FOUR FACES OF ISLAM
PART 1 of 4
By Andy and Berit Kjos
December 20, 2002
"In America, we have only heard of jihad as a war of some sort," says Zeba Yousufi, a Pakistani immigrant who lives in Colorado Springs, "but really, it simply means to strive, to do something better for Islam."
Sounds almost Christian, doesn't it? Indeed, America's quest for "common ground" in the midst of war has inspired even churches to "do something better for Islam." Welcoming their Muslim neighbors, some have joined in interfaith prayer and shared their pulpits. A church in Tennessee invited a Muslim spiritual leader, Ilyas Muhammad, to come and explain his faith from an Islamic perspective. "Our God and your God are one," 
said the imam.
Such unity infuriates others. "We have declared jihad against the U.S. government because the U.S. government is unjust, criminal and tyrannical," said Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted terrorist. "Every American man is an enemy to us."
These contrary views illustrate the widening gap among the world's 1.6 billion Muslims. Islam embraces an indefinable assortment of sects and variations, but one simple questions can cut through the maze of divisions and identify the most obvious positions: How does a Muslim define jihad?
Andy and I met Muslims on both sides of this divide in the Middle East many years ago. Traveling lightly around the world, we used local trains, busses and jitneys whenever possible to save money and meet people. Along the way, many kind strangers -- rich and poor -- opened their homes to us. One memorable lodging was a simple dwelling in a crowded Jordanian refugee camp. There, a kind Muslim couple treated us to the best Arab meals their meager resources could offer.
To them we were simply friendly wanderers welcomed into their lives for a moment in time. Like millions of Muslims who have moved to the West, they valued their family traditions and the five pillars of Islam: Reciting the profession of faith, prayers, paying the Zakat tax, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca. Murder seemed far from their hearts.
1. Moderate Islam
Our thoughtful Muslim hosts represent the first of four expressions of Islam shown on a chart (see "religions"), which puts all major religions into five categories. Notice that historical "Christianity," like historical Islam, has often drifted away from its foundations and conformed to popular cultures. As we look at the different interpretations of the Quran, we might also ask God to show us where we, who call ourselves Christians, could interpret our Scriptures in ways that serve our human nature rather than God.
Historic Islam has passed through many stages and divisions since the 7th and 8th centuries when Muhammad and his militant followers swept across three continents, slaying Jews, Christians and "idolaters" who refused to submit to Allah. Today, the call to "holy war" suggests a more tolerant meaning.
"War against what?" asks Colin Nickerson in his article, "Not easy to define 'jihad'". He answers with a quote by Anis Ahmad, dean of social sciences at Islamabad's International Islamic University:
Jihad lies at the heart of Islam, yet is perverted by Muslims who use teachings of the prophet to justify monstrous deeds.... Modern Muslims... take it to mean that an individual should constantly strive to be a better person, struggle to follow the peaceful precepts of Islam.... battle against social wrongs.'"
In light of the aggressive wars that spread Muhammad's beliefs from Spain to China in one century (632-732 AD), you might question this shift in Muslim values. How did the initial "holy war" against infidels evolve to this modern view of social service?
The transformation has taken twelve centuries. The more recent reforms began in the18th century in the wake of the Enlightenment. While Afghanistan and other Islamic lands and communities remained isolated from "enlightened" views of human rights and unity, others gradually moved from the ultra-strict religious demands of the Middle Ages to more of a social contract. The Encyclopedia Britannica summarizes the process:
"The liberal modernist, in his social thinking, had, therefore, to take a further leap and enunciate the principle of a reinterpretation of Islam in the light of new situation.... This done, the modernist was ready to underline the spirit of Islamic legislation for modern society....
"But the forces of conservatism remain very powerful and must be expected to erupt from time to time even if they cannot actually reverse the process of modernization."
The last sentence brings a sobering reminder that many ordinary people who live peacefully together one year may suddenly be aroused by political leaders, seductive propaganda and threatening circumstances to a raging hatred the next year. We watched that painful process in former Yugoslavia. Today, in countries such as Pakistan, many moderate Muslims are once again urged to take a militant stand, show loyalty to Islam by hating its declared enemies, and join the rising army of angry warriors bent on the 7th century view of Jihad.
But "Christians" are vulnerable to the same shift, for human nature doesn't change with the diverse times and places. Remember Nazi Germany where lukewarm churches turned from God's loving guidelines to self-righteous rage and sent the world a message that mocked the name of Christ.
We cannot follow God unless we have been joined to Christ by faith in what He accomplished through the cross. Neither "good works" nor the "five pillars" of Islam can produce that inner transformation. When "Christians" march to the tempting tunes of today's culture, many moderate Muslims -- with their commitment to moral disciplines -- may demonstrate more loyalty to their Allah than we do to our God. [See Statistics for the Changing Church]
"You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? ... For 'the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." Romans 2:21-24
"I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
1. Behind the scarf
2. Some churches becoming places to learn about Islam
3. Osama speaks: Inside the mind of a terrorist
4. Not easy to define 'jihad'.
5. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 12 (Chicago: William Benton, 1968), page 670.
Next: Part 2 - Militant Islam
© 2002 Berit Kjos - All Rights Reserved
Berit Kjos is a widely respected researcher. Author of: A Twist of Faith, Your Child and the New Age and Brave New Schools writer of magazine articles, a popular conference speaker, and a concerned parent.
Kjos first became aware of New Age and occult influences in our society at a 1974 conference on holistic health. As a registered nurse, she was interested in methods of healing, but soon discovered that the occult powers found in New Age methods brought bondage instead of true healing. As a parent, Kjos became aware of similar New Age influences in education. She began to monitor the schools for classroom programs that taught occultism and New Age spirituality, then began to share what she learned with other parents and teachers. She also explains what programs such as Goals 2000 are all about, and why all students-even homeschoolers-eventually will be required to demonstrate competence in the new social and thinking skills before they can move on to higher education or jobs.
Kjos has given workshops and seminars at conferences such as the Association for Christian Schools International and CHEA. She has spoken at conferences for such groups as The Steeling of the Mind, The Constitutional Coalition, Child Evangelism Fellowship and Concerned Women for America.
A frequent guest on national radio and television programs, Kjos has been interviewed several times on The 700 Club, Point of View (Marlin Maddoux), Bible Answer Man, Beverly LaHaye Live, Crosstalk and Family Radio Network. She has also been a guest on "Talk Back Live" (CNN) and other secular radio and TV networks. Kjos Ministries Web Site: http://www.crossroad.to/index.html