Diary

Is a Muslim Reformation possible? -Updated

I should begin this diary entry with a disclaimer:  I’ve already written about the roots of Muslim antisemitism and why it’s so prevalent in today’s world.  However, I recently came across a speech given by President al-Sisi of Egypt that really caught my attention, and I thought I’d tie it in to my previous writing.  In the speech, he talked about and called for the very things I wrote about over a year ago, including such things as the need for a revolution within Islam and for Imams and scholars to change the way they think about adhering to the Qu’ran.  What makes this a big deal is the fact that this is the first well-known Muslim leader who’s said anything like this.  What makes it even more notable is that he’s the president of an important country with a huge Muslim population in it.

If the average kind of Muslim said this kind of thing in most Muslim countries they’d be thrown in jail on blasphemy charges.   Furthermore, this not only has religion significance, but also political significance.  For those who haven’t been following the situation in Egypt for the past decade or so, it’s been fluid and fluctuating between having dictators such as Mubarak and radical Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).  The MB was a direct beneficiary of the “Arab Spring”, which as many people have pointed out, has become an Arab Winter.

Our liberal friends would love for us to forget that the Obama administration did nothing to stop the spread of radical Islamist influence in Egypt, and  happily supported the MB for the brief time that they were in power before being overthrown by the Egyptian military.  So in my eyes al-Sisi’s speech isn’t just a rebuke to the MB and other radical groups in Egypt, it’s also a rebuke to Obama himself for supporting these groups instead of a moderate Muslim leader like al-Sisi.

This is a source of embarrassment for Obama and his supporters because it represents the naive change Obama made in foreign policy regarding Muslim nations.  Egypt was only one of several countries they applied their new policy approach to, including Libya, and we all know how that worked out.  In a nutshell, the change was to stop working with secular dictators who weren’t necessarily hostile to us, like Mubarak in Egypt, and instead supporting Islamist parties and leaders, sometimes by taking down the dictator if necessary.  In every single case, this policy was a complete disaster, and the consequences are still being felt today.  That’s why al-Sisi’s speech represents the antithesis of Obama’s approach to dealing with the Muslim world.  He’s saying we shouldn’t be supporting parties and groups who want to put Sharia law in place, which is exactly what Obama did.

Now the reasons why al-Sisi gave this speech may have been less than sincere.  Maybe he gave it so that he can use it to later justify cracking down more harshly on Islamist groups within Egypt, including ISIS, which would be a good thing.  Or maybe he gave it so he can consolidate his own power and claim it’s better than Sharia law.  I can’t read his mind, so I don’t know, but as long as he doesn’t put Sharia law in place, the sincerity of his intentions aren’t that important.

But his speech raises an important question, which is why is Islam still stuck in the Middle Ages?  Why haven’t some of its most problematic elements been updated or removed to fit with the times in which we live?  Why is antisemitism so rampant within Muslim countries?  Moreover, what leader(s) or group(s) will spark the fire that leads to a modern revolution within Islam?  My next diary entry will be an attempt to answer those questions or at least raise more questions so that people who are more educated on this topic can join in on the discussion and provide insight I might be missing.

I decided to split up this diary entry into two entries because it got so long.  So this will be the first entry which will serve as the context for my own thoughts and ideas on the subject, which is much longer.

 

 

Update- I recently watched a documentary on the Koran and the history of Islam and decided to write about the insight I gained from it since it’s relevant to my previous writing on the subject.
Everyone who’s researched or debated the subject of Islam even superficially is well aware of the verses it contains on violence, the treatment of women, and other things.  However, in my opinion, there are parts of the Koran that take away from it’s legitimacy more than anything related to those subjects.  Those verses can be at least partially explained by the fact that at the time they were written, Mohammed was fighting a war between his muslim followers in Medina and the arab pagans in Mecca.

So the verses talking about killing infidels wherever you see them was literally meant to be a directive to his followers at the time to kill the pagan arabs who had previously declared war on Mohammed because of his denunciation of their gods.

Of course the problem is many muslims today still interpret those verses literally and apply them to the world they live in today.   Furthermore, the Islamic hadiths claim that the greatest thing a muslim can do is fight in a jihad for Islam against any non-muslims who threaten their rule.

