The Challenge of Islam
by Edward Malcolm
I heard a German who has written very much on Islam, visited many Muslim lands, and been a missionary in the Lebanon, but who has now gone to glory, tell this story. The West German government approached him for his advice. A German ambassador to a Muslim country had turned Muslim, and what should be done? Should they accept his conversion, or should they take action? They were in a quandary as to where to begin. He said, “I replied, ask him one question: which comes first in your loyalties, Germany or Islam?”. The ambassador would thus be in a dilemma, for if he said, “Germany”, then he would at the very least be in considerable trouble with his fellow-Muslims. If, however, he said “Islam”, the German Government would be in trouble with the Muslim world if they sacked him. When fetched for an interview with his superiors, he was forced to admit that, in the final instance, his new faith took precedence. He was fired.
There is a much deeper challenge, well put by Wesley in this prayer for Mahometans.
Let us examine the challenge of Islam.
1. ITS SIZE AND RESISTANCE TO THE GOSPEL
The Protestant Reformation resulted in the worldwide missionary movement. This has tended to concentrate on success, therefore Islam has had comparatively little attention – for many years less than two per cent of the total missionary effort. Today’s figure is six per cent. Of the sixty-six nations placing significant restrictions upon religious belief, forty-two are Muslim. This is out of a total of fifty Muslim states worldwide. Of the 6,000 million or so people on earth, Muslims comprise 1,279 million, Christians 1,973 million. The growth of Islam in the twentieth century has been from 12.3 per cent of world population in 1900 to 21.1 per cent in 2000. Much of this is through a higher birth rate. Some Muslim lands have half their population under twenty-five years old, or only in their teens. Youth dreams of putting the world right, so is fertile ground for evil and for Christ. Islam also expands through migration. The top conversion rates to Islam are in West Africa, Indonesia and the USA. That there are sizeable numbers of Muslims turning to Christ is not publicised for obvious reasons.
2. ITS FUNDAMENTALISM
Islam in Britain is receiving much attention, our leaders in both church and state vying to show that Islam is a tolerant religion, given a bad name by the actions of fundamentalist fanatics. It is said that all religions and political movements have the same peaceable aims, once the fundamentalists are removed. Thus Christianity, Islam and political movements can happily co-exist without rivalry, once fundamentalism is removed from all three.
This appears superficially to be true, so let us examine the origins and convictions of Islamic fundamentalism. It can be defined as an assured and unwavering conviction that Islam is right, and that the Qur’an and the Prophet are God’s final word to mankind, requiring militant activism and the denial of the veracity of all other beliefs, especially Christianity. Youth is characterised by visionary belief, in making life perfect, which in Islam is the recreation of the golden age, or the perfect society on earth, involving a new political order to bring in salvation and truth. Many argue that official Islam is out of touch with the needs of the faithful, and reject the re-interpretation of ancient beliefs to ‘tame’ them, as heretical innovations – bida. Here conservative and fundamentalist converge.
How fundamentalism emerged is of great importance. As a generalisation, Islam, as believed in shantytowns and amongst ordinary Muslims, is a different thing to that of the purist scholars. To the uprooted whose whole way of life has been broken up, including also many normal citizens, the promise of a return to a golden age offering salvation from rich, corrupt rulers and their clerics, appeals greatly. The goal of Islam is the umma – the emergence of the ideal community. Islam also looks for the Mahdi – the coming Saviour.
Fundamentalism and the pan-Arab movement gained enormous impetus from travel and technological advances, as well as the introduction of a uniform literary Arabic, education, broadcasting and recording. These removed a barrier to the growth of political awareness of what is happening in their own and other lands. Travel, tourism and migration played their part, showing Muslims a different world, where they were looked down on, but in which they saw much to criticise. Returning migrants saw their own society in a new light, crying out for justice and truth, but in danger of replicating Western society and of being subservient to a degenerate, irreligious West.
The Muslim is still guided in all things by his religion, unlike our society. Government is by God through the state, ‘church’ and ‘state’ being one. Political legitimacy is religious, so government that does not uphold Islam to the exclusion of Christianity and ‘Western values’ cannot lay the moral obligation of obedience upon its subjects. All opposition to any Islamic or other regime is focused upon the religion. Gone is the subservience to government of past generations, and is replaced by rebelliousness. As governments use technology to control their subjects, the two move further apart.
