Islam – Part 1
Prepared and Presented by Jorge Jenkins, Youth Group Student Leader
We are on our last part of our “What’s the Difference?” series. I’ll be introducing Islam. Why is focusing on Islam important? Well, for one, there are 1 billion followers worldwide who follow Islam, so it is more likely than not that you will encounter one in your lives, which makes the need for knowing a difference a little important.
When I say ‘Allah,’ that is the Muslim name for God. Also, when you hear Muslim, it is incredibly important that you do not immediately think they are a follower of ISIS or some group like them. The key work in Islamic Extremist is extremist, and I would venture to say that many Muslims do not agree with what groups like ISIS do.
A man named Mohammed was born in 570 AD, and he was not like King David, Gideon, or King Saul, who all said something along the lines of “who am I and what is my tribe?” Mohammed was born in the largest, richest tribe. This tribe controlled a large trading area, making them quite wealthy, and being polytheistic, they claimed that it was their gods who protected their trade, a fantastic support for their high-profit trading.
Mohammed was exposed to three groups throughout his life that really influenced his theology and way of life as he went on in it: the Monophysites, who believed that Jesus was only God and not man, something we disagree with according to what the Bible says. He was also influenced by the Nestorians, a group who believed that Jesus was both God and man (which we agree with), but he was not fully both (which is where we disagree with, again according to the Bible). Finally, he was influenced by the Jewish people, who introduced him to the Talmud, which is the central religious text for the Jews besides the Pentatauch. History shows that Mohammed never heard the pure form of the Gospel – whenever he heard it, the messenger always swayed it one way or another.
Mohammed started practicing isolated mediation for 15 years. At the end of the 15 years he is 40 years old, and supposedly gets a ‘vision’ from the archangel Gabriel, who tells him:
“Read in the name of thy Lord who created, who created man of blood coagulated. Read! Thy Lord is most beneficent, who taught by the pen, taught what they knew not unto men.”
This is actually where the name of the Islamic holy text, the Qur’an, gets its name – it means “the reciting” or “the reading.” Mohammed couldn’t actually read or write, so the majority of the Qur’an was him dictating it to others who wrote it down. After he died, his followers filled in any gaps of his teachings or revelations that he didn’t mention.
Like I imagine most people would think, he thought he was possessed, but not by some biblical spirit – he thought he was possessed by the spirit jinns, from Arabic lore. So he told his wife and his wife’s uncle, and they supported him, saying that not only was he not possessed, the vision was real and something he needed to be preaching. So he does.
As he starts preaching, though, the polytheist tribe that he is a part of gets angry. They see his teaching of one God as a threat to their religion, that really great protection of their money. They end up ostracizing him, but do not physically harm him because his wife and his uncle use their influence and reputations to keep him from physical harm, which is great for him until his uncle dies. With him gone Mohammed has to flee for his life, and goes to Medina because it promises that anyone can freely practice their religion. This point in time where he flees to Medina is incredibly important, so much so that it is the first year in the Islamic calendar. His time of fleeing is called the hijra, meaning the flight.
Mohammed not only starts practicing his new religion but also preaches it, and clarifies that he doesn’t in any way, shape, or form claim to be divine, only that he is a prophet from Allah, and the last one after Jesus and Moses and everyone in between. However, his tribe in Mecca still see him as a threat, and a sort of holy war occurs between them, where Mohammed ends up winning. One particular fight that I’ll mention happened circa 630 A.D, where Mohammed wins, takes over Mecca, preaches that there is only one God, and destroys every single pagan polytheistic idol… except for one. It’s called the Black Stone, and Mohammed calls it the “most holy shrine in all of Islam.” These words did not just fall to the ground when Mohammed said that; Muslims today still pray towards Mecca and the Black Stone.
Islam means “submission to Allah,” and there are two sects that follow different ways to do that. For some reference, Mohammed dies with no children, meaning he has no heir, which is the dividing point between the two sects. You are most likely to meet a Sunni Muslim, which is the sect that takes up the majority of the followers of Islam. They follow more the direct example of Mohammed, and after he died, they chose his three best friends and honored them as leaders. Followers of the second sect are called Shia’s, who follow more of the direct lineage of Mohammed. They chose the closest living male relative of Mohammed and elected him as their leader, which they call a caliph. And that is just a short introduction into a little of the history of Islam.
I am honored to be able to research something so that I can teach others, and this is something that is really important, not to convert people to Islam, of course, but to help them know a little about it when they may not have known before. I know I’ve learned a lot through this series, and it’s been really neat to be a little part of it.