Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Part XXIV: Terror in London, Nihilism, Islamic State

Part XXIV: Terror in London, Nihilism, and the Islamic State
by Abu Daoud

Some time ago I received an e-mail from a colleague and friend with ministry experience in the UK and Africa. He asked some questions about Islam, terrorism, and the Islamic State. I thought I would share my answers to his questions with you all. His questions are in italics.

I am (rightly or wrongly) slightly put off by some Christians who are very anti-Islam and see ISIS as the true face Islam. But I wonder if ISIS is not a Western phenomenon in many ways?

You are right in that many Christians are indeed very anti-Islam. I think it is important to not assume that ISIS is 'the' face of Islam. On the other hand, to dismiss it as 'not Islam at all' as all the pols in the UK (and many in the USA) do--that is clearly wrong too. When I share with Christians here about Islam, which I do often, I encourage them to form Christ-centered relations with Muslims. If Muslims are in fact the enemies of the Church, then we know how to treat them--love your enemy. If, on the other hand, they are merely our neighbors, we also know how to respond to them--love. The witness of the love of God in the life of a Christian is powerful and strong and is the main thing we see drawing Muslims to Christ around the world today.

As to ISIS being a Western phenomenon, I would say no. Islamic State has a very real and valid claim to trying to emulate the very first generations of Muslims, even with all their brutality and terror. Muhammad himself said, "Allah has made me victorious through terror." So why would Muslims not do this today? He, as the founder of Islam, imparted a very specific DNA to his community, and while it can mutate and change, it can only go so far. Same thing with Jesus and Christianity. Churches that become so divorced from the original praxis and doxa of the Church eventually die out (Church of Scotland, for instance) or become distinct religions (Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses). IS in killing and terrorizing and raping is following the Qur'an. They are doing it more literally than most Muslims do (thank God), but there is no question that they have a Qur'an warrant for everything they do. 

If there is one area where the IS is Western, or modern, really, it is in their use of Internet and media. They are very good at this. This is a key reason why IS has been successful in doing what Al Qaeda (another important reform movement in 20th Century Islam) was not able to do.

I am also perplexed about the horrible bombings in Europe, and occasionally in America, which are seen as expressions of Islam rather than as expressions of a nihilistic Western culture - in which maladjusted and non-practising Westernised Muslims, usually drug addicts, seem to go crazy. The Anders Breivik, Thomas McVeigh and Columbine rampage killings seem to fit into the same category of deranged young men taking their frustrations out on society. 

So the question is, can we believe people when they tell us why they are doing what they are doing? Breivik and McVeigh told us why they did what they did, and neither had to do with Christianity or the Bible or Jesus. They were motivated by nationalism or racism, if I recall the two cases. Similarly, when Muslims carry out attacks they are quite clear about why they are doing what they are doing. What warrant do we have to say that they do not in fact understand their own motives? Their answers are very clear and they cite the Qur'an and the hadith carefully. It is true that some of them (especially in Europe) are not well-educated. But many of them came from lives of frug use and morality and their decision to wage Jihad was part and parcel of their reformation as they left those things behind. In Christian circles it is not uncommon to hear of a drug-addict or criminal who had a dramatic conversion experience and went on to become an evangelist or pastor. We simply have the Muslim parallel here. 

Is it perhaps really nihilism that motivates these young men (and increasingly, women)? Nihilism is a philosophical school that asserts that all religious and moral principles are to be rejected, and that life is meaningless. Now that is certainly not what these men and women believe. It is precisely because they believe that they are called to assert the absolute triumph of Allah and his Prophet that they are called to "slay the unbelievers wherever you find them" (Qur'an 9:5) and "fight in the way of Allah" (Qur'an 2:190) "until the religion--all of it--is for Allah" (8:39). After all, as the Prophet, the ideal human and template for all human action, said, "Paradise is in the shade of swords." Whatever that is, it is not nihilism. It is rather a community of young men who are rejecting the nihilism of the secular West which can no long alert any absolute truth about anything at all. They are rejecting that nihilism and they hate it--as they should, for it is inhumane and hopeless--and then they are taking up a great and noble quest: to establish the absolute of reign of Allah over the whole earth--until all religion--all of it--is for Allah.

So, on the contrary, it is against nihilism that these men strive.

It is also incorrect to conclude that these people are doing this out of thuggery. Some do come from that background. But many of the most eminent mujahidin were well educated. All of the 9/11 men were, the men who executed the July 7 operation in the London Tube were too. The head of Al Qaeda is a medical doctor. The Caliph himself holds a PhD in Islamic Studies. Many more examples could be given.But that sword cuts both ways (it always does). If we dismiss their sincerity and devotion because they are not educated, then we must surely toss out the window most of the Apostles and that uneducated peasant girl, Mary. Are you ready to do this? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

As to 99.9%, that is certainly wrong. Also, the word 'terrorism' is misleading. One man's terrorism is another man's struggle for freedom. What the West calls terrorism, many Muslims don't. In the UK alone there are 26,000 Muslims under the surveillance of MI5. One of the recent attackers at the London Bridge had been on that list, but there were other 'higher priorities' to deal with, so they stopped monitoring him. That doesn't equal .1% at all. 