The history of Islam is that God ruled an invincible crescent from North Africa to the Sind, any later invaders converting to Islam. In the taking of Jerusalem by the Crusaders in 1099, the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258, and the loss of Spain in the fifteenth century, temporary but serious blows were given to this doctrine of invincibility. It recovered, and Ottoman armies besieged Vienna in 1529 and 1683. However in 1900, after colonial rule over Arab lands had put pressure on Arab governments to reform along European lines, the Middle East was still in name independent, but beginning to look at how to emulate the power and wealth of Europe.
One idea dominated, that of representative government. Up to now nationalism had played only a minor role, being a new concept in many ways, such loyalty as existed being to the religion. Some Islamic scholars saw salvation in parliamentary democracy. However, that removed the final power in the state from the ullema, the chosen few Islamic scholars whose word rules in any Muslim land. Attempts to get round this impasse are typically expressed by Article 35 of the Iranian 1907 definition of the new form of government: ‘Sovereignty is a trust confided as a Divine Gift by the people to the person of the King.’ Which of these three ruled was unambiguous, as Article 5 established a committee of at least five learned theologians to scrutinise all legislation as at variance with, or consonant with, the Divine Law. Turkey, however, chose to ‘disestablish’ Islam.
Huge western armies in Muslim lands in two wars, Stalin’s suppression of Islamic states, the discovery of oil and the emergence of a Jewish State backed by the West, all compounded the problem. It has long been felt by Muslims that the solution was a military one, with memories of ever-victorious Arab armies sweeping across the seventh century world, and of Saladin, their great hero. However, they could not stand up to the military might of the infidels and Jews, so the cry arose, “Because we are not good Muslims, God has allowed the unbelievers to overcome us. We must purify ourselves by a return to rigorous Islam. God has not, despite appearances, deserted us, but we have not been sufficiently devoted to the faith of thirteen centuries” (Islam is in its fifteenth century a.h. – am hegira). They accuse their governments of ‘intoxication’ with the West. The outcome has been insurrection against un-islamic, pro-western rulers, and resorting to that sort of warfare that the militarily weak can sustain – terrorism. Thus there exists a widespread wish for a return to pure Islam, by the sword.
3. ITS FAITH (IMAN)
A Muslim must hold to the three foundations of the faith:
1. The Qur’an, meaning ‘confession’ or ‘repetition’. God said, the angel Gabriel said, and Mohammed repeated verbatim. The whole is an exact copy of ‘the mother of books’ in heaven. The Qur’an is the word-perfect revelation. The proof of its inspiration is held to be that no one has ever equalled its superb poetry.
Translated, it is like a fish out of water. The point to grasp is that it is not a sufficient guide to a Muslim on its own.
2. The Sunna, rule, technically the basis of religious faith and practice, consists of commands given in the Qur’an plus the Hadith, (tradition) as the example and the acts of Mohammed are held to be inspired. Thus he is not to be compared to other men, even when it is pointed out that he was jealous, severe, had many wives, and claimed equality with God as regards his commands. His every word and act is sinless and is the guide of men as long as the world shall last. He said:
That fixes the ideal standard of morality for ever in the seventh century. Mohammed had a dread of innovation and the technical word for anything new – bid’at, defined as ‘Bid’at is a change of the Sunna’. It has always been discussed in Islam as to what new things are allowable.
3. The Ijma’, collected, assembled the unanimous opinions of all leading theologians, especially of the ‘companions’, with that of the ‘fugitives’ in second place. Thus the highest rank a Muslim theologian can arrive at is that of Mujtahid or one who could make what is technically a logical deduction. This became more and more necessary as the religion moved further and further from its place of origin. Four great imams of the highest rank are recognised, named the mujtahid. The Muslim is free to choose one of the four schools of law, but must then abide by his choice.
Thus whilst in theory anyone can set up as his own Imam, in fact this involves memorising the whole of the Qur’an (about the length of the New Testament), the myriad interpretations, the traditions in thousands, and centuries of laws and legal judgments resulting – all perfectly, as judged by Islamic scholars. This makes it a system set in stone.
Modern fundamentalists are presuming to interpret, and are accused by Islamic scholars of being untrained scholastically and ignorant of the teachings of generations of Islamic leaders. They answer that some Islamic governments have made the appointment of the top Islamic scholars political, so there is no one left to turn to for truly trustworthy guidance. They also argue that as God made His Law clear and plain, there is no need for such complexities – only used to protect power and status. Every Muslim should be his own theologian. Muslims are a polite people, so the attempts of Prime Minister Blair and others to interpret the Qur’an are not openly derided.
