Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Islam: the requirement of jihad

Speaking Honestly About Islam - Crisis Magazine:
Here, I am interested in talking about Islam’s truth. Almost every public, academic, or media talk of Islam goes something like this: “Most Muslims are peaceful. The violence comes from terrorists.” This approach is premised on two positions: 1) The original Muslim conquests of Africa, Spain, the Near-East, the Balkans, and all to way to India were “peaceful,” like they were the results of free elections and not, as was in fact the case, success in battle. 2) Those whom we identify as “terrorists” are not “true” Muslims. “Terrorism” becomes a kind of free-floating cult with no relation to anything but itself. Thus, terrorism is best explained in economic, cultural, psychological, or ideological terms that have little to do with “religion.” This view allows us to state the politically correct view that Islam is a religion of “peace” with no connection to “violence.”

Here I propose a counter-cultural position. I want to defend the integrity of the “terrorists,” as we insist on calling them. I want to grant them the “dignity” that they deserve. That is, they are not mindless products of poverty, ideology, ignorance, psychological mania, or any other excuse to avoid calling them what they claim to be, namely, loyal and devoted believers in the Qur’an, the real followers of Mohammed. It is senseless to pretend that a jihadist vision is not found in the Qur’an.
Jihad is the actual means of eternal salvation in Islam, and has been since Muhammed himself.
The root of jihad is judh, Arabic for "striving“ or “struggle.” Jihad in Muslim theology is striving to defend or advance Islam or increase one's faithfulness to Islam. Jihad is not peripheral to Islam. It stands at its very center. Jihad is central to Muslim soteriology (its theology of salvation).

Jihad is theologically joined at the hip to sharia, Islamic law, for it is sharia that both commands and justifies jihad.

Muslim scholars and jurists distinguish between "greater jihad" and "lesser jihad," a distinction going back to Muhammad himself. Jihad, says, has been conceptually corrupted in modern years both by Western usage to mean only holy war and by numerous Islamic groups, contending for power and influence, who have also overemphasized its military component.

According to Farida Khanam, the Arabic word jihad, by itself,
... does not connote the sense of reward or worship in the religious sense of the word. But when the word jihad became a part of Islamic terminology, the sense of reward or worship came to be associated with it, that is to say, if struggle is struggle in the simple sense of word, jihad means a struggle which is an act of worship, the engagement of which earns reward to the person concerned. As the Quran says: "Strive for the cause of God as you ought to strive" (22:78).
In historic Muslim theology, jihad more generally means striving toward equilibrium of Islamic character both within individuals and among the Muslim umma (the people of a Muslim society). It is therefore both individual and communal, both personal and social.

Says al-Islam,
Muslims as both individuals and members of Islamic society must carry out jihad, that is they must exert themselves at all moments of life to fight a battle both inward and outward against those forces that if not combatted will destroy that equilibrium which is the necessary condition for the spiritual life of the person and the functioning of human society. This fact is especially true if society is seen as a collectivity which bears the imprint of the Divine Norm rather than an antheap of contending and opposing units and forces.
Greater Jihad is similar, then, to what Christians call the spiritual disciplines, the need and effort to balance the competing demands of worldly living and religious duty, including the active avoidance of sin and doing of good. Muslim thought has historically considered Greater Jihad more difficult and more important than Lesser Jihad. 

Lesser jihad

Lesser jihad is the use of authorized, righteous violence to defend Islam. In historic Muslim thought, lesser jihad can be waged only in accordance with the terms of a fatwa. A fatwa is a declaration by a recognized Muslim authority that can be on any topic. A fatwa for lesser jihad is a call to arms for Muslims to destroy perceived enemies of Islam.

Fatwas may be general or limited in scope. In 1979, the Saudi government endorsed a Palestinian professor’s fatwa against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, but the fatwa was limited to Soviet forces inside that country. It did not include the whole Soviet military or the Soviet Union.

Within Sunni Islam, the status and renown of the fatwa issuer directly affects how well it is obeyed and heeded. There is no official hierarchy of clerics among Sunnis, so a Sunni Muslim gains renown by scholarship, study, exampling, authorship, preaching and being recognized as a cleric (and boasting, but this is more Arab than Muslim). This means that any Sunni Muslim may issue a fatwa, but others can just ignore it.

