|WHAT is Islam on about? Islam & The Future of the World !|
[ Part 1 ] -The Spiritual Conflict: What is the role of Abraham?
1. UNDERSTANDING ISLAM MEANS TO UNDERSTAND THE PERSON OF ABRAHAM IN HISTORY:
Who was Abraham? According to the Bible he was a "wandering Aramean' whom God called from Ur of the Chaldees, via Haran, to the "promised" land of Palestine (Genesis 12. 1-9).
To understand Islam, we must know that Islam, Judaism and Christianity all claim to be the children Abraham and thus heirs to his blessing of God. As we shall see later, at stake are the charter rights to the universal blessing of God.
2. HOW DOES EACH MAJOR RELIGION STAKE A CLAIM TO ABRAHAM?
The book of Genesis tells us that Abraham had two important sons: Ishmael, the elder brother, born of a handmaid,
Hagar, and Isaac, the child of promise born to his wife Sarah.
Ishmael *2 was the father of the Arab peoples, and God promises that he will be "a great people/nation" too. Islam is the gospel, if you like, for the Arab peoples, who, according to Mohammed, needed a "book" too, just like Christians and Jews.
Mohammed's Qu'ran (Koran = "recital") is alleged to be a written record of the true Law and Gospel, perverted by "the people of the book" (Jews & Christians), and is especially for Arab peoples, who were pagan pluralists. What the Qu'ran does is to allege that Ishmael is the chosen seed of Abraham, and the religion of Mohammed centers around the Ka'aba at Mecca (Saudi Arabia) where Abraham is said to have made a pilgrimage to visit his son Ishmael, and there, Ishmael and Abraham build an altar together.*3 The Qu'ran also alleges that Ishmael not Isaac was the one to be offered up to God in the Akedah. One cannot miss in this the direct claim to Abraham's blessing.
Judaism, too, of course, makes a causal link at the level of sheer genetic biology-we are Abraham's physical seed through Isaac, the true child of promise.*4 Israel made this claim before Islam did, and therefore has the priority: Abraham's story of blessing was Israel's story long before it was Islam's.
For Christians, however, where the church has for centuries been full of gentile peoples the link to Abraham is more tenuous and is spiritualized. What the New Testament will affirm is that genetic descent from Abraham avails nothing; and this is how Christians will assault Judaism (Islam was not yet invented). John the Baptist himself had said that God "could raise sons to Abraham from the very stones". Paul, too, wifi labour long at showing that the key link one must have to Abraham is to share his faith (e.g. Romans 4; Galatians 3) not his DNA.
The passages in question are.
Galatians 3.6ff- see especially v.7: "those who have faith, these are the sons of Abraham..." and v.14: "that Abraham's blessing might come to the gentiles..." See especially v. 16: the promise to Abraham is to one "seed", who is Jesus Christ. See also v.29: "If you belong to Christ you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise".
Romans 4-see especially v. 13: "given the promise that he would be heir of the world ...
WHY IS ABRAHAM S0 SIGNIFICANT?Abraham is significant because the promises of the world to come are contingent on, and tied to, him. This is made clear in the whole Bible, but especially by Paul in Romans 4.13: "heir of the world." Wrestling for the blessing of Abraham is spiritual struggle of titanic proportions.
Mohamned knew the Jewish account of Abraham as it was reported on the Arabian Peninsula. He knew full well that Jews claimed a special privilege of relationship in this world and the world to come, because of Abraham's lineage. Still, he purposely chose (or had it revealed to him) to alter the story and argue that Ishmael not Isaac was the child of promise. Did he realize the significance of this? 1 hardly think he didn't; surely a bigoted interest in Arabic race alone did not motivate him because his interest was clearly religious.
This is a titanic spiritual struggle for the heart of God's saving programine for the universe. This becomes clearer when we understand what follows.
4.WHY DID ISHMAEL PERSECUTE ISAAC?This question might appear rather prosaic until we add a rather colourful detail of which St Paul seems to be aware. That detail is that Ishmael persecuted Isaac. The story is in Genesis 21.8-10, but we must note that what Genesis calls "mocking" (21.9 *5),' St Paul calls "persecute". Paul seems to be aware of a Rabbinic tale that Ishmael was an "archer" (21.20) and that he took a bead *6 on Isaac, threatening to kill him.
1 find the Rabbinic tale fascinating in light of current (since 1948) events that have pitted Israel (Isaac's seed) against the Arabs (Ishmael's seed) in three major wars and constant bloodshed.
We should note that Paul allegorizes the Ishmael / Isaac saga (Galatians 4.21-3 1) and gives it spiritual significance, saying that Ishmael represents a "flesh" son of Abraham and Isaac a "spirit" son. Paul equates the "persecution" with the actions of zealot Jews toward gentile Christians, but his language raises the tantalizing possibility of seeing something much deeper in the account; he even mentions Arabia.
Did Ishmael want to kill Isaac ~ to claim the blessing? What does this say about today's events where Islam stands toe to toe with Abraham's physical descendents through Isaac and his spiritual seed (the Church)? *7
We also should not miss that the Qu'ran is almost universally critical of the Jews, in particular, and of Christians, too. Mohammed was involved in the slaying of thousands of Jews in Medina. The Bible shows that the history of the Arab peoples has been as the opponents of the Jews (see, for instance, Geshem the Arab in Nehemiah's days *8 ). History has borne this record out. Men like Osama bin-Laden understand themselves as enemies of Jews and Christians.*9
5. THE BIBLE'S DESCRIPTION OF ISHMAEL. WHAT DO WE LEARN?
How legitimate is it to read Genesis 16.9-12 and overlay it upon the Arab peoples and followers of Islam who are not Arab peoples?
The only answer 1 can offer is that there is something spiritual going on in the way God has ordered history in the intertwining stories of Jews, Muslims and Christians. That Abraham lies at its heart gives great significance. My own question that won't go away: why does the Bible give so much time and coverage to Ishmael when he is virtually irrelevant to its story line? Is God forewarning us? And if so, perhaps it is legitimate to read Genesis 16.9-12 in this way.
Further, the Bible does not often waste words, yet it gives a detailed description of Ishmael, almost as if it foresees momentous things in his birth-things of more import than just the facts of Abraham's lifetime would convey.
We should note, too, that the Bible says that Ishmael will "live in hostility towards" *10 all his brothers, but that text can be made to read "to the east of". This is certainly true of Islam. What else in the passage may be true of Islam? *11
The conflict between ISLAM Christianity and Judaism is a spiritual conflict for Abraham's birthright. As such, the struggle is heavenly in nature, being played out on the fields of human affairs but for very high stakes-the control of the universal blessing of God. Islam is trying to wrench it from others who rightly believe they have a claim to it. As we shall see in our next two studies we have every reason to believe Islam has been demonically inspired.
1 I understand that the West is not "Christian' in the positive sense but in the worldview sense, it is. The West owes much of its intellectual heritage to the Church and Christianity. Most important Western ideas and initiatives can be traced to the Church in some way, shape or form. Islam understands us Westerners as Christian.