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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

UNDERSTANDING ISLAM

"Death to the unbeliever!"

Day By Day
There's an aspect of Islam which I'm seeing brought up a lot more as people learn more about the religion. Having read the Koran and studied Islam for years now, I believe I've got a good handle on the religion and can help clarify the issue.

There are some who claim Islam is not a religion at all. Their logic is based on the fact that Islam is, in fact, a full world system, a way of living every aspect of life. The Koran and Hadith (and Sharia law rulings) cover more than belief and morality, but also politics, relationships, health, art, philosophy, construction, child rearing, law, and all other parts of life.

What they're trying to say is true in a way, Islam cannot be reduced to religion. It is a system of absolute, unquestionable rules on how you should live and think and believe in every single part of life. Islam has rules for everything, down to the most obscure details; Islam tells you what hand to wipe yourself with and how to do so, after you defecate.

It is incorrect to say that Islam is not a religion, but it is absolutely true that Islam is not merely a religion. That isn't to say that all Muslims agree with the totality of what's been taught by Muslim scholars and Sharia law experts over the centuries. Muslims in America tend to limit their faith more than those in Saudi Arabia, for instance. And there are four major (and many other smaller) branches of Islam: Shiite, Sunni, Wahabbist, and Ismaeli, each of which has variations on what they believe and how. So it is difficult to generalize, but the overall picture as given to the world by Muhammad is consistent: this is more than just personal faith. All religions follow this pattern: a basic core with lots of variations, yet you can draw basic conclusions about the faith from that core.

Now, for most Muslims in the world, especially those living in Islamic nations, church and state are not distinct, they are one. The church is the state, and vice versa. What the church rules is official law. What the government does is church business. That means if Islamic rule comes to a nation, there is no such thing as religious tolerance or diversity, and there is no separation of church and state. And that's just how many Muslims want it. Its safer, easier, and more predictable. You don't have to think, just obey. You don't have to worry, just obey. Everything is decided for you and every act has a rule and a law to follow. Simple, comfortable, safe. Its just not free.

OTHER FAITHS
Now, consider: Judaism had just such a system back five thousand years or so ago when Moses brought the law down from mount Sinai in the Arabian Peninsula. Every aspect of life was again prescribed by law, from what you could eat to how you dealt with death. The country was run by the priests in a theocracy, with the voice of God coming directly through prophets and the Urim and Thummim in the high priest's bejeweled breastplate, or so the Old Testament (or, Torah and Tanakh, as you will) teaches.

And consider again: Christianity, as the Protestant Reformation taught, is not simply an internal part of what you believe and behave, but influences and informs every single aspect of life. You aren't a Christian and something, you are a Christian, period. If you're a Christian bootmaker, you make boots for God's glory and in His service according to principles laid out in the Bible. if you are a Christian lawmaker you make laws to God's glory in the same way, judging based on what you believe about life and morality in scripture. Christianity isn't simply a faith, it is a life-changing whole worldview that impacts every single thing you do.

Is that really so different than Islam, and how does that affect how we view Muslims? And is Islam so incompatible with American values as some assert?

Is being a Muslim no different than these other faiths, which have meshed well with western culture and democracy? Or does Christianity and Judaism fit well with modern democracy because they were such a fundamental part of its foundation?

The primary thing to remember about Judaism and Christianity, in distinction from Islam, is that both faiths have a strong tradition and religious basis for question, debate, and discussion. While the Roman Catholic church for over a millennia tried to restrict that to a small group of specialists, both faiths have always encouraged argument and study. Judaism is notorious for these kinds of debates, and in fact the Talmud consists of exactly that: arguments by Rabbis over the years. The Christian Bible specifically calls for believers to question, argue, study, and compare scripture to greater understand the truth.

Islam prohibits this. You are not to study the Koran, you are to read it, memorize it, and obey it. Islam means submission, being a Muslim means one who submits and struggles. You do not argue with what you're told, you do not compare scripture with scripture and debate meaning, you do not study and try to know more deeply what has been taught, you are to read, memorize, and obey. There are special scholars who study the Koran and Hadith more deeply, but they do not study and interpret, they find the answers in what has already been written. If there is no answer, then a Sharia judge or an Imam makes an official proclamation, which becomes part of Muslim scripture.

