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IV. Islamic Law and the Grace of Jesus Christ

Islam - A Religion of Law

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One of the 99 most beautiful names of Allah in the Qur'an is "the truth and the right". Whoever reads the eight suras in which this name for Allah is written, finds that Allah is to be understood as the originator of all cosmic order and the source of Islamic law. Sun and moon move their course according to his will. The fate of the individual is firmly held by him in advance. Islam is considered to be the correct, revealed religion, which represents the foundation of every right for time and eternity. At the last judgement the law of Allah will be ultimately revealed on the "day of religion". He himself is truth and reality, the right (al-Haqq) and the judge.

One who lives within the scope of this cosmic-religious culture of Allah, lives right and will have success. Whoever places himself outside of these all-encompassing ordinances of Allah will have no good fortune in this life and in the end will be punished and damned. Thereby, the thought of reward is a basic principle of Islam. Whoever proves himself to be faithfully religious will be rewarded. At the break of dawn the cry is heard from the minaret over all the houses "rise to prayer, rise to prosperity!" Whoever builds a mosque is rewarded with a palace in paradise. One who dies in holy war will be transferred immediately to paradise. Such promises are reality for many Muslims. Children and old men run into the mine fields for Khomeini, and sacrifice themselves, hoping to escape the misery of this life. Some Muslims see the oil wealth of the Arabic lands as a reward from Allah for remaining true to Islam for over 50 generations. In the eyes of a Muslim it pays to be a Muslim. This thought is in agreement with the theocentric world view of Islam. The psychological feeling of a Muslim, therefore, is the thought of achievement and reward.

Muhammad said in Sura al-Fatir 35:21 and 30, "Surely those who recite the book of God and perform the prayer, and expend of that we have provided them, secretly and in public, look for a commerce (business) that comes not to naught, that he pay them in full their wages and enrich them of his bounty." Allah is compared with an Arabic trader, who counterbalances good deeds and bad deeds. "Surely the good deeds will drive away the evil deeds" (Sura Hud 11:114).

The good deeds are not primarily ethical in nature, but more of ritual performance of religious duties. Whoever speaks his confession of faith openly, memorises the Qur'an, prays five times a day, fasts during the month of Ramadan as long as the sun shines, pays his religious taxes from his net profit, and when he is able, participates in the pilgrimage to Mecca, may have a rich credit of good works. Conversion to Islam and belief in Allah, as well as circumcision and hospitality, are also counted as meritorious works.

Despite the double predestination taught by the Qur'an, in which everything is predetermined by Allah, righteousness of works dominates in Islam. A Muslim has no option whether or not to pray, fast, believe and testify to Allah. He must do so. It is his holy duty. He stands under the law. He cannot run away from it.

At the end, a Muslim's life will be weighed and measured. All of his sins will come to light; all of his prayers and good works will be counted. A Muslim does not know in advance whether his good works will be sufficient or whether his sins will predominate. Therefore, he is uncertain whether he will be promoted to the eternal garden or whether he will be thrown into the roaring fire. There is no certainty in Islam regarding the forgiveness of sins. Only the "day of religion" will bring a clear settlement of accounts to Muslims. This will be the climax and summary of the entire history of creation. Therefore, he must strive through his life to fulfil exactly all the laws of Islam so that his hope for Paradise will not fade and that he may overcome the fear of damnation by Allah.

Such a world view, which rests on right and law, manifests itself in the day-to-day life of a Muslim in various ways. One hears fixed expressions arising constantly from legalistic thinking. "The right is with you!" "The right is on you!" "The right is against you!" Compromises cannot be made. That is one of the reasons for the long wars in the Islamic world. To forgive an enemy would be wrong, because his sin was not expiated and the demand for justice was not met. The blood of a murder or of an accident victim cries out to heaven. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. Therefore blood revenge is necessary for a Muslim. In Islam, law goes before grace. In the Qur'an there are similar passages to those found in the Torah: "A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth" (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:45). Admittedly, forgiveness is also possible without avenging a murder, but only if a high ransom of blood money is paid.

Law is the foundation of Islam, and the law must be satisfied. When we understand the Muslim's law, we can better understand what appears strange to us in Islamic thinking. Muslims live in a realm different from the Christians. They live under the law. It encompasses their entire life in this world and the next.

The Grace of Jesus Christ

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Jesus taught an entirely different way of life. He set us free from accusing demands and oppressive burdens of the law. Christians no longer live under the law, but in grace.

It cannot be questioned that the law of the Old Testament is in itself good and holy. God Himself is the law, because He said, "Be ye holy, for I am holy." He made Himself the standard when He spoke to Abraham: "I am the Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless (complete)!"