4. ITS FAITH FOR THE ORDINARY MUSLIM
This consists of six articles, all based on the Qur’an:
1) God Sura 112, “God is unique – the source for everything. He has not fathered anyone nor is He fathered, and there is nothing comparable to Him.” His Unity, confessed in the Muslim Creed “There is no God but God.” Be very slow to admit Allah is the same as the God of the Bible. He cannot be known, is arbitrary, has not pledged anything, He has ninety-nine beautiful names or attributes, recited on a rosary.
3) The Books of God – 104: to Adam 10, Seth 50, Enoch 30, Abraham 10, to Isa the Injil (Gospel), and only 4 now remain, all corrupted except the Qur’an.
4) The Prophets in thousands, six major ones.
5) The Day of Resurrection and Judgment Mohammed pleading for souls, as Jesus and the others think themselves unworthy. Heaven is gained by good deeds.
6) Paradise physical and sensual, a garden, with houris and jugs of wine – all that is forbidden of pleasure here will be the Muslim’s paradise.
Hell is often mentioned and orthodox teaching is that Muslims will spend some time in hell. Predestination to Good and Evil, the decrees of Allah, no responsibility resting on the human doer, otherwise known as Fate.
5. THE RELIGION (DIN)
The five pillars, the shahida or confession is first, then ‘works’; the other four pillars’ prayer, fasting, alms, and pilgrimage are the obligatory ones, but more are expected of the Muslim, and some add Holy War (Jihad). Islam divides the whole world into the house of Islam, which means the government is submitted to God (Islam), and the house of war, where it is the duty of forcing the rest to embrace Islam. To die in Jihad is immediate entrance to paradise.
6. THE SHARIAH – THE LAW OF ISLAM
This is the interpretation of the will of Allah, and is a vast subject, and compares to the Jewish Talmud and Mishna – the written and oral law of the Jews. Islam incorporates certain Jewish practices, such as prohibitions on eating pork and usury, circumcision and much else borrowed by Mohammed from the Jews at Medina and from the Bedouin. The Shariah varies from one Muslim country to another, as it includes ideas from Rome, Iran and India into Islamic Law. Its study is paramount in Muslim theology, surpassing even the interpretation of the Qur’an. It rules every area of life, and contains spiritual or moral laws with a penal code, and the five pillars. It also includes trade, inheritance, marriage, family life and social life, holy war, treatment of non-Muslims, directives for war, dietary laws, oaths and vows, legal proceedings and treatment of slaves. A few examples are:
1. The five daily prayers must have thirty-four prostrations with exact liturgy, saying up to one hundred and two times a day ‘my exalted Lord be praised’; sixty eight times ‘Allah is the greater’; fifty one times, ‘may my mighty Lord be praised’. No personal thoughts find place in prayer. In some lands prayer police make sure everyone prays.
2. Marriage and family laws make the place of women very subservient, and any female is underprivileged.
3. Criminal law is very severe in staunch Muslim states, and allows the left hand of a thief to be cut off for the first theft, the right foot for the second. Adultery is sixty to one hundred lashes to draw blood on the bare back. Certain countries stone adulterers. It prescribes death for apostasy (conversion to Christ of a Muslim), and for murder and highway robbery. Lesser cruelties, gradually amounting to as bad, exist for women who apostasise. All alcohol consumption, drug trafficking, homosexuality and other crimes are very severely dealt with.
7. ITS MISREPRESENTATION
Two things are taken for granted by westerners. First, that when a Muslim speaks we are hearing the truth. In fact Muslims lie freely about their religion for western consumption. Next, that modern Christian scholars have a more judicious and better understanding of Islam than the old missionaries like Zwemer, who are rejected as dated and extremist. New books by scholars like Cragg, do indeed also have a superb knowledge of Islam, but stop short at the point that the logical consequence of their own argument is reached. Others contextualize, or as Mbiti put it, ‘God gave us the Gospel. Man gives us culture’, meaning the Gospel must be changed to fit each religious culture. Thus we need to see ‘Christ in Islam’, not bring Muslims out of their equally valid religion. Religious relativism and ethnotheology are similar in result. Some modern books show ignorance of, or are silent concerning the burning issues in Islam. More such will appear following 11th September.