This distinction is very important to understand because it makes a significant difference in how these three religions impact life and behavior. Christians are told to live their lives in light of what they know and believe, following some basic rules of love and obedience to God, but most of life is up to their best interpretation and judgment. Christianity is about principles and ideals which are then applied to specific situations; there are few rules, which makes the life very challenging at times. Christians have to face each new event or decision and try to come up with the best they can which will best glorify God and honor Jesus Christ as they understand scripture. That's why the study and debate and discussion are encouraged. Its a lot easier to live by rules; Christianity just doesn't give that many.

Judaism is similar in the sense that Jews have a simple set of rules to live by (the 10 commandments, mostly) and a need to judge life based on that.

THE OLD LAWS
But wait, what about the Torah, what about all those laws in Leviticus and Deuteronomy? Indeed, there were incredibly detailed and extensive rules and laws given in those books. Yet a closer look and better understanding of what was written there in historical context helps clarify matters. There are three types of laws in those books: Ceremonial, Judicial, and Moral.

Ceremonial law dealt with cleanliness, sacrifice, and the various aspects of doing things to be pure and set apart (holy) before God. They were designed to make the Hebrews distinct from their neighbors, remind them of their need to be pure and sinless, and to look forward to a day when the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ would one day come (modern Jews obviously don't believe that last part). These laws were specific to the temple sacrifice system and the nation of Israel in terms of being distinct and reminding them to be set apart.

Judicial laws were matters like the cities of refuge, how to choose leaders, how many elders were in each area, how to settle legal disputes, and in general the mechanism of running a country. These were the laws of the theocracy as we understand laws today, like speed limits and anti-trust legislation; rules. Being a people who were generations who grew up in slavery under an absolute dictator in Egypt, they needed a total system of government to know even how to behave as a country and continue united instead of breaking up into bands under strong men.

Moral law is the part people usually associate with the old testament. These were the laws about what you ought not to do based on God's will, rather than what you cannot do without facing legal sanction. This is the ten commandments, the laws on personal behavior and responsibility to God. It was violations of these laws which required the ceremonial laws and sacrifices, it was the failure to do so which required the judicial rules and regulations.

Knowing how this work helps understand why only part of these laws have survived over the centuries for both Jews and Christians. Jews tend to cling to more of them, as they do not believe that the old testament laws were fulfilled in Jesus Christ and a new covenant began with him which has different rules, but both believe that the judicial and ceremonial laws do not have the weight and significance of the moral laws.

To be sure there are a lot of variations in Judaism (Orthodox, Hasidic, Reformed, etc), and some follow the old testament rules more closely than others but the general thrust is that most of those old rules have been replaced or simplified over the years or until the temple is rebuilt, at the very least.

Thus, when you look at Islam in distinction from Christianity and Judaism, you can see that the system of religion as state is different and has much greater impact in Islam. Islam is much like Israel was back when Joshua was conquering the promised land: these laws cover all aspects of life. However, unlike the Jews, Islam does not teach these laws are only for them as a chosen people but for everyone, everywhere, at all times.

COEXISTENCE
Some Muslims have adapted a system of religion much more like Christianity or Judaism. They believe that while Islam is absolute law for them, it is not for others, and that is between those people and Allah. Such Muslims have found a way to coexist with the rest of the people around them by adapting their faith to abandon strict application of Sharia and other Muslim law. These kind of Muslims are all around us in America, they are the bulk of Muslims in places like Yugoslavia. Such a Muslim can be a good friend and citizen in any country.

And to be sure, Christians and Jews draw a line at which they will not go any further or will not agree with the culture around them. Christians tend to believe abortion and gay "marriage" is absolutely prohibited by scripture and cannot accept this. Jews tend to be more relaxed in this area, but have other places they will not cross the line. At times, that brings them into conflict with their culture; Christians and Jews defied Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to their own cost and lives, they continue to do so in places like China, Burma, and North Korea.

Yet in general, Jews and Christians get along better with western culture than Muslims. Part of that may have to do with the fact that Jews are incredibly adaptable and both faiths heavily influenced western civilization for two thousand years. The philosophies and worldviews of most of the greatest thinkers and builders of western civilization were all influenced by Christianity and Judaism (the Judeo-Christian tradition), even if those thinkers were atheist. Presumptions of absolute morality, responsibility to something other than one's self, ideas about human worth and liberty all were strongly influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview. Going into this in depth would make this essay twenty times longer, so I'll leave that to others, but suffice it to say that the presumption of Christianity and its ideals was so much a part of western culture that it was like the water fish swim in and impossible for the thinkers to avoid.

