A Christian’s Response
From this discussion it is possible to see that Islam has been and is making a dynamic impact on the world. Many people are coming into contact with Islam for the first time, and are finding that there is something appealing for them. But does Islam really answer all it claims? Is it as attractive as converts seem to testify?
In the final section, I would like to take these areas of attraction, and discuss them from the perspective of a Christian. I realize that Islam is making an impact in the United States today. And I am sure that this impact will continue. But I think American people are appraising Islam incorrectly, or even, at times, dishonestly. Within the list of twelve attractions there are, I feel, errors of perception, as well as errors in interpretation. These I would like to address. There are also misconceptions of Christianity’s position which must be redressed. And finally, many of these categories are those which, I feel, Christianity has a stronger claim to, than Islam.
1) Islam’s Social Laws
As Christians living in America, we have to accept and admit that the perception by many in the West is that Islam meets the social needs of people better than does Christianity. The fact that this category was chosen by converts as, “the primary reason to convert today,” speaks to the success Islam in America has enjoyed with some of its social programs.
The picture outside of America is quite different. Consider some of the most current statistics compiled by Michael Kidron and Ronald Segal in The New State Of the World Atlas:
Worldwide, there are nineteen countries which will never be able to provide adequate food for their populations. Fifteen out of the nineteen are Muslim countries, and include Afghanistan, UAE, Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Western Sahara, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Niger, Mauritania, and Bangla Desh (Kidron 1991:28-29). Of the twelve countries with the lowest record of life-expectancy (under forty-five years), seven are Muslim countries (Kidron 1991:40-41).
Probably more revealing is the “Quality of Life Index” compiled by Frank Kaleb Jansen, of Target Earth. This index measures the mortality rate, male life expectancy and female illiteracy. When one tabulates the countries of the world within this index, they find that twelve of the lowest twenty countries rated in the world are Muslim, while thirty-two of the top forty rated countries world-wide are those traditionally considered Christian (Jansen 1989:90-91).
When one adds further criteria to this index, such as: education standards, health status, women’s status, defense allotments, economic and demographic factors, as well as political stability and participation, it is interesting to find that out of the top forty countries listed, thirty-nine are Christian in background, while all of the twenty-three Muslim countries included fall well below this level, with five of the worst ten countries on the list Muslim countries (Jansen 1989:92-93).
Kidron concurs in his analysis on the quality of life, finding that whereas all northern countries (made up of all European countries except Portugal and Romania, as well as North American, Israel, Japan and Australia) fall into the highest category for the Quality Life Index (nine and above), not one of the thirty-two Muslim countries made it into this category, the majority of them placing within the medium to very low categories. The lowest rated in the world were mostly Muslim countries (i.e. Niger, Mali) (Kidron 1991:50-51).
Other areas were equally dismal. Literacy: while all northern countries had ninety percent and above literacy rates (except Romania, Portugal, and Bulgaria) not one of the thirty-two Muslim countries made it into this category. The best had approximately seventy percent literacy rate, and the rest fell to ten percent and under (Kidron 1991:52-53).
Schooling: whereas all the northern countries had ninety percent of their children in Secondary school, the best Muslim state had only fifty percent, with the majority of the Muslim countries falling between ten to thirty percent (Kidron 1991:53).
Child-mortality: All of the northern states (except Yugoslavia, Romania and the USSR) were in the top category of child mortality (twenty-five children or under, out of one-thousand children, who died before five years of age). All thirty-two Muslim states fell into the lower categories (fifty children to two-hundred children out of one-thousand who died before their fifth birthday) (Kidron 1991:54).
Concerning the area of violence in the world, it is difficult to know where the truth lies. While the West documents and publishes its criminal activities openly, the Muslim countries say very little. Lists which delineate where each country stands in relation to murders, sex offenses and criminality include most of the Western countries, yet only four Muslim countries out of thirty-two have offered statistics for the number of internal murders, while only six have offered a list of sex offenses, and only four have divulged their level of criminality. Therefore, until more Muslim countries are willing to come forward with statistics, it is impossible to evaluate their claims that Western states have more degradation and criminality than that of Muslim states.
