Friday, October 9, 2015

The Law of God (Part 3) by Linden Malki

Islam is all about Law. In fact, the main characteristic of the Islamic community is total submission to the Law as revealed to Muhammad. As an Indonesian former Muslim put it, "In the Quran, Allah is depicted as the Creator who is not only far above the world he has made but also far from every human being. He is the one who keeps an accurate record of our deeds so that he can recompense us with final rewards or ultimate punishment on the last day. This filled my heart with terror and dread, for I knew I had often fallen short of the requirements of true virtue and righteousness. ... Each one of us has to face judgment alone, on the basis of his own achievements and failures. ... I learned long passages from the Quran and I learned all of the prescribed ritual prayers [which can only be said in Arabic, even by those who do not speak the language]. ...Nothing was more important to me as the final preparation for the final judgment. My constant preoccupation was the fulfillment of the will of Allah in my daily affairs." (p28-29, The True Path, Mark Hanna)

There is very little mention of forgiveness in what I have read of Islamic tradition. The second day of the Hajj (the Pilgrimage to Mecca that takes place yearly and is one of the five "Pillars of Islam"--every Muslim is expected to make at least one Hajj in his lifetime--is devoted to repentance and prayers for forgiveness, but the final question of forgiveness is made by Allah himself at the final judgment, and the only hope for mercy is in his hands alone.

The idea of forgiving each other is not often seen. Offense is taken easily and grudges last forever. The law itself is enforced by the community and the family. A traditional Islamic state's main function is to support the law, and the honor of the family depends on its everyone's right behavior. Even a suspicion can lead to beating, or even execution in order to restore the reputation of the family and community. There is much judgment and little mercy shown, although it is not uncommon for a male to be judged less harshly than a female.

It has been claimed that Islam is a "religion of peace." The difficulty is that in the Islamic tradition, there can only be peace when the whole world is in submission to Islam. In practice, there is little peace even in the Dar al-Salaam, the world of submission to Allah; there have always been rivalries and tensions between factions within this world.. Even in today's world, there is not only persecution and attempted genocide of unbelievers, but between factions of Islam itself.

My husband grew up in Lebanon and Palestine (before Israeli statehood).His parents were from historic Christian communities, but they lived within the Muslim environment. He commented once that many of the Middle Eastern immigrants that he knew in America "lost their manners" when they got here. It wasn't as much a basic change in their personalities, but a large part of their behavior back home was determined and enforced by the environment--even among Christians. When they left the environment, they lost the rules they had grown up with, and didn't have the internal rules that is the Christian ideal. (Yes, many American Christians' behavior is imposed from the outside, as well, unfortunately.)

Islamic law does not allow tolerance of "infidels" except in special circumstances. Christians and Jews have limited respect as ones who have holy books that are precursors of Muhammad, but are second-class citizens in Islamic countries and are subject to much restriction. It is not proper for non-Muslims to have political power over Muslims. Muslims living in the Dar al-Harb (house of war, the part of the world not yet submissive) are allowed some compromise as a temporary expedient, but are expected to work toward expanding toward power.

Studies and interviews with Muslims in the West have described people who resent the freedom of the Western cultures, and find that the temptations of freedom undermine their attempts to live by to Islamic law, and they develop a resentment of us "infidels". The 911 terrorists fit this pattern, and many of those who have left the West to join ISIS have expressed a wish for the security and purity of the enforced observance of their law.

Muslims are taught that our Bible has been tampered with and is not reliable; and that Jesus, who they recognize as a prophet, cannot be the Son of God. It is illegal in Muslim countries to preach our Gospel to Muslims, and a convert from Islam to Christianity or Judaism is subject to imprisonment (until they convert back) or death, which can be enforced by a convert's family or community. Even still, there is an increasing response from Muslims who hear about a God that can be known and a Savior who can forgive and change lives. Do our own lives show our appreciation of the God we know and the Jesus who saves?
(Part 3 of 3)

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