In this way, the law of God not only gives us wisdom to adjust our lives according to the blessing of God, but in addition the Holy Spirit enlightens us to recognise our sin and leads us to humility, brokenness and complete awareness of total spiritual bankruptcy before God. Our pride must be shattered. All of our good deeds appear as filthy garments in the light of God. We lack the glory and perfection of God. That is our entire sin. Without Jesus we are all irretrievably lost.

Christ, however, is the end of the law. Whoever believes in Him is justified. Pious achievements, long prayers and ascetic exercises do not save anyone. Christ Himself has reconciled us once and forever to the Father. We are freed from the continual demand of the law that says we must bring good works for the One who justifies us. Christ is our truth, righteousness and justification. He is the love of God in person. Allah in Islam is not love, but law.

Paul, an expert on the Torah, wrote about the meaning and effect of Christ's death, in view of the law, in a more detailed manner than did the other apostles. We have been justified without silver or gold by the blood of Christ. All demands of the law were met and fulfilled with the death of Christ. Our sins have been atoned for. We have been removed and freed from the final judgement. Jesus has justified us from all accusations of Satan. Christians are no longer under the law, but live in grace. They are free from the compulsion of trying to save themselves. They have a Saviour. Neither the word salvation nor the idea of salvation through grace occurs in the Qur'an.

Such facts effect the entire religious and ethical life of a culture. Christians are free to be thankful. They serve God with gladness in every area of life, not with the hidden thought that their own works might possibly justify them. They willingly surrender their money, time and life for Jesus as an offering of thanks because they have already been justified. They do not work for reward, for their Lord Himself is their reward, their salvation and their righteousness. This motivating force in their lives leads to devotion, thanksgiving and praise for God's free and marvellous grace. Therein lies the secret of a joyful and blessed Christian life.

The pride of a Christian believer is broken by confessing his sins. He no longer needs to appear as a pious hypocrite. He has found his identity: a sinner justified by grace! He has received a new life from God as a gift and recognises the voice of the Comforter in his heart.

Christians live continuously from the benefits of forgiveness won by their Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, they are programmed for forgiveness. Jesus has forgiven them and their enemies all sins, so they have the ability and desire to forgive anyone at any time. Christians must not take revenge. Jesus has satisfied all demands of the law universally. It is not wrong, but right, when you forgive your debtor, just as you have been forgiven. The cross of Christ is the open door that leads us out of the compulsion of retaliatory thinking and hate into the freedom of mercy and forgiveness. When we know Jesus, then grace goes before law. In Islam it is the opposite.

Christians know their verdict on the day of judgement in advance. Officially it will be said: failed, guilty, condemned! But the voice of Jesus says: justified, cleansed, saved! This sinner has accepted My grace through faith. Because of Christ Christians no longer live in uncertainty and tremble before death and eternity. The cross of Jesus is their righteousness. Jesus' resurrection has become their life. It is not the fear of judgement that drives them to live a God-fearing life. Rather, having been condemned and crucified with Christ they die to themselves and no longer live their own lives, but Christ lives in them.

Justified Christians, being liberated from the law, have not become lawless.Christ, the lawgiver, became flesh and lives in them. His Holy Spirit is the divine law and the godly power in them for fulfilling all demands of the law (Jeremiah 31:33-34). He is their comforter and their advocate at the judgement. Christians no longer live under the law, but through Jesus the law resides in them. Christians are not only liberated from the negative, the guilt and the accusations of the law, but they have also received power and the fruits of righteousness.

Most Christians are not aware that they have been freed to think, to serve and to thank. They do not realise that they need not frantically seek to fulfil the will of God. They themselves want to do it. They are not plagued by a bad conscience because of their past, but their cleansed conscience is sharpened by the gospel and leads them to humble deeds of love. A new feeling of life inspires them. Thankfulness, the love of God, and the joy of the Holy Spirit lives in them. A Muslim, with his deep respect for Allah, experiences life differently. In the Qur'an we read: "Allah loves not those that exult" (Sura al-Qasas 28:76). But Christ said, "These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full." No slave-like grimness holds the Christians prisoner. Joy in the Lord is their strength. They are no longer alone, forsaken and fearful, awaiting the last judgement. The Lord Himself is with them, has taken away their sins, and lives in them through His Spirit.

The Sharia- The Law of Islam

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Muhammad preached Islam in the name of Allah, and when he died in 632 AD he had given the basis for a new Islamic law. The new regimen of culture was by no means classified according to an orderly arrangement, nor systematically established. But the Qur'an, the al-Hadith (according to tradition, additional words spoken by Muhammad), and the Sunna (Muhammad's private decisions), were considered to be binding ordinances for all Muslims.