We do know, however, that in the 1980’s, of the fourteen countries who were involved in ongoing “general wars,” nine of them were Muslim countries, while only one was a non-Western Christian country.
Though statistics can be numbing after a while, they do help point out, rather harshly in this case, that Muslim countries today are not meeting the basic needs for the majority of their populations in areas such as literacy, food, education, the freedom of expression, health, and in the general quality of life.
The defense can, and is made that these are not true Muslim countries, and therefore should not be used as examples. Yet, these countries make the claim that they hold to Muslim principles, and as such, are the only examples we have today by which we can judge whether or not Islam can provide an adequate social environment in the twentieth century. The many who considered this category their primary reason for their conversion need to consider statistics like these seriously.
Admittedly, the majority of those who chose this category were African-American converts to Islam, who live in some of the most deplorable social environments in America, a country which prides itself in being the richest country in the world. They cite, “the hypocrisy of the inner-city Church,” as well as their impression that Christians “live their religion only one day a week, when they are at Church.” And they contrast these inconsistencies with another kind of pietism, that of the Muslims, who not only have created and sponsor alternative Islamic schools for their children, but who are actively involved with prison ministries, which specifically benefit African-Americans. Possibly their greatest witness comes from being the most obvious group to stand against and attempt to eradicate the highly-publicized drug and prostitution rings which have run rampant on their streets. These are the “forgotten” inner-city people, and understandably Islam is “scratching them where they itch.”
Islam is also a religion, which, like many cults today, is especially attractive to insecure people, those who need others to make their decisions for them. Its myriad laws and regulations give a prescription for every facet of social life, which can affect even the “dregs of society;” and in reality it does do just that.
When asked for clarification, many of the individuals I asked responded by saying that the Islamic Shariah law proved to be the best law to live by. Yet, when asked to explain the precepts of Shariah Law, they had difficulties describing what particulars they had in mind, or how they might apply Islamic rules within an American setting.
For those countries who use or aspire to use Islamic Law further statistics prove revealing. According to Kidron, while only five northern states are categorized as “Terror States” (those involved in using assassination, disappearances and torture), twenty-eight of the thirty-two Muslim states fall into this category (except UAE, Qatar and Mali) (Kidron 1991:62-63). Would American Muslims welcome this sort of law, considering how it can and is being abused in other parts of the world?
Generally, the primary desire for discipline, among those individuals I had contact with, was the overriding concern, despite the fact that it could not be defined.
Yet, I found a contrast to this assertion as well. The prison ministries, though they are touted as one of the crowning achievements of the Muslim community, because they instill discipline, are successful, it appears, providing the inmates remain in prison.
I asked the imam of the Harrisburg Masjid about his prison ministry, and he cautioned that the program was not going as well as the press inferred, stating:
In the prisons, the men have nothing to do, nowhere to go, and so they come and listen to what the brothers have to say. They commit themselves to Islam, and before two witnesses say the “Shahada,” and for the most part come regularly to Jumma prayers. Many of them talk big about what they will do once they get out of prison; and how they are going to change, and make a better life. The problem, however, is once they get out. These men come out having been in prison for four or five years, where all their decisions were made for them. Instead of coming to the mosques for help, they go back to their former lifestyles, and many times end right back in prison.
The Islamic prison ministry was appreciated by the prisoners, and became a rallying point for them while they were in prison. But once they left that confined environment, and were again back in “control” of their own decisions, out on the street, they had no more use for that ministry, and possibly found its rules and regulations more debilitating then helpful.
Some of the new converts I questioned, appreciated that, in Islam, there are no priests, and that they, as believers, did not need to depend on a middle-man for their relationship with God. It might have been helpful to know whether or not these converts came from a Roman Catholic background. The hierarchy of priests is not representative of the Protestant community, where the belief in the “Priesthood of all believers” (that everyone is a priest), goes even further than does Islam by incorporating the idea that everyone is responsible for their own faith, and that each individual can have a personal relationship with God, immediately and eternally.
