The Challenge of Islam

What is Islam?

Islam is more than just another religion next to Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism or Judaism. Islam claims to be a way of life. It is a system which governs and controls the lives of more than 1.2 Billion men and women around the globe (1996).

Islamic publications describe it in these terms:

"Islam in its clear and direct way of expressing truth has a tremendous amount of appeal for any seeker of knowledge. It is the solution for all the problems of life. It is a guide toward a better and complete life glorifying in all its phases God, the Almighty Creator and the Merciful Nourisher."

Islam at a Glance, Durban, RSA

"Islam is the first and the final religion of mankind."

"Islam is the most rational religion. It gives a clear code of life."

"Islam is the shortest and broadest road that leads to God."

The Christian witness needs to have a meaningful response to these claims, not only by way of clear arguments but also through a convincing life testimony.

The Challenge of Islam

"Africa is to be the first Islamic continent" is a well-used Islamic slogan. Is this mere propaganda or do Muslims pursue this goal in earnest? Let's look at the resurgence of Islam:

Since the end of the last World War there has been a total upheaval and dramatic change in the 'world order'. The collapse of the colonial systems, the victory of liberal humanistic thinking over former perceptions of justice and ecology, the victimization of people and systems which resisted changes in their value system, the new interpretation of socialism, democracy and freedom, as well as the shift from the East-West conflict to an impending North-South one, and the migration of many millions of people in search for a better future, has produced a new society in many places on our globe. A new brand of nationalism has in many cases not kept its promises to facilitate the so much needed and wanted economic upliftment. The population explosion, the AIDS threat, massive unemployment and the soaring of criminal activities have led to an unprecedented pessimism and hopelessness in many areas of the world.

At the same time the industrial revolution with its ever-increasing appetite for energy - which is largely found in the oil fields of the formerly poor and unimportant Islamic countries of the Middle East - has created right there an unprecedented wealth. And - as we all know - wealth represents power. It is therefore not surprising to observe in these countries, the strife for military superiority, perfected by offensive nuclear weaponry. The human potential of Islam increased vastly when the former Soviet Union broke up and a number of the Republics in the South began to view themselves as Islamic states.

Material affluence in itself does not constitute power as yet, and with that no real threat to others. Only if aligned with an ideology, monetary power becomes a danger - and it did so when Iran came totally under the influence of the 'Ayatollah' Khomeini. Because of his extreme views he had to live in exile for a number of years, working to reverse the Western influence in and on his country. When, after his return, his fundamentalist doctrines were forcibly introduced, he gained full control over Iran. All those who did not agree with his views were either eliminated or had to submit.

The title 'Ayatollah' means 'sign of Allah', not a very modest assessment. The word 'Islam' means 'submission'. While one would not expect a country to revert to the proverbial 'Middle Ages', we have to realize that what happened in Iran shows the truest form of Islam. Many Westerners perceive the Iranian revolution as an excess. But it is not that. It reflects fundamental, i.e. original, Islam.

It is certainly not our intention to defend the present Western value system, but it still allows freedom of expression and freedom of religion and worship which largely ceases when the Shariah, the Islamic law, is introduced to a country.

The Ultimate Goal of Islam: to Bring All People Into Submission to Islam

To understand the underlying system, we ought to consider some theological aspects. A look at the Qur'an will be helpful here:

In Surah 8:39 we read (according to Pickthall):

"And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression. And there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere: But if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do".

The actual rendering should read "until all of religion comes to Allah".

Surah 61:9 confirms this:

"It is He Who has sent His Apostle with guidance and the Religion of Truth that he may proclaim it over all religion, even though the Pagans may detest (it)".

This is backed up by a Hadith:

"The Messenger of Allah says: I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify the fact that there is no god but Allah, and believe in me (that) I am the messenger (from the Lord) and in all that I have brought".

Sahih Muslim I, p. 17

The word 'oppression' should actually read 'uprising' or 'revolt', which turns the passive tense into and active one. We should further realize that this is not just a question of all people to submit to God. In real terms that means no less than that all have to submit to Islam and its law.

Islam has divided the world into two parts:

the 'Dhar-ul Islam' and the 'Dhar-ul Harb'; or in English, the 'territory of Islam' and the 'territory of war'. This may not necessarily constitute armed conflict, though this was very much the case, but it is quite clear that those countries which are not as yet under the Shariah, are still to be conquered.

As Christians we might be tempted to assume that conflict might be of a spiritual nature. For we endeavor and wish that the whole world should come under the Gospel. In like manner Muslims endeavor to make the world Islamic.

However, the church cannot legitimately try to force its influence on the state, or rule the state. This would go against the Spirit of the Gospel. Attempts along this line have been made, wars have been fought, but none of these could be based on or can claim to have been supported by Scripture, our authority.

Islam works differently. Only when the Shariah is the established law in a country, it constitutes an Islamic state. To effect this, the government must be in Muslim hands. Islam does not differentiate between the secular and the spiritual. It follows an integrated system. Hygiene and politics, family life and prayer, hunting and business practices are all regulated by the Islamic law. While Christians and Jews may be tolerated, they are certainly strongly disadvantaged and not permitted to propagate their faith in an Islamic country.

Islam is on the Move to Expand its Influence

When we observe the current moves of Islam carefully, we can indeed notice how it consolidates itself and how concerted efforts are made to strengthen its position in many countries, and not only in those which were traditionally Islamic. Muslims double their population biologically twice as fast as non-Muslims do. This promotes migration and we can observe how in recent times much of the economy of Africa, but also of Europe, America, Australia and Asia is going into Muslim hands. Whoever controls the economy has also a strong influence on government, the media and education.

In many 'Third World' countries, Muslims often build very impressive mosques, even in areas with a very small number of their own persuasion. Schools are added, and free education, in contrast to most Government schools, is offered. This is extremely lucrative, and many parents cannot resist such temptation. In addition philanthropic help is offered to people in drought-stricken areas. Employment is offered, but to Muslims only. This will raise the pragmatic question, "why not become a Muslim?"

Together, all this begins to present an impact on the population, nominal Christians not excepted. The charity displayed, together with the sincerity which can easily be gauged in many Muslims, plus the social and material benefits are convincing. And who can blame the people - unless they have a goodly grounding in the Word of God, the Bible, and have founded convictions to possess the Truth when accepting and following our Lord Jesus Christ.

Who is to Blame?

At this point I must pause to give a most important explanation. We may by now have come to a point where we begin to fear or resent the Muslims. If this is the message you conceived, you have to do some correction:

Muslims, like all other people, are a creation of God! "They have a zeal for God - but it is unenlightened" (Rom. 10:2). Our Lord Jesus died for every Muslim as well! God loves the Muslims too!

We have to differentiate between the religion of Islam and its system, which does not offer salvation or assurance of forgiveness, and those people who grew or grow up under its teaching.

They have little chance to believe, because they have not sufficiently, effectively and convincingly heard and understood the Gospel. That is certainly not their fault. To some degree it is ours - if our evangelistic effort excludes the Muslims in our environment - or if our effort does not take into consideration the altogether different mind-set and understanding of a Muslim.

What is Happening in the Islamic World?

Let us now have a hard look at the advance of Islam: The ISLAM IN AFRICA ORGANISATION was founded by representatives of 24 African states at Abuja in Nigeria in November 1989. In its founding communiqué we are informed about its aims and purposes. It expresses very understandable and to them legitimate desires, such as the unification of all Muslims throughout Africa, the putting away of 'artificial boundaries', and re-instating a strong and united 'Umma' (= congregation of all Muslims) with the purpose of fulfilling the commands of Allah.