In the first century after Muhammad the Suras of the Qur'an and many other sayings of Muhammad were, in accordance with their literal meaning, still alive in the minds of many Muslims. But as the Islamic armies pushed forward to Gibraltar and into the steppes of Russia, problems arose and no solutions were found in the law of the Bedouin culture of Mecca and Medina. As far as local existing customs and laws (Adat) appeared to be in agreement with Islam, they were largely accepted. When doubts arose, conclusions were drawn through analogy. In so doing, judgements were made in similar fashion, just as in earlier cases Islamic judgement had been passed. Thus, the four sources of Islamic law are the Qur'an, the Sunna (traditions from Muhammad's life), theanalogical conclusions relating to earlier decisions in Islam (Qiyas), and the statements agreed upon by all Muslims (al-Idjma'a).

With the setting of Islamic laws and customs, Muhammad had borrowed heavily from the Bedouin law in Mecca and Medina, as well as from Jewish law. Later, principles from Rome, Persia and India appeared in the Islamic law. As a result, fierce discussions arose among the Islamic teachers of the law regarding the origin of divine Islamic law, what it was and what it was not. One was more generous than the other. A third allowed only the Qur'an and the words of Muhammad to be valid. In this manner four schools of law (and ways of life in Islam) developed, besides the Shiites, during the course of a hundred years. They are all taught today as "orthodox" at the al-Azhar University in Cairo.

Since each school defends its own set of laws as being the only divine and legitimate one, there exists, until today, no unifying Islamic law. None of the existing laws could be implemented for all Muslims. Therefore, four different basic laws exist today in Islam, indeed agreeing on all fundamental principles, but strongly differing in detail. The principles that came into practice in various Islamic areas have to do with the special developments in the respective lands.

The study of law (Sharia) is considered to be the most important subject of Islamic theology. In importance, it surpasses the interpretation of the Qur'an, dogma, the history of Islam or other disciplines of theology. This importance is understandable, because the Sharia, with the help of the legal science (fikh), represents the attempt to regulate all areas of life in mankind. This was done by commands and prohibitions, judging all actions and punishing all offences. This means that the Sharia is not only a spiritual or moral law that may sharpen the conscience of the believers, but is primarily a penal law, which places all areas of life under the control of the Islamic state.

The Sharia contains above all the spiritual duties (al-Ibalat) of all Muslims (the five pillars of Islam). They consist of the confession of faith (dogma), the five daily times of prayer, the fast during the month of Ramadan, the religious tax and the pilgrimage to Mecca. Then, practical detail ordinances follow for everyday life (al-Muamalat), such as agreement in trade and social life, the inheritance, marriage and family laws, as well as all crucial penal laws. Furthermore, they contain the law that concerns the holy war, the treatment of unbelievers, directives for battle, dietary laws, oaths and vows, legal proceedings and treatment of slaves.

To this encompassing catalogue of commands and prohibitions, laws and duties comes a further religious scale of worth. It determines how important a command or offence is:

  1. A law can be an indispensable duty. Doing it will be rewarded, its omission will be punished.
  2. Certain ordinances are recommendable and appreciated. Doing them will not be rewarded and their omission will not be punished.
  3. Uncountable actions are possible and left to a person's option and are not followed by any legal prosecution: for example, blood revenge in the case of murder or an accident.
  4. Further actions are religiously abominable, but not punishable.
  5. Then there are acts that Allah has definitely forbidden, and that should be punished by the state.

The cataloguing and evaluation of all individual deeds has brought about innumerable variations between the four schools of law. It is understandable that no final unification of the law could be attained.

In order to clarify the spirit that is manifested in the Sharia, we will briefly describe some specific ordinances:

1. The five daily prayers require 34 prostrations before Allah amid a word-for-word prescribed liturgy, in which the worshiper says up to 102 times daily "my exalted Lord be praised," 68 times "Allah is greater," 51 times "may my mighty Lord be praised." In this liturgy there is no room for one's own thoughts, formulations or petitions. These should be expressed outside the official prayer times in private invocations.

In Saudi Arabia there is a prayer police, which herds passers-by into the mosque at the times of prayer, in case they do not enter by their own free will. In some Islamic countries the mosques are full at the time of prayer, in many lands almost empty. An exception is the Friday prayer. Because of its political significance it is heavily attended in many countries.

2. Marriage and family laws place women under the dominion of men, despite the protest of some Muslims. According to the Sharia a man can marry up to four wives. The man has the right to discipline, guide and educate his wife and, if necessary, to strike her. In most Islamic countries the man can divorce his wife at any time. The children always belong to the father only. In court, the testimony of a man counts as much as the testimony of two women. In the case of inheritance the wife is always underprivileged.