Indeed, it is this belief which is a primary impetus behind the massive push today to translate the Bible into every language on earth, so that every person can go to the scriptures (the Bible) for themselves to read what God is saying to them, rather then depend on a priest for that guidance.
Concerning the attraction of women’s issues which some converts point to, that women can own property, and that they are better protected; it would perhaps be helpful for women who believe Islam holds a better record to visit or live in a Muslim country.
Though statistics are hard to find, we do know that, currently, of the twenty-three countries with the worst records of jobs for women (women making up only ten to twenty percent of all workers), seventeen are Muslim countries (Kidron 1991:96-97). Similarly, of the eleven countries with the worst record for diparagement of opportunity between men and women, ten are Muslim states. The widest gaps were found in Bangla Desh, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt (Kidron 1991:57). Another revealing statistic shows that of the twelve states with the worst records for unequal treatment of girls, seven are Muslim states. The bottom three listed are UAE, Bahrain, and Brunei (Kidron 1991:56).
Again, while one may argue that this is not representative of true Islamic teaching, it does show us how those in Muslim countries treat their women, and what we might expect if we were living in that type of environment.
Those individuals who felt Islam had much to offer the world in women’s emancipation would also do well to read personal testimonies by Muslim women, or those women under Islam’s influence, such as, Betty Mahmood’s Not Without My Daughter. They would find that in apportioning inheritance, the Shariah law discriminates against women (Sura 4:7,11), allowing her only half the inheritance of a man. They would also find that women are relegated, almost exclusively, to the home, where they are indeed better protected, but where they also would find little hope in continuing a career that would entail any contact with the opposite sex. As for their maternal rights, many women in the West are not aware that Islam gives the husband absolute legal control over any children.
Perhaps, if those who felt women’s issues were an attraction for Islam, were aware of these areas of inequality they may come to a different conclusion. One could argue that a locked-up individual (whether in a home, or in a Purdah) is well-protected, but is that a worthy price to pay?
In my discussions with Western women, it is these prohibitive laws as well as the practice by Muslim societies today against women, which, far more than any other, comes under the greatest criticism.
2: Unity of God (Tawhid)
Perhaps no other category is as important to deny, from the Christian perspective, as the Islamic misconception that Christians believe in and worship three separate gods. This accusation is the one issue we must center all our energies on to condemn. Obviously, it is this “polytheism” which disturbs Muslims the most.
Christians and Muslims, alike, worship the God of Abraham. Furthermore, Muslims and Christians, alike, are monotheistic, believing in only one, righteous, and transcendent, creator God. Muslims must understand that we echo them on this point. The key verse of the Torah of the Prophet Moses states that: “The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:4). God is one and He commands us to love Him totally.
Jesus Christ, speaking more than one-thousand years after the prophet Moses says: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:28-30 and Matthew 22:37). Remember that this is the man who claims to have equality with God who is speaking.
Thus, both the Torah and the Gospel (Injil) agree that God is one. We are commanded to love one God. Only He has the right to command our ultimate loyalty. All other gods which man invents are totally false (Hosea 13:2,3).
The greatest criticism against Christianity posed by Muslims is, ironically, the ridiculous view of the plurality of God. Muslims contend that the Bible teaches God is made up of three: “God the Father, Mary the mother, and Jesus the son” (Suras 5:73 and 5:116). This view is more repugnant to Christians than it is to Muslims, as it claims something which the scriptures never even alluded to, while at the same time it contradicts the theology of the church both before and after Muhammad’s time.
Obviously, an error of this magnitude puts suspicion on the veracity of the Qur’anic sources. If these were direct revelations from an all-knowing God, why, then did He not know what His previous revelations said, or at least what those who received it believed?
