MOHAMMED AND AMERICA
[Note: This sermon was preached by Max Lucado on October 28,2001.]

 

The Boston Tea Party . . .The Alamo . . .Gettysburg . . .December 7, 1941. . June 6, 1944 . . .Pearl Harbor . . .Normandy Beach. Words and dates that stir emotions. In the volume we call American history, these events, places, and dates serve as the table of contents. Last month we added a new chapter entitled, "September 11, 2001."

We all know what happened that day. We know a homeless, country less terrorist attacked us. We know that four jets were hi-jacked- three of which hit their intended targets. We know that as many as five thousand people perished, the vast majority of whom were civilians, some of whom were children. We know what happened.

But what we continue to wonder is why?

This question is especially pertinent for people of faith. Our attackers come from the land of the Bible. The ground upon which they walk is the stage upon which the drama of Scripture was written. The land of the Garden of Eden, the tree of good and evil, the Tower of Babel, and the city of Babylon. It was in this land that Noah preached and Abraham lived. This land, rich with Biblical history, is the center of the ArabĖ Muslim World. So, why do the current residents of the Bible land call us their enemies?

And why do they use the language they use? "Holy War." "Martyrdom." "Paradise." These are spiritual terms. Why are they using such language? Why are we considered the infidels? Why are these men willing to give their lives? What does a Muslim millionaire named Osama bin Laden have against our children and us?

The definitive answer to these questions will come from someone smarter than I am. But perhaps insight can be gained by pondering the issue through the filter of Scripture. A quick glance at three men might help us. Letís start with Abraham.


ABRAHAM

Four thousand years ago, a man by the name of Terah lived in the region of Ur of the Chaldees (current day Southern Iraq). Like others of his day, he was a polytheist, believing in many gods and worshiping idols. Ur was a flourishing center of the moon-god Sin. Itís quite likely that Terah, who was a worshiper of idols (Josh. 24:2), was a worshiper of the moon-god.

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And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.

His son Abram was called by God to leave the land of the moon-worship and many gods and come to a new land to worship the one true God.

"The Lord said to Abram, ĎLeave your country, your people and your fatherís household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through youí" (Gen. 12:1-3).

The promise is more specific in Genesis 15. "On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ĎTo your descendants I will give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates- the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites" (Gen. 15:18).

Regarding the exact boundaries of this land, there are different opinions. Some believe the covenant encompasses thousands of miles of oil rich territory in between the Nile River in Egypt and eastward into Iraq and the Persian Gulf. Others, however, feel the covenant includes what is modern day Israel, plus some.

Everyone, however, would agree on this: According to the Bible, the Jews were given land by covenant. They believe it is their land. Non-Jewish inhabitants of the region disagree. They disagreed with Abraham then and they disagree with Israel today. Non-Jews believe they have earned the land by conquest.

If the land dispute werenít enough, the anger is also fueled by a four-thousand-year-old family feud. Abraham was promised not only land, he was promised descendants who would inherit the land. There was only one problem: Abraham and his wife Sarah were getting old. They believed God; they waited on God, but no baby. The two grow impatient.

They buy a bassinet. They decorate the tent. They purchase a copy of the thousand best Hebrew names, but still no baby. Finally, Sarah grows impatient. After all, Abraham was a hundred and she was ninety so she took matters in their own hands. Sarah had a servant by the name of Hagar. Sarah brings her to Abraham, Hagar gives the old fellow a wink, and next thing you know Ishmael is born.

Ishmael may have been Sarahís solution, but he wasnít Godís solution. He was not the one through whom God would bless the nations. " Genesis 17: 20-21

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And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.

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But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.


Isaac was the legitimate son of Abraham. It was through him that the lineage of the Jews would run. So not only do you have a territorial conflict, you have the beginnings of a family feud: the children of Isaac against the children of Ishmael. About Ishmael these words were spoken, "

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And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.

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And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.

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And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.

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And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.

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And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.

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And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.

 

" (Gen. 16: 7-12). It was through him that the lineage of the Arab peoples would run.

Through Isaac would come the greatest Jew: Jesus. Through Ishmael would come the founder of Islam.


MOHAMMED

He was born in Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula in 570 A.D. According to legend, a host of angels joyously attended his birth. As soon as he was born he fell to the ground, took a handful of dust and declared, "God is great." He was allegedly born clean, circumcised, and his navel cord already cut. A quick summary of his life might include these points.

1. He married Khadija, a wealthy widow fifteen years his senior.
2. Around the age of forty, he began experiencing visions from Gabriel in the cave of Hirah. These visions would later be codified into the Qurían: "a perfect book from God."
3. He preached monotheism (belief in one god) in Mecca, resulting in notoriety and persecution.
4. He escaped to Medina in 622 A.D. (This marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar.) There he established the community of Islam and built the first mosque.
5. From Medina he set out to conquer the Arabian Peninsula. In doing so he and his followers killed thousands and collected their goods and concubines. As one historian pens: "This period was marked by many assassinations instigated or sanctioned by [Mohammed] and by wholesale slaughter of those opposed to him or whose wealth he coveted for himself, including that of the Jews . . . .in retaliation for the treachery [of the Jews] he had the men of a whole tribe, 800 in number, slaughtered in cold blood and their women and children sold into slavery."
6. He returned to Mecca in 630 A.D., making it the center of Worship.
7. Died in 632 A.D., leaving no official successor.

He did leave a religion, however; a religion that would unite the Arab world. The religion is called: Islam.

The word "Islam" means "submission."
The word "Muslim" means "one who has submitted."
It is a mobile, militant, and missionary religion.

Some additional facts about Islam. Did you know?

There are more than a billion Muslims (about 1 out of every 5 people on the planet); the U.N. projects that by 2055 at least half of the global birthrate will be Islamic.

Muslims have targeted the United States with an aggressive missionary program. Saudi Arabia has given millions of dollars to Harvard and the University of Arkansas to fund Islamic study centers.

There are already more Muslims than Episcopalians in America; and, within ten years, Islam may be the second largest religion in the United States.

Between 1989 and 1998 the Islamic population in this country grew by 25%; there are now estimated to be between 4 and 7 million Muslims in the U.S.

Islam is built on five pillars:

Shahadah: "There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet"
Salah: Turning to Mecca to pray 5 times a day
Sawm: Fasting during daylight hours through the month of Ramadan (including no water).
Zakat: Setting aside 2.5% of income to benefit the Muslim community
Hajj: A once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca

There is much that is right about Islam. For example, it is a monotheistic religion. It believes in a creator. It is a civilization that has produced great advances in science, medicine, and math. Islam is against homosexuality and abortion. The Qurían, like the Bible, is colorblind. } It predicts an end to history.

But to understand the faith through the lens of Scripture we look, not just at what is taught, but what is missing. What is missing from Islam?

1. Security of Salvation

Greg, our missionary in West Africa, is devoted to reaching the Muslim people. When I asked him to explain the Islamic view of salvation, here is what he said, "What they have in Islam are scales. There is an angel on your right and left shoulder recording good and bad deeds. On the judgment day, the deeds are mounted on a scale. Some say the good deeds count more than the bad. ÖNo one can know whether or not they are going to heaven. Even the greatest Muslim in the whole world cannot be assured of salvation. One Arab told me, Ďthis is what keeps us on our toes.í I would say so because the Koran has a verse that describes hell saying that, as often as their skins are burned we will renew them so they may suffer anew. In Islam you do the very best you can and then hope that God will forgive the rest."

Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb agree. In their book Answering Islam, we read: "Islam teaches that heaven can be earned by the good works of the believer as long as he is careful to fulfill his religious obligations and makes up for his shortcomings by performing other favorable duties."

Security of salvation is missing. Equally absent is:

2. The morality of Mohammed.

When it came to character and human decency, the founder of Islam floundered. The reader is stunned at the manís violent character. Mohammed believed in holy wars. By divine revelation he commands his followers: ď . . .fight in the cause of God . . ." (2:244). He adds, ". . .fight and slay The Pagans wherever ye find them" (9:5). And, "Öwhen ye meet The Unbelievers (in fight) Smite at their necks." (47:4)

Mohammed sanctioned and led raids against Meccan caravans. He ordered the assassination of his critics. And, most significantly, he applauded those who died in the name of Allah.

We earlier stated that, in the Islamic faith, salvation is guaranteed to no one. There is one exception. Paradise is promised for those who fight for God. "Those who have left their homesÖor fought or been slainÖVerily I will blot out from them their iniquities, And admit them into Gardens with rivers flowing beneath." (3:195)

Martyrs are promised an eternal life in the presence of virgins.

"They will recline on Carpets, ...In them will be (Maidens), Chaste, restraining their glances, whom no man before them has touched..." (55:56)

Mohammed promoted polygamy; he himself had fifteen wives. He decried the status of women. As we read in the Qurían, men can even beat their wives. "Men are in charge of women because Allah hath made the one to excel the otherÖAs for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them." (4:34)

So much more could be said, but suffice it to say, missing from Islam is morality in Mohammed. And, equally important, missing from Islam is:

3. Victory over the grave.

Mohammed is dead. Muslims follow a dead man. At the core of Christianity is the resurrection of Christ. The empty tomb validates the claims of Christ and inspires his followers. Over five hundred people witnessed Christ in his resurrected form. (I Cor. 15:6)

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After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

 

 The resurrected Mohammed has yet to be seen.

But, the question lingers, why are they mad at us? Letís tally this up:

First, we have four thousand years of animosity between the Arab and the Jew. They have never not been enemies. Four thousand years of bitter dispute and hatred.

Second, we have a cross-less and Christ-less religion. These people have never known a God of love. They have never known the sweetness of salvation. The only hope of salvation is good works. The only guarantee of salvation is death in a holy war.

Third, we have the establishment of the state of Israel. The Jews claim that the land is theirs by covenant. The Muslims claim it is theirs by conquest.

And finally, we have oil! Since 1970, the mid-east has become a cash cow. Millions and millions of dollars worth of petroleum. Muslims have become millionaires- one of whom had fifty-three children- each of whom inherited $300 million a piece. And one of those heirs is a Muslim fundamentalist by the name of Osama bin Laden. Anger can be fueled with money.

But still, what about us? Why are fundamentalists Muslims mad at America? Simple. We are friends with Israel. And, as far as Iím concerned, thatís where I want to be. Ever in the back of our minds is this promise from God: "

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Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee:

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And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing:

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And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.

" (Gen. 12:1-3).

So, then, what should Christians do? We should look to Jesus. Weíve considered Abraham and Mohammed. Now letís turn our attention to Jesus Christ.


JESUS CHRIST

Christians can look to Jesus and rejoice. The contrast between Christ and Mohammed is refreshing: Islam offers no security of salvation, but Christ does. Rather than a scale on which to balance our deeds, Jesus offers a cross on which he died to pay for them.

Islam offers no morality in Mohammed, but we find purity in Christ. Jesus didnít kill people. He didnít pirate caravans. Rather than dismiss women, he honored them. And, most of all, he rose from the dead.

Islam offers no empty tomb, but Christ does. He defeated death and left this promise for all who follow. (Jn. 11:25).

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Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:



Mohammed and Christ are different. Islam and Christianity are different; they are not two different roads that lead to the same place. Norman Geisler was right when he said: "Orthodox Islam and historical Christianity cannot both be true." To say that they are the same is like going out to the interstate and saying I-10 West and I-10 East both go to Houston. They donít, they canít. It is impossible for both Christianity and Islam to be correct. They go two different directions.

Second, letís look to Jesus and pray.

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For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

 (Eph. 6:12).

 

This is a spiritual battle before it is a political battle. Itís worth noting that the father of Abraham was called to leave the city of moon-worship. Have you ever noticed the symbol of Islam? The crescent moon. It is as if the one behind the evil of Abrahamís day is the one behind the evil of ours.

Letís pray for and support our missionaries. What can pre-empt the attacks of terrorism? The gospel of Christ. But,

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How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

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And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!

 (Rom. 10:14,15)

 

Only God knows how many such attacks have been pre-empted because of the work of missionaries.


Letís look to Jesus and hope. Though the towers of New York fell, the promise of the Lord has not. "

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And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.

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And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places;

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When it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.

" (Isa. 32:19).


Max Lucado
Copyright 2001