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September 23, 2020

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A reflection on Osama bin Laden’s “Letter to America” – Part II: Main Tenets of Islamic Belief

11 min read
Osama

In November of 2002, a letter purported to have been written by Osama bin Laden, famous leader of  the  Islamic terrorist group Al Qaeda, was posted in the UK’s Observer. The letter first appeared on the internet in Arabic on websites that support Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network and then was translated and circulated by Islamists in Britain.

The purpose of this letter, according to the author, was to respond “as an explanation and warning” to a question many in the west have been asking for over a year: that being, “On what basis are we fighting?”

Part 1 of this Series covered the Geographical and Historical Development of Islam.

Part II:  The Main tenets of belief –

The author of the letter described Islam:

The religion of the Unification of God; of freedom from associating partners with Him, and rejection of this; of complete love of Him, the Exalted; of complete submission to His Laws; and of the discarding of all the opinions, orders, theories and religions which contradict with the religion He sent down to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Islam is the religion of all the prophets, and makes no distinction between them – peace be upon them all.

It is to this religion that we call you; the seal of all the previous religions. It is the religion of Unification of God, sincerity, the best of manners, righteousness, mercy, honor, purity, and piety. It is the religion of showing kindness to others, establishing justice between them, granting them their rights, and defending the oppressed and the persecuted. It is the religion of enjoining the good and forbidding the evil with the hand, tongue and heart. It is the religion of Jihad in the way of Allah so that Allah’s Word and religion reign Supreme. And it is the religion of unity and agreement on the obedience to Allah, and total equality between all people, without regarding their color, sex, or language.

It is the religion whose book – the Quran – will remained preserved and unchanged, after the other Divine books and messages have been changed. The Quran is the miracle until the Day of Judgment. Allah has challenged anyone to bring a book like the Quran or even ten verses like it.”

Islamic tradition says that Abraham’s wife, Sarah, wanted to insure that her own son, Isaac, be Abraham’s sole heir and that Abraham’s son, Ishmael, by the slave, Hagar, be sent away. Hagar and her son wandered off to the area near the Red Sea and Hagar sat on a rock and wept, afraid that she and her son would die of thirst in the desert. As she wept, her son kicked the sand in anger. At the spot where he kicked, a spring of fresh water erupted.

When Abraham heard of this miracle, he came and built a temple near the spring and called it Ka’bah. He set in the east corner a black cornerstone that he had inherited from his forefathers, which tradition says Adam brought from the Garden of Eden. Near the temple, close to the Spring of Ishmael (Zemzem), Ishmael grew up, and eventually his children and grandchildren surrounded the temple with a new city called Mecca.

Another tradition says that the Ka’bah was built in heaven and when Adam was driven out of Eden, he built a Ka’bah just like it as a memorial. It was not far from Adam’s Ka’bah that Ishmael kicked the sand and caused the Zemzem, the Sacred Well, to open up. The children of Ishmael multiplied, and the Sacred City of Mecca then grew there. Ishmael’s children eventually grew into a race called “Arabs” and spread out east north and south. The children of Israel, son of Isaac, multiplied into a race called “Jews”.

Islam can be divided into “iman” (beliefs) and “deen” (obligations).

THE MAJOR BELIEFS INCLUDE:

1. God – monotheism is the central doctrine of Islam. To associate a partner with him is commit the unforgivable sin of ishrak (shirk). Islam incorporates all the monotheists and sees itself as the fulfillment of all religions.

2. Angels – Gabriel is the highest, followed by the other angels. Each person has an angel assigned to him to record his good deeds and another to record the bad. At the bottom are jinn, who, created from fire, are usually evil and can possess people.

3. The Prophets of God – God has sent 124,000 prophets to every nation on earth to preach monotheism. This includes Adam, Noah, Moses, Abraham, David, and Jesus. Muhammad is considered the “seal” of the prophets, and is the prophet for all time.