8. ITS PROPHET
What sort of a man does the Muslim seek to emulate? The complicated matters we have dealt with are easily understood in the life of one man, Mohammed.
He is variously called Muhammed, Mohammed and Mahomed, and is said to have been descended from Abraham through Ishmael. He was born about 570 AD in Mecca in Arabia, the son of Abdallah and Amina. His father died before the child was born, his mother gave him to a nurse, Halima, and he was brought up in the desert for two, then a third year until five years old. The tradition is that he came to Halima and said a Jinn had knocked him on his back and stirred up his stomach. This symptom returned again. She grew afraid and finally returned him to his mother. A year later, Amina died. He was cared for by his grandfather, eighty-year-old Abd al Muttalib, the acknowledged chief of Mecca, who called him ‘my little son’, but he too died when Mohammed was about eight, and the child cried at the bier. His uncle Abu Talib, a poor trader although of noble birth, then took him, and treated him well. He took him on trading trips to Syria where he had opportunity to see Christians. Mohammed was illiterate (Sura 7: 157), a pagan of the Quraish tribe who worshipped some three hundred gods, the Ka’ba housing Hubal (Baal?), the high god. An annual festival was marked by a competition of poets.
As a lad he enjoyed taking part in a battle with a neighbouring tribe, took part in a conspiracy to check misrule in Mecca, worked as a shepherd, and won a good name – ‘the faithful’, al Amin, and showed considerable shrewdness in sorting out a quarrel, all obeying his word without question. Above all he did not waste his pungent words and knew when, and even more when not, to speak. He was a born leader, with presence, black curly hair, a bushy black beard, a handsome aquiline face, one brought up to rule whose every movement was marked with decision, turning his whole body towards each one he spoke to. He could show rage, was full of the zest of life, and could join in a laugh immoderately. He was a faithful friend, brave, generous to a fault, kindly to his followers, and knew just how to win over enemies with well-timed gifts such as the Arabs love. He had a will and purpose that was to bow the heart of Arabia as one man. Thus it is all part of the man that to his enemies, especially in later years, he showed unrelenting, vindictive hatred. It is no surprise that when all this matured, he became the only man ever to unite the Arabs.
At twenty-five he married Khadija, a forty-year-old cousin and wealthy caravan owner. Theirs was a happy marriage, with two sons and four daughters, but only one girl, Fatima, survived to adulthood. Now wealthy, leisured and travelled, he had picked up knowledge of Jewish and of Christian beliefs, sadly the Christians being heretical. In Sura 10, ‘Jonah’: 94 it says “If you are in any doubt concerning what we have revealed to you, ask those who have read the Book before you”. The books he mentions are the Taurat (Torah), Zabur (Psalms), and Injil (Gospel). Mohammed was illiterate (Sura 7:157), a very important point to Muslims, although western scholars question it. He refers to Christians and Jews as ‘people of the book’ Ahl al Kitab, as distinguished from the polytheists Mushriqim.
He had a thoughtful enquiring mind and spent whole days alone in a cave on Mount Hira, three miles from Mecca. One day he rushed into the house and told Khadija his wife that he had seen an apparition which called him to the horizon. He said he feared he might become a soothsayer. It seems he thought he had met a Jinn, an evil spirit, but Muslims today hold that this was the angel Gabriel. He was told to recite, then was twice hard pressed by the angel, twice excusing himself by saying ‘I am not lettered’, but after the third time the pressure was applied, he was told “Recite in the name of your Lord who created man from a clot of blood. Recite….” (Sura 96) This is known as the Iqra, and Mohammed said the words “were as though they had been graven into my heart”. He spent months in dejection, then was arrested by a vision seated on a throne in the sky and calling, “O Mohammed, thou art the prophet of the Lord, and I am Gabriel.” Later, as he lay terrified and trembling he heard
Tradition says that when inspiration came he would sweat, his face grow troubled and he would fall to the ground as in a trance. He said in later years that sometimes inspiration came as one man speaking to another, sometimes like the ringing of a bell. He would point to his grey hairs and say they were the terrific effects of these early Suras. As life passed later Suras lost their fervour, only rising to passion again in the closing years of life. When Mohammed reached a position of power, revelation tended to come very conveniently, including answering criticisms, for political ends, and to justify his marital matters.
His wife believed in him and a few others, but the pagans were roused by his cry Islam, surrender to God’s will, abominate idols, return to the faith of Abraham. He preached freedom of conscience, but drew persecution, especially upon the slaves who followed him. His uncle protected him, but later followed him around, denying his preaching.
