Want to Understand Islam? Start Here

understanding-Islam
Originally published in 2007 in a Washington Post article, John Esposito’s concise explanation of the essentials of Islam remains one of the best introductions to Islam that has ever been published on the web.  It is worth re-printing here.
***************

Nearly half of Americans have a generally unfavorable view of Islam. That climate makes it easy to lose sight of the fact that the majority of mainstream Muslims hate terrorism and violence as much as we do — and makes it hard for non-Muslims to know where to begin to try to understand a great world faith.

Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam originated in the Middle East. As F.E. Peters shows in “The Children of Abraham,” the commonalities can be striking. Muslims worship the God of Abraham, as do Christians and Jews. Islam was seen as a continuation of the Abrahamic faith tradition, not a totally new religion. Muslims recognize the biblical prophets and believe in the holiness of God’s revelations to Moses (in the Torah) and Jesus (in the Gospels). Indeed, Musa (Moses), Issa (Jesus) and Mariam (Mary) are common Muslim names.

Muslims believe in Islam’s five pillars, which are straightforward and simple. To become a Muslim, one need only offer the faith’s basic credo, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the prophet of God.” This statement reflects the two main fundamentals of Islamic faith: belief in the one true God, which carries with it a refusal to worship anything else (not money, not career, not ego), and the crucial importance of Muhammad, God’s messenger.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST 

Franklin Graham, Islam, and the Future of Progressive Christianity

franklin-fb-page-1Franklin Graham recently made a stir with his 2.1 million fans on Facebook when he posted about the murder of four US marines in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He wrote,

Four innocent Marines (United States Marine Corps) killed and three others wounded in ‪#‎Chattanooga yesterday including a policeman and another Marine–all by a radical Muslim whose family was allowed to immigrate to this country from Kuwait. We are under attack by Muslims at home and abroad. We should stop all immigration of Muslims to the U.S. until this threat with Islam has been settled. Every Muslim that comes into this country has the potential to be radicalized–and they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad. During World War 2, we didn’t allow Japanese to immigrate to America, nor did we allow Germans. Why are we allowing Muslims now? Do you agree? Let your Congressman know that we’ve got to put a stop to this and close the flood gates. Pray for the men and women who serve this nation in uniform, that God would protect them.

Franklin Graham is the “mouth piece of God” for many Christians throughout the world – a modern day prophet for his millions of fans. But, sadly, Franklin misunderstands the very nature of God.

I share Graham’s concern for the victims of this violent act and pray for their families, but his statement about how Christians should respond to that violence also concerns me. Graham’s understanding of God is contaminated by fear and exclusion that responds to violence with more violence. He believes that Islam is a great threat to America and that we should respond by excluding Muslims from the United States because “they do their killing to honor their religion and Muhammad.”

I’m pleased that many Evangelicals have already critiqued Graham’s misunderstanding of Islam, but here I’d like to offer a progressive alternative to his understanding of Christianity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS 

Defending religious minorities helps majority, faith leaders agree

roberts_pakistanis425KELLER—When Muslims defend Christians in Pakistan and Christians speak up for Muslims in the United States, they not only follow the highest ideals of their religions, but also act in their own enlightened self-interest, a Baptist pastor in North Texas and a Catholic priest and a Muslim imam from Pakistan agreed.

“How we treat Muslims here (in the United States) has an impact on Christians in Pakistan and Egypt and other places around the world. We need to learn how to be civil. We need to teach those who are in the majority how to treat those who are in the minority. We want to pull together pastors and imams in different areas. We need to watch out for religious minorities worldwide.”

Abdul-Khabir Azad, the grand imam of the 350-year-old Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan, and James Channan, regional coordinator of the United Religions Initiative-Pakistan, agreed.

In June, Roberts helped facilitate a meeting of 10 Pakistani Christian leaders and 10 imams from Pakistan at the Doha Interfaith Center in Qatar. Now, Azad and Channan want to use that model in their homeland, fostering dialogue and nurturing relationships between religious leaders at the grassroots level.

“We want to heal wounds and build bridges,” said Channan, a Roman Catholic priest and director of the Peace Center of the Dominican Order in Pakistan. The author ofPath of Love: A Call for Interfaith Harmony, he recently received the Global Ambassador of Peace Award from the Institute of International Social Development at the United Nations.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BAPTIST STANDARD 

Suspension of Pakistan women’s death sentence ‘shows need’ for Christian-Muslim dialogue

pakistan-christians-protestThe suspension of the death sentence of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman charged with blasphemy, by the Pakistan Supreme court has showed the value of Muslim-Christian dialogue, says a priest in the Islamic nation.

“The Supreme Court of Pakistan has made a great move as her death sentence was put aside,” Father James Channan said in a July 23 interview with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

“I firmly believe that justice will be done, that she will be proven innocent and that she will be released,” said the Roman Catholic Dominican priest.

He noted, “The blasphemy law was used (in Bibi’s case) to settle a personal score – the accusation was an act of revenge.”