A more likely explanation points to a source closer to home. Research reveals that there was a heretical Christian sect, known as the Choloridians, who had contact with Muhammad during his tenure in Mecca, who taught a view of the trinity similar to what we find described in the Qur’an.
We must say, however, to our Muslim friends, that from the scriptures we find revealed a Divine unity of three Characters: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, commonly known as, “The Trinity.” It is impossible to fully define the mystery of God as “triune.” To correspond with Biblical revelation, the Christian must equally emphasize that God is one and three. Though God is immensely complex, and cannot be exhaustively known, He has so revealed Himself in scripture that He can be truly known. The early church theologians wrestled with the difficulty of defining God from what is revealed in scripture with the limitations of the human language, which had no word to express the reality of one God, who is three (even this definition in English seems illogical, and illustrates the point).
For centuries theologians adopted many words to try to express God’s revelation of Himself as three in one (for instance, words such as three prosopon, hupostasis, and trias), yet they were all inadequate. It was the early church theologian, Tertullian (145-220 A.D.) who finally coined the word trinity, which was adopted three centuries later by the Church.
Therefore, we readily admit that the word trinity does not exist in the Bible. It is simply a theological term which expresses what the scriptures delineate as God comprised of three persons, who are infinite, yet personal, in complete unity of will, purpose, action and love, yet cannot be separated though they have different functions.
The scriptures speak of God the Father, who is the co-Creator with God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, who blesses (Ephesians 1:3-4), initiates (John 17:2-9), and sends (John 17:3,18). God, the Son, who speaks-out the creation (John 1:1), and acts into history, both during the time of the prophets (Genesis 32:25-30; Exodus 3:2-5; 13:21; 33:9-11; Judge 2:1), and physically incarnated as the savior, the historical Jesus Christ (John 1:14).
And finally, the scriptures speak of God, the Holy Spirit, who is resident within the followers of Jesus Christ, who guides, instructs and empowers them (John 14:16-17), and who mediates Jesus Christ and His atoning work (John 15:26).
Jesus referred to this ‘Trinity in Unity’ when He commanded His apostles to go everywhere and to persuade men to become His disciples, and to baptize believers, “…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
It is important that God as “Father” must not be viewed within a biological context. Christians share with Muslims the prohibition against conceiving of God in the form of an image (made by humans). God as “Father” refers, rather, to a relationship; a description of the covenant and fellowship relationship between God and humanity. Nonetheless, it is this relationship of the Godhead which confounds Muslims profoundly, especially in the context of God the Father, and Jesus the Son. “How,” they ask, “can Jesus, a man, be God?” The audacity of equating a puny man with the transcendent God begs understanding. And we agree, as the assumption behind this question is that somehow the prophet Jesus was given divine status by His followers: thus, Jesus became God. Yet, nowhere in our scriptures do we find that Jesus became God. He always was, from the beginning, God (John 1:1). Muslims, therefore, are asking the wrong question! It would be more correct to turn the question around and ask, “How can God be the man, Jesus?” I have not yet met a Muslim who claims that becoming a man is not possible for God. It would be simple for God to come down to earth and take on human form. On that we agree. The question, then, that Muslims should be asking, is not How can Jesus be God, or How did God become a man, but Why did God become a man. Once we answer why God took on the form of a human, then the question of How loses it’s relevancy.
When Christians explain the trinity to a Muslim as I have above, they neutralize any criticism leveled against Jesus of being totally other than God. With that established, Christians can point to the function of Jesus, as redeemer, which highlights the price of our sin, and reminds us that though we cannot pay for the consequences of our sins, God can, and has done so. Jesus, the Christ, by taking on Himself that substitute responsibility, not only proved Himself to be divine and, therefore, equal with God, but showed Himself to be worthy of our thanks and worship, in that He has now eradicated eternal death brought on by sin. This, then, answers why God became a man.
