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The Camoflauge of Islam – an Examination of Worldviews

September 20, 2011

Pick up any newspaper on any given day, in any number of the countries in Christendom – i.e., that portion of the world in which Christianity prevails, or which is governed under Christian institutions – and readers should be able to read about, in some degree or another, acts of terrorism perpetrated by fanatical followers of Islam.  Conversely, do the same in any of the forty-nine countries that have a predominantly Muslim population and the storyline will read of the imperialistic intentions of the Infidel Christian.  One could not find two greater diametrically opposed populations on the planet.  According to the US Census Bureau, current, estimated world population is 6,738,645,331. [1]  Of those six billion plus, 33% are Christians, 21% are Muslims, and 0.23% are Jewish.[2]  And each group is trying to be right as ‘People of the Book.’  So who is right?

Islam is the latest major religion to appear on the world stage.  In A.D. 570, Muhammad was born near Mecca in Arabia.  Depending on the source accessed (ReligionFacts 2005), (Oussani 1911), his father died either just before or just after his birth.  His mother died soon after, so that by the age of six years old, Muhammad was an orphan being raised by his uncle.  At age twenty-five, he married Khadija, a widow fifteen years his senior.  By all accounts, they enjoyed a marriage devoted to one another.  Muhammad took no other wife, though polygamy was commonplace, until after her death twenty-four years later.

In A.D. 610, at the age of forty, Muhammad had what was described as an epileptic seizure, fell into a trance, and received a message from the angel Gabriel.  The message said, “Proclaim in the name of your Lord who created!  Created man from a clot of blood.  Proclaim: Your Lord is the Most Generous, who teaches by the pen; teaches man what he knew not.” (Qur’an 96:1-3).  Khadija was his first convert.  And she convinced Muhammad that these were messages from God, and that he was God’s messenger and prophet.  The visions continued for years, and, recorded, became what are known as the Qur’an – the holy book of Islam.  For the first three years of his ministry he had only converted forty people to his prophetic message.  The persecution and ridicule that they received mirrored Christianity’s own troubles centuries earlier.  But by A.D. 630, Muhammad and his followers marched on Mecca and conquered it.  Two years later, at his death, the Muslims controlled most of the Arabian Peninsula.  In A.D. 634 it controlled all of Arabia.  One hundred years later, Islam had spread west to the Atlantic Ocean and east to China.

In his early travels, Muhammad was exposed to polytheism, paganism, Judaism, Christianity, as well as Coptic Christians.  Dr. Ergun M. Caner, Dean of Seminary at Liberty University, suggests that “this erroneous teaching radically affected Muhammad’s misunderstanding of Christianity” (Caner 2006). This certainly could be considered as a source of many apparent similarities between the two faiths.  Like Christians, they respect Jesus – called Isa – and even name him a Prophet – but not divine.  Christians refer to him as Christ the Lord. Muslims refer to Jesus in the Qur’an as “The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was a messenger of GOD, and His word that He had sent to Mary, and a revelation from Him. Therefore, you shall believe in GOD and His messengers” (Qur’an 4:171).  As a Muslim, salvation is determined by professing the Muslim creed of shahada:  “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger.” Before his death, the troubled pop-singer, Michael (now Mikaeel) Jackson did just that.  Christians receive salvation through a profession of their faith: “[Jesus] said to them, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16).[3]  Salvation, and sin as an obstacle to salvation, will be discussed later on.  But first, look at the interesting similarity between the five Precepts and the Five Pillars.

Catholic Christians follow the five Precepts of the Church as an essential “minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor” (Catechism of the Catholic Church (Second Edition) 1994).[4]  For the Muslim, the shahada is not enough – submission to Allah is a duty.  There are five acts of worship that strengthen faith and obedience – the Five Pillars of Islam.  First look at the Precepts of the Church:

  1. “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor.” The faithful are called to sanctify the day of the Lord and obligatory feast days, and avoid activities which could prevent such sanctification.
  2. “You shall confess your sins at least once a year.” The faithful receive the sacrament of reconciliation as necessary to prepare one’s self for the Eucharist, to receive God’s mercy and absolution which began with the sacrament of Baptism.
  3. “You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season.” The faithful shall receive Holy Communion at least during the Paschal feasts, as the Passion is the heart of Christian worship.[5]
  4. “You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church.” The faithful fast for self-discipline to focus more intently on the spiritual, for self-denial to do penance, and abstain to be reminded of Christ’s sacrifice.
  5. “You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church.” The faithful are obligated to aid the Church and her needs, considering their time, treasure, and talent.[6]