The Pakistani woman has denied the accusation, saying her accusers were acting out of a personal vendetta.

Asia Bibi spent nearly five years on death following an accusation that she insulted the Islamic prophet Muhammad during an argument, Catholic News Agency reported.

Earlier in July the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended Bibi’s execution, and will soon hear her appeal.

However, CNA reported that many Pakistanis have spoken out against the court’s decision and have said it would carry out the execution even if she is deemed innocent.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ECUMENICAL NEWS 

German Lutherans and Assimilation: Lessons in the Current Atmosphere of Islamophobia

(While most of the articles posted on this site are drawn from alternative and mainstream news sources in an attempt to give a more balanced picture of Islam and Christian-Muslim relations than is usually given in the mainstream press, here is a more scholarly paper that helps put the current poisonous atmosphere of Islamophobia in an historical perspective) 

DavidGraftonPortrait-42014by Dr. David Grafton

[1] One of our great American patriots and public servants has always been a staunch advocate of the need for immigrant communities to assimilate into traditional American culture, adopting the English language and the values of its national heritage. So, it is not a surprise that he has also been critical of immigrants coming to America who do not assimilate into our culture. In addition, this patriot has been fully invested in the American laissez faire capitalist system. He has been outspoken in his criticism of the fact that immigrants curtail the American economy by working the menial labor jobs for less than the average English speaker. Finally, he has argued that immigrants who come arrive in this country in a weakened physical state tax the health care system by providing services for them.

[2] In 1751, Benjamin Franklin wrote his Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, etc. In this essay, Franklin was responding to the increase in non-English immigrants to the North American colonies, primarily from Ireland and the German states. In fact, German immigrants outnumbered English-speaking immigrants by three to one during the 1750s.1 Philadelphia, Franklin’s hometown, was one of the prominent destinations for German immigrants. Germans from the Palatinate (of what is now south-west Germany) landed in Philadelphia, traveled up Germantown Ave. and if they did not settle in Germantown, continued past what is now the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, and out toward the further counties of the English colony of William Penn.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA WEBSITE 
German Lutherans and Assimilation: Lessons in the Current Atmosphere of Islamophobia by David D. Grafton

Centuries of dialogue How two global monotheisms view the same prophet

20130810_BKP001_0Christians, Muslims and Jesus. By Mona Siddiqui. Yale University Press; 285 pages; $32.50 and £20. Buy from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk

RELIGION is a tricky subject for scholarship. Even the most professional academic is bound to have personal feelings about the faith under scrutiny. Some see this as cause for concern. Indeed Reza Aslan, one of America’s best-known writers on religion, recently came under fire for his new book about Jesus (“Zealot”, reviewed in the July 27th issue ofThe Economist). Because he is a Muslim who once embraced Christianity and then dropped it, Lauren Green of Fox News accused him of writing with a “clear bias”. No, Mr Aslan replied, he was writing as a scholar. His response was articulate and dignified, and the interview has helped sell quite a few books, but it will hardly sway those who believe Mr Aslan is writing with a Muslim agenda.

Mona Siddiqui, a professor at Edinburgh University’s school of divinity, makes no secret of the various strains of thought that inform her study of Christians, Muslims and Jesus. Parts of her book are rigorously academic and arcane, other parts are very personal. Unlike Mr Aslan, she does not confine her meditations on her own faith to an introduction. Rather, she ambitiously weaves her personal and scholarly views throughout.

She presents certain basic facts: Muslims revere Jesus as a uniquely inspired prophet who was born of the Virgin Mary, ascended to heaven and will come again. Yet Muslims cannot accept that Jesus was the son of God. This, they believe, reflects a flawed view of both Jesus and God. As Ms Siddiqui shows, Christians and Muslims sparred with one another intensely during the early centuries after Islam’s rise, with each side vying to be the ultimate revelation of God. But the two faiths did at least grudgingly acknowledge one another as monotheistic, despite Islam’s firm rejection of the Christian view of God as a trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ECONOMIST 

Jesus and Jihad: Reclaiming the Prophetic Heart of Christianity and Islam

CASCADE_TemplateWhat if all our stereotypical images of jihad are wrong?

Few words inspire more fear in Americans these days than jihad.

Its mere utterance conjures up images of car bombs exploding in crowded markets; Boeing 737s crashing into tall buildings; and flag burning, gun-toting bearded Arab men shouting, “allahu akbar” and “Death to America!” But what if all our stereotypical images of jihad are wrong, and when rightly understood, jihad turns out to be the perfect lens through which to understand the life and mission of Jesus?

Jesus and Jihad argues that in early Muslim sources jihad stood for the struggle to transform a violent and unjust pre-Islamic society into one characterized by greater levels of justice and peace. When rescued from his Christian pietistic misinterpretations, Jesus emerges as a highly prophetic figure of resistance to the injustices authorized by Roman imperial power

FULL ARTICLE FROM RNS