At this time he had sent followers to Ethiopia and they returned, hearing there had been a conversion of the Meccans. Mohammed had a revelation still in the Qur’an,
These were the gods of Mecca, which were the bone of contention, so he added
Then the people said: “Now we know that it is the Lord alone which killeth and maketh alive, which giveth life and taketh it away. As for these our goddesses, they do but intercede with Him. Wherefore as thou hast given them a place, we are content.” And they bowed down and worshipped. It became clear to Mohammed shortly that he had made a capital blunder over the concession, and he received two verses of revelation, also in the Qur’an
‘Truly they were near from tempting thee away from that which We revealed unto thee, to fabricate in respect of us a diverse revelation, and then they would have taken thee for their friend.’
He preached the great verities, God the sole Creator, Ruler and Judge of men and angels; the hopeless wretchedness of men sunk in idolatry; heaven and hell; the resurrection, judgment and recompense of good and evil in the world to came. These burst out in impassioned wild and incoherent fragments of rare poetic beauty and force. The Eastern Church has always said that he had epileptic seizures. He showed considerable knowledge of Jewish legends and Biblical narratives, and the Qureish cast these in his teeth saying “These are the fables of the ancients which he has written down; they are dictated unto him morning and evening.” His wife died, and at this time seventy-five pilgrims accepted him as God’s prophet.
There followed the winning of the Medinans from idolatry. His revelations include the first Gospel fragments and fables, the incident of his journey to Jerusalem, his ascent into heaven from Temple mount, and his return to Mecca the same night (Sura 17 and tradition).
At fifty-two, in the year 622 he fled to Medina about two hundred and fifty miles away. The companions were welcomed with honours. He laid the foundations of the first mosque, and held the first Friday prayers, but dissent in the town grew. Mohammed spied on their plots against him, tried hard to win the Jews, entering into an alliance with them. Soon however they rejected him, and as he professed to be the prophet of whom their books spoke, he accused them of garbling the truth. They said no son of Ishmael could be their Messiah. Some renegade Jews joined him, but he poured forth invective against the rest.
He now established prayer five times a day. He at this time still said Jews and Christians might be good Muslims and follow their own books. The Jews all deserted him when he changed the direction of prayer to face Mecca instead of Jerusalem (Sura 2.146). He started the call to prayer “Allah Akbar – God is Great! There is no God but He, and Mohammed is His Prophet. Come to prayer! Come to prayer! Come to salvation. Prayer is better than sleep! Prayer is better than sleep!” from the minaret. Up to now he had kept the great feast of the Jews, the Atonement, but now substituted Ramadan. He gradually dropped other Jewish practices such as sacrificing two goats, and set up his simple settlement with his followers and two wives, the second, Aysha, being a girl of ten.
When winter came, it was the time for richly laden caravans to Syria, and Medina was close to the route the Meccans took, so perfect for freebooting. The caravans were armed, and his earliest attempts mere annoyances. But then Mohammed issued sealed orders to a party to intercept a caravan of the Quraish – his own tribe – to the Yemen. They lay in wait near Mecca, and on seeing them the caravan stopped. It was the last day of Rajeb, the sacred month, when arms were forbidden. To disarm suspicion the party shaved their heads, the mark of returning pilgrims. Their fears allayed, the four caravan guards loosed the camels and sat down to eat. The raiders were in a fix, for if left to next day, the caravan would cross the boundary into the sacred territory, and if attacked now, it would be a serious infringement of the sacred month. They attacked, and returned home with the booty. Mohammed was displeased, but after a few days had this revelation: “Warring in the sacred month is grievous, but to deny God and to expel His servants from their homes is the greater sin.” He accepted a heavy ransom for the prisoners. This is regarded as important by Muslims.
His attack on a big caravan resulted in the Battle of Bedr where three hundred Medinans defeated one thousand Meccans. Tradition tells of Omeir, a lad of sixteen, throwing down the dates he was eating, crying “Is it these holding me back from paradise? Verily I will taste no more of them until I meet my Lord.” He rushed to death. Great victory ensued. Distribution of loot caused a quarrel, settled by a revelation. Two of the fifty bound prisoners were put to death, Mohammed vindictively rejoicing at refusing one’s pleas for mercy as his little girl was at home with no one to care for her. A debate took place as to whether to kill the rest. Tradition says the angel Gabriel told Mohammed he could choose between slaying or ransoming captives, and he won the captives over to Islam by generous kindness. The ransoms were large.
