I have undertaken a serious study of Islam. There are so many messages in our culture today about what it is and what it is not, that I wanted to know the truth. One historian said that when he started researching Islam, he felt as if he had been sucked in a black hole. I can relate to that. Although it is getting a little better now, moving beyond the platitudes and myths was quite overwhelming at first.
There are many things that this study is teaching me about my own faith journey and people in general, but I will focus on one particular area today. After cutting through the surface rhetoric, I found that there are at least three kinds of Muslims:
Cultural Muslims are those that identify with Islam because they grew up in a Muslim culture. They may or may not participate in services, rites and rituals of their religion but if asked they will profess faith in Islam.
Often called, Moderate Muslims, this group attempts to bridge the gap between tradition and modernity. While they identify as Muslims, they also desire to connect with their country and parts of the culture. Many accommodating Muslims love America. Many reject the traditional dress of Islam and appear more western in their appearance. Many abhor terrorism. While there are many other examples, I hope this illustrates my point.
Sometimes called Orthodox, this group strives to live as Muhammad lived and to strictly adhere to the teachings of the Qur’an, Sira and the Hadiths (Islam’s Holy Books). To this group there is very little room for reinterpretation of the original writings or actions of the prophet. Their role is simply to follow and obey.
As I categorized these three groups, I realized that – although our beliefs are different – the social division of those associated with Christianity can easily be placed in the same three categories. Many Christians today identify themselves as Christians but live far more like the culture than they do the teachings of Jesus. Others have a form of godliness but mix it up with the culture de jure. Then there is the last group that believes that there is little room for compromise. After arriving at this realization, I asked myself, “Which is the most intellectually honest of the three groups and which is the one God is most likely to affirm?”