Perhaps, the problem between Muslims and Christians has been accentuated due to the “Christian” environment in which transplanted Muslims find themselves; an environment which Muslims have incorrectly assumed is polytheistic. The Prophet, Muhammad, had similar circumstances during his tenure in Mecca, where the polytheistic practices of the local religion caused him to speak out clearly and often against idolatry. Therefore, it stands to reason that the reactionary concept of God as one unit would be the focus of the Muslim evangelistic thrust. In the bookstore of the Islamic Center, on Massachusetts Avenue, in Washington D.C., I counted six books which dealt with the subject. I took special note that these had been strategically placed near the door to attract the attention of any browser who happened to enter.
Above the entrance of the Dar Al Hijrah Mosque, in Falls Church, Virginia, inscribed into the facade, is a quote from the Qur’an reminding the adherents that God is unique (one unit). This is the first inscription an individual sees when they come to do their prayers.
I wonder whether this same emphasis would be evident in a Pakistani or Middle Eastern mosque, where, due to the small number of Christian churches present, the doctrine of the trinity is not so pronounced.
Three people in my survey felt that Islam is the only religion which gives every individual the choice for their own salvation. I find that curious, since every knowledgeable Muslim I have asked has clearly stated that Muslims have no assurance for their salvation; that the choice can only come from Allah, and that the outcome will only be known at the day of judgment.
These respondents may have been confusing one’s choice for salvation with that of conversion to Islam, the fact that one can choose it. If so, then more needs to be said on the freedom of Muslims to also reject “inherited” Islam. Many western Muslims have not adequately reviewed the strict laws concerning apostasy in Islam, which gives little freedom, whatsoever, for the rejection of one’s faith.
I was initially surprised with the assertion by many converts that Islam evidenced a high degree of Brotherhood. In my discussions with African-Americans, it soon dawned on me that many of them were mis-informed or ignorant concerning the historic record of Islam. To say that, “Islam offers a greater degree of brotherhood because it is not responsible for slavery, and harbors no racism,” is just not credible.
Understandably (as I have been often reminded), the majority of African-Americans have been hurt by racism in America. Every one whom I talked with had stories to tell of discrimination at the hands of whites. One black Muslim approached me in a mosque, and, confronting me three inches from my face, yelled at me that he hated all whites, and blamed his present poverty on “white racist attitudes.”
The perception of African-Americans that I have met maintains that racism in America can be blamed on white Christianity, since whites control and perpetuate Christianity. Islam, on the other hand, because it comes from a non-white part of the world, has no such racist stigma.
There are those who believe that Christianity, alone, must be blamed for the enslavement of the black race. Although, historically, the church did condone slavery, and even, at times, used scripture for its substantiation; the majority of historians today agree that it was Christian missionaries overseas, and Christian clergymen in the homeland who were responsible for the leadership of the Abolitionist Movements against slavery in America and elsewhere (Wilberforce and the “Clapham Sect” in London, for example). While Europeans were involved with the slave trade for a few hundred years, the existence of the traffic of “slaves” had been well established one-thousand years before.
The position which places the entire blame for the invention and practice of black slavery at the door of Christian Europe, is simply not historically tenable. Both the Grecian and Roman societies were slave states, yet most of their slaves were Caucasian. In fact, the word “slave” meant a person who was of Slavic origin. Robert Hughes, in his essay on “The Fraying of America” in the February 3, 1992 Time magazine puts the record straight when he says:
The African slave trade as such, the black traffic, was an Arab invention, developed by traders with the enthusiastic collaboration of black African ones, institutionalized with the most unrelenting brutality, centuries before the white man appeared on the African continent, and continuing long after the slave market in North America was finally crushed… Nothing in the writings of the Prophet [Muhammad] forbids slavery, which is why it became such an Arab-dominated business. And the slave traffic could not have existed without the wholehearted cooperation of African tribal states, built on the supply of captives generated by their relentless wars. The image promulgated by pop-history fictions like Roots-white slavers bursting with cutlass and musket into the settled lives of peaceful African villages-is very far from the historical truth. A marketing system had been in place for centuries, and its supply was controlled by Africans. Nor did it simply vanish with Abolition. Slave markets, supplying the Arab emirates, were still operating in Djibouti in the 1950’s; and since 1960, the slave trade has flourished in Mauritania and the Sudan. There are still reports of chattel slavery in northern Nigeria, Rwanda and Niger (Hughes 1992:49).