Thanks for the questions! Very good. And let me know what you think. I'm glad to continue this conversation.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

David Virtue interviews Abu Daoud on Sharing Jesus with Muslims in America

I was very pleased to be interviewed by David Virtue earlier today on my recent book Sharing Jesus with Muslims in America. Read it all HERE.

Also, please do share it, and leave your comments on David's page rather than here.

Here is a taste of the interview:
VOL: Can moderate Islamists co-exist with Christians? 
DAOUD: The Muslim world is trying to figure out what moderate Islam is. I don't really know what that means. Does it mean Islam without shari'a? Then it's not Islam anymore. Does it mean a-political Islam? Islam is and always has been an empire and legal system as well a religion. Like the Ayatollah said, "Islam is politics, or it's not Islam." 
But we certainly can form relations with Muslims in America. You may be worried about cultural queues and what is appropriate or not. Well, get the book because we cover all that. In the end, if you are acting out of love and charity then any missteps will be forgiven. 
Just start praying every morning, "Lord, give me a Muslim friend." Not the most eloquent prayer, I know, but just do it. Let God surprise you!
Read the rest of it HERE.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Abu Daoud's new book: Sharing Jesus with Muslims in America

Dear Friends,

I am very happy to share with you this new book which is available both in print and Kindle editions through Amazon.

The Muslim population in the United States is growing quickly, and there are no signs of this growth slowing down. So how should Christians respond? With fear? With tolerance? By ignoring Muslims?  Or with boldness, hope, and the Good News of Jesus Christ, clearly the biblical answer. For centuries the church did not go to Muslims with the gospel because Christians thought it was too dangerous or too difficult. Now God is bringing Muslims to America where Christians can lead them to Christ. But when I share this opportunity with churches around the country, I'm asked, “But how? How do I meet Muslims? How can my church make the connections?” This book seeks to answer those questions and more. If you are a Christian, I hope you will open your heart to God’s plan for Muslims in your community.  You can start by reading this book.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Muhammad, anxious about his own eternal fate

Recently ran across this interesting hadith, which shows just how worried Muhammad was about his own eternal fate:

Narrated Masruq:

‘Aisha said that a Jewess came to her and mentioned the punishment in the grave, saying to her, "May Allah protect you from the punishment of the grave."

‘Aisha then asked Allah’s Apostle about the punishment of the grave. He said, "Yes, (there is) punishment in the grave."

‘Aisha added, "After that I never saw Allah’s Apostle but seeking refuge with Allah from the punishment in the grave in every prayer he prayed." 

Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23, Number 454

Friday, July 25, 2014

A liturgy for the Baptism of a convert from Islam


Here is part IV of my series on sacraments and mission, which I started many years ago for St Francis Magazine. This one contains an introduction summarizing why I think that liturgy is valuable for those engaged in mission to and among Muslims, and then contains a liturgy for baptism (of an adult) based on the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church (USA), which yes is very liberal, but the liturgy in the Prayer Book  is very good.

So check it out, try it out if you are doing any work among Muslims, and let me know what you think.

'Mission and Sacrament, Part IV: A Liturgy for the Baptism of Muslims, to be Conducted on the Feast of Pentecost' in St Francis Magazine Vol 10:2, June 2014.

The first three articles can be found (in order) here, here, and here.


Abu Daoud

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why the rise of Extermism among Muslims in the Middle East?

Why the rise of Extermism among Muslims in the Middle East?
by Abu Daoud

I was recently asked to comment on this topic, and here is what I wrote

There is a complex web of reasons, but I think overall here are the main reasons:

1. The failure to achieve success by copying European models, including capitalism and communism. Capitalism cannot work in the ME because it requires a) rule of law, and b) freedom to form new businesses and c) creativity to invent new products. All of these are lacking because of deeply ingrained traditions of favoring one's own religion or family or tribe. I do trace this back to Islam (a lot of people don't), where the dhimmi system forces people to discriminate against non-Muslims, and where the shari'a is clear that women are worth less than men, and of course the Arabo-centric facet of Islam, which more or less implies that God is an Arab, because his book is in Arabic and cannot be translated, and thus Arabs are (in reality, not in theory) better than non-Arabs. (This last reason is why lots of Berbers and Pakistanis and Iranians have left Islam, by the way.) 