Christians can’t take every passage in the Old Testament literally because certain passages were written specifically for the hebrews of that time, and obviously can’t be applied to modern day living, such as taking an eye for an eye.  But there are many passages that were written for a more general audience that contain wisdom which can be applied for people of all generations, like the verses found in the Book of Psalms.   I see it being the same way for muslims and those verses of the Koran that are problematic if taken literally.  I know there are fundamentalist Christians who take every word of the Bible literally, and I think they’re as wrong in their interpretation of the Bible as the muslims are who interpret and apply every word of the Koran literally.

That being said, the biggest problem with the Koran in my opinion isn’t related to those verses, but to other verses, as I alluded to at the beginning.  Arguably the worst one is found in chapter 4, verses 157-158:   “They neither killed Him nor crucified Him, but it so appeared unto them . . .They did not kill him for certain, rather God raised Him unto Him”. This verse clearly and unequivocally claims that Jesus was never crucified, but instead was raised up to Heaven directly by God without dying an earthly death.”

For all the criticism of Islam and the Koran in general, why do we never hear about these verses?  I’m guessing it’s because the critics cherrypick parts of the Koran that back up the criticism they already planned on making.  Those criticisms are legitimate, such as the ones I already mentioned, but I believe they’re secondary to the ones I’m talking about now, at least in terms of theological significance.   The reason I believe the verses in the Koran denying the Crucifixion and the divinity of Jesus are the primary problem with the Koran is because they contradict the fundamental teachings and doctrines of Christianity.  They claim that what we as Christians base our entire faith on as the core dogma of it is a lie that was created by the writers of the Gospels.

The reason I say this takes away from the legitimacy of the Koran is because there is no basis in fact to back up these assertions.  Where did Mohammed come up with these ideas?  He certainly didn’t get them from any legitimate source of history because there are plenty of credible early historians going all the way up til the time of his birth who acknowledged that there was a real man who existed named Jesus who was crucified by the Romans.

This means that Mohammed made up this claim from nothing but his own mind.  But why would he do that?  The only reason I can think of is because he knew he was creating a new religion with his own teachings, which became the Koran, and therefore he wanted to discredit Christianity, which was the most widespread and influential religion during his time.  And what’s the best way to discredit a religion?  To claim that the central tenets and foundation upon which its entire teachings rely on is false.  This led to the modern day belief among muslims, handed down throughout the centuries, that the Bible is filled with distortions and that’s why Allah revealed what he did to Mohammed, as a final revelation to mankind to correct the beliefs of the already existing religions. Needless to say this is at odds with Christianity, as are the claims in the Koran denying the Crucifixion.

Without the Crucifixion, there is no Resurrection, and without Jesus dying for all man’s sins and rising to conquer death, there is no possibility of salvation for us.  For my fellow Christians I don’t have to explain this further, except to say this:  Due to the Original sin of Adam, man was a fallen creature, and sin entered the world.  Man couldn’t overcome this by himself, he needed his Creator to die in his place and to take on all of the world’s sins, as a sacrifice for them to God.  By doing this, Jesus destroyed permanent death and opened the gates of Heaven for everyone willing to accept Him as the Son of God.

Therefore, denying that this event ever happened, and that Jesus wasn’t truly divine, is the equivalent of Christians claiming that Allah doesn’t exist and that Mohammed wasn’t inspired by God but really just made up everything in the Koran.  I would suspect most Christians believe this, but it’s not an official teaching of the Church and isn’t written down in any of our official documents.

This is why I believe that til the end of time, there will always be some degree of conflict between Christianity and Islam, because unlike other verses that are very vague or were directed towards the people living while Mohammed was alive, these verses about Christianity can’t be interpreted in any other way.  Nor can they be destroyed, they’re their forever.  How can muslims, even the moderate ones, view Christians with anything less than disdain when they’re taught that the foundational doctrines upon which our entire religion is based are nothing more than a fraud committed by the Gospel writers?

I still believe it’s theoretically possible for Islam to be reformed and modernized in terms of updating the Koran on its verses regarding violence, the treatment of women and non-muslims, and more.  But in terms of its relationship with christianity, I don’t see how the two religions can ever co-exist without some degree of conflict because of the fundamental differences between our holy books and the interpretations of them.