It would be helpful for those who believe that Islam was responsible for eradicating slavery, as did the imam I talked with, to honestly look at the historical record. Slavery still exists in some North African Muslim countries today (Mauritania, Mali), yet receives little or no attention, let alone criticism from other Muslim states.
Finally, one needs to look at the record of Muhammad’s life, a man who, himself, owned slaves. The argument, by some, that slavery was “God’s way of converting Africans to Islam,” is much the same argument suggested by some earlier Christians who said that, “bringing Africans to America gave them the opportunity to hear the Gospel;” an argument which holds little credibility, and dishonors the character of God.
Many Muslims mentioned that the best example of Brotherhood in Islam is found during the Hajj: Understandably, this is a heightened time for many pilgrims, a time to put away one’s prejudices and to enjoy this once-in-a-life occasion. What needs to be asked, however, is what happens after the Hajj, when people return home again, and are confronted with the everyday problems facing them? Does the ideal of brotherhood remain with them once they come back home?
I asked this question of the imam of the Harrisburg Masjid. He agreed that within Islam, the problem of racism still exists. He was well aware that his masjid is made up almost exclusively of African-Americans, while the more affluent Asian Pakistanis and Indians preferred their own Islamic center a few miles distant. A further concern was that rather than investing in the masjid, which needed repair, the Asian immigrant group were, at that time, conducting a fund-raising program for constructing a new, and modern center farther out-of-town, in an area approachable only by car (Not wasted on the imam was the fact that few of the black converts owned cars).
He mentioned that none of these Asian immigrant Muslims would ever condone the marriage of one of their daughters to any African-American. “Even the Asian women,” he stated, “move away from our women, when we occasionally go to visit.”
While interviewing the imam of the Masjid Muhammad, in central Washington D.C., and the administrator at the Masjid Ul-Haqq, in Baltimore, I found that both related almost identical situations of racial ostracism by the Asian Muslim community. Yet, each felt that the problem had more to do with economic and cultural differences than with color or race. I agree that these are more likely the reason for the animosity. Yet, to claim that what is happening within white Christian communities is somehow different, is in my opinion dishonest. We are all guilty of gravitating to and preferring those of “our own kind.”
Christian missiologists have long recognized the need for people of different backgrounds and cultures to worship in settings which are the most similar to their own. Thus, Donald McGavran’s HUP principle (Homogenous Unit Principle), which speaks to this very issue, is now being adopted by many denominations throughout the U.S.A. and the world.
Muslims in America will soon see that the lack of integration in their groupings is not as much one of racism, as much as it is that of multi-culturalism. The fact is that people do reflect the culture in which they were born, and so prefer to worship God in a familiar setting, whether that be familiar forms of worship, familiar dress, language, or ethnic groupings.
Other respondents were attracted to Islam’s teaching on enquiry and broadmindedness and felt that the tolerance within Islam is, indeed, unique. Again, I found this surprising, as few people I know would designate Islam as a religion which embodies these attributes. Rather, the opposite seems to pertain.
Most religious historians agree that the primary reason for Islam’s decline after the tenth Century had to do with the threat Muslim clerics felt towards the enquiry into scientific advances which seemingly did not agree with the Qur’an. Take for instance the present on-going restrictions for Qur’anic schools in the West which are only permitted to teach science and philosophy within the parameters of the Qur’an. A better known example is that of the Fatwa imposed on the Briton, Salman Rushdie, by the Fundamentalist Muslim world, which points to a blatant lack of broadmindedness, and enquiry.
