By William Wagner
Many writers on Islam have tried to find one word that will best describe the fastest growing religion in the world. In my reading I have found different authors using numerous words such as "justice," "sacrifice," "submission," and "community." The more I study the religion, the more I am convinced that the one word that best describes Islam is "fear." The different actions of Muslims today all seem to be a reflection of the fear that has built up within the individual.
One Muslim Moroccan scholar, Fatima Mersissi, used fear as her main theme when writing her book, Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World, seven of her ten chapter titles include the word fear. They are:
Chapter one "Fear of the Foreign West"
Chapter two "Fear of the Imam"
Chapter three "Fear of Democracy"
Chapter six "Fear of Freedom of Thought"
Chapter seven "Fear of Individualism"
Chapter eight "Fear of the Past"
Chapter nine "Fear of the Present"
In looking at several of these categories, it is plain that the average Muslim lives in fear. This is especially true to those who now live in the West. Here are six reasons why Islam is a religion of fear.
1. The Fear of Allah.
He is not the loving God that we find in Christianity but one who rules with an iron fist. The Koran tells the readers that they should fear Allah. Not only do they fear their God but they are deathly afraid of being eternally damned by an angry Allah. Their religion does not give much assurance of salvation. The only Muslims guaranteed a place in Heaven is those who die in a Jihad or those who die while on a pilgrimage to Mecca. They hope they will be allowed into Heaven, but there is no certainty. This is why Islam is the apex of a "works" religion. They must do all that the Koran tells them to do if they are going to have any chance of getting into Heaven.
2. The Fear of Hell.
In Islam, Hell is described in very graphic terms in both the Koran and the Hadith. Their theology teaches that there are several levels of Hell. The first level of Hell is reserved for Muslim sinners, the second is for idolaters who were polytheists, the third level is for worshippers of fire, and the fourth level is for atheists. By the time you get to the fifth and sixth levels you find out who are the real enemies of Islam because the fifth is reserved for Jews and the sixth for the Christians. The seventh and last is for hypocrites which could include Muslims. All Muslims who have not pleased God will also fall into one of the hells, but by the grace of Allah, they can be brought out. It is true that as Christians, we have a fiery Hell as a part of our theology, but we concentrate more on Heaven than on Hell. In the holy writings of Islam there are very graphic descriptions of the pain and torment that will be experience by those in Hell. Such graphic details as skin being slowly peeled off the body only to grow back again and peeled off again and again, bloated stomachs exploding because of the liquid they drink, and other painful experiences are vividly described. Reading such descriptions only elevate the fear level in believers.
3. The Fear of Apostasy.
One of the laws in their legal system (Shariah) is the penalty for apostasy. This word describes a person who was either born a Muslim or who converted to Islam and then decides to leave Islam for another belief. This means that if a Muslim ever converts to another religion or belief they are to be killed. They are given three days to change their minds. After this time of grace they are to be killed. This is carried out today in many Muslim countries that practice Shariah law. Thus too much contact with Christians might lead to their leaving Islam and warrant death. At a recent conference for leading Islamic clerics, this topic was discussed. Some moderate leaders said that it should be God that punishes the ones leaving Islam and not man. They said that Allah can send the person to Hell, saving man the responsibility of punishing the one who turns their back on Islam. The final decision, however, was that the Koran, which prescribes capital punishment for leaving Islam, cannot be changed thus the rule still stands. It should be added that one reason those at the conference did not want to change the law was their fear that there would be a mass exodus from Islam if this fear of death were removed.
4. The Fear of their Life Situation.
Another type of fear that we in the West are not subjected to is the fear that many immigrants have for their relatives and friends in their home countries. They constantly read of wars, terrorists' attacks, and revolutions taking place in their home country. Once I was at a conference in Cyprus with many from the Middle East. I saw a group from Lebanon gathered in a circle listening to the news on the radio. All of them were crying. I asked them why they were crying and they answered that the city of Tyre was being bombed. I repeated the question, "But why are you crying?" They answered, "Tyre is our home." We in the West do not have to live with this constant fear of what will happen to our loved ones at home.
5. The Fear of Democracy
"Democracy" is one of the few foreign words adopted into the Arabic language. When Muslims hear the word, they feel that it is something against their culture. The fact that today democratic principles are having some success in Islamic countries is practically a miracle. Many of the more radical Muslims know that the coming of democracy will blunt their favorite tool- "The Sword," thus Muslims are constantly told to be afraid of democracy and are constantly told that it is a tool of the devil.
6. The Fear of the West.
The word for the West in Arabic is Gharb. This is their word for a place of darkness and the incomprehensible. They see our western world in a negative light, thus they fear both the people of the West and their religion, Christianity. In fact a dominant teaching in Islam has the whole world divided into two camps. One is Dar al-Islam -and the other is Dar al-Harb. Either you are a Muslim and belong to the house of Islam, or you are of the house of war and to be rejected and feared. To exist outside of Islam puts you at odd with your culture, your people, your values and even your God. They fear all who live in this strange world that exists parallel to Islam but is in opposition to it.
Almost all Muslims that I have met have a great amount of fear in their lives once you get past the outer layer of piety. The often marvel at how we in the West can be so positive about our religion and our relationship with God. This gives us a great opportunity to tell them of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we can be assured of our salvation through our faith in Him. Paul wrote to Timothy "God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love and sound judgment," 2 Timothy 1:7(HSCB)
Let us as Christians, do all we can to bring our Muslims brothers and sisters out of the darkness of fear and into the light of love and hope.