Shia Islam defines who may issue fatwas. Unlike Sunnis, Shias do have a hierarchy, culminating in the office of ayatollah (“sign of Allah”). Ayatollahs are experts in Islamic studies. However, the office of ayatollah is new in Shia Islam, dating to only about 1840. And there is rank among ayatollahs, too, with Grand Ayatollah being the summit.
Whether peaceful or violent, jihad is a form is Muslim worship. Tajuddin B. Shu`aib explains Jihad’s association with warfare:
[F]or Muslims to wield weapons in a war in which Islam itself is defended - as the [Saudi 1979] anti-Soviet fatwa declared - is literally an act of worship. The Muslim jihadi has the right to expect reward proportionate to his sacrificial worship. In military jihad, the ultimate sacrifice is to die, which deserves the ultimate reward, immediate entry by the slain jihadi's soul into Paradise. This doctrine springs from the words of Mohammed himself, who during the battle of Badr told his soldiers, "I swear by the One in whose hand Mohammad's soul is, any man who fights them today and is killed while he is patient in the ordeal and seeks the pleasure of Allah, going forward and not backing off, Allah will enter him into Paradise.“
Hence, to be honorably killed in a recognized jihadist war is to gain immediate entry into paradise.

A short detour to the principle of abrogation (Arabic, Naskh). 

The Quran is not arranged chronologically. Its chapters (Suras) are presented according to their length. Even within chapters chronology is confusing. For example, Sura 2, v. 190 was revealed to Mohammed six years after v. 193, and there are other such examples.

The principle of abrogation is followed by all Muslims and Muslim clerics. It is simply that the chronologically-later verses supersede, or abrogate, the earlier ones if there is a conflict (and there are many such conflicts).

Four verses in the Quran are used to justify abrogation:

  • When we cancel a message, or throw it into oblivion, we replace it with one better or one similar. Do you not know that God has power over all things? (Sura 2.106)
  • When we replace a message with another, and God knows best what he reveals, they say: You have made it up. Yet, most of them do not know. (16.101)
  • God abrogates or confirms whatsoever he will, for he has with him the Book of the Books. (13.39)
  • If we pleased, we could take away what we have revealed to you. Then you will not find anyone to plead for it with us. (17.86)

An on-topic example: Ismail ibn Kathir, 1300-1373, was a highly influential Sunni scholar and is still today regarded as a foremost expert on tafsir, or exegesis of the Quran. Among other things, Kathir wrote on “compulsion in religion,” citing Sura 2.256, which is today cited by Muslim apologists or sympathizers trying to show why Islamist terrorism is actually forbidden in Islam. The verse reads, 
Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: whoever rejects evil and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy hand-hold, that never breaks. And Allah hears and knows all things.
However, Kathir wrote, 
Allah says: "There is no compulsion in religion", meaning: do not force anyone to embrace Islam, because it is clear and its proofs and evidences are manifest. Whoever Allah guides and opens his heart to Islam has indeed embraced it with clear evidence. Whoever Allah misguides blinds his heart and has set a seal on his hearing and a covering on his eyes cannot embrace Islam by force...hence Allah revealed this verse. 
But, this verse is abrogated by the verse of "fighting...Therefore, all people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the Jizya they should be fought till they are killed. This is the meaning of compulsion. In the Sahih, the Prophet said: "Allah wonders at those people who will enter Paradise in chains", meaning prisoners brought in chains to the Islamic state, then they embrace Islam sincerely and become righteous, and are entered among the people of Paradise.
Kathir commented on Sura 9.29 and 9.5 as the abrogation: 
Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth [Islam], out of those who have been given the Book until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection [9.29].   
Allah’s pardon for the disbelievers was repealed. Abu Al-`Aliyah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Qatadah and As-Suddi said similarly: “It was abrogated by the verse of the sword.” [v. 9:5] 
“His Messenger” – Mohammed
“Given the Book” – Christians and Jews, also called, “people of the Book”
“State of subjection” – dhimmitude, i.e., third-class legal status for non-Muslims
The bottom line is that Islamists, including al Qaeda, ISIS and the rest, consider all verses of peace in the Quran to have been abrogated, or superseded, by the verses of the sword. The principle of abrogation is mainline Muslim exegesis; the Quran has been understood this way since Islam's beginning. 

Muslim soteriology, or theology of salvation

Salvation in Islam is entirely other-worldly, that is a state belonging solely to the afterlife. There is no equivalent in Islam to the Christian “Kingdom of Heaven,” that is partially realized and actual in the here and now, awaiting its final fulfillment in the eschaton. There is no Holy Spirit even conceptually in Islam; there is no presence at all of Allah on the earth. Allah is solely in heaven. 

All there is between now and judgment day is the Quran and Sunna, Sharia law,  and the umma, the Muslim people. But in no sense is salvation achieved, even marginally, in this life. Salvation is earned here but not accomplished until the day of judgment. 

