Here are some of my notes from tonight’s Understanding Islam seminar lead by Kevin H. The audio of the seminar on CD will be available Sunday in the foyer. Kevin covered much more than what I’ve included here, but the following will help you understand how Islam came about and the different sects of Islam. The most important fact I heard tonight was this: In the last 50-60 years the number of Muslims who have come to faith in Christ is more than the number who have come to Christ in all of history before the mid-1900s. Missions to Muslims is working!
HOW ISLAM BEGAN
Islam began in the Saudi Peninsula in the 6th Century. Muhammad was born is 570AD. Soon afterwards, both parents died. He was raised by a wealthy uncle and family.
At age of 12, his uncle took him on a business trip and they met with a Syrian Christian monk. The monk spoke a prophecy over Muhammad. He said that Muhammad would be a great man of God.
In 595AD, he married a wealthy business woman. She had Christian relatives.
In 610AD, at the age of 40, Muhammad went to caves outside Mecca to pray and meditate. While there, he felt a presence in the cave. He heard a voice say to him in Arabic to “recite.” He’s terrified.
He claims he was given words by God to recite – these words are later recorded in the 96th chapter of the Quran.
His wife comforts him in his fear and tells him to talk to her Christian cousin. The cousin says that Muhammad was visited by the same angel that visited the Virgin Mary. What would have happened if Muhammad had been given better instruction that day?
He becomes slowly convinced that God is speaking to him, and the basic message in those early years is, “You’re bad. God is good. Tell him you’re sorry.”
Most family and friends reject him. He found himself unpopular and unprotected because his uncles had died.
In 622AD, he is invited to Medina to share about the messages he has received, and a small community forms around him and his religious ideas. This is considered Year One by Muslims. Their calendar starts here.
He becomes wildly popular in Medina, but he has his sights set on Mecca. In 629AD, he and his followers from Medina march on Mecca. Mecca knows they’re outnumbered, so leaders from Mecca ask him to come back a year later and they’ll welcome him.
He comes back in 630AD with his followers, and Mecca lets him in. He and his followers go to a religious site called the Kaaba to clean out all of the religious symbols. They clear out everything except for – interestingly – a picture of Mary and Jesus. This shows that Muhammad saw Jesus as important to his new religion. However, the Kaaba today does not contain any pictures of Jesus.
Muhammad dies in 632AD and appoints no leader to take over. Later, his followers write down his words and put them into a book called the Quran. This book and the way in which he lived became the standard for Islam.
BELIEFS AND PRACTICES (5 Pillars)
Creeds: “There is no God but Allah and his prophet Muhammad,” etc.
Worship: Muslims pray up to 50 times a day, “Guide me to the straight path.” Kevin believes that God is answering those prayers when He brings Muslims into the lives of Christians. Christians should be ready to share Jesus with them when God brings them into their lives.
Fasting: Ramadan – no food or drink from sun up to sun down for one month.
Alms: Giving of a certain percentage. Usually 2.5%.
Pilgrimage: If one has the means, they are to take a pilgrimage to Mecca once in their lifetime.
SECTS OF ISLAM
Sunni: Authority is in the Quran alone, but most Muslims don’t understand the Quran because it’s in Arabic, and most Muslims don’t speak Arabic.
Shia: Authority is in the Quran, but the decisions about the Quran are made by leaders in the line of Ali, who they say was appointed by Muhammad upon his death to lead.
Sufi: More experiential in their practices. Focus on meditative practices and mystical union with God.
Spiritists/Folk Islam: Use spells and incantations in their daily practices. Reliance on magic to get ahead or to get rid of bad lifestyle practices.
The Sword (Jihad): Muhammad led battles when he was alive. Some were defensive, but some were offensive – to advance Islam using the sword. These battles justify this sect of Muslims to fight. Al Qaida, ISIS, etc.