December 1, 2014
December 1, 2014
Islam is sometimes described as a religion based on works. In a previous video we heard how God weighs our good and bad deeds in judgment. Do Muslims believe they can do enough good deeds to gain God’s favor in judgment? What about Muhammad? Do Muslims believe that his entrance to paradise is assured because of all that he did? In this video Imam Iqbal talks about everyone’s dependence on God’s mercy.
In this video Imam Iqbal tells us that everyone passes over the fires of hell in a final judgement. The conversation shifted to how we are all dependent on God’s mercy. The imam explained that hell should be seen as purifying fires and a sort of “jail time” for the evil deeds done while alive but that God in His mercy can shorten the time spent in/over hell’s fire.
As the world falls apart, sabers rattle and heads roll, an ancient prophecy about Jesus gives me hope. Written 700 hundred years before Jesus came to this earth, the prophet Isaiah said the messiah would bring justice and help the oppressed. God called him to “demonstrate my righteousness.” Jesus is a “light to guide the nations.”(v6) So, I look to Jesus as my example of righteousness and a pattern by which to model my life. Jesus himself quoted from this passage when he spoke in the synagogue in his hometown.(Lk4) The Prince of Peace then demonstrated to us how to live as he encountered the people of Israel.
42 “Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.
He is my chosen one, who pleases me.
I have put my Spirit upon him.
He will bring justice to the nations.
2 He will not shout
or raise his voice in public.
3 He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
He will bring justice to all who have been wronged.
4 He will not falter or lose heart
until justice prevails throughout the earth.
Even distant lands beyond the sea will wait for his instruction.[a]”
5 God, the Lord, created the heavens and stretched them out.
He created the earth and everything in it.
He gives breath to everyone,
life to everyone who walks the earth.
And it is he who says,
6 “I, the Lord, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness.
I will take you by the hand and guard you,
and I will give you to my people, Israel,
as a symbol of my covenant with them.
And you will be a light to guide the nations.
7 You will open the eyes of the blind.
You will free the captives from prison,
releasing those who sit in dark dungeons.
8 “I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not give my glory to anyone else,
nor share my praise with carved idols.
9 Everything I prophesied has come true,
and now I will prophesy again.
I will tell you the future before it happens.”
One of the people that submitted questions asked,
“What happens after someone dies in Islam? Is there a heaven and hell? What does judgment look like? Can a Muslim know his destiny?”
Imam Wasif Iqbal answered some of these questions for us in this series of videos. This video speaks about the first of two judgment scenes that each individual will experience. He also tells how our deeds in this life will be weighed to help determine the outcome.
If you have questions you would like to see addressed, leave a comment or send me an email.
One of the questions I have received asked me to address the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. In this video, Imam Wasif explains the taxes (Jizya) that are required of non-Muslims and contrasts Jizya with Zakat that is required of all Muslims. He also references letters written by Muhammad promising protection for non-Muslims. There is an interesting video on one of these letters here and a Wikipedia article here.
I found this chart on the Washington Post last year. I keep coming back to it to help people see the diversity within Islam. If you enlarge the chart to where you can actually read it, fascinating details emerge; the percentages of Shia and Sunni, subsets of each group and about how many are represented in each subset. You will also learn from what subsets the Taliban, Al Qaeda and ISIS come. It looks a little like a tree to me. Perhaps a tree that needs some pruning. Some will dispute the overall 1.6 billion number of Muslims. I’ve heard numbers between 1.2 billion and 1.6 billion, but clearly this large number resists uniformity. We desperately need a more nuanced conversation when we speak about what “Muslims believe.”
When I first started building relationships with Muslims, a few of my friends talked about the unity of Islam, the single umma (or community) of Islam. This was presented as a proof of God’s blessing on Islam and as a stark contrast to the divisions within Christianity.
In time, I found that there was great diversity within Islam. So much so that it is very difficult to say Muslims uniformly believe anything. I have even heard the five pillars of Islam explained differently and the shahadah (confession of faith) explained differently.
With so many schools of thought and theology within Islam, it is important to see our Muslim friends as individuals and ask their individual perspectives on things. God has us all on a journey. Is this journey getting us closer to God or moving us further away?
Just as in numerous Christian circles we have different perspectives on how to interpret the Bible and live our faith, our Muslim friends also have different opinions about how to interpret the Qur’an and live out their faith. Christians would not all want to be lumped in with the belief systems of a Jim Wallis, an Al Mohler or Pat Robertson, much less so the systems of Jim Jones or Westboro Baptist.
As we describe the faith journeys of others, we need to keep the “Golden Rule” in mind. A nuanced description of others is useful because it helps clarify our thought process and challenges our assumptions. This is respectful and honoring. On the other hand, generalizations can be marginalizing, dismissive and condescending. This is offensive. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Labels are the tools of antagonists’ and politicians to manipulate an uninformed populace. They are the lazy man’s way of categorizing others and not dealing with the nuance required to resolve most conflicts.
It is inappropriate and dangerous to make sweeping generalizations based on what one fraction of the whole professes to believe. Would Christians want to be dismissed as racists because the Ku Klux Klan wear crosses on their robes and twist the Bible to support their claims to superiority over the races?
As I looked at the chart above, it reminded me of a tree. If a limb of a tree becomes diseased, it may need to be pruned. Islam currently has the attention of the world, and people are arguing over who gets to hold the pruning shears and where and how to make the cuts. It seems clear that there is some pruning that needs to be done for the sake of peace and mutual thriving. Some who claim to be Muslims don’t seem to think they can live in peace with the rest of the world. It may be a twig or it may be a branch. Some non-Muslims want to see the entire tree cut down, but not only is that not possible, its not smart to try.
Our Muslim friends also want to see this blight of Daesh eliminated. We can and must work effectively together to do so. It will be an ideological battle that defines Islam and makes space for freedom of religion for all. It will be a psychological battle for the individual hearts and minds of people on all sides. It will be a sociological battle as our society struggles together to overcome the challenges of this era but not also destroy or marginilize our neighbors. It will be a battle of international law and human rights and it may be a military battle as well as misguided souls, created in the image of God, are restrained from hurting others.