Definition of Islamic Theism
Islam is the second largest religion in the World, just after Christianity having around 1.9 billion people in the world today who identify as Muslims. Muslims count themselves as the followers of one God only or strict monotheists. The Islamic God is called Allah, and Muslims are called to live all of their lives in absolute submission to him. Muslims have six major beliefs:
- Belief in one God (Allah)
- Belief in the Angels
- Belief in the holy books sent to all the prophets, including the Torah that was revealed to the prophet Moses, the Bible was revealed to the prophet Jesus, and the Qur’an (Koran) was revealed to the prophet Muhammad
- Belief in all the prophets sent by God, including Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Although Muslims believe in Isa or Jesus, they don’t think of Jesus as the Son of God the way Christians do.
- Belief in the Day of Judgment and life after death. The best reward for performing good deeds is getting closer to God.
- Belief in divine decree. This means that God is all-powerful, and nothing can happen without His permission; however, he has given human beings the freedom to choose whether to be good or bad. In the end, everyone will be questioned about how they lived in this life.
There are Five Pillars or guidelines of Islam that help them to practice their faith:
- Shahadah (declaration of faith)—to witness or testify that there is no god except one God (Allah) and Muhammad is His prophet or messenger.
- Salat (ritual prayer)—the five daily prayers are performed at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and night. The prayers are offered in Arabic language and facing the direction of Mecca.
- Zakat (alms tax) –Giving 2.5% of one’s wealth to the poor and needy.
- Sawm (fasting)—Muslims fast during the daylight hours in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar called Ramadan. The purpose is to remind people of the goodness of what they have and to show equality with the poor. Ramadan is a time for study and self-discipline.
- Hajj (pilgrimage): Muslims believe in making a pilgrimage to Mecca to the Ka’bah at least once in their lifetime. The Ka’bah is believed to have been built by Ibrahim (Abraham) and one of his sons. Muhammad restored it to worship Allah. For this reason, it is a very sacred place to Muslims.
History of Islamic Theism
The revelation was revealed in the 6th century in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) to a trader in a cave called Muhammad by the angel Jibreel. Muhammad believed that his revelation was distinctively given to call mankind to submission to Allah and to correct those who have strayed from the path. The Quran was firstly, verbally announced by the Prophet, and later codified after his death in 632 BCE.
Leadership was carried over to various ‘Caliphs’ after Muhammad, who would rule the religio-political state of Islam in an attempt to subjugate its people under the laws of Islamic rule (Sharia). A key leader called Uthman realized the urgency to codify the Quran about 19 years after Muhammad’s death and called for an official version to be created. One Muslim Source writes;
“Zaid ibn Thabit, Abdullah bin az-Zubair, Sa’id bin al-As, and Abdur-Rahman bin Harith worked diligently to construct a revised text of the Qur’an. When finished, “Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied and ordered that all the other Qur’anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt” (Sahih al-Bukhari 4987).
Analysis of Islamic Theism
What is Prime Reality?
Muslims believe that Allah (the God) is the only accurate reality and sole cause of all creation. Everything else is simply a derivative reality created out of love and mercy by God’s command, “…”Be,” and it is.” and that the purpose of existence is to worship or to know God.
What is the Nature of the Universe?
Allah fashioned the universe, bestowed human beings with a privileged position within it, and left the world to function under the laws He had decreed for it. Allah observes how people treat the rewards He has given them, and the universe is allowed to exist, with little intervention, for a certain length of time. At the end of time, mankind is brought in front of Allah for Judgment Day. Islam’s eschatology places Allah’s position as mankind’s judge as the progression from His role as mankind’s Creator. Man will be penalized or rewarded for his deeds in Allah’s universe. Islam is a natural religion, in that its teachings advocate the utilization of nature for man’s benefit, along with the preservation of the universe that Allah has placed in mankind’s safekeeping.
What is a Human Being?
Man was created from clay, and is thus part of nature, not separate from it. This relationship with nature materializes in Islamic living in several ways, the most significant and obvious being death. Muslim burials require the corpse to be washed, have all items removed, and placed in the ground within three days for an easier return to the earth whence it came. Within Allah’s universe, man was given a special place. In Islamic teachings, in contrast to those of Christianity, man was not made in God’s image. Rather, Allah distinguished man from His other creations by breathing His own spirit into man. This preferential treatment of God’s creation gave man two privileges not made available to the rest of creation:
(1) freedom of choice and,
(2) specialized knowledge or “creative knowledge” (Rahman).
Freedom of choice allows man the ability to make the decision whether or not to worship Allah and follow His will. The universe, as described before, is governed by the laws decreed for it by Allah, and has, therefore, been in submission to Allah since its creation. Man, however, was given the ability to think, rationalize, and argue the presence of a creator, and then decide whether to submit to Him or not.
What Happens After Death?
After death, most Muslims believe that the soul will enter Barzakh, a state of waiting until the Day of Judgement. When a person dies, their soul is taken by Azra’il, the Angel of Death. God sends two angels to question the waiting soul and then bestows on the obedient Jannah and everlasting life, or to the disobedient, everlasting hellfire and suffering.
How is it possible to know the world?
Creative knowledge was first according to the teachings of Islam-when; after the angels questioned Allah as to why he had created man in the form of Adam, Allah challenged the angels and Adam to name objects. The angels were unable to bestow names upon things, whereas Adam could, giving him superiority over those that he had named and demonstrating his Creator’s power.
