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An Outline Introduction to Islam


Orville Boyd Jenkins

A.  The Prophets.  The Muslims are called upon to accept the prophets that have gone before, having been sent by God to the various tribes of the world.  It is held that God has not left himself without witness among any people, but has sent a prophet to every people, to call them to submission to Himself, the One True God.  Adam, the first created human being, was the first prophet.

B.  The Books.  It was enjoined on the Muslims to believe in the previous books sent by God through his prophets.  Only a very few special prophets were given books by Allah.  Notably the Hebrew line is so distinguished.  The books referred to in the Our'an are: Taurat (the Torah, given to Moses), The Zabur (The Psalms, given to David), The Injil (The Gospel, given to Jesus) and The Our' an (given to Muhammad).  The final book was the Our'an Thus it supersedes all the other books, just as Muhammad became the Seal of the Prophets, superseding all those who preceded him.

C.  Jesus (Isa).  Jesus is an important figure in the Our'an and traditions of Islam.  The Messiahship of Jesus is acknowledged.  Jesus is portrayed in the Our'an as a model Muslim.  A tradition states that Jesus will be a witness against sinners in the final judgement.  The uniqueness of Jesus is acknowledged in a strong emphasis on the virgin Birth of Jesus.  The Our'an states that Jesus was born without a human father, having been conceived by a special miracle of God.

The terms spirit and word are used of Jesus.  But these terms entail different concepts from those normally understood by Christian believers.  Still, these and other common terms may be the starting point of dialogue which may lead to witness.  (See details on these themes in The Path of Love, by this author.)

Muhammad rebukes the Christians for calling Jesus the Son of God.  He seems to associate the concept of trinity, and the sonship of Jesus, with the old Semitic pagan trinity.  He also fails to recognize the special Christian use of the term "son." He seems to take it literally as the result of a physical sexual union of Allah and Mary.  To him this denied the total "otherness" of God.  Muslims continue to maintain this argument against the Christian use of the term "Son of God."

D.  Punishment & Reward.  Muhammad follows the tradition of the Hebrew prophets in pronouncing terrible judgement on the disobedient and unbelieving.  Islam maintains vivid concepts of hell and paradise.  Paradise is an idyllic place of comfort and calm, restful pleasure, while hell is a pitiful and painful punishment in anguish.  Hadiths (traditions) mention the Mahdi, or Deliverer, sometimes identified with Jesus, sometimes with another.  Jesus is widely believed to be the judge in the last judgement.

E.  The Angels.  Muhammad put belief in the angels very high on his list of faith requirements.  Related to this, the Arabic concepts of other spiritual beings were also brought into Islam.  These were the shetani or jinn.  These were mischievous desert spirits.  The jinns were also thought to be what we call "familiar spirits." It is said that Muhammad preached to the jinns of the desert and they eagerly embraced Islam.

The word shetani is also used for the leader of evil spirits.  (This is the same word found in the Hebrew form Satan, meaning "an adversary.")  The name Iblis is also used for this evil angel.  Iblis is derived, most likely through the Arab Christians, from the Greek word diaboloV (diabolos), meaning "a slanderer"), from which comes the English word "devil."  Iblis was cast out of heaven because he and his followers refused to worship Adam at the command of God.


Originally published in An Outline Introduction to Islam (Nairobi:  Communication Press, 1991.)
Posted on Thoughts and Resources 20 November 2007

Orville Boyd Jenkins, Ed.D., Ph.D.
Copyright © 1991, 2007 by Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

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