3. Regarding criminal law, severe punishments executed in staunch Islamic states since Muhammad allowed for the left hand of a thief to be cut off for the first substantial theft; the right foot is sawed off for the second theft. For adultery 60 to 100 bloody whiplashes are administered to the bare back. In some of the stricter countries the stoning of the adulterer is demanded. Converts who have abandoned Islam are to be killed. The consumption of alcohol, trading of narcotics, homosexuality and other crimes are punished by death at the hand of Khomeini's hangmen. (An extract from the draft of the new Persian penal law is in the appendix. The design of this law was put before the leading mullahs in parliament for passage. It shows in detail what the Sharia demands.)

Whoever recognises the great abundance of judicial problems in all areas of life that are hidden in the Sharia, realises that in Islamic theology, public worship and everyday life leave only little room for thoughts and acts of love, faith and hope. Political and legal questions of the clans stand at the forefront. In Islam politics and religion are not separated. On the contrary,Islam is a political religion, in which attempts will always be made to establish a theocentric order demanding submission in all areas of life under the law.

The decisive question in the face of this legal dilemma remains: How has the system of the Sharia withstood the practical test over the last 1,350 years?

In the life of Muhammad, the ruler of Medina, a personal union between spiritual and political authority existed. He was the spiritual spokesman and the political governor of Allah in one person.

His followers, the four judicial caliphs, were also able to rule arbitrarily within the defined paths of the new Islamic theocracy, but with an important restriction: They themselves were not sources of revelation, and Allah no longer directly intervened in history through them, giving commands and prohibitions.

With the Umayyids and Abbasids, a strong split from spiritual ordinances and worldly dominion already took place, and two different laws, each with its civil and religious jurisdiction, had to be implemented. International law, war, taxes and criminal law were placed under secular jurisdiction, while the five pillars of Islam, inheritance laws, marriage and family questions, as well as religious duties continued to remain under religious jurisdiction. Since that time, the Sharia has become limited to the spheres of religious service and family government.

Between the two extremes, the submission of all areas of life to religious law, and a jurisdiction limited to spiritual and family problems, the Islamic countries fluctuated between the struggle of religious and worldly power. Powerful rulers, who themselves were Muslims, decided the distribution of jurisdiction to their own favour. In such cases the lawyers of the Sharia were banished to the opposition, since they demanded persistently that all areas of life must be ordered according to the revelation of Allah. In theirfight against worldly power they increasingly idealised the Sharia and even produced judicial decrees for areas that had been taken away from them. These were implemented more than ever. Even more extreme is the claim that every Muslimmust believe in the entire Sharia, "the divine law," if he did not want to be designated as an unbeliever (kafir).

The centuries of hard work by the religious lawyers was, nevertheless, not in vain. Their endlessly ramified religious law became an ideal character in Islam and was the model for assessing secular law, even when it was not literally applied. Secular law, in the majority of Islamic states, assimilated with the Sharia in the course of time, but did not come under the supreme control of the sheikhs and mullahs. The reigning caliphs, sultans, and moguls were the absolute rulers and sovereign over all believers. Religion and politics, belief and all governmental decisions combined, remained in their hands.

The unruliness of people, according to the Islamic religious law alone, is made evident by the fact that the penal laws of the Sharia were not able to be carried out practically. Masses of people in cities and villages would have been largely incapable of work had their left hand been cut off for every first theft. Countless men and women would live with shredded backs and disrupted nervous systems for life if all adulterers had been whipped as the law demands.

Turkey went the farthest in the abolishment of Islamic law in 1926 when it introduced the Swiss civil law and the Italian penal law. In 1928 the concept of "Sharia" was eliminated from the constitution. Nevertheless, or precisely because of this secularisation, Islam has been strengthened in Turkey in large parts of the rural population. Tunisia too has restricted Islamic marriage considerably and promoted monogamy to law. A man can no longer unconditionally divorce his wife otherwise he must secure her life insurance.

In a number of Islamic countries, a continual tendency toward liberalisation in everyday life and in all areas of legal affairs can be observed. This occurs despite the fact that a fanatic opposition has grown stronger everywhere in the age of a renewed Islam. In Egypt, representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood have repeatedly tried to introduce the Sharia either in part or fully into the Egyptian law, but until now they have been frustrated through the resistance of the liberal Muslims in parliament. In Syria and Iraq attempts were made to separate state and religion. In Syria this resulted in powerful and bloody conflicts between the Baath Party and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Sharia and its defenders claim until today that the entire life of the Islamic nations is to be subjected to the law of Allah, for Islam means "submission". Where this submission in practice is not possible customs and languages remain impressed with legalistic thinking. Islamic culture is based on law, the "Sharia". All Muslims live under its bondage. It is a factor influencing culture, that is mightier and more far-reaching than we can imagine.