Muslims affirm that there will be a final day of judgment and that salvation or eternal damnation will be adjudged at that time. 

Unlike Christianity, Islam has no concept of original sin - a stain of sin innate to human beings, present in each person even at birth that can be remitted only by God, not by anything mortals can do. In Islam, remission of sins can be done and salvation attained, but only by the believer's deeds in submission to Allah through Islamic confessions and obeying Islamic law. If a Muslim carries out Islam's commandments, then judgment day will be lightly borne. If not, disaster. Islam thus hold that salvation is solely achieved through works. “Grace” is not a concept in Islam. 

Islam says that every person is born with a sound nature and provided by Allah with a true religion that enables them to have fullness of life through close communion with Allah in this world and the next. Each human is a religiously grounded person, created and endowed with a fitra, a ‘sound constitution’ that acts as a kind of internal guidance system and way to God.

The purpose of Islamic law, or Sharia, is
  • to form a society in which disobedience to Allah’s commands are difficult because everyone alike is oriented toward keeping them,
  • Hence, forbidden material or practices are (ideally) simply unavailable, so
  • Avoidance of sin is facilitated. 
At the same time, there is unity of effort in doing good, according to the tenets of Sharia, such as everyone stops to pray five times per day, everyone plans or conducts the hajj, and so forth.

Avoiding sin and doing good is therefore both individual and social. Sharia lays out what is necessary to keep the commands of Allah (usually in great detail) in terms both negative (what not to do) and positive (what must be done and what is permitted though not necessarily required).

Obedience to Sharia is, in fact, what jihad is. Islam claims it is the only true religion and the only the way to God. Jihad is achieving "close communion" with God, and there is no other way. Jihad is literally the only way to paradise.

Jihad’s purpose is to earn the believer a place in paradise and is entirely dependent on deeds in this life. However, "loners" can't keep Islam’s commandments because Islam is "not a personal faith," according to Muslim jurist Sam Solomon. Earthly "close communion with God" can take place only within the Muslim community, the umma.

Muslims require the support and encouragement of a broader Islamic community living together just to be Muslim at all. That is exactly the basis on which a Muslim friend at Fort Sill, Okla., an Egyptian lieutenant colonel, justified his nightclubbing, drinking and womanizing. "This is not a Muslim country," he told me, and only later I learned this was a serious answer, not a dodge.

The fundamental basis of what Muslims believe is thus:
  1. No one but those faithful to Allah's commandments can be admitted to eternal life in paradise. Everyone else, without exception, spends eternity in the flames of Hell. Islam teaches and Muslims take this dichotomy very, very seriously and literally. 
  2. There is no way to be faithfully obedient to the commands of Allah except through jihad.
  3. The commandments of Allah are so difficult to follow that it is not possible except through the unity of an entire society all devoted to submission to Allah, called the Muslim ummah
  4. The only way that the ummah can be ordered to facilitate submission of its people to Allah is through Islamic law, sharia, which makes some commandments of Allah obligatory and makes others difficult to disobey. 
Hence, sharia and jihad are conceptually inseparable. Unless sharia become the unchallenged and supreme law of a society, Islam has not been established and salvation is in unacceptable doubt.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches

The Epidemic of Bible Illiteracy in Our Churches:

“God has supernaturally ordained community to sanctify his people to grow in Christ. A call to discipleship and spiritual maturity is a call to biblical community.”
Ed Stetzer is President of LifeWay Research 

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

An atheist explains why he returned to religion

A N Wilson: Why I believe again

But religion, once the glow of conversion had worn off, was not a matter of argument alone. It involves the whole person. Therefore I was drawn, over and over again, to the disconcerting recognition that so very many of the people I had most admired and loved, either in life or in books, had been believers. Reading Louis Fischer's Life of Mahatma Gandhi, and following it up with Gandhi's own autobiography, The Story of My Experiments With Truth, I found it impossible not to realise that all life, all being, derives from God, as Gandhi gave his life to demonstrate. Of course, there are arguments that might make you doubt the love of God. But a life like Gandhi's, which was focused on God so deeply, reminded me of all the human qualities that have to be denied if you embrace the bleak, muddled creed of a materialist atheist. It is a bit like trying to assert that music is an aberration, and that although Bach and Beethoven are very impressive, one is better off without a musical sense. Attractive and amusing as David Hume was, did he confront the complexities of human existence as deeply as his contemporary Samuel Johnson, and did I really find him as interesting?
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Pentecost - Filled with New Wine

Acts 2:1-21 1 When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.   2 And suddenly from heaven there came a sound lik...