4. The Holy Books – Four high ranking prophets were given books with divine revelation. Moses was given the Torah (Tawrat), David the Psalms (Zabur), Jesus the Gospel (Injil), and Mohammad the Qur’an. Muslims believe that only the Qur’an as been kept from corruption. This book, containing 114 surahs, or chapters, is to be read only in Arabic. It is believed that if translated, it is no longer the Qur’an, as any translations have the potential of being corrupted. Devout Muslims, therefore, must learn Arabic. An Islamic doctrine called “tahrif” teaches that the Jews and the Christians corrupted the early texts of the Bible. Example verses from the Qur’an include:

“A party of them heard the Word of Allah, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it.”(Surah 2:75, ‘Ali)

“And there are among them (the Jews) illiterates, who know not the Book but (see therein their own) desires, and they do nothing but conjecture. Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: “This is from Allah,” to traffic with it for a miserable price! (Surah 2:78-79, ‘Ali).

While these passages speak of misinterpreting the Scripture and passing writing off as Scripture when they are not, it doesn’t speak of altering the actual manuscripts.

5. The Day of Judgment – Only God knows whether one’s good deeds will outweigh one’s bad deeds, so a Muslim has no real assurance he will go to heaven.

THE MAJOR OBLIGATIONS INCLUDE:

1. To Recite the Shahadah –Shahadah means, “To bear witness”. The Shahadah statement is, “I bear witness that there is no God but Allah and that Mohammad is His messenger.” Making this statement with sincerity is all it takes to be a Muslim.

2. To Pray (Salat) – seventeen cycles (rak’a) a day, split into five time periods: Dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, dusk, and two hours after sunset. The call to prayer is a summons to the whole life. The call is an invitation to participate in community, offering nourishment for the soul. Devotees must wash themselves (ablution, “wudu”) in a certain way prior to prayer, and then face toward Mecca. In order to face toward Mecca during prayer, a directional niche (mihrab) marks the Mosque. The only time they are required to pray as a group is during the Friday noon prayer.

3. To Fast (Sawm) – Ramadhan, a commemoration of Muhammad’s receiving the Qur’an, is the ninth lunar month. Muslims can not eat, drink, smoke, or have sex from sunrise to sunset.

4. To Give Alms (Zakat) – one fortieth of one’s income, 2.5%, goes to the poor and needy.

5. To Make a Pilgrimage (Hajj) – Every Muslim must make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime, unless prevented by health or finances. They must wear white garments called ihram in order to eliminate class distinctions. The process of visiting the holy sites: worshipping at Kaaba, kissing the black stone from Adam, and drinking the holy water at the Sacred Well of Ishmael, can take a week. Once finished, the devotee can be called a “Hajj”.

6. Jihad. The author of the letter stated, “It is commanded by our religion and intellect that the oppressed have a right to return the aggression. Do not await anything from us but Jihad, resistance and revenge. Is it in any way rational to expect that after America has attacked us for more than half a century, that we will then leave her to live in security and peace?!!”

The Jihad, or “Holy War”, is sometimes known as the “sixth” pillar of Islam. Jihad is can be described as a fighting against unbelievers, but can also be thought of more gently as a “struggle for the faith”. The last declared Jihad was in 1914, when Sheik-ul-Islam of Turkey, ordered by the Sultan, called upon Muslims everywhere to fight against the enemies of Turkey. However, because the orders originated with Germany, the order fell primarily on deaf ears. The basic requisites for Jihad outlined in the Surah II are:

“On behalf of God fight whoever fights you, but do not be the aggressor: indeed, God does not like aggressors. Kill them when they advance on you and force them out of the places from which they force you…fight them until there is no persecution and religion belongs to God, and if they abandon their ways, there is to be no hostility – except against evildoers.”

However, “Elsewhere two kinds of people are cited as being particular objects of such activity – those who do not believe in God at all and pay no regard to what He has prohibited (IX:29) and Christians, who ascribe partners to God.”

OTHER POINTS:

1. Muslim’s believe that man is good by nature, and that sin is a rejection of good guidance. Repentance will bring forgiveness and no atonement is necessary, but salvation is based on whether good deeds outweigh the bad.

2. Muslim’s recognize the virgin birth and miracles of Jesus, but saying Jesus is God would be blasphemy. Also, according to Islamic tradition, Jesus did not die on the cross. He ascended to heaven and Judas died on the cross in his place. Muslims believe that God would never allow a great prophet like Jesus to die on the cross. They believe the Bible is corrupted, and therefore can not be held in authority.