Now compare them to the Five Pillars of Islam (Bloom, Blair and Gardner 2008):

  1. Belief – Iman.  “There is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is His messenger.” This Profession of Faith – the shahada – is the heart of Islam, “for it affirms both God’s oneness and the central role of the Prophet.”[i]
  2. Worship – Salat.  The faithful worship Allah five times a day.  In addition to the five daily prayers, all male believers are to congregate on Friday for the noon prayer and listen to a sermon – khutba – by the community leader.[ii]
  3. Fasting – Sawm.  The faithful abstain from food, drink, smoking and even sex, between sunrise and sunset during the month of Ramadan [7]  to achieve consciousness of Allah’s presence and to give thanks and praise for what He has provided.  It serves to heighten a sense of community among believers as Muslims around the world join together in the performance of this ritual.”[iii]
  4. Almsgiving – Zakat.  Give alms to the poor. The faithful donate to charity a fixed (1/40th) amount of their worth every year.[iv]
  5. Pilgrimage – Hajj.  The faithful go on a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life, at the beginning of Dhu’l-Hijja [8] and are associated with the Prophet Abraham.

Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  A profession of faith.  And hajj ends with Eid al-Adha – the Great Feast: the Feast of the Sacrifice of Abraham in which the poor and needy are fed.  Whereas, the Catholic Christians are commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord, first and foremost, by participating, if one is able, in the Eucharistic – the Thanksgiving – Celebration.  And “[Jesus] said to him, ‘Feed my sheep’.” (John 21:17).  Striking.  Striking similarities.  And there are many more.  But there are not enough to overshadow the differences.

The believer who follows that straight path is a Muslim.

Now, remember that salvation, for a Muslim, begins by professing the creed of shahada: “There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger.”  They repeat it often, and well.  It is printed on money, flags, even buildings.  It is paramount to their way of thinking.  A Muslim must submit to the will of Allah “as revealed in the Qur’an, and recognition of Muhammad as the Messenger of God who in his daily life interpreted and exemplified that divine revelation which was given through him. The believer who follows that straight path is a Muslim.” (Morgan 1958).  One of the ninety-nine names of Allah is Al-Muqsit: The Judge who sets the scales.  And he judges much like western civilization’s Lady Justice: wearing a blindfold holding scales in one hand and the sword in the other.  “And if you disclose what is in your minds, or keep it secret, Allah calls you to account for it. Then he protects whom He pleases, and He chastises whom He pleases. For Allah is Possessor of power over all things.” (Qur’an 2:284).  So a Muslim, following the Five Pillars, as he sees his sin weighing down one side of the scales, must balance the scales by obeying Allah’s laws and doing good works. [v]  They must do more good than bad.  And hope on Allah.  For a Muslim, sin hurts only the individual, not Allah.

For a Christian, sin is defined as “an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor….  It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity.”[9]  Sin is an offense against God.  Like David’s lament – his Miserere – mourns the all too real consequence of sin and elevates what our relationship with the God who loves us should be: “Wash away all my guilt; from my sin cleanse me.  For I know my offense; my sin is always before me.  Against you have I sinned; I have done much evil in your sight (Ps 51:4-6b).  Sin is locked in a battle with God’s love for us, turns our hearts away from that love until as St. Augustine writes in De Civitate Dei, “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” [10]  Sin separates us from ourselves because it destroyed our self-respect.  Sin separates us from the people we love because we can never be at one with them if we hurt them or use them.  And sin separates us from life because it makes us self-centered.  Sin separates us from God.  But because Jesus “humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross,” (Phil. 2:8) the faithful are justified to God and reconciled from sin.  It allows God to love us, and us to love him back.

Who is my neighbor?  It is the person other than self.

