Darlene in the combox asked some good questions about Islam that are very common in these days. I decided this would be good for a separate post.
Do you think the Muslims worship the same God as Christians - that is, YHWH? I've been commenting over on Seth's blog and he seems to think so.
Thank you for you good questions! Many people have these same questions.
The short answer is no; the god of Islam is not the one true God of the Bible, who is a Tri-une (Latin: Tri – Unitas = “three in one”) God. Doctrinally, Islam rejects the Trinity and the Deity of Christ, so the doctrine of who Allah is in Islam is not the God of the Bible. They do not worship the same God because they don’t have the one mediator (I Timothy 2:5; John 14:6; Acts 4:12), Jesus the Messiah, the word of God from all eternity who became flesh. (John 1:1, 1:14) Allah is a monad, all alone; and Muslims are actually taught not to think too deeply about Allah. Allah cannot technically be called “He”, because “he” is a pronoun for a man, boys, males. One of my Turkish neighbors told me, “Don’t say “he” for Allah; Allah is “it” !” Allah is impersonal also. Allah is more like a mysterious force. The goal in Islam is not to know God personally nor have a personal relationship of trust with Him; but rather the goal in Islam for the individual to just to obey Allah; obey His laws. The relationship in Christianity emphasizes that we are “sons of God”, God is our Father; whereas in Islam the emphasis is on Master to slave. The common Muslim name, “Abdullah” means “the slave of Allah”. Islam does not have anything like we have in the Bible in John 17:3 - "this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Knowing God in an close, living, spiritual relationship is foreign to the Islamic system.
However, Muslims are referring to the same concept (same referent) as the one Sovereign, Invisible creator of all things, who revealed Himself through prophets and books. (Monotheism with basis on the previous Scriptures, the Torah and the Gospel) They are claiming to worship the God of the Bible; but in reality they are not. They think they are worshiping the one true creator God, but they are not.
The Roman Catholic Catechism that says “the Muslims . . . together with us they adore the one, merciful God"; is wrong. (Catechism, # 841) They think they do because it is monotheism and has revelation and books, but without the Incarnation and the redemption of the atonement and resurrection, they cannot know God. They do not adore the God of Bible, because they cannot approach Him, nor come to know Him and His holiness without faith in Jesus Christ as the one mediator and Savior and Lord; God in the flesh.
So doctrinally, the god of Islam is not the God of the Bible. However, linguistically, there is nothing wrong with the phonetic sounds, “Allah” in missionary contexts and cultures that have that word as the best word for the one true creator God. In Arabic, that is the best word for the Hebrew Elohim in the OT and for Theos in the New Testament. In other Islamic cultures, “Allah” is still the best word for their heart languages. However, in Farsi/Persian, the language of Iran, Allah is not the best word. The word for God in Farsi/Persian is “Khoda”. That is a matter of language and translation. Godly and doctrinal missionaries will work hard to teach the Deity of Christ and the Trinity so that the new believers in Christ who come from an Islamic background will truly understand and worship the God of the Bible. So, for Arabs, we would use “Allah” when speaking of God; no problem. But as we make disciples and teach and preach the gospel, we must fill in the proper doctrinal content of who Allah really is.
YHWH is the Hebrew word for the covenant keeping God of Israel in the Old Testament, derived from the first person “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14). In most English translations we have translated it, “LORD” with capitals to distinguish it from “Adonai” (Lord, boss, master). Christian cultures in the Arabic speaking world use the word “Rabb” for this word (YHWH/Adonai), which means, “lord”, “boss”, “master”. The Roman Catholics, Armenians, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestants in the middle East who speak Arabic all use “Allah” because it is their language, and that is the best word in their language for Elohim in the OT and Theos in the NT. Bibles in Arabic, and other Muslim languages use Allah for Elohim and Theos. But not Iranians, they have their own language and word. The Turks have their own Turkish word for God, "Tanri", but the traditional Muslims in Turkey want to keep "Allah". Tanri is mostly used by the modern more secular Turks.
Also, do you think that Islam is a violent religion or that only the few extreme Muslim terrorists can be placed in that category. Iow, are the majority of Muslims in the world peaceful?
Your “or” in your sentence here has confused the categories. Islam is the religion/doctrine/political system whereas Muslims are people. Islam teaches violence, but most Muslims are not terrorists or "Jihadists" in the sense of wanting to take over the world by force and use tactics like suicide bombings. But, if there are over 1 billion Muslims in the world today, and, say, 10-20 % believe in Jihad to spread Islam, then that is a lot of people! Most Muslims would believe that true Jihad is supposed to be "self-defense" or "just war".
One of the problems with answering this question is that Muslims will take offense and take it personally. So it is important, I think to clearly distinguish between the political-religious-social system of Islam vs. the people, who call themselves Muslims.