The next blot was an assassination of a poetess, Asma, who composed verses on the folly of putting faith in a stranger who had rebelled against his own people and slain many in battle. The verses spread, and Omeir, the blind Muslim ex-husband of Asma crept into her home at night and removing a baby from her breast, plunged in a dagger. Mohammed on being informed next morning in the mosque, said it was nothing and complemented Omeir. On his way home the family met him, accusing him of a heartless murder. He boasted of what he had done and threatened them all, so they went quiet. Then a Jewish proselyte committed a similar offence and Mohammed said “Who will rid me of this pestilent fellow?” He was killed by the sword of a Muslim at night in sleep.
Then the Jewish goldsmith tribe were summoned to acknowledge him as prophet. They refused. Shortly after in a quarrel a Jew was slain, a Muslim slain in return, and Mohammed at once marched on the Jewish settlement, and besieged it. None daring to aid them, after fifteen days they surrendered. They were tied up for execution, but a Muslim called Abdallah who had in the past been helped by them, pleaded, and finally Mohammed let them go (into distant exile), calling curses on them and on Abdallah.
Another Jewish proselyte called Kab, who had also followed Mohammed as long as he favoured prayer in the direction of Jerusalem, now left him and roused the Meccans and insulted the Muslims. Mohammed called on his followers again to ease him of “this pestilent fellow”, and they inveigled Kab into a trap, aided by Mohammed, who was openly very pleased as they threw down Kab’s head at Mohammed’s feet. Another murder followed, and more caravan raiding, with rich booty.
The second battle of Ohod, Mohammed with seven hundred, faced two thousand Meccans. At first the Muslims by daring and fearlessness carried all before them, but growing over-daring they were repulsed and the prophet nearly lost his life, being wounded. The battle was lost.
Mohammed now suffered from disaffected tribes, who captured a few Muslims and martyred them, and for a whole month each morning at prayer he called for vengeance on the perpetrators, and received a heavenly message from the martyrs. This was intertwined with a tribe of Jews. In the ensuing siege of the Jews, Mohammed again infringed all the most sacred rules of warfare by burning down the palm trees. The Jews capitulated, and were allowed to go empty handed into exile. The prophet began to spread his terror north, his followers marching in the height of summer. By now he had five wives and was almost sixty years old. Visiting the home of his adopted son Zeid, he surprised Zeinib his son’s wife before she could cover herself up, and exclaimed he has smitten. She told her husband in triumph. Zeid, a small, ugly fellow, went at once to Mohammed and offered to divorce her so Mohammed could take her, which Zeid promptly did. Mohammed hesitated, as it was a thing unheard of, and would cause great scandal. He was then told by the Lord that he was to marry her, and did so, great offence being caused. Sura 33 was sent down at this juncture, telling him that the Arab notion of co-sanguinity between an adopted son and father was wrong, and must be set aside.
He now established the veil, as he said Muslim women were being insulted. However, after the Zeinib incident, one might draw a different conclusion. His own harem received even stricter treatment, doubtless as a result of jealousy. A revelation was received that none might ever marry again. Another allowed him to spend more nights with Aysha than any of his other wives. Later, Aysha got into a situation alone for the night having got left behind by her litter-bearers and said the man who brought her in had found her in the morning. Scandal spread, Mohammed preached strongly against those bringing imputations on her, then visited Aysha, who had been crying in her quarters and commanded her to tell him the truth. He then lay down on the bed, went into a sweat and arose saying he had received a revelation, which is the Muslim law of adultery to this day. It laid down four accusers, and if unproven, the accusers received the lash, so he gave eighty lashes each to her three slanderers.
Then came the siege of Medina by the Meccans, Mohammed fortifying the town with ditches, a thing unheard of in Arabia, and successfully held out against ten thousand men. Then he wreaked vengeance on a Jewish tribe that had joined the attackers and beheaded seven hundred men along a trench dug for the purpose, selling into slavery the women and children. He kept the beautiful Rihana for himself. She refused to submit to Islam, but was made Mohammed’s wife. Thus he had won, and was in control of Medina and a huge area in the fifth year of the Hegira.