Jesus Christ and the Law

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Wise Christians live in the realm of the grace of Jesus and do not groan under the religious law. The real meaning and burden of the Old Testament law has largely disappeared from consciousness. The law of Moses does not limit itself to the Ten Commandments, serving as guidelines to everyday life, but also contains strict punishments. Blasphemers, adulterers and everyone who broke the Sabbath rest were to be stoned. The lives of the Pharisees and the Essenes were regulated to the last detail through volumes of detailed rules. The more a person held to the religious laws and decrees, the more pious and honoured he was in his society. The Jewish law stood by as a godfather to the rise of Islamic law. Arabs and Jews are cousins, also in regard to their legal understanding and judicial cultures.

Jesus emphasised that He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfil it. He acknowledged the demands of the Mosaic law in the Sermon of the Mount, and filled them with the original principle that every person should be perfect, as God our Father in heaven is perfect. Every falling short of this level means sin. The blameless love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have become the measure of our life, guiding us to a continual repentance. Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, as I have loved you." His self-sacrifice for all sinners is the basis for the new law, and the likeness of God in His followers the goal of the new covenant.

The seriousness of God's holiness and His summons to mankind reach us in the commands of Jesus. But His new law does not drive us to fear and despair in opposition to a state that is a heartless enactor of justice. He places us before God Himself. Jesus also did not desire to lead us to sanctimonious actions and to hypocritical piousness, but to self-denial and self-judgement.He, the one who bore all our guilt and suffered our punishment, spoke these commands that we might remain in continuous repentance.

No person can, of himself, fulfil the will of God in its entire depth and breadth. The followers of Christ would have to mutilate themselves, tear out their eyes and cut off their hands as soon as they led them astray into sin. None of the apostles ever tore out an eye or chopped off a hand -- nor did Martin Luther. He once confessed to his wife he had let his eyes fall enticingly upon a girl while in a hostel. With this confession his pride was broken and he asked for forgiveness. Jesus wants not only to govern and impress our heart and mind, but above all to cleanse and sanctify our heart and mind.

The Sermon on the Mount is a clear mirror of the righteousness of God and at the same time an indictment against our human imperfection. The demand of Christ that we should be perfect, as well as the threat of hell as punishment for every sin, remains permanent. But Jesus has borne away our personal guilt and our eternal punishment. The cross alone enables us to lead an unhindered life in the law of the new covenant.

Jesus demonstrated the law of self-judgement to the Jews when they dragged a woman, caught in the act of adultery, before Jesus. Jesus did not call upon the Jews to pardon this woman; He also did not say that her sin did not deserve death. Instead He called upon all of them to stone the woman on the spot, as commanded by the holy law, but on the condition that the one who was without sin should begin the stoning. Every Jew knew that whoever had committed even a single sin had become guilty of the entire law. With His piercing question, Jesus had judged the judges, as well as the accused, in their innermost being. He Himself did not stone the guilty woman, but commanded her to go and sin no more. This pardon through Jesus would not have been possible had he not vicariously taken her whole guilt and punishment upon Himself. The substitution of Christ in the judgement of God is the only solution that justifies sinners as well as preserves God's righteousness.

In the life of Muhammad a similar case arose. A woman who was expecting a child from another man, not from her lawful husband, was brought to Muhammad. He turned his face from her in disgust and after a short reflection said, "Bring her to me again when she has born the child." After the birth they brought mother and child to Muhammad and he commanded them to take the child from her and to stone her. They obeyed him immediately and stoned the woman on the spot.

The two accounts show the irreconcilable gulf between Islam and Christianity. The divine law must be fulfilled. A superficial forgiveness would be a cause for new wrong. But since Jesus carried the judgement of God on our behalf, He had the right and authority to let the adulteress go in peace. Muhammad rejected the cross of Christ. He acknowledged no substitution. Only justice and the law remained for him. He stands with his entire community under the law. All Christians remain free, under grace.

When we ask ourselves how Christ's law took effect practically in church history, we see that out of the persecuted congregations at the beginning of the 4th century the state church of the Eastern Roman Empire developed. With it began the attempt to establish an all-encompassing political administration of justice on a Christian basis. But the many attempts to bring Roman justice into harmony with the Sermon on the Mount were useless. No state believed that it would be able to exist when it literally followed the word of Christ "Do not resist evil."