Thus, it is reasonable to say that Christians and Jews would find such a civilization easier to function in and more comfortable to fit into, as their ideals were so foundational to its creation - and indeed explains much of why modern abandonment of these ideals in "progressivism" is so uncomfortable and difficult for Christians to accept. However, that isn't the whole answer. Greeks built the struggling first, flawed concepts of democracy long before Christianity even arose. They did so with some Jewish influence, but largely apart from even that religion. Rome went on to build one of the mightiest and advanced civilizations on earth almost devoid of Jewish and Christian influence (until later in its history). The principles of liberty and democracy grew out of general ideas distinct from these religions, even if they were greatly honed and more sophisticated in later thinkers such as Rousseau, Locke, Montesquieu and others.

The truth is, Islam is so inflexibly complete in its worldview, that even more adaptable Muslims who have modified their faith find it difficult to fit in to western culture at any epoch. Like very conservative Hasidic Jews whose long sideburns and distinctive lifestyle make them stand out awkwardly in public, Muslims have the same sort of confrontation with a culture which is largely alien to them. The concepts of human worth (very diminished in the Koran), equality (absolutely rejected in the Koran), democracy (rejected), and basic rights (rejected) are all ideals which do not flow naturally from Muslim faith.

OMINOUS RUMBLINGS
And that is where the real concern arises. For those who wish an overturn of western culture and the rising of a worldwide Islamic "republic," these basic principles have to go. For the radical Islam growing in numbers and voice in Europe, particularly places like France and Holland, the concepts of western civilization are at odds with what they believe and wish to see implemented. For them, equality leads to corruption, democracy leads to the unlearned commanding law, and liberty leads to sin. It is "un-Muslim" to have a civilization based on anything but submission to Allah and his prophet.

For these Muslims, the west has to die, and the Middle East has to rise. The basic principles of western civilization are not just mistaken or need modification, but are a sinful abomination which is the very cause of the problems in the west.

And while Christians would love to see a world which Christianity dominates because each person has been saved and follows Christ, and while Jews would love to see everyone become a Jew and thus follow the Torah, these Muslims want everyone to either become Muslim... or be crushed by the boot of oppression or death. You must submit, even if you do not believe. Christianity learned to abandon that idea in the Protestant Reformation, and Judaism has never been about reaching out to save the world, simply about Jews and their faith with God. When I say I want everyone to be saved and follow Christ, that doesn't mean I want them to be forced to or use any coercion or power to require them, it means I want them to change from within on their own part, not be compelled. Islam has no such option, not technically and properly in their scriptures.

Islam is about conquest, about expansion, and about submission. The whole world must submit to Allah and abandon everything except Sharia law and the teachings of Muhammad. There can be no compromise ultimately, although you can see it for a time while Islam takes greater control. There can be no adaptation or blending, only Islam. And until all of Islam can become more like the Muslims who can live with others in another civilization, that threat will only continue to grow as the numbers and zeal of radical Muslims grow.

And in the end, even the more moderate, calm, and adaptive Muslims would tend to embrace and appreciate absolute Muslim control of all nations. It isn't that they would fight for this or necessarily prefer that for their country. Its that it wouldn't particularly harm them and would probably bring them great benefit, so they aren't likely to fight hard against it, either. And that is the heart of the concern for many in the west: that we are facing a fight against people we'd rather just get along with and have with us as free, prosperous, and comfortable as we are.

For those who think every Muslim is out to hack your head off and force your women into a shapeless sack, that's not exactly true. For those who think Islam gets along well with everyone and can be a wonderful part of America's future, that's not exactly true, either. The truth is much harder to face and will take the Muslims themselves to sort out.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You claim to have "read the Koran and studied Islam for years." However, your "studies" seem to have left you totally ignorant of the Koran's actual contents!

You ask, "Is Islam so incompatible with American values?"

It has been my understanding that "American values" include freedom of religion. You would probably agree. But Islam does NOT agree!

According to the Koran, "Jesus was no more than God's apostle ... God forbid that God should have a son!" (The Koran, Women 4:171).

In other words, belief in the divinity of Jesus should be outlawed. Islam accepts Jesus as a Holy Man and a prophet, but NOT as the Son of God.

What about Jews? For killing the prophet Jesus, "The Jews have incurred God's most inexorable wrath. An ignominious punishment awaits the unbelievers." (The Koran, The Cow 2:85-90).