One act of cruelty was the tearing apart of a woman by tying her to camels and driving them apart, and Mohammed when told, kissed the perpetrators. Then eight Bedouin embraced the faith, but they cruelly killed the camel-herd, stole camels and fled. They were caught, and were even more cruelly killed, but feeling he had overstepped the mark, Mohammed had a revelation that cutting off the hands and feet of such in future was sufficient. This lies behind the law of Apostasy, as Zwemer has well documented. Then because people came to the mosque prayers less than sober, Mohammed discouraged, and later proscribed wine, games of chance, and divination as ‘works of Satan’ in a Sura from heaven (5). Usury is also strictly forbidden. Thus revelations brought about a strange medley of divine laws, still governing Muslims.
Mohammed now dispatched fiats to the surrounding potentates, sealed with the words ‘Mohammed apostle of God’. Most treated him with contempt, Egypt alone sending a polite answer and two women slaves, one of whom, the Copt Mary, was kept by Mohammed. The King of Ethiopia embraced Islam, and Mohammed recovered his exiles and another wife. He also attacked a Jewish tribe about a hundred miles away, unprovoked, and took its strongholds, torturing the chief to make him divulge supposed hidden gold, and took another wife. Zeinib the Jewess whose relations Mohammed had murdered, now poisoned him, and standing her ground when questioned, died.
It all ended with Mohammed’s conquest of Mecca, carried out secretly, amassing his biggest forces yet. Frightened, Abu Sofian, the Meccan prince and leader, embraced Islam, and safe quarter was given for all who took shelter in his house or the Kaaba. Mohammed entered with little bloodshed, cleansed the Kaaba of idolatry and performed worship there. He only put to death four, one of them a girl who had composed verses against him. He was now lord of almost all Arabia, although he had further battles to establish this.
One incident is worth recording, as probably the most bizarre revelation ever to find a place in any religion’s Scriptures. Mary, the Copt, gave birth to a son, Ibrahim, and Mohammed was delighted. His other wives were not, and Haphsa returning unexpectedly, surprised the prophet with Mary, in Haphsa’s compartment. Mohammed promised never to go near Mary again, and begged her to keep the matter quiet. But Haphsa told the other wives who resented Mohammed from then on, and Aysha boiled over. So a revelation was received disallowing the promise to refrain from Mary, and chiding the others for insubordination, hinting at a general divorce in favour of more loyal wives. Then the prophet lived a whole month with Mary, which upset two influential fathers, so Mohammed relented. Gabriel, he said, had spoken well of Haphsa, the chief offender, and desired that he should take her back. This is gravely accepted by all Muslims and read publicly.
Mohammed’s death at sixty-two, probably hastened by the poison two years earlier, was of a burning fever, on the knees of Aysha.
9. ISLAM HAS ALL THE MARKS OF THE DEVIL
Islam is riddled with occultism and un-Islamic practices. There is the widespread veneration of saints, frowned upon by purists. Legalism rules Islam, and God is unknowable, so escape is found in mysticism, especially Sufi practices designed to link the individual with the Divine. It started as a strongly ascetic movement, but now has another side. Saints, living and dead, are sought out to perform miracles, powers and various blessings. A saint has baraka, a sacred power emanating which can bring happiness and blessings and prosperity in this world and the next. It is tapped by worship at the saint’s tombs, kissing his tomb or hand. It has become a mass movement, seeking material blessings.
A fqih or mosque leader is also called in Morocco ‘a Jinn-worker’, and dispenses charms and communicates with the dead. Magic and dealings with spirits are rampant.
ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY
Islam is the Devil’s answer to the Cross, denying all the central points of salvation, whilst apparently honouring the Lord Jesus Christ. It also weakens a man’s sense of sin, for matters of indifference are put as sins along with matters that are not sins at all, and matters that are most sinful are at the same time even encouraged. Sin as the Bible understands it, is not a concept in Islam. Nor is the holiness of God.
Islam aims for world domination. However as Muslims and Muslim governments are individualistic and fiercely independent, and as their prophecies so far have not come about, God has saved us from this. Make no mistake, this has been the aim of Islam from the start, and has always been achieved by force, compulsion (in spite of the fact that Muslims love to quote ‘there is no compulsion in the religion’). The Qur’an was produced from the mind of a man who was a persecuted minority, then in equality with his opponents, then in triumph. The statements vary as to where you take them from in this process. The early ones are all about religious freedom, the middle gradually change, and the end are violently against toleration. Thus to the unwary, the Qur’an can be made to mean what you want the person to hear.