2. Regarding creativity, I feel that Islam clearly suppresses it because when you cannot ask basic questions about God and his prophet and book, then at a basic level you are taught not to be critical and analytical. This then overflows from the area of religion into other areas like commerce and computer science and so on. I trace this back historically to the victory of asharites over the mu'atazila and the affirmation of bila kayf--that certain doctrines must be affirmed but without asking why. The doctrine of al insan al kamil (the ideal or perfect man) comes up here too, because a quick glance at Muhammad's life shows he is clearly not perfect.

3. A related, but minor, point: commerce was hindered in the Ottoman Empire because the formation of corporations was legally impossible. So there was no incentive to form large international businesses, because upon the owner's death it had to pass on to his sons, whether they were good or bad. This has been remedied, but centuries too late.

4. This rise of independent nation states and authoritarian governments. One of the most unfortunate aspects of society in the ME is the tendency to always blame others for any problem that takes place, rather than to try to address problems as far as on can. Anyway, with the end of European hegemony countries were formed and to a real degree free to govern themselves. It is true they were never entirely free to do as they please, but this does not matter--no country (or person) is entirely free to do as they please. So authoritarian governments arose and they did not prosper, at least not to the extent that some people thought they should. I too attribute this to the very DNA of Islam. When Muhammad died there was right away a great struggle between the Shi'a and the Sunni, and we also see this principle operating in the wars of apostasy or hurub al ridda. Historically one finds that Islamic societies over the long term alternate between authoritarian governments and anarchy/tribalism. The period of European colonialism artificially enforced Western practices of government and business that were foreign to Islam. And when Europe left, these traditions started to deteriorate. Authoritarian governments silenced public discourse, but they could not or would not silence the discourse of Islam, including Islamic reforms which we in the West call radicalism or extremism, but which are really just reformed Islam.

5. The problem of natural resources. Egypt's population in 1900 was about five million, today it is about 80 million. Many of the countries in the Middle East do not have the natural resources to feed their enormous populations. Right now Egypt imports over 50% of its wheat. That is an amazing number. This naturally results is large numbers of unemployed young men, many cannot get married because they don't have a job. With the reformed Islamic militant ideology (a more accurate term than fundamentalist, I think) present, the opportunity to be part of something new and good and powerful (like the Caliphate) is attractive. This is not so much a reason for the Islamic reformation (to radicalism) but is a key reason that right now it is easily able to get recruits. The Middle East has a demographic profile that makes economic prosperity almost impossible in many countries, coupled with the non-critical education (mentioned above) and the lack of rule of law

6. One often hears that the Arab-Israel problem is at the heart of the problems in the region. I think that even if all Israel-Palestine was again ruled by Muslims and the Jews who arrived by Aliyah were made to leave and then a lot of European and American Jews would leave voluntarily this would not solve anything at all.  Indeed, even if every Jew left and every Palestinian refugee returned and all those apartments in Tel Aviv and Haifa were given to them, it would not decisively change the dynamic described above. I do believe, as unpopular as it is to say so, that many of the problems we see in the ME today can be traced to the very heart of Islam--the life and practice of Muhammad.

More than you wanted to hear I think! Why do you ask? I liked the book Sandcastles: Arabs in search of the Modern World by Milton Viorst on this topic. They have it at the library at St George's College in Jerusalem. I still think that reading Qutb's Milestones is the best intro for people who want to know more. His writings are like those of Martin Luther, sometimes brilliant, sometimes with gaping holes of logic.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My predictions on the Arab Spring, from January 2012

Hi All,

I was recently going over this interview I did with Don Warrington at Positive Infinity for another interview I'm doing right now, and I was struck by how I nailed the Arab Spring all the way back in January of 2012. Check this out:

6) Where do you see MENA going, especially in view of events such as the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and the Arab Spring?

This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? First, the people who protested didn’t take political control, so as much as they wanted freedom and democracy, they just won’t get it, I’m sorry to say. The Egyptian elections were demonstrably corrupt, though the international press has not said so—I have no idea why. The Islamists will take power and they will not let it go. And why is this surprising? That is precisely what Muhammad did—engaged in diplomacy and compromise and so on, but once he had power he was ruthless. In the end, an Islamic society cannot be a free society. Islam and freedom are mutually exclusive.

The question I have is this: will it be like Iran? After the revolution in `79 Islam had a chance to prove itself in the political arena, and Islam, unlike Christianity, makes substantial guarantees in this area. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians have concluded that Islam failed—it did not deliver politically so it must be false in terms of its religious and spiritual claims too. They have turned to Christianity some of them, and some to secular humanism or atheism. Will this happen in these newly Islamist states? Perhaps. I pray it will. Islam’s love of political power may well be its Achilles’ heel. Meanwhile, that means the native Christians need to stay as long as they can, and foreign missionaries like me need to stay no matter what. I will do it. Maybe the kids and wife need to go back to the US, I will do everything I can to stay here even if all hell breaks loose.
Anyway, if you didn't read the interview when it came out, I think it contains a good summary of my own philosophy of mission and opinions regarding the Arab world today: here are Part 1 and Part 2.