Islam is not a unified or homogeneous religious system. Rather it is a varied and colourful array of sometimes contradictory ideas. Some Muslims say that it is basically peace-loving. These liberals are happy to espouse Western ideas, like democracy, freedom of belief, pluralism, humanism, and the like.
Some go as far as adopting New Testament terms and concepts, such as love, chastity, and new life. In contrast, Jihadists and hardliners openly advocate their right to hate, persecute and even murder infidels (non-Muslims) and Muslims who disagree with their beliefs and ways of life. In between these extremes there are numerous other forms of Islam.
There are two basic authorities for all Muslims. First and most sacred is their holy book, the Koran, first recited by their Arabian prophet, Mohammed, in the 7th century. The second is the Hadith, a collection of many thousands of sayings, proverbs, or statements attributed to him. The form one branch of Islam takes in contrast to another depends on its interpretation of the Koran and its level of commitment to Hadith.
The main difficulty Islamic reformists are facing is that essentially neither the core of the Koran nor the majority of Hadith are reconcilable to modernity, pluralism or free-thinking.
Islamic fundamentals are unalterable without shaking its very foundation. The fatalistic theology of a vindictive, hateful and capricious God; the claimed eternity of the Koran; the claimed infallibility, superiority and finality of Mohammed’s message; and other things, like a male-pleasure-centred afterlife, an inferior position for women, polygamy and the unacceptability of being ruled by non-Muslims, are all untouchable tenets.
Any attempt to modify these faces swift and sharp condemnation by the fanatics. Even moderates, at least in public, are quick to express unquestionable adherence to the Koran and Hadith.
Historically, those who unsuccessfully try to introduce unjustifiable subtle reinterpretations or dare question the authority or the relevance of the Islamic canon have had good reason to fear for their lives.
But today Islam’s complex and comprehensive world and life view is rejected, not only by non-Muslims, but also by a growing number of Muslims worldwide. Its rigid and inflexible, seventh-century nature is causing a steady loss of appeal.
As Islam continues to crumble, only a completely Christ-centred biblical world and life view can replace it for thinking Muslims. The power of the gospel emanates from the nature and conduct of the self-giving God incarnated in Jesus. What Christ lived and taught is the foundation of the Christian worldview and it contradicts, in every aspect, the crumbling Islamic one.
Amazingly, renowned Muslim scholars are publicly announcing Jesus’ life-changing teachings and are encouraging millions to consider Christ’s ways.
A Turkish professor of Islamic philosophy corresponded with me a good number of years ago. In one of his last letters, he made a remarkable observation of the contrast between the Islamic worldview and that of the gospel. He stated: ‘The more we return to the strictness of our religion, the less free, darker, and more backward and miserable our societies. Yet, the more your pure and profound gospel (Injeel) impacts your societies and nations, the freer and more developed they become’.
Dr Adnan Ibrahim, a popular Palestinian Islamic reformist in exile, subtly contrasts Mohammed’s order to kill a defector with Jesus’ healing of Malchus’ ear and instruction to Peter to put away his sword. He regularly calls on his audience to read the gospel and learn from the life of Jesus.
Ibrahim Eissa, a very influential Egyptian journalist and academic, repeatedly advocates on his weekly talk-show the Sermon on the Mount and other parts of the New Testament in all Arab schools and universities, to ‘cleanse the mind of our young people from our ugly religious fanaticism’.
Dr Ahmed el-Tayeb, senior sheikh and statesman of the most prestigious Islamic university, al-Azhar, regularly quotes the golden sayings of Jesus. In response to a recent suicide attack on a church in Cairo that killed 28 Christians, he spoke on public TV, saying, ‘How I wish we would be guided by Jesus, who says love your enemies, bless those who curse you, more blessed to give than to receive’.