Muhammad, however, commanded the holy war in the name of Allah and pressed the sword into the hands of his followers. Christ, on the other hand, elevated non-violence, love of one's enemies, and forgiveness as the absolute norm for His followers.

In the nations ruled by Islam, the clergy lawyers of the Sharia attempted in vain to seize political power for themselves and bring the life of the people under the Sharia.

In the history of the Christian church we see in this regard differing lines. In the Eastern Roman Empire most of the Orthodox churches subjugated themselves to the respective rulers. Today in the East block the Greek Orthodox church has been relegated to low rank in deference to the current politics. In the Western Roman Empire the Catholic popes tried again and again to rule the emperor. The battle lasted for centuries and finally ended with a separation of church and state.

In his city-state of Geneva, Calvin tried to realise the Sermon on the Mount as the strict rule of life, but even there he could not establish the kingdom of God. Only when our Lord returns will He set up His kingdom and fill the earth with His righteousness. With this, the law of Christ remains a "shall" and a "must"; however the cross of Christ is our "possession" and our comfort. The Holy Spirit urges us to keep the law of Christ completely, helps us to overcome our weak natures, and enables us to bring forth words and deeds of love. He is also the comforter, who points us to the crucified One amidst our frequent failures. Apart from the cross we have no righteousness.

The Idea of the Kingdom of Allah in Islam

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From the beginning Muhammad pursued more than just a religious goal of influencing the animists in Mecca and Medina so that they might subject themselves to Allah, the only God. Muhammad wanted to subdue all aspects of the existing society for Allah and his messengers. The idea of realising the kingdom of Allah on this earth is the principle duty of every Muslim and the actual goal of Islam. For this reason the Islamic calendar does not begin with the birth of Muhammad, nor with the first revelation of Allah to him, but with the date of his emigration from Mecca to Medina (September 24, 622). Previous to that more than 100 Muslims had stood the test for years under persecution in Mecca. Some had abandoned their homes and goods and fled to Ethiopia and later returned. But their faith and suffering are not interpreted as entirely Islamic. Only as Muhammad became ruler in Medina and founded a religious city-state was Islam born. This event teaches us that Islam is not only a religion in the Western sense of the word, which finds its spiritual self-understanding in dogmatic articles of faith, practical acts of kindness and a certain hope of eternity. No, Islam has realised itself only where it has become a state. Only then, when Islam is recognised as the state religion in a land and when the Sharia is introduced as the primary source of all legislation, does this desert religion come to rest.

In the first years of the expansion of Islam, the world was divided by Muslims into a "house of Islam" and a "house of war." Where Islam reigned and shaped all areas of life, Islamic peace ruled; where Islam did not govern or where it represented only a minority, war reigned. The goal of Muslim missions is not the conversion of individuals, but the subjugation, penetration and domination of an entire people.

Islam is a political religion. War, taxes, might, glory and the sword belong just as much to a form of self-expression as the new mosques, the dominance of men, multiplication of children and the public whipping of thieves, adulterers and hashish smugglers. These outward manifestations of Islam are not mistakes of individual Muslims or of fanatic Islamic groups, but are deeply anchored in the Qur'an and in Islamic law.

In an age of renewed Islamic strength, related to the oil billions, there appears to be an increasing stagnation in the liberalisation and the secularisation in individual Islamic countries in the last 200 years. The revolution of Khomeini was a rebuke to the Islamic socialism of Nasser and brought it back within bounds. The aged leader in Persia systematically hastened the elimination of all Christian, Communist, Western and Eastern influences out of Shiite Islam. He wanted to erect the kingdom of Allah in a pure culture, as the laboratory and source of strength for the revival of world Islam.

From the Khomeini revolution shock waves went forth into many Islamic countries. The Sunni Muslim Brotherhood received strong stimulus through him. In some Syrian cities it provoked bloody battles between the Syrian army and these fundamentalists of Islam. All members of the Muslim Brotherhood are on the black list of Syria, because their goal is not only a religious renewal of Islam, but is at the same time for the overthrow of the liberal Alawite government. InJordan the king aligned himself with the Muslim Brotherhood for a time. They were growing in numbers and trained militarily in the cellars of the mosques. Finally the king had to imprison their leaders and to limit their activities. In Egypt the battle is still undecided. Sadat was shot to death by Islamic fanatics. Mubarak tries to balance the country between extreme Islam and socialism. In Sudan, Numeiri, upon pressure from Saudi Arabia, had introduced the Sharia as the law of legislation in his land. With the introduction of Islamic law in Sudan, Numeiri released the prisoners from the jails, because they had been judged under the wrong law. He gave the discharged prisoners some pocket money, so that they could make a new beginning and warned them: "Now begins the merciless time of law. Watch out that you don't commit a crime again. In the new age there is no more grace, only law." As a result a civil war flared up in the south, since the majority of animists and Christians are not ready to bow under the Islamic yoke. Numeiri had to flee from his own country and the Sharia was set aside by a military government. Other states who view the Sharia as the legal basis for their nation are Saudi Arabia, Libya, the Gulf States, Iran and Pakistan.