Furthermore, people who are knowledgeable concerning world events agree that there are few Muslim nations that grant full equality to other religions. In my own personal experience, I have seen, first-hand the persecution of not only the adherents of foreign religions (and of Islamic sects, such as the Ahmaddiyas), but also the persecution of those who are sent to propagate other than Islamic beliefs (particularly foreign missionaries). Despite the denial by many Muslims in the West that this problem exists, the absence of religious freedom is evidenced most profoundly worldwide within Muslim countries.
For example, there are eleven countries worldwide whose stated belief is strictly imposed, while all other beliefs are repressed. Two of them are communist (N.Korea and Angola), one is Buddhist (Bhutan), and the remaining eight are all Muslim (Mauritania, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Iran, Pakistan, and the Maldives) (Kidron 1991:72-73). It is difficult to find an aura of toleration in statistics like these.
Even the Qur’an is unclear on this matter. How does one reconcile the verse which maintains “no compulsion in religion” (Sura 2:256), with others which call Muslims to, “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them [captive], and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush” (Sura 9:5), or the call to, “strike off their heads in battle” (Sura 47:4), and “make war on the unbeliever in Allah, until they pay tribute” (Sura 9:29)? Muslims are also asked to, “fight then…until the religion be all of it Allah’s (Sura 8:39), threatening “a painful doom to those who disbelieve” (Sura 9:3), seemingly a call for the eradication of all other beliefs, and certainly not one for toleration.
Is it no wonder that of the twenty religious conflicts worldwide in the 1980’s, sixteen of them involved Islam, and twelve of these were against people from other faiths. Passages from the Qur’an, backed up with current statistics such as the above paint a rather contrasting picture of Islam to that volunteered by the new converts.
4: Islamic Morality
The discrepancy evidenced within the surveys, between the earlier European group, who did not consider morality an important issue towards their conversion, and those more recent respondees from the U.S.A., who did, may have something to do with their differing geographical locations, as well as having a common misconception of Christians.
Those Europeans who had written their testimonies, had been introduced to Islam while traveling in foreign lands, either while performing military duties or while overseas in diplomatic service. Many of them had written little concerning the moral condition of the host countries. Their attraction to Islam had been due, primarily, to the precepts it taught, and not due, as much, to the testimony of its adherents.
Furthermore, most of these European converts came from Christian backgrounds, and so had no problem differentiating between the immorality expressed in a culture, and that practiced by Christians. In those days, I would assume that the overt societal immorality was not considered as much of a problem as it is today.
On the other hand, the majority of those who chose this category as important, are present-day Americans, who had rarely, if ever, traveled to a Muslim country (except the trip to perform the Hajj in Saudi Arabia). Their sole criteria for choosing, therefore, was the positive testimony of Islam in their own neighborhoods, a testimony which fared well when contrasted with that of church-attending Christians, as has been discussed earlier. Therefore, the moral standards of Muslims had a greater impact on their decision to choose Islam, as they contrasted the morality of Muslim friends with that of Christianity. Interestingly, it might be helpful to note that, according to INTERPOL, the number of sex offenses in the USA, a supposed “Christian country,” came only twenty-second on the list of countries worldwide (with thirty-five cases per one-hundred thousand people), almost half as many as Kuwait (with sixty per one-hundred thousand).
Concerning the mistreatment of women by Christians, in all fairness, there are men in every culture and religion who mistreat their wives, regardless of whether or not this is permitted by their religion. They should not be held as representative of a particular culture or religion. It would be far more helpful to investigate the religious teachings which deal with the treatment of women to see whether or not each authority gives women the equality and respect they deserve.
Christianity has a high regard for women, and considers them equal to men in the eyes of God. If a Christian man chooses to dishonor his wife he is disobeying the scriptures, which say, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church.” According to our scriptures, Christ loved the church (and, in fact, the whole world) so much that He gave His life for her. This is the example we are to follow with our wives, a relationship which centers on self-sacrifice.