Islam is the religion/political system and teaches fighting and killing in order to subdue the pagans/infidels/unbelievers, so that Islam can spread. (see again Surah 8:39; 9:5; 9:29) This is what Muhammad did by subduing the Arabs in the Arabian peninsula and it is what the successors to Muhammad (The Khalifa) did in carrying out Jihad for centuries until they were stopped. This is why they attacked Persia and the Byzantine Empire and conquered the middle East and N. Africa, Persia, and Spain. They later kept going and conquered the Turks and converted them to Islam and the Turks became the military force for the wealthy Arab leaders in Baghdad. Eventually the Seljuk Turks, and then later the Ottoman Turks became the “guardians” of Islam, and the Islamic Empire or “Ummah”, meaning “community” or “nation”. Originally it was supposed to be one unified political system and nation, ruled by the Khalif. (Sort of equivalent to the Roman Catholic Pope) Please read the article I referenced on Jihad, with quotes from the Qur’an and the Hadith collections, it shows the 4 stages that Islam went through during Muhammad’s career. see - http://www.answering-islam.org/Bailey/jihad.html
The Muslims went on to conquer other areas in Asia and spread Islam to Central Asia (Turkestan: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kirgizstan, Turkmenistan), the rest of the Persian Empire, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, India (today Pakistan and N. India are the results of Islam’s inroads into India), China (western China has over 60 Million Muslims!), Malaysia, and Indonesia.
In the Middle East, it was only after the Ottoman Empire was defeated at the end of World War I (1917) and the Khalifate was abolished (1922-1924) and the “Ummah” was split into separate countries that created more secular Muslim countries and the ability for many Muslims to separate doctrinal-Jihadistic Islam from their religious/spiritual duties. The most consistent expressions of doctrinal and original Islam today are Saudi Arabia, and the Taliban areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan for the Sunnis and Iran for the Shiites – they are all three what the west would call a “theocracy”, because they are consistent in actually applying Islamic political and social law in daily life.
So, yes, Islam teaches fighting and killing (qatl, qatal), war (harb), and jihad (struggle, effort). It is a violent religion in its original doctrines and teachings in its scriptures, the Qur’an, and the Ahadith ( plural of Hadith, “written traditions of Muhammad”). The modern Muslim in the west would object and may say that the goal was only to unify Arabia and that those verses do not apply to today. The problem with that is that there is no text in the Qur'an or Hadith that shows that the Jihad/Qatal/harb is supposed to stop.
But Muslims themselves are not all terrorists and many Muslims are peaceful and hospitable people. They can be very friendly and respectful and family oriented; and learning their culture and hospitality and talking to them about spiritual things is always interesting and fun and challenging. They are human beings, created in the image of God, in need of the Savior Jesus Christ. They are sinners, and we are sinners. We are not better than them. Those of us whom God has saved by His grace want to share the gospel with them. Many Muslims don’t know their own religion. Most Muslims see Jihad as self-defense or equivalent to the Christian view of a “just war”. If a western country attacks a Muslim country or if the Hindus in India attack the Muslim areas, or the Atheists/communist Russian try to take Afghanistan, the whole Muslim communities are galvanized to do Jihad, struggling and fighting for Islam.
Today, the Muslim world is going through a real crisis of identity and struggle within itself to see if they are going to follow Muhammad’s Islam or a more moderate expression of Islam that it seems most Muslims would desire. The Jihadists movements of terrorism, such as Al Qaideh, are movements of consistently applying all of the texts of Islam globally with the desire to re-establish the Khalifate. (In Sunni Islam, succession to Muhammad as one leader over all the Muslim world.) The problem is that the Shiites do not believe in the Khalifate, they have what they call the Imamate ( Two schools of Shiites: 12 Imams, or 7 Imams = descendants of the family of Muhammad. So there is great disunity in the Muslim world over these issues.
Is the understanding among most Muslims that Islam's goal is to be a theocracy in all countries that they occupy?
Hard to know what most Muslims understand deep down vs. what they are willing to express in public in western countries. The Muslim world was humiliated by the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the establish of the state of Israel in 1948, and the colonial powers drawing borders and training secular leaders in the last almost 100 years. This humiliation and defeat became the seed bed of thinkers like Saeed Qutb in Egypt, who inspired Usama Ben Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri.
Most Muslims probably did not think deeply about this issue since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire (1922-1924) until recently. But yes, a political state of Islam (a "theocracy") was the original intention and goal and it is obvious from reading the Muslim sources and Islamic history. The disunity with the Shiites and the European self-defense stopped this in history. The recent history of the Jihadists movements is actually forcing more and more Muslims to think about this issue more and more.
If so, was this Muhammad's goal? Yes, read his words in the article I gave you. See again Surah 8:39; 9:29.
As of late, I've had an increasing interest in Islam. I think it started when I attended a presentation at St. Tikhon's Seminary by an Orthodox priest from Indonesia, who had been raised in the Muslim faith. He knew the Quran quite well and quoted from it extensively. He spoke of the harsh treatment Christians receive (whether Orthodox or Protestant) in that country, since the majority religion is Islam.
Very interesting! Yes, Christians are treated harshly and are second class citizens in Muslim countries. They are called “dhimmis”. It means the “protected peoples” of the “people of the book” ( Christians and Jews). They must pay the "jaziye" ( a tax on them to show their submission to the Islamic state. Dhimmis cannot share their faith with Muslims or build new churches.
So I thought I'd make some inquiries from you since it seems you have a fairly good grasp (and interest) of the subject.
Darlene, Thanks for your questions and gracious compliments!