In summary, Islam seeks to exterminate all other ways of life and religion. That is hardly compatible with American values, to say the least. If you can't see that, you are either willfully ignorant or politically correct to the point of idiocy. Perhaps both!

4:12 PM, September 21, 2010  
Blogger Philip said...

One thing I've learned over the years, "Anonymous", is that if you're trying to win someone over or make a point, it helps not to be rude or insulting (or use a lot of exclamation points - but that's a personal dislike).

"The truth is much harder to face and will take the Muslims themselves to sort out."

The question, Mr. Taylor, is whether there'll be enough time for us in order for that to happen.

8:49 PM, September 21, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ME: The Koran says we should celebrate the killing of all Christians and Jews.

YOU: You use too many exclamation points.


Well, I can see how THAT address the issue.

My God, what an idiotic response!!!!!!!!!

What is WRONG with you?

11:09 AM, September 23, 2010  
Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

If you've read the Koran you'll note that it doesn't call for believers to kill Jews, but notes that Allah has a terrible punishment for them, if they do not convert to Islam. Its a fine point, and one which some Muslims don't agree with (thinking they should kill Jews) but it is significant.

I am hard pressed to understand how you could have read what I wote and come to the conclusion that I thought Islam as it is written in the Hadith and Koran is compatible with American values, though. I specifically said otherwise - but that many Muslims do not follow all of the writings and reinterpret others.

1:47 PM, September 27, 2010  
Blogger Anatias said...

hmmmmnnn....

the absolute reality of mankind is not relationship between ourselves as individuals, but as population identifiers.

interesting to note that the structure and way of life which supports the core belief structure that is islam, trannscends merely language, this 8 th century belief structure kept the trade routes open for the economics of multiple regions along the south and eastern n spice routes of this time of romance in western culture civilization. reclaiming much of was once a mighty civilization of which developed the lands.

the hows and whys become immaterial when one considers the ramifications of why mankind each record in antiquity, shows a remarkably similar vein of direction, behave and get along with each other give the powerful entity it's due, whether it's ten percent of our daily lives spent in spiritual devotions, defined as religion, or our whole lives in spiritual devotions, of which, has culturally defined significance recognizable upon individual greeting.

one of the greatest problems when in comes to discussion of ones belief structure is that which defines our outward appearance on such defined differences.

"in the event that the white knight marries, not only will the black knight wear his black it would appear that this is not affront as it would in modern western culture"

unfortunately the discussion transcends (and distinctly notes that serious conversations of such nature will not be discussed) for the real premise is not the Koran an what it means to religion, but what distinct applications formed cultural basis through the unifying principle that is the qua-ran.

unfortunate for us, the ones of whom try to bring belief and faith disussions down to fundamentalist rules on individual religious views. this blog does bring up compelling visualizations of how being a muslim, fruit of islam, shiite, family man, regular joe, or achmed, relates to the perceived notion that they actually care what the common individual personal projections of one self induced inner manifestations of piety.

the correlations of western and eastern philosophical justifications and social interactions, may I direct your attention to the years under communist ule the economics of eastern bloc europe suffered naught for the presence of islam behind the curtain.
the problems we face today is not religious (sure because you say so)the problem is profit from resources split unfairly because of fundamental practice of said religious views based upon region and social class defined by much less esoteric values.

ie, there are hundreds of tribes with the same right to their heritage equal to each other. when the heritage was sand, who the f**k wanted to share sand, hah!! dirt and some of the most unforgiven hostile lands ever to carve itself into mands crafty hands.
now, the real value was not obviously, the sand and or rocky ground, but the travel and production in trades.
these fundamental needs of any soceity can we feed our childrens children?
the western equivalent to islam is probably some sort of bizarre capitalist/Christean marriages
which will do just fine in the sharing of the resources and defining levies and such for the common good.

12:15 PM, April 23, 2011  
Anonymous Maqsood said...

First I will appriciate your study about Islam and its true version. By the title "Death to unbeliever" I thought the opposite of what you told in the post.

I could absorbed the half section of your essay. I will contribute to your words,

And there are four major (and many other smaller) branches of Islam: Shiite, Sunni, Wahabbist, and Ismaeli, each of which has variations on what they believe and how

Actually there are two major casts in Muslims, (not in Islam, because they are made by followers) Shia (shiite) and Sunni. Then there are sub versions like in Sunni there are two further groups of believers, Brailvi and Wahabbist.

This list is too large to be added in a comment, so I will end here. Thanks

2:05 AM, May 29, 2011  

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