Islam, however, has little to say concerning the sacrifice of a husband towards his wife. Instead Islam allows a husband to divorce his wife without giving a reason for his actions (Sura 2:224-230). In addition to the four wives allowed by law, a Muslim man can have an unlimited number of slave girls as concubines (sexual partners) according to Sura al-Nisa (Women) 4:24. Furthermore, women are required to be absolutely obedient to their husband, and can be beaten for being rebellious (Sura 4:38). No such privilege, however, is reserved for the wife (Sura 4:11,176). There is, therefore, more allowance for a Muslim man to mistreat his wife than there is for a Christian husband. I will say, however, that in my experience with Muslim men, I have not seen many who have mistreated their wives as one would expect, considering the permissibility they have to do so.
Perhaps the greatest obstacle, for a Christian, in answering, “Why do evil people exist within a Christian environment?” may be in defining what is a Christian environment versus that of a secular state. For a Muslim, society, itself, is defined by Islam. All facets of that society must come under Islam’s authority. Therefore, all areas, including that of morality, come under Allah’s control. The Muslim hierarchy, as his regents, then take on that authority, interpreting and defining how people are to act; and what punishments, if deserved, they must receive.
For a Christian, one’s morality is measured by scripture and by their personal relationship with God. God, the Holy Spirit, admonishes the individuals character and conduct. The elected Church leaders do have authority for guiding and counseling believers to adhere to the precepts found within scripture. Yet, the only punitive control they have is in their ability to excommunicate recalcitrant parishioners. Thus, individuals, who live within a “Christian society,” such as we find in most western countries today, where the Church exists distinct from any political authority, do not come under the church’s jurisdiction. How they live morally, is up to each person. They are answerable directly to God. The church has no real authority, other than to give them guidance, if and when they ask for it.
What I find exciting, however, is the testimony of Christians who have come under the love-authority of God, the Holy Spirit. One is always overwhelmed with the testimonies of how their lives have been changed, and how this transformation, in turn, has affected others.
I once had a conversation with a Muslim businessman from Senegal, who claimed that the Islamic lifestyle (which included its ethics and social practices) was better suited to the world today, than was Christianity’s. I asked him, therefore, to show me where there was a country or region of the world which adhered correctly to these “better-suited” precepts of Islam? He, of course, was unable to show me, saying that, “All Muslim countries are run by men who don’t follow the Shariah,” and that was the reason Islam was having so many problems today. I then asked him to point out individuals who follow Islam correctly, and he began to name off a list of Muslim celebrities, many of whom were politicians or well-known religious figures.
My response was that according to his argument: Islam must be a religion for super-humans alone, or for people who were very rich, or very famous, or very disciplined; because only these could follow it correctly.
I, then, projected a video-tape of a Billy Graham Crusade altar call, and told him to notice the hundreds of people marching forward to commit their lives to Jesus. I told him that the majority of these people were not rich or famous, and perhaps not very disciplined. In fact, I would even venture to say that all of them considered themselves sinners, and probably had many problems in their lives. Yet, if we were to talk with them a year later, we would find that there had been a dynamic change in their lives; and that they would be continuing to change more and more into the “character of Jesus Christ.” And of even more importance, this dramatic character change would not only affect their own lives, but also, many others around them.
“Thus,” I concluded, “While Islam requires an immense amount of disciplined effort, it offers no outside help towards its fulfillment.” “Therefore,” I contended, “Islam is nothing more than another natural religion, one which takes superhuman effort to obey. Christianity, on the other hand, proves to be a supernatural religion, a religion which requires something no one could hope to obey on their own, yet which is being followed by thousands and millions, worldwide, because of their repentance, and the supernatural power of God, the Holy Spirit, in their lives.” Which, then, is the better-suited for the world today?
For this reason, true Christians, deny that America is a “Christian society.” The scriptures are clear on this point: “Many will call Him ‘Lord, Lord,’ but [God] will not recognize them.” Only the living God knows the heart condition of a man or woman. Clearly, the example of most Americans show that they do not heed the call of Jesus Christ, nor do many display the witness (the proof) of God, the Holy Spirit, admonishing them in the ways of the Lord.