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Understanding Radical Islam

My Muslim friend was all smiles. I had brought my class to her mosque and was giving a short introduction to Islam lecture. Afterwards, she asked for questions and a hand went up with someone asking, “Well, what about Osama Bin Laden and 9-11?” The smile vanished from her face and her eyes were filled with pain and frustration. She replied, “What he does is not Islam. That is not my religion; it is not the religion of anybody I know. Islam is a religion of peace, 9-11 is not Islam.”

To outsiders looking in to the religion of Islam, it can be really confusing because both my really nice Muslim friend and the head of Isis both read the same Qur’an, they look at the same life of Mohammad, they both pray five times a day, they fast during Ramadan, they try to practice the Islamic law, they try to put the sharia into their life (the Islamic law), and they try to practice it as much as possible. So, how on earth can my nice Muslim friend be so nice and the head of Isis be so evil? How is this even possible that this is the same religion? This mixed practice of Islam raises fear about all Muslims. When a Muslim family moves in next door, one wonders which one is their new neighbor? Is this the nice Muslim or the terrorist? Because of this, we have to look at these two faces of Islam.

In this blog, I first want to give you three keys that will help you understand the news as well as help you understand why your Muslim neighbor may also be just as appalled at what they are seeing on the news as you. Secondly, I will give you five responses to radical Islam we can have as followers of Jesus.

Now there are a lot of bewildering terms when we talk about radical Islam, all kinds of terms like salafism and wahabism, all these “isms”. Part of the reason for this is that radical Muslims are not unified, thank goodness. They have a lot of sharp disagreements about the timing and method of things, who should be in charge and what their priorities should be. However, there are three things that unite all radical Muslims, you will find this in all of their writings. These three things are similar worldview, interpretation of the Qur’an and the same ultimate goals.

What is the worldview of a radical Muslim? It’s the foundation that God (Allah) is the ultimate lawgiver. Only he, the creator of mankind, has the right to make laws to govern mankind. According to Muslims, these laws are good for their flourishing; they are for the benefit of humankind. But, only God can give these laws. And, when men come along and make up their own laws, they are are usurping the authority of God who is the law giver. When government requires people to follow man made laws rather than God’s laws, that is oppression of people because it is God’s laws that are best, not man made laws.  Cultures, religions, and governments that fail to teach that there is only one God and Muhammad is his prophet are in a state of rebellion and aggression against God. Rejection of Islam in the mind of a radical equals rebellion and aggression against Allah. At this point, it becomes every Muslim’s duty to wage Jihad against these man made governments until everything is brought under Allah’s law.  Hassan al-Banna who is the founder of the Muslim brotherhood said “it’s incumbent on the house of Islam to wage war until such time as all nations submit to the will of god and accept Sharia law which is God’s law.”

The second thing that all radicals agree on is how to interpret the Qur’an. The Qur’an was written in over a 22 year period. During the first 12 years, Muhammad lived in Mecca and he had a very small following. He was a persecuted prophet and believers were commended to not fight because they did not have the strength to do that. He also had a favorable opinion of Jews and Christians. He then moved to a place called Medina and for the next 10 years he would continue to receive revelations, yet these revelations were very different than the previous ones. While in the early years, the revelations were mostly about monotheism. In the later years, he found himself the head of a city-state, receiving rules about family, religious, social, and civil life. He also developed very harsh criticism towards Jews and Christians. Suddenly, believers were obligated to fight against unbelievers.   How does this information help us? Radical Muslims now look at the later portion of the Koran and they say it supersedes the earlier portion of the Koran. They believe that the command to fight unbelievers supersedes the earlier command not to fight. In fact, in the last chapter of the Koran (chapter 9), there are a couple of verses that are considered the “great commission” for Muslims, which is to go out and fight unbelievers until they are under the system of Islam.

The third thing radicals all have in common is that they all have an ultimate goal, which is to bring the world under submission to Islam. A famous Egyptian Islamist said, “ Islam wants space, not a piece of the earth but the whole planet.” Radical Islam presents this ideal vision of what life could be like if everyone was living under Sharia. They tantalize young Muslims in particular with the vison to come and fight and struggle and be a part of the vanguard of bringing this wonderful Sharia to the whole world. This presents them with a purpose driven life – to come and fight for the cause of the law.

Now, my nice, kind Muslims completely disagree with this system of interpreting the Koran and its ultimate goal. But, the problem is that we have these two realities of Islam in our world. So, what are we supposed to that?

I want to quickly give you five biblical responses to this question:

First, resist prejudice. Most Muslims are in fact suffering themselves under radical Islam. Go with the assumption that your neighbor next door is a peaceful Muslim.

Second, reject fear. As it has been clearly stated in scripture, fear is not to be a part of who we are as believers. It’s says in 1 Peter 3 “Do not fear what they fear but set apart Jesus as Lord and be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks you for the hope you have within.”

Third, do what Jesus told us to do, that is to LOVE. Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.  In every story I have ever heard of a Muslim coming to Christ, it is love that opens their heart.

Fourth, raise your voice. Raise your voice in prayer for suffering brothers and sisters in Christ. Be an advocate for them. There is a large need for prayer over our brothers and sisters around the world who are suffering under radical Islam.

Fifth, reignite hope. God is doing amazing things in the world of Islam! He has not forgotten Muslims. God loves them, and wants all Muslims to come into a knowledge of His grace.

 Laurie Schlepper; professor at Western Seminary

To learn more about Laurie and other people who are making a difference in their communities check out Convergence.World