We will have to consider, however, the little syllable 're-'. It keeps on occurring in this document: 're-instate the Umma' in Africa, 're-store the use of Arabic script in the vernacular', 're-instate the application of the Shariah'. This means that what was there before, will have to be instated again, implying that there was an Umma in Africa, within which the local languages were written in Arabic lettering, and that Africans were under the Shariah law. All this is not true, excepting North Africa and some very isolated cases in which e.g. Ki-Swahili was written in Arabic script. Let us look at some of the statements:

'The Conference notes the yearning of Muslims everywhere on the continent who have been deprived of their rights to be governed by the Shariah and urges them to intensify efforts in the struggle to reinstate the application of the Shariah'.

The arising question certainly is, how any country can be administered when two sets of laws are applied to different people? The Muslims in Britain are pushing for the same. This can only lead to either confrontation or disintegration.

While we understand and have to accept the effort to establish Islamic Da'wa (mission) centers and to promote Da'wa work all over Africa, we find unacceptable the 'establishment and application of the Shariah to all Muslims', if this is done while Muslims are a minority, and if such action leads to Christians being disadvantaged, which will, no doubt, be the case.

Unacceptable also are the following objectives:

Among the disclosed names of the member nations we find Nigeria and Tanzania which have no Muslim majority. A number of other nations have not been made known. These are likely to have an even lesser Muslim presence. It is indeed noticeable by now that these aims are being implemented and not only in Islamic states, but also in those with Muslim minorities.

May the figure of money be mentioned, which was 'generously donated' by the 'government and people of Nigeria' for the "Islamic Development Fund": US$ 21 billion! (IAO communiqué)

The Roman Catholic publication "Mission aktuell", which is the German official magazine of 'MISSIO', the Roman Catholic mission, reported that in the same year (1989) 'the Nigerian head of state', General Ibrahim B. Babangida, had 'a credit bank balance at the Arab-African International Bank of US$ 57.48 billion'". His chief of the army and two cabinet ministers had lesser amounts (US$ 15.2; 17.8 and 24.9 billion).

In close agreement with the above we find an article in the Turkish newspaper "Dünya" (1980). It speaks about Islamisation and says: 'The whole territory is to be islamicised before the year 2000 and in the Middle East in such a way that all living (people) who did not turn Muslims, (the Coptic Christians, the Christians in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, the Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syrian (i.e. Syrian-orthodox Christians), Armenians, Nubians and Israelis), must be totally annihilated'.

We have to realize some hard facts: The Christians in Turkey and Lebanon have been strongly reduced by external pressure. Christians in Egypt are under constant scrutiny and are dictated upon by the state. Christians and pagans in Southern Sudan are being exterminated. The press speaks of genocide. There is no freedom of religion in any of the North African countries, and in the Middle East, Afghanistan, Pakistan or Malaysia.

In 1981 the so-called 'Mecca Declaration' was adopted by the 'Third Islamic Summit Conference of Kaaba'. Here are some extracts:

"We have resolved to conduct Jihaad ('holy war') with all the means at our disposal so as to free our territory from occupation".

"We declare that the oppression suffered by Muslim minorities and communities in many countries is a flagrant offence against the rights and dignity of man. We appeal to all states in which there are Islamic minorities to allow them full liberty".

"We are convinced of the need to propagate the precepts of Islam and its cultural influence in Muslim societies and throughout the world".

We have to read these lines as it were with Muslim's eyes. At the time of this summit there were no Islamic territories occupied by non-Muslims. The Islamic understanding is that, unless the Shariah is in force and an Islamic government in place, this is 'dhar-ul harb', territory which still needs to be conquered.

William Muir, one of the great and indeed very fair orientalists (1819-1905), made a statement which almost sounds like a prophetic utterance:

"It is my conviction that the sword of Muhammad and the Qur'an are the most fatal enemies of civilisation, liberty and truth which the world has yet known".

Another question arising is: In which countries Muslim minorities are suffering oppression? What kind of oppression is meant? Again it boils down to the same. Muslim minorities are oppressed as long as they are not governed by the Shariah - which amounts to 'full liberty'.

The last paragraph confirms this in no uncertain terms. While Muslims vociferously demand freedom from oppression, they oppress Christian communities in territories ruled by the Shariah. Indeed many human rights issues have been raised in this respect - without much response.