As part of man’s privilege, Islam, through the Qur’an, invites man to discover the laws of nature and the ways in which the universe exists. There is no threat to Allah’s supremacy in this way, because if Allah wills something to remain a mystery (such as Himself), then man has no possible way of discovering whatever Allah chooses to remain hidden. On the contrary, when man sees for himself the extent to which the universe has been meticulously planned and provided for, Allah’s infinite wisdom becomes apparent.
Man is invited to question, discover, explore, and manipulate the world around him and use it for his benefit. There are three types of learning encouraged in Islam, all of which will (or should) inevitably lead to acknowledgment and recognition of Allah’s power. These are:
(1) the discovery of nature, its laws, and how it can be used for the benefit of mankind;
(2) the exploration of the history and the geography of the physical world and its peoples; and
(3) knowledge of oneself (Rahman).
This encouragement to learn and discover has led to a proliferation of Arab scholars in the fields of the natural sciences and mathematics. In Islamic philosophy, one must always seek knowledge, both within and without, as knowledge illuminates the path on which one must travel. Ignorance is an unfavorable state of being, as the process of acknowledging the existence and power of Allah is one of enlightenment through knowing. “Nature exists for man to exploit for his own ends, while the end of man himself is nothing but to serve God, to be grateful to him, and to worship him alone” (Rahman). Islam suggests that nature was created by Allah specifically for mankind’s use, and so must be recognized and respected as a gift for which man must be grateful. There are three reasons for creation:
(1) “to serve as a collection of signs, or ayat, of the power and goodness of Allah”;
(2) “to serve Allah and to be submissive to God’s will”; and
(3) “for the use of humans” (Timm). Natural law in Islam is based on the laws Allah created for nature, which, as mentioned earlier, reflected the laws of Allah’s divine realm.
Man is expected to discover Allah’s will and follow it.
What is the Foundation for Right and Wrong?
Whatever Allah decreed as allowed is good (Hallal), and whatever Allah decreed to be wrong is deemed evil (Haram). Morality in Islam encompasses the concept of righteousness, good character, and the body of moral qualities and virtues as prescribed in Islamic religious texts.
The principle and fundamental purpose of Islamic morality is said to be love, that is a love for Allah and love for His creatures. The religious conception is that mankind will behave morally and treat each other in the best possible manner to please God.
What is the meaning of life?
The meaning of Life is to obey Allah, aspiring to follow the example of the last Prophet Muhammad, who is deemed a perfect example to all mankind. Muslims believe in living a life that is religiously inclined towards attaining the mercy and blessings of Allah, working towards His compassion.
Evaluating Islamic Theism
Here are a few pros and cons when we look at Islamic theism.
- There seem to be some advantages in the practice of spiritual laws of mercy, compassion, charity, justice, honesty, love, etc.
- Islam encourages community rather than individual rights.
- There seems to be a high emphasis on hygiene
- There is a focus on healthy living and restrictions on alcohol, pork, excessive eating, etc.
- There is a mandatory charity for those less fortunate, which benefits the overall community.
- There is a collective objective where humanity needs to be ruled under the laws of God.
- For Muslims in the West, Islam is not a political ideology alone, but there seems to be an emphasis on spirituality, mutuality, and tolerance.
- There is a political ideology in Islam that rules communities and strict regulations as subjectively interpreted from the Quran and biographical sources (Sirat & Hadith).
- There is a diversity of interpretations of the sources of Islam concerning Islamic law that can be applied fairly but also severely and oppressively.
- The story of the Prophet seems to show a man of his time, but his example might seem outdated. Further, there are certain moral instances that show he was not the perfect example.
- The application of certain laws severely curtails the freedom of women
- There seems to be an anti- Scientific spirit amongst Muslims that are not in the West.
- Even though Islam encourages community rather than individual rights, some groups do so at the expense of those who think differently.
- Islam seems to be plagued with sectarian groups that perpetrate violence and subjugation of other people groups and their rights.
- In certain instances, a rigid application of Sharia, or Islamic law, can carry severe restrictions on art, music, festivities, other regional cultures, and minority groups.
- There also seems to be a justification for killing those who leave the faith of Islam and become apostates.
- There seems to be an acute sensitivity surrounding any form of criticism about Islam, and in certain instances, this is counted as taboo and even punishable by death.
Concluding thoughts on Islamic Theism
When reflecting on Islamic theism, we can conclude that its appeal is found in the rigorous internal structure that serves its demands. Like in Judaism, Islamic law (Sharia) offers a practical way to assume the adherent’s religion but fails to create a mandate in which the adherent can adequately know anything about the Divine (Mat.3:13-17,1 Cor.13:14). There is no revelation of God as assumed in Christianity, and no estimation of the perfect Son of God. Jesus is taxed as a Prophet, but not in any way esteemed as God, neither was He crucified for our Sin (Joh.1:13-14, Heb.4:15, 1 Pet.3:18). Sin is failure about what Allah said or commanded, whereas in Christianity, it is a direct rebellion against God. In Islam, man can earn his salvation, whereas in Christianity, he can only cast himself upon the grace of God (1 Cor.15:3-4). These are points of contention that we can use to start a conversation with Muslims to evangelize them adequately. The Muslim world is prepared with an answer to all of these similarities, but this should not dissuade us from following the divine command to preach the Gospel to all (Matt.28:19). Muslims are called in the Quran to speak with us (Yunus (10) 94).