The immediate goal of the Islamic fundamentalists is the reformation of all Islamic countries, with force if necessary, so that the kingdom of Allah will become a reality. Hands are chopped off for thefts, men and women are whipped or stoned when they have violated the laws of the Sharia. Revolutionary guards shoot anyone to death who is suspected of being an enemy of Khomeini, since the full adaptation of the Sharia to Iranian law and modern life is not yet concluded. Until then free will has its reign.

Besides the self-realisation of Islam in the different countries, Islam pushes for a co-operation of all the Islamic countries and their union in an Islamic world empire. The spirit of this religion, however, is pride. Muslims do not want to subject themselves to other men. As long as there is no dominating Islamic ruler who subjugates the other Muslim countries with an iron hand, there will be no united Islamic kingdom of God. The Gulf War is an indication of this. The unrest in the Islamic countries is great. In the meantime, Qaddafi finances overthrows, revolutions and terrorists in many countries of the world and tries to incite alienated Christian groups against each other. He writes political-religious treatises and makes it clear to Christian theologians ready for dialogue, that in the future, the Qur'anic Christ can be the only basis for discussions between Muslims and Christians.

The world mission of Islam has received strong impetus in all parts of the world. The high birth rate of the Islamic countries, which exceeds 25 million a year, is the most significant reason for the spread of Islam, while the Christian countries stagnate because of birth control. It was originally the oil weapon, later the finance weapon and finally political strategies that provided the impetus that drove the third Islamic thrust into all continents. Islamic universities are built at pivotal points in important centres of the world. Businesses and research firms are bought up and Islamic workers in the lands of the West are motivated to become active Muslims. The Protestant countries of Europe and the USA must reckon that by the year 2050 approximately 100 million Muslims could be living in Europe. Who can grasp the consequences of such a development?

The Muslims in Europe and America can evangelise without hindrance person to person on the street and in the media, but every Islamic country (except Pakistan) forbids the activities of Christian missionaries in their lands. Missionaries are expelled. Skilled Christian workers must sign an agreement stating that during their stay in the guest land they will not be active as missionaries. Charitable works which still exist from the colonial times are put under pressure to work only socially and not evangelistically.

In several Islamic countries Christian churches still exist dating from the time of early Christendom. These minorities, who have survived severe storms for 52 generations like islands in an Islamic ocean, have once again come under increasing pressure in the last decade. In 1979 200 evangelical Christians were thrown into prisons in Iraq, because they had arranged house meetings without permission. In 1980 the Bishop of the Anglican Church in Iran had to flee because he was shot at. His son, pastors and laymen of his church died as martyrs. In Egypt in 1981 eight bishops, 50 clergymen and many laymen from the Coptic and evangelical church were locked up and detained for a long time. They had been suspected of promoting the separation of Christian groups and of evangelising Muslims. In 1984 in Morocco more than 100 converts from Islam were interrogated and their literature confiscated, while several active Christians were locked up and put under pressure. A church elder in Morocco said, "We must prepare our congregation for suffering, so that in the time of persecution they will not flee." In 1987 about 80 churches in northern Nigeria were burned and about 60 Christians killed. The churches in various Islamic countries are coming under increasing pressure. The prominent example is Lebanon, where increasing signs indicate that for more than 10 years already the bridgehead of Christianity in the world of Islam is being decimated and shattered.

Anyone who travels as a tourist in Islamic countries sometimes finds outstanding hospitality and much friendliness. If the tourists only knew what the native Muslims think and say about the half-naked girls on the beaches they would be ashamed. Probably the only one who understands Islam and its collective power is the one who has lived for a longer time among Muslims, has tactfully represented Jesus Christ before their eyes, and as a consequence has felt their increasing rejection. Those who evangelise Muslims with prayer and love will understand and endure the fact that Islam is an expression of an anti-Christian spirit. This spirit not only guides individual Muslims; it guides his attitude which is manifested in most of the Islamic countries and in their laws, which reject open preaching about the crucified Son of God.

Christ and the Kingdom of God

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The message of Jesus Christ had the kingdom of God as its goal from the very beginning. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel." The Lord has always claimed all creation as His own. His final command for world mission encompasses all cultures and peoples.

