Sharia and the Holy Spirit

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A recent headline caught my eye as I was surfing the internet: "Philadelphia mosque leaders try to cut off man’s hand – police.” The thief in question had been accused of stealing jars of money from the house of prayer after morning worship. Where would they get this idea from? Sura 5:38 of the Quran says, “Cut off the hands of thieves, whether they are male or female, as punishment for what they have done – a deterrent from God.”

Which brings us to the topic of sharia law: why does it exist? What is its purpose? Is there anything similar in Christianity?

In both Judaism and Islam, laws and jurisprudence have arisen to lead and guide adherents through the complexities of daily life. After the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, Jews developed the Talmud. Without the centralizing authority of the temple, Jewish believers needed a way of guarding the Torah and living by it obediently. In a similar way, Sharia developed to help Muslims obey the Quran and live out their faith obediently. Sharia, in Arabic, means “the well trodden path to the watering hole.” As such, sharia is a guide for Muslims in the daily practice of their faith. Living their faith according to the rightly guided path is very important in order to truly submit to Allah. Sharia helps them do this by showing them actions that are obligatory, meritorious, permitted or forbidden.

Muslims discern this rightly guided path through four sources.  All schools emphasize the importance of the Quran as divine revelation, and then the sayings and actions of the prophet Muhammad (Sunna) as the ideal to follow. Schools of sharia differ on the importance of the last two sources of authority; reasoning and consensus by scholars. Some schools limit the importance of reasoning in their school of sharia.

With the exception of Roman Catholic canon law, the church has never fenced the Bible in a similar way. This is because in contrast to other faiths, Christians believe in the active assistance of the Holy Spirit in helping us to live out God’s law. This became obvious early on in the church as exemplified by the Jerusalem Council’s decision to not burden the Gentile believers beyond four requirements because “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us.” To quote David Shenk in his book, Journeys of the Muslim Nation and the Christian Church, “That decision involved a dialogical engagement of scripture, the community of faith, and the Holy Spirit…the church would not develop a Talmud as in Judaism or Sharia as in Islam” (204). Through the Holy Spirit the law is not so much written in ink but on our hearts (Jer. 31:33).

One of the challenges for Muslims who become followers of Jesus is the lack of structure, rules and regulations – in a sense the path is no longer as clear. But how wonderful to know that we have a God who loves us and who is actively working at changing our hearts and helping us to live according to His ways. As Paul encourages us in Galatians 5, let us keep in step with the Spirit as we live our lives for Jesus Christ.

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Community Builder

I get the impression you are an apologist for the Muslim Faith. Until I see Muslim leaders as a group distance themselves publicly from the events of those 250 girls in Nigeria and from the establishment of a caliphate in Syria and Iraq which minces no words about their objectives, I fail to see the relevance of what you and the CRCNA are trying to do. 

I would refer you to the latest news letters from MERF as to the events in the Middle East.

Greg Sinclair seems so intent to get along with other faiths that he readily casts aside the traditional AD (Latin for Year of Our Lord) to refer to the destruction of the Jewish temple as 70 CE (common era). I wouldn't be surprised if Sinclair refers to the birth of Jesus simply as Xmas.     

Community Builder

Harry & Joe,

Greg works as the Project Manager for the Salaam Project, an initiative committed to learning how to better love Muslims in the name of Christ. This project takes God's call to love our neighbor very seriously--regardless of whether our neighbor shares our faith. Further, Jesus did not reserve his love only for the "good" people, in fact he often sought out the most wretched of sinners. We should absolutely be outraged and devastated about the violence in Syria, Iraq, and Nigeria taken credit for by Muslims, but that does not mean we should refrain from loving our Muslim neighbors. This may make them all the more difficult to love, but I also believe this then makes the Salaam Project all the more important.   

As Christians we ultimately desire that our Muslim neighbors will find the peace, joy, and hope that we have in Jesus, but we also take Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 13 to heart, "the greatