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Thursday, January 7, 2016

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How is the Islamic idea of jihad different from the violence in the Bible?




Immediately following the horrific terrorist attacks on 9/11, many Westerners began to take notice of Islam for the first time. Many were shocked to find out that Islam’s holy book (the Koran) provides specific injunctions to engage in acts of violence as part of the “holy war” (jihad) in the cause of their religion. Soon many secular thinkers began to draw comparisons between Islamic terrorist attacks and the violence found in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. But are these comparisons valid? Are the commands of Yahweh to the Israelites in the Old Testament the same as jihad as prescribed in the Koran? What is the difference between the violence found in the Bible and Islamic understanding of jihad?

To answer this question, we must define what we mean by “jihad.” The word jihad means “striving” or “struggle.” Within Islam, there are several categories of jihad. The word can be used to describe various types of struggles such as “jihad of the pen” (which would involve persuasion or instruction in the promotion of Islam) or “jihad of the heart” (a battle against one’s own sin). However, the most well-known form of jihad is that which involves physical violence or warfare in the cause of Islam. While the Koran does contain passages that encourage Muslims to engage unbelievers with grace and persuasion (Sura 16:125), the Koran contains other verses that appear to command Muslims to engage in offensive physical warfare against non-Muslims.

In Sura 9 we read, “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem [of war]; but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful” (Sura 9:5). Also in Sura 9, “Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, [even if they are] of the People of the Book [Christians and Jews], until they pay the jizya [tribute] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (Sura 9:29).

In addition to the teachings of the Koran, Muslims also follow the Hadith, a supposedly inspired record of Muhammad’s words and actions. The Hadith explains how Muhammad instructed his commander when sent out on an expedition, “When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to [accept] Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them. . . . If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the jizya. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah’s help and fight them” (Sahih Muslim, Book 19, Number 4294).

But what about the violence commanded by God in the Old Testament? Is that any different? The most often-discussed episodes of violence in the Old Testament are Yahweh’s command for the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites and return to the land that He had promised to them. When assessing these incidents, we must understand the context in which these events took place. The Canaanites were a brutal and wicked culture that frequently engaged in incredibly decadent behavior. As Christian author Norman Geisler put it, “This was a thoroughly evil culture, so much so that the Bible says it nauseated God. They were into brutality, cruelty, incest, bestiality, cultic prostitution, and even child sacrifice by fire. They were an aggressive culture that wanted to annihilate the Israelites.”

By ordering the destruction of the Canaanites, God enacted a form of corporate capital punishment on a people that had been deserving of God’s judgment for some time. God had given the Canaanite people over 400 years to repent (Genesis 15:13–16). When they did not, the Lord used the Israelites as an instrument of judgment on an evil and deeply depraved society. The Canaanites were not ignorant as news of God’s awesome power had reached them (Joshua 2:10–11; 9:9). Such awareness should have driven them to repentance. The example of Rahab and her family is a sure proof that the Canaanites could have avoided their destruction if they had repented before Israel’s God (Joshua 2). No person had to die. God’s desire is that the wicked turn from their sin rather than perish (Ezekiel 18:31–32; 33:11). We must also remember that Yahweh did not sanction all of the wars recorded in the Old Testament, and that all of the wars that were specifically commissioned by Him beyond the time of Joshua were defensive in nature. A number of the battles that Israel fought on the way to and within Canaan were also defensive in nature (Exodus 17:8; Numbers 21:21–32; Deuteronomy 2:26–37;Joshua 10:4).

The more difficult question, however, has to do with Yahweh’s command to kill all of the Canaanites, including the women and children. In response to this, two points need to be kept in mind. First, while the Bible reads that such a command was given, it may well be the case that no women or children were actually killed. All of the battles would probably have involved only soldiers where women and children would likely have fled. As Jeremiah 4 indicates, “At the noise of horseman and archer every city takes to flight; they enter thickets; they climb among rocks; all the cities are forsaken, and no man dwells in them” (Jeremiah 4:29).

Moreover, Deuteronomy 7:2–5 uses the phrase “utterly destroy” immediately followed by “you shall not intermarry among them,” highlighting the fact that, at least in some instances, the biblical authors may have employed the rhetorical exaggeration (e.g., “all that breathes,” “utterly destroy,” etc.) common to ancient Near East military accounts. This leaves open the possibility that these phrases may express some degree of hyperbolic language, and thus, that no non-combatants were actually killed. The text nowhere explicitly narrates any women or children actually being killed in these battles.

Second, even if we interpret the text to mean that children were killed, this may have been God’s way of ensuring that these children would be saved and immediately brought into His eternal kingdom. The Scripture implies that all children who die before an age of moral accountability will enter heaven (2 Samuel 12:23; Matthew 19:14). Had God allowed these children to grow up in such a vile and heinous culture, these children would likely have grown up into something like their parents and been condemned to hell after they died. God knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10), and we are simply not in a position to question God as to what is best. Since God is the Giver of life, only He has the right to take it.

In conclusion, we have seen that there is a radical difference between the violence in the Old Testament and Islamic jihad. First, the violence prescribed by God in the Old Testament was intended for a particular time and limited to a particular people group. There was no precedent set to continue this practice beyond what God had commanded. In contrast, the Koran actually prescribes and condones military jihad in the promotion of Islam. At no time in the Bible do we see God commanding His people to kill unbelievers in the promotion of biblical faith. Second, it is beyond dispute that, in its earliest years, Islam was promoted by the sword. It is exactly the opposite for early Christianity. Many of the early Christians were severely persecuted and martyred for their commitment to Christ. As one Christian philosopher put it, “Both Islam and Christianity were spread by the sword, but the swords were pointing in opposite directions!”

Finally, for the Christian, the final and complete revelation of God is in Jesus Christ, who was remarkably non-violent in His approach. If a Christian engages in violence in the name of Christ, he is doing so in direct disobedience of His Master. Jesus taught that all who live by the sword will die by it (Matthew 26:52). The teachings and example of Muhammad are very different. A Muslim who desires to commit violence in the name of Islam can find ample justification for his action both in the Koran and in the words and actions of the prophet Muhammad.

Recommended Resources: Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross by Norm Geisler and Logos Bible Software.
http://www.gotquestions.org/jihad-Bible.html

Who is Allah? What is the origin of belief in Allah?"

Allah is an Arabic word that means “God” or, more accurately, “the God.” In Western culture, it is commonly believed that the word Allah is used exclusively by Muslims to describe their God, but this is not actually true. The word Allah is used by Arabic speakers of all Abrahamic faiths (including Christianity and Judaism) as meaning “God.” However, according to Islam, Allah is God’s proper name, while Christians and Jews know Him as YHWH or Yahweh. When Arabic-speaking Christians use the word Allah, it is usually used in combination with the word al-Ab. Allah al-Ab means “God the Father,” and this usage is one way Arab Christians distinguish themselves from Muslims.

Before the inception of Islam, most Arabs were polytheistic pagans, believing in an unfeeling, powerful fate that could not be controlled or altered or influenced by human beings. Muslims regard Muhammad as the last and greatest prophet, and they credit him with restoring to the Arabs the monotheistic faith of their ancestors. Islam and Judaism both trace their spiritual lineage to Abraham, but the God-concept of Islam is different from that of Judaism and Christianity in some significant ways. Yahweh and Allah are both seen as omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and merciful. However, in both Judaism and Islam, God’s mercy is dependent, at least partly and many times fully, on man’s actions. The Islamic concept of Allah and the Jewish concept of Yahweh both deny the triune nature of God. They eliminate God’s Son, Jesus, and they also eliminate the Holy Spirit as a distinct Person of the Godhead.

Without Jesus, there is no provisionary salvation—that is, salvation is based on man’s effort rather than God’s grace. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no sanctification, no peace, no freedom (Romans 8:6; 2 Corinthians 3:17). Christians trust that by Jesus’ death and resurrection, along with the indwelling of His Spirit, sin is forgiven, the conscience is cleansed, and the human soul is freed to pursue God and goodness without the fear of punishment (Hebrews 10:22).

A Muslim may love Allah and wish to please Allah, but the question in his mind will invariably be “is it enough? Are my works enough to merit salvation?” Christians believe that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to provide an answer to the question “is my work enough?” The answer is, no, our work is not enough (Matthew 5:48). This is shocking to anyone who has been trying on his own to appease God. But this was the point of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1–48). The Jews that Jesus spoke to, just like the Muslims who follow Allah, were trapped by the knowledge that nothing they did would ever meet God’s perfect standard. But Christ’s perfect life, atoning death, and resurrection did meet God’s standard (Hebrews 10:10; Romans 8:1–8). Jesus’ message to the Jews and His message now, to Muslims and everyone else, is “repent and believe” (Mark 1:15). This does not mean “stop sinning” and “believe that God exists.” It means “turn from sin and stop trying to please God by your own ability” and “believe that Christ has accomplished everything for you.” The promise to those who trust Christ is that they will become the children of God (John 1:12).

Allah offers no such promise. Muslims believe Allah will be merciful to them based on his evaluation of their performance. But salvation is never sure; it is never a promise. When the Western world looks with horror on things like jihad and acts of Islamic terrorism, they get a glimpse of the powerful fear that Allah instills in his many of his followers. Faithful Muslims are faced with a terrible choice: obey the violent commands of an omnipotent deity whose mercy is given only to the most passionate and devoted followers (and perhaps not even then), or give themselves up as hopelessly lost and headed for punishment.

Christians should not regard Muslims with hatred, but instead with compassion. Their god, Allah, is a false god, and their eyes are blinded to the truth (see 2 Corinthians 4:4). We should be praying for Muslims and asking God to show them the truth, revealing His promise of mercy and freedom in Christ (2 Timothy 2:24–26).

Recommended Resources: Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross by Norm Geisler and Logos Bible Software.
http://www.gotquestions.org/who-is-Allah.html

Do Muslims and Christians Worship the ‘Same God’? A better question is, ‘Do Christians and Muslims both have a correct understanding of who God is?’”

A vital difference between the Islamic and Christian views of God is the biblical concept of the Trinity. In the Bible, God has revealed Himself as one God in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. While each Person of the Trinity is fully God, God is not three gods but three in one.

God’s Son came in the form of man, a truth called the incarnation (Luke 1:30-35; John 1:14; Colossians 2:9; 1 John 4:1-3). The Lord Jesus Christ conquered the penalty and power of sin by dying on the cross (Romans 6:23). After rising from the dead, Jesus went back to heaven to be with His Father and sent the Holy Spirit to believers (Acts 1:8-11). One day, Christ will return to judge and rule (Acts 10:42, 43). Those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus will live with Him, but those who refuse to follow Him must be separated in hell from the holy God.

“The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:35-36). Either Jesus bears the wrath of God for your sin on the cross or you bear the wrath of God for your sin in hell (1 Peter 2:24).

The Trinity is essential to the Christian faith. Without the Trinity, there would be no incarnation of God’s Son in the Person of Jesus Christ. Without Jesus Christ, there would be no salvation from sin. Without salvation, sin would condemn all to an eternal hell.

So, do Christians and Muslims worship the same God? A better question is, “Do Christians and Muslims both have a correct understanding of who God is?” To this question, the answer is definitely no. Because of crucial differences between the Christian and Muslim concepts of God, the two faiths cannot both be true. The biblical God alone addresses and solves the problem of sin by giving His Son.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:16-18).

Recommended Resources: Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross by Norm Geisler
http://www.gotquestions.org/same-God.html

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Jewish Tribes at Medina.











The Jews had a very rich and flourishing settlement at Yathrib and built strongholds in the city and vicinity. The principal families were the Banu Ḳainuḳa', the Banu Ḳuraiẓa, and the Banu al-Naḍir. The latter two were known as the "Al-Kahinan," because they traced their descent from Aaron. In the fourth century Arab tribes from Yemen began to encroach upon the Jews in Medina. They were divided into two clans, the Banu Aus andthe Banu Khazraj. By calling in outside assistance and treacherously massacring at a banquet the principal Jews, these Arab clans finally gained the upper hand at Medina toward the end of the fifth century (for date see "J. Q. R." vii. 175, note). From this time the Jews retired into the background for about a century. About four or five years before the Hegira the Jews took an active part in the battle of Bu'ath between the Banu Aus and the Banu Khazraj. The Banu Naḍir and the Banu Ḳuraiẓa fought with the Banu Aus, while the Banu Ḳainuḳa' were allied with the Banu Khazraj. The latter were defeated after a long and desperate battle.
Mohammed's Attitude Toward Jews of Medina.
It is probable that the presence of Jews in Medina did much to prepare the way for Mohammed's teaching. When the prophet first went to Medina he was inclined to be friendly toward the Jews. They were included in the treaty between him and the inhabitants of Medina. He also made certain concessions to them on the ground of religion, and adopted their ḳiblah—Jerusalem—in the hope of winning them to his cause. They, however, ridiculed him, and delighted in drawing him into arguments to expose his ignorance; so that his conciliatory attitude was soon changed to enmity. A few Jews were converted to Islam, among them Abdallah ibn Salam, whom Mohammed called the "servant of God," and of whose conversion the prophet made much.
Mohammed Attacks Jews.
Finally Mohammed began to use actual violence toward the Medina Jews. After the battle of Bedr a woman calledAsma, said by some to be a Jewess, wrote satirical verses, and was killed in her sleep, probably with Mohammed's consent. Not long before, Abu 'Afak of the Banu Amr, who had been converted to Judaism, had been assassinated for having displeased Mohammed by writing verses ridiculing the new religion. Mohammed then seems to have decided to get rid of the Jews in a body, since they were a constant menace to his cause. He began with the Banu Ḳainuḳa', who were goldsmiths, and lived by themselves in a fortified suburb. He first summoned them to accept his religion, and they refused. Soon a pretext was found for an open attack. A Moslem girl was insulted by a Jew of the Banu Ḳainuḳa'; the Jew was killed by a Moslem, and the latter in turn was killed by the brothers of the murdered Jew. Mohammed immediately marched against the Banu Ḳainuḳa' and besieged them in their stronghold. After a siege of fifteen days they surrendered, and their lives were spared only at the urgent request of Abdallah ibn Ubai, the influential leader of the Arab opposition, whose pleading Mohammed dared not ignore. Being allowed to leave the country, they emigrated toward the north. Their departure weakened the Jews, who if they had been united might have withstood Mohammed's attacks.
About a month after the emigration of the Ḳainuḳa', Abu Sufyan, the leader of the Meccan opposition, visited Ḥuyayy of the Banu al-Naḍir, but, being refused admittance by him, spent the night with another influential man of the same tribe and obtained information from him concerning the state of Medina. Another Jewish poet was assassinated about this time at Mohammed's desire. This was Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf of the Banu Naḍir, who had been stirring up the Ḳuraish at Mecca by his verses after the battle of Bedr. Ibn Sanina, a Jewish merchant, was killed on the day after Ka'b; and the Jews now began to fear to leave their houses. In the summer of 625 Mohammed attacked and besieged the Banu al-Naḍir. There appears to have been no satisfactory pretext for the attack. Mohammed claimed that he had received a revelation telling him of the treachery of the Jews. After a siege of fifteen or twenty days Abdallah ibn Ubai prevailed on the Naḍir to surrender. They were exiled, being allowed to take their goods with them, and emigrated toward the north, settling in Khaibar and in Syria.
Fate of Medina Jews.
There were now left only the Banu Ḳuraiẓa, and Mohammed soon found a pretext to attack them. Some of the Jewish exiles, chief among them being the above-mentioned Ḥuyayy, had stirred up the Ḳuraish and other Arab tribes against Mohammed, and they persuaded the Banu Ḳuraiẓa to join them in their plans. Mohammed, however, succeeded in making the Jews and their Arab allies suspicious of each other; and the allies, who had been besieging Medina, suddenly departed in the midst of a storm, thus leaving the Ḳuraiẓa unsupported. Mohammed marched against them, claiming to have received a special revelation to that effect, and laid siege to their fortress, which was a few miles to the southeast of the city. They surrendered after a month's siege, without having risked a fight. Their fate was left to the decision of Sa'd ibn Mu'adh of the tribe of Aus, who, in spite of the pleading of his own tribe, condemned the men to death and the women and children to slavery. The sentence was executed; and 750 Jews were killed in cold blood. Ḥuyayy was the last to die, with his last breath denouncing Mohammed as an impostor. The prophet wished to make a beautiful woman of the tribe, by the name of Riḥanah, his wife, but, tradition says, she preferred to be his slave instead. Thus the last of the powerful Jewish tribes in Medina was destroyed. Neither Mohammed, however, nor his successor drove all the Jews out of the country. That extreme measure was taken by Omar, who claimed to have heard the prophet say that all Jews should be exiled. Medina is one of the Moslem cities that neither Jews nor Christians may enter. See Banu Ḳainuḳa'Banu ḲuraiẓaBanu al-Naḍir.
Bibliography:
  • Caussin de Perceval, Essai sur l'Histoire des Arabes, passim;
  • Grätz, Gesch. iv. 66, 75 et seq., 81-83;
  • Hirschfeld, Essai sur l'Histoire des Juifs de Médine, in R. E. J. vii. 167 et seq., x. 10 et seq.