Christ's goal, however, does not mean a mere political kingdom. He said to the Roman governor Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world... I am a King. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice" (John 18:36-37). Jesus wanted to establish aneverlasting kingdom according to His own nature by way of a new creation. He was the kernel of wheat, His kingdom the multiplied fruit. He was a real man and the true God. His followers should be like Him, existing in the world, but at the same time born of God's Spirit and living eternally. To the extent that Muhammad and Christ differ from each other, so the kingdom of Christ differs from the Islamic state. Muhammad did not know nor experience the Holy Spirit, and rejected the cross of Christ. The Islamic state is an imitation of Muhammad; the church of Christ should be an imitation of Jesus.

The history of the apostles shows us that the Holy Spirit never guided the apostles to train terrorists, or make attacks for political revolts. Christ renounced violence and pointed to a spiritual kingdom from the beginning. His love, nurturing and care was consolidated in the building of His church. She is the apple of His eye and at the same time His body. He said to His disciples, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." Thereby God is acting through men with His authority. Christ's church can never be a political kingdom, like that of Muhammad's, for Muslims are only natural people. But Christians are born from the Spirit of God. Jesus prayed to His Father for them: "I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world... As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world" (John 17:14,18).

All who are called out of spiritual death into life, out of the anonymity of the masses into the family of God, and who serve God and mankind, represent the kingdom of God in this age. To their ranks also belong the uncountable number of believers who have already died, yet who live in Christ. In them the word of Jesus has proved true: "Many are called, but few are chosen." The call of Christ always encompasses the entire world, but only those who open themselves to the power of the Holy Spirit, to his love and self-discipline, will live eternally. To them the Lord spoke, "The kingdom of God is within you."

Whoever wants to make the church a political, sociological or an economic instrument of power, as Muhammad did with Islam, will not find any promise from Christ. Whoever thinks that changing agelong living conditions may create better people, has not yet understood the ABC's of the kingdom of God, which state that only changing one's mind through faith in Jesus Christ will bring real life into the heart. In the midst of a world far from God and dying in unrighteousness, He grants love and hope. We do not need political revolts and bloody revolutions, but new men and women! Christ awakens those who are dead in sin to a new life in the power of His Spirit. The church of Christ is totally different from the Islamic state. The existence of the Holy Spirit in the church is the decisive factor in the difference between Islam and Christianity. In a Muslim there dwells no Holy Spirit, nor is he really known in Islam.

Where Muslims hope to become a great political and economic power to spread the kingdom of Allah over the world, even by force if necessary, the mission of Christ has as its preliminary goal the spiritual renewal of the individual. Only when individuals reform inwardly and change their thinking, when they become His followers through a personal encounter with the resurrected One, then the kingdom of God will be realised in our time. Every Christian should be a witness for Jesus in his family, in school, at work, in the club or in the church and, when possible, even abroad. The kingdom of God comes today where Jesus Christ, through His messengers, restores those who are spiritually dead to life through the gospel.

When Islam employs "great power and much cunning" in order to build its kingdom, we should begin to love Muslims, to understand them, to pray for individuals and speak to them personally about the true Jesus, who died for them on the cross too. Some Muslim guest workers or students will return to their homeland. Our Lord will ask us one time, who in the Christian Occident has depicted the Saviour of the world before the eyes of these strangers, or who has at least paid them some attention, and prayed for them, so that they felt the nearness of Christ and His love.

The kingdom of Christ will only be manifested in its splendour with the return of Jesus Christ. Presently we see strong vestiges of His love and power. But when He comes, His followers will be transformed in the resurrection to live in His spiritual body. Then it will become clear that in the end the kingdom of God means eternal life with Jesus Christ. Our hope is not sumptuous pleasure in gardens and oases, like the Qur'an promises Muslims, but in returning home as lost sons and daughters to our Father. Then it will be plain that Jesus, the crucified Son of God is Lord of all Lords and King of all Kings. Every knee will bow before the Father and the Son. Even Muhammad will be forced to give Jesus the honour, when the Islamic lie of Satan will be revealed, and the demonic power of this spirit will be totally shattered. In Sura al-Zukhruf 43:81 Muhammad cynically said, "If the All-merciful would have a son, then I would be the first to serve him!" The glory of the Son of God at the end will humble even Muhammad to bow in worship.

Christ is victor. He is liberating individual Muslims from their collective bonds. When they fully entrust themselves to Him He sanctifies them completely as examples of His love and truth. The kingdom of Jesus Christ will come inevitably -- even in the world of Islam today.

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