesus] Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us ..." (Colossians 1:20-22; Ephesians 2:14) Or as the prophet Micah wrote of the Messiah 700 years before He was born, "This One shall be peace."
God wants to give you His peace that surpasses human understanding, but we must submit to HIS WAY of salvation. To all who truly believe that Jesus is who He and the prophets said He was, and that He died in your place for your sins, and rose again from the deadGod promises to give that which religion can never provide: Salvation from the penalty and power of sin, a credited-righteousness, assurance of sins forgiven, a cleansed conscience, a deep peace, an untouchable joy, a new nature, a personal relationship with God, an eternal home with Him in Paradise, and more! One day Jesus will return to earth to establish His Kingdom of peace, meanwhile He wants to establish His kingdom of peace and righteousness inside of you. But you must believe the Good News about who He is and what He came to do. "Do you believe the prophets?" (Acts 26:27)
Remember, to believe in Jesus Christ is not to embrace a RELIGION. Religion is humans trying to work their way to God through prayers, good works, etc. The Gospel (Injil, Good News) of Jesus Christ is God coming to men and women in the Person of Jesus and offering them a RELATIONSHIP with Himself. And what makes it so wonderful and sure is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that "which God promised BEFOREHAND through His prophets in the fHoly Scriptures..." (Romans 1:2).
There is so much more that I would like to write, but I must stop here. However, if the true message of Godís prophets is not clear in your mind donít YOU stop here! Get a copy of the Bible and begin by reading the New Testament, which makes regular reference to the Old Testament to show how God has fulfilled the plan He promised through His prophets (e.g. English, Arabic).
You may also want to read ONE GOD — ONE MESSAGE (available in English, Arabic and several further languages), which is a book designed to help you over any remaining obstacles and lead you to a deeper understanding.
Above all, keep in mind this promise from God Himself: "You will seek Me and find Me, WHEN YOU SEARCH FOR ME WITH ALL YOUR HEART ... For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, THOUGHTS OF PEACE and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope." (Jeremiah 29:13,11)
Articles by Brahim Sene
Answering Islam Home Page