Recent events warrant that we examine the world-wide religion known as Islam. Islam was started in the year 622 by an Arab named Mohammed, living in the city of Mecca, in what is now Saudi Arabia. At that time Mohammed claimed to have received revelations from God through the angel Gabriel. He was driven out of Mecca after a few years and traveled to the nearby city of Medina. After rising to prominence in Medina he returned to Mecca with an army and crushed his former opponents after a series of battles in 630.
Through similar wars of conquest Mohammed's new religion spread rapidly until its adherents reached from Spain to India.
Islam is a monotheistic religion. They believe in one God. They have five basic tenets of faith they call the Five Pillars. First is the proclamation; "There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is his prophet." Next is prayer five times a day in the direction of Mecca. Third is the paying of a tax, which in recent years has changed into the giving of charity. Fourth is fasting once a month, and from sunup to sundown during their feast of Ramadan. Finally there is the requirement of every Muslim to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in his lifetime.
Islam is an odd mixture of faiths. It borrowed a big chunk of Judaism, a portion of the Christian Arian heresy, and some pagan Arab traditions thrown in for spice. Islam teaches that both Moses and Jesus were prophets that taught truth, but somehow their message was distorted by both Jews and Christians.
Muslims, like the Jews, will not eat pork. They believe that Jesus was miraculously born of the Virgin Mary, and is the messiah, although they deny that He was crucified or that He is God's son. They admire Jesus (as a prophet only) and actually have a devotion to the Virgin Mary.
Muslims believe in a very physical afterlife where they will literally eat and drink. Mohammed also claimed that in one of his revelations, he saw a vision of the afterlife, which included 70 virgin women lying on couches waiting for him. Muslims believe that all Jews and Christians, as well as all non-Muslims, will burn in hell.
The visions and sayings of Mohammed have been put into a book Muslims consider to be divinely inspired called in Arabic the Qur'an, or Koran in English. This book is considered to have been written by God Himself and is therefore infallible to Muslims. There is also a source called the Sunna, which is a body of traditions regarding what Mohammed said or did regarding various issues.
The Koran and Sunna lay out in excruciating detail how to conduct the basics of daily living. Not content with telling its followers how many times a day to pray and which direction to face when they are praying, they dictate which direction to face when going to the bathroom and when passing gas; how to go to the toilet; what locations are suitable for using as a toilet; what position to sleep in; what hand to use during which bodily function; what part of a dish to eat from; what insects not to kill, etc., etc., etc. To not follow any of these habits of Mohammed is considered sinful.
Islam is a religion of polygamists. A Muslim man may have up to four wives at a time. He may divorce any of his wives at any time for any reason. Divorce is accomplished by merely saying, "I divorce you." three times. Recently Muslim clerics have ruled that it must be face to face and not over a cell phone.
Mohammed himself had seven wives over the course of his life. Marriage is encouraged as soon as someone reaches puberty. A girl is considered to have reached puberty at 9 years of age. The men like the women young. Mohammed set the example when, as a 54-year-old man, he married an eight-year-old girl named Aiysha.
The practice of female genital mutilation is widespread in the Muslim world. Mohammed's view of women was that they were toys and a man's duty to a wife was to feed her, clothe her and "avoid disfiguring her or beating her excessively".
Islam does not have a central authority. The clerics, or Imams, are more or less autonomous. They are bound by the Koran and Sunna, which leaves no room for individual interpretation.
Islam is a particularly violent religion. Despite all the protests to the contrary, violence and bloodshed have always played a part in Islamic faith. A central tenet of Islam is Jihad or "holy war". Jihad is not a peripheral issue. Every Muslim is taught about Jihad. If a Muslim cleric issues a decree declaring Jihad, all under him are obliged to participate. The Koran exhorts its readers to violence with quotes like: "To him who fights in the cause of Allah, -whether he is slain or gets victory soon shall We give him a reward of great value." 4:74.
Mohammed set the example by fighting a revenge war against those in Mecca. It may seem to go without saying, yet we must remind ourselves; Muslims are not Christians. They don't try to forgive and forget. Their goal is not to turn the other cheek. Their goal is to make the world Muslim, if not through persuasion, then through Jihad.
They tried to do it with violence until they were driven back. In 711 a Muslim army invaded the Iberian Peninsula and conquered most of what is now Spain. They were not driven out for another 780 years. The Ottoman Turk Muslims repeatedly attacked the Byzantine Empire. They captured Constantinople, sacked the city and turned the churches into Mosques in 1453. They kept advancing over the years, and their fleet was turned back from expanding west by the battle of Lepanto in 1571. They reached into what is now Austria and laid siege to Vienna in 1529 and again in 1683. It wasn't until the end of WWI that they were finally driven out of Greece. They are still in Constantinople and the former churches are still mosques.
Christians can, and have, acted with equal violence. Yet when they have done so they have violated the basic tenets of the Christian faith. When Muslims engage in "Jihad" they are acting within the bounds of their faith.
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Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, October 2001.