Despite the alleged 'oppression' in the 1980's, every two weeks one mosque was opened in Britain, a rate of expansion similar to that taking place in France and Germany. Similar advances are made in many other countries.

As far back as the early 1980's, a document emerged from the Islamic Foundation in Leicester with clear statements of intent such as:

"... the Islamic Movement (is) 'an organized struggle to change the existing society into an Islamic society based on the Qur'an and the Sunna and make Islam, which is a code for entire life, supreme and dominant, especially in the socio-political spheres'".

"... (the) framework will have to be based on recognizing the fact that the ultimate objective of the Islamic movement shall not be realized unless the struggle is made by locals. For it is only they who have the power to change the society into an Islamic society".

"Watchman Update", Dec. 1991 by Dr. Clifford Denton

The world's most advanced and powerful radio transmitters have been built in the Middle East and North Africa. Seven 2000 KW transmitters are among them - compared with the former Christian transmitter ELWA station of 50 KW.

The Ayatollah Khomeini is reported to have said:

'If we want to gain the final victory, we will have to know exactly what is to be done. Else we will meet the same fate as Hitler, who committed suicide ... In the early days of Islam the unbelievers were constantly hit over the head with the sword to make them Muslims. Many were killed. One should not shrink back from becoming a martyr ... Up to date we did not kill a single human being, but only attacking wild beasts have been purified, arrested and put away'.

As a result many thousands have been executed.

Again I like to persuade the reader not to blame this on the Muslims he comes in contact with. I compile this report not to blame any person, but to expose a religious system which is power-hungry, oppressive and deeply anti-Christian.

Christians Need to Get to Terms with Islam

The present setting of Islam in this world is very threatening. It gains acceptance and profile, even in liberal 'Christian' circles.

There are several contributing factors. Muslims are aware that oil reserves do not last forever. Consequently, they have invested vast amounts of capital in industries of the developed countries, which gives them a considerable influence in these concerns and through that on the relevant countries. Subsequently, the press in these countries, fortified by the liberal premise from which they operate, will rather be positive than in any way negative towards Islam.

Quite in line with this is the liberal World Council of Churches (WCC). It seeks 'dialogue' with other religions in order to learn from each other and to accept one another. In practice this replaces the Christian witness of Jesus Christ, as the only hope for mankind.

The Vatican sides with this, as can be seen from the prayer for peace arranged by the Pope at Assisi, to which representatives of all kinds of religions had been invited. At the Second Vatican Council the following decisions were laid down:

"The plan of God's salvation includes those who acknowledge the Creator, and in the first place among them the Muslims". (L.G.16)

"The Church has a high regard for the Muslims ... unfortunately many hostilities have arisen between Christians and Muslims. This sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that sincere efforts be made to achieve mutual understanding for the benefit of all. Let them together preserve and promote peace, freedom, social justice and moral values". (N.A.3)

This situation is the direct result of ignorance. The Christian Church has fought bitter and bloody wars against Muslims, but made hardly any move to present the Message of Grace to them.

Responding to the Challenge of Islam

Surely we can see how important it is to gain a realistic assessment of Islam, as it really is. Let us start by looking at the man Muhammad, the founder of the Islamic religion and power base.

(NB: The above information is also available in a separate pamphlet.)


Recommended Literature for Chapter 1

Holy War in Islam, Abd Al-Masih, Light of Life, 71 pages.

Is an Islamic World Empire Imminent?, Abd Al-Masih, Light of Life, 91 pages.

Ishmael, my Brother, compiled by Anne Cooper, MARC, Evangelical Missionary Alliance, 1993, 317 pages.

Islam under the Magnifying Glass, Abd Al-Masih, Light of Life, 139 pages.

Islam Unveiled, Abdullah Al-Araby, The Pen versus the Sword, 1994, 44 pages.

The Church in Africa takes note of the Islamic Agenda, LCA 1996, 8 pages.

The Great Commission, You and the Muslims, Gerhard Nehls, LCA 1980, 135 pages.

Who Cares?, Gerhard Nehls, LCA 1992 revised, 32 pages.