I’ve also done some research on the hadiths, or collection of writings claimed to have been said by Mohammed but that weren’t written in the Koran, and what I found in them is even more disturbing regarding their claims about Jesus and the future of Christianity.

Both the Koran and the hadiths basically call the gospel writers liars, because the apostles’ accounts of Jesus’ Crucifixion came from either seeing it with their own eyes (in the case of John), or by talking to other people who were present there (in the case of the other Gospel writers).  This would be the equivalent of an official document of the Catholic Church claiming that Mohammed wasn’t a prophet and that all the words attributed to him in the Koran weren’t from him, or that they were just his own personal thoughts and weren’t inspired by God.

As a muslim, you can’t deny the central tenet of my religion and then expect me to respect your religion in turn and take it seriously, because you wouldn’t do that if my religion officially denied the central tenet of your religion.  If those claims weren’t offensive enough to Christians, there’s more where that came from.  The Koran claims that Jesus will return in the end times to fight the antichrist.  This is found in the Book of Revelation in the Bible, so Christians should have no problem with this claim. But that’s where the similarities end.

The hadiths that muslims follow say the following about what Jesus will do when He returns to Earth:

“Abu Huraira narrated that the Prophet said, “By whom my soul is in his hand, soon, the Son of Mary (Jesus) will come down to be among you as a just Judge.  He will break the cross (meaning end Christianity), kill (outlaw raising) the pig, and abolish the Jizya (tax on Christians & Jews because Christianity and Judaism will end). There will be abundance (surplus or outflow) in Wealth (and money) to the extent that no one will accept it (if you want to give charity) and a single prostration (in  prayer to Allah) will be better than the World and all what is in it.”

Now imagine if Pope John Paul 2, or any previous pope, had written an encyclical claiming that it’s the official teaching of the Catholic Church that Mohammed will return to Earth in the end times, and that he will destroy all mosques, end Islam, and declare that he is a servant of Jesus and that Christianity is the only true religion everyone must follow.  It would be considered blasphemous by muslims everywhere.  There would be riots in the streets in every country dominated by muslims around the world.  People would be killed, and muslim leaders all over would demand that the Pope retract his encyclical and apologize for the offense he caused to muslims.

Yet in the Koran and hadiths, such controversial and offensive passages about Jesus already exist.  What would most Christians do if they found out?  The devout ones would be offended and angered most likely, but would they turn violent or do anything else?  Of course not, because as Christians we’re secure enough in our faith that we can’t be shaken by any writings or teachings that try to contradict our most central and fundamental doctrines and beliefs.

 

I think the reason there has been no discussion of these major theological conflicts between Islam and Christianity is because probably 99% of Christians, including priests and pastors, aren’t aware of it.  They haven’t read the Koran, and why would they?  As Christians we have no reason to since most of us don’t have muslim friends, and even for those who do, they likely don’t get into theological debates with them, because I would guess many muslims don’t know what the Koran teaches about Jesus either.  The only reason I’ve learned these things is because I have an insatiable intellectual curiosity and I’m a writer, so in order to write about the things that interest me, I have to research them more, which was the case with Islam and the teachings found in the Koran.  It’s the same reason muslims don’t read the Bible, they have no incentives to do so.

But the fact remains that those passages in the Koran and the hadiths do exist, and while we won’t riot over them, they do get in the way of any potential attempt to create harmony and understanding between Islam and Christianity, and understandably so.  If they were spoken by a Catholic, those statements would be considered blasphemous and heretical, and that person would be excommunicated from the Church immediately.

This is why Islam has a fundamental problem regarding its theological differences with Christianity that is separate from its problem about whether or not it condones violence against non-muslims.  The latter has practical implications that can’t be ignored in both the short and long term, whereas the former has long-term implications in terms of enabling peaceful coexistence with Christians.  But both problems will make it incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for muslims to successfully assimilate into Western countries and society at large while still remaining true to their faith.  That’s a reality Western leaders must face if they ever want to understand and solve the problem created by this clash of cultures, faiths, and civilizations.