Now That’s a Good Question

propaganda pic

Now That’s a Good Question

This afternoon I took four sharp people to visit a mosque for the first time in their lives. We’re in Catania, Sicily and my friend Hassan said, “If you’re wearing pants, not shorts, feel free to go in.” He also tossed me a couple loaner head coverings for the two women.

It was cool to watch their brains crunch the contrast between what we see in the media about Muslims and the peaceful atmosphere inside the mosque. They shared some of their honest deliberation: “I’m a little apprehensive being in here, but I’m not totally sure why.” “I see so much bad stuff. Is that really what goes down in here?” Basically, “How much of what I think, believe and feel about Muslims is true and real? And how do I know?”

The effect was further heightened when we visited the mosque attic where the imam allows some down and out asylum seekers to sleep.

My friends asked insightful questions as we chatted afterwards: “What makes the difference between nice Muslims like these and the ones who blow stuff up?” “Is there really a difference?” “What do I tell my friend who thinks all ‘real’ Muslims want to kill Christians?”

These are great questions and I’m curious about how many Christians are asking them. I’d love to hear your thoughts. And I’d really love to hear your questions. What do you wonder about Muslims, about Islam? What bugs you, puzzles you, makes you scream at the TV. What, if you were shooting straight, makes you a little nervous? What would you like to know.

I’m sure you’re busy, but can you give me 30 seconds to fire off a question? Send it in an email or post it in comments here. I’d love to know what you’re thinking. Thank you.


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7 responses to “Now That’s a Good Question

  1. Ron C

    I wrote this a couple of years back.

    “A Tale of Two Islams

    For years I’ve puzzled over the difference between the dangerous Muslim militants fighting Jihad in Nigeria, Chechnya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and a dozen other places and the millions of civil and polite Muslims. How can both claim to believe the same book and follow the same Allah and his prophet yet come out with such different motivations and goals? What’s going on with this puzzle?

    After the Paris attacks I had a new insight into the reason for this. Instead of thinking of one Islam, I have come to see there are two, broadly speaking. I’m not referring to the Shiites (10% of Muslims) and the Sunnis (the other 90%). I’m not thinking of modern versus traditional. It’s not educated and uneducated, not wealthy and poor, not native Arab-speakers and non-Arab speakers. It’s not radicals compared to moderates.

    Here’s the difference. This is the tale of two Islams that goes back to the very roots of the religion. When their founder Muhammad first started receiving what he thought were revelations from Allah, he lived in the city of Mecca of Arabia. He was married to one woman at the time, a wealthy caravan owner named Khadija. He told her about his spiritual encounters and she encouraged him not to be afraid. He started preaching to the polytheists of Mecca, who had a vast collection of idols in the Ka’aba (the large black building still used for their pilgrimages), calling them to believe in one God and live moral lives. He won a few converts to his new religion of basic moralistic monotheism.

    Most of the idolaters rejected him. He and a few dozen of his followers fled Mecca for the city of Medina. Eventually his wife Khadija died. Muhammad started consolidating his power. He took more wives. He formed an army. His preaching expanded to include military and political themes until the new religion became a complete way of society, a sort of theocracy with him at the head, giving the messages from Allah.

    With new power Muhammad made an attempt to conquer the Meccans. He lost the first battle and they retreated to Medina. After regrouping, they directly attacked Mecca and this time the Meccans surrendered without a fight.

    Here are the two Islams. The first is the Meccan Islam, a moralistic monotheism that calls Muslims to universal ideas of honesty, respect for one’s neighbor and honoring a Creator. Part of the Qur’an comes from this first Islam, written during the early days in Mecca.

    The second Islam builds upon the first and adds Jihad, the fight, both in word and weapon, to establish the complete military/religious/social/political package of an Islamic Caliphate (rule). This Islam grows out of the other parts of the Qur’an, written after Muhammad developed the beliefs in Medina and then returned to conquer Mecca.

    Choosing Islam One, most Muslims hold to the Moralistic Monotheism, with little interest in or understanding of Islam Two, the Militant Monotheism. Those in the latter stand ready to follow the example of their prophet in Medina and wage war to establish their religion globally. Both need the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah.”

  2. Ron C

    Adding to the above comment. Let’s suppose that history might have gone differently and Islam evolved from the early days into a truly peaceful religious system, something like Buddhism. Would Jesus’ missional call to make disciples among Muslims have been any different in that case? Our call to reach Muslims is predicated by the call to reach all nations and religious people, however close or distant their beliefs may be from the Gospel of grace. Our call isn’t simply one to seek out militant and hostile people, but all sinful people everywhere who need the forgiveness of Jesus. If Islam truly was a religion of peace it wouldn’t make it more worthy of the Gospel or less. At the fundamental level it’s irrelevant in terms of the mission of God. If all Muslims were Gandhi (a Hindu), wouldn’t they still need the Gospel?

  3. There are statements made by some that any Muslim who does not follow or support violent Jihad is not a true Muslim. There are others that claim people who do follow violent Jihad are not true Muslims. Does this contradiction bother anyone, especially people who consider themselves Muslim?

  4. This is a good question, Daniel. I plan to look into it more. Did you see Ron’s thoughts above?

    • Shane,
      When I originally posted my comment, Ron’s had not been approved. I would submit that Ron’s comments come at the question from a western European point of view of trying to dissect the question into smaller parts.

      My focus is more on looking at a wide cross-section of Eastern Muslim experience and thought and wondering how Muslims integrate the two different seemingly contradictory perspectives on Jihad into their own perspective on physical and spiritual life when both sides can be taught from the Quran and the Hadiths?

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