3. The world is divided into two spheres: Dar es Islam (House of Peace) and Dar al Harb (House of War and chaos). Islam believes that history is moving in the direction of the entire world becoming Islam. Dar es Islam is the more peaceable, daily living Islam that occurs once a country has settled into being an Islamic Nation. Dar al Harb, on the other hand, is a war machine, set to fight any nation until it becomes Islam. Islam has a missionary arm, just as Christianity does; they just go about their evangelism a little differently. Islam’s missionary arm is called “Dar al Harb.”

According to a former missionary to Ramallah, Israel; “because it is a fundamental concept in Islam, the average Muslim understands and agrees with the concept of Dar al Harb.” He further explained that certain Islamic governments, although they are currying favor with the US and claim there is nothing in Islam that desires war, are denying the truth. These leaders, when denying Dar al Harb, are not favored by their own people. It’s a good thing those governments are totalitarian, because true democracy would vote the weak leaders out and put orthodox people in.

The Nov. 2002 ‘Letter to America’seems to confirm this, stating,

“These governments prevent our people from establishing the Islamic Shariah, using violence and lies to do so…These governments give us a taste of humiliation, and places us in a large prison of fear and subdual…These governments steal our Ummah’s wealth and sell them to you at a paltry price…These governments have surrendered to the Jews, and handed them most of Palestine, acknowledging the existence of their state over the dismembered limbs of their own people…The removal of these governments is an obligation upon us, and a necessary step to free the Ummah, to make the Shariah the supreme law and to regain Palestine. And our fight against these governments is not separate from our fight against you.”

“Do you fear them? Allah has more right that you should fear Him if you are believers. Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands and disgrace them and give you victory over them and heal the breasts of believing people. And remove the anger of their (believers’) hearts. Allah accepts the repentance of whom He wills. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.” [Quran 9:13-1]

“Permission to fight (against disbelievers) is given to those (believers) who are fought against, because they have been wronged and surely, Allah is Able to give them (believers) victory” [Quran 22:39]

“So do not become weak (against your enemy), nor be sad, and you will be* superior ( in victory )if you are indeed (true) believers” [Quran 3:139]

“Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Taghut (anything worshipped other than Allah e.g. Satan). So fight you against the friends of Satan; ever feeble is indeed the plot of Satan.”[Quran 4:76]

“It is He Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad peace be upon him) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), to make it victorious over all other religions even though the Polytheists hate it.” [Quran 61:9]

CORRUPTION OF THE JEWISH TORAH AND CHRISTIAN BIBLE:

Several Islamic verses claim the Judeo-Christian Scriptures are corrupt.

“A party of them heard the Word of Allah, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it.”(Surah 2:75, ‘Ali)

“And there are among them (the Jews) illiterates, who know not the Book but (see therein their own) desires, and they do nothing but conjecture. Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: “This is from Allah,” to traffic with it for a miserable price! (Surah 2:78-79, ‘Ali).

While these passages speak of misinterpreting the Scripture and passing writing off as Scripture when they are not, it doesn’t speak of altering the actual manuscripts. In addition, the Qur’an has conflicting verses related to the purity of Bible Scripture and states that God is powerful enough to protect His Word.
Surah 2:136; 4:163 states that the previous revelations in “the Book” are authentic, and Surah 5:68 encourages Jews and Christians to “stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord”.

It also uses the Torah and the Gospel to authenticate Muhammad as the prophet and encourages those who doubt Muhammad’s teachings to “ask those who have been reading the “Book” from before thee” (Surah 10:94), and tells people to believe in the previous scriptures. (Surah 4:136). It also states, “none can change His Word” (Surah 6:115, 6:34, and 10:64).

It is contradictory for the Qur’an to claim that the Torah and Gospel are corrupted on one hand, but authentic and authoritative on the other.

In addition, to accomplish the deed (altering and corrupting both the Old and New Testament of the Bible), the worldwide Jewish and Christian communities would have had to agree together to the textual changes.

If a corruption of the text did happen, the consistency of ancient unearthed Biblical documents is truly miraculous. The Dead Sea Scrolls, c. 100B.C, are amazing parallel to the Masoretic manuscripts, c. 900 A.D., meaning the Old Testament manuscripts that were copied well after the birth of Islam are identical to the ones produced well before.

In addition, Bible scholars have found 3157 Greek documents dating from the 2nd century that contain either portions of or all of the New Testament. Of the textual differences, 95% have to do with trivialities such as a dropped letter during transcribing. There is no Christian doctrine affected by a debatable text.

Next: Historical interaction with the non-believers
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