That justification also allows Christians to profess their greatest Commandment: [Jesus] said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).  Being a teacher, Jesus brings lessons from the Old Testament – Deuteronomy (“Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:5)) and Leviticus 19:18 (“Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev. 19:18)) – and presents them in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  And he leaves his audience thinking, “Who is my neighbor?”  It is the person other than self.  It is the Muslim, the Jew, everyone.[vi]

In comparison, it is the Islamic self is to be examined, under the context of jihad – the struggle.  The personal jihad – the Jihadun-Nafs – “is the ultimate struggle to purify one’s soul of evil influences – both subtle and overt.  It is the struggle to cleanse one’s spirit of sin.” (Robinson 2003). “O you who believe!  Choose not your fathers nor your brethren for protectors if they love disbelief over belief; whoever of you takes them for protectors, such are wrong-doers. Say: if your fathers, and your children, and your brethren, and your spouses, and your tribe, and the wealth you have acquired, and business for which you fear shrinkage, and houses you are pleased with are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and striving in His way: then wait till Allah brings His command to pass. Allah does not guide disobedient folk” (Qur’an 9:23, 24).

It is the love of God and the fear of Allah that creates the chasm of difference between the two ‘People of the Book.’  Qur’an 2:284 showed that Allah could go either way.  Dr. Caner explains that Muslims “deny the fatherhood of God… the deity of the Son… the person of the Holy Spirit.” (Caner 2006).  Whereas, it is the facets of the Triune God that nourish and encourage Christians to develop a loving relationship with God the Father,  justified in faith through God the Son, and maturing our purpose through God the Holy Spirit.  “The necessity of faith: Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. (Mark 16:16, John 3:36, 6:40) “Since ‘without faith it is impossible to please [God]’ and to attain the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification (Reconciliation with God), nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘but he who endures to the end.’ (Matthew 10:22, 24:13, Hebrews 11:6). [11] Caner reminds us with Romans that Salvation is available to anyone (Caner, Philosophy 104: Supplemental Notes to Lecture and Reading for  Liberty Univsity DLP n.d.)  “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Rom. 10:13).

Pope Benedict XVI writes, “One thing is clear… deep within I am already becoming a brother to all those I meet who are in need of my help.” (Benedict XVI 2007).  Perhaps the chasm is already narrowing?

[1] U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division 2008

[2] Central Intelligence Agency – The World Factbook 2008

[3] The New American Bible

[4] Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), Para 2041

[5] CCC 2042

[6] CCC 2043

[7] the ninth month in the Muslim calendar

[8] the twelfth month of the Muslim calendar.

[9] CCC 1849

[10] CCC 1850

[11] CCC 161

[i] Compare the shahada to the Apostle’s Creed or even the Glory Be, which focus on the Trinity rather than the absolute monotheism of Allah

[ii] Compare the schedule of salat five times a day to the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours – the Divine Office – of prayer seven times a day

[iii] Compare Ramadan to Lent in Liturgical Churches

[iv] Compare zakat as one-quarter of the western tithe

[v] The Straight Path brings to mind the verse in the Katha Upanishad “Arise! Awake! Approach the great and learn. Like the sharp edge of a razor is that
path, so the wise say—hard to tread and difficult to cross.”  (Katha Upanishad I.iii.14)

[vi] In the Declaration Nostra Aetate, in 1965, Pope Paul VI wrote, “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the Day of Judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom. (Paul VI 1965)

Benedict XVI, Pope. Jesus of Nazareth. New York: Doubleday, 2007.

Bloom, Jonathan, Sheila Blair, and Rob for PBS Gardner. Islam: Empire of Faith. 2008. (accessed November 22, 2008).

Caner, Dr. Ergun Mehmet. “Philosophy 104: Supplemental Notes to Lecture and Reading for Liberty Univsity DLP.” Lesson Nine: The Worldview of Islam. (accessed November 22, 2008).

—. When Worldviews Collide: Christians Confronting Culture. Nashville, TN: LifeWay Press, 2006.

“Catechism of the Catholic Church (Second Edition).” United States Catholic Conference, Inc. New York: Doubleday, 1994.

Morgan, Kenneth W. Islam — The Straight Path: Islam Interpreted by Muslims. 1958. (accessed November 22, 2008).

Oussani, Gabriel. Mohammed and Mohammedanism. The Catholic Encyclopedia. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol 10. Nihil Obstat. October 1, 1911. (accessed November 22, 2008).

Paul VI, Pope. Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Item 3. October 28, 1965. (accessed November 22, 2008).

ReligionFacts. Life of the Prophet Muhammad. February 21, 2005. (accessed November 22, 2008).

Robinson, B. A. The Concept of Jihad (“Struggle”) in Islam. March 28, 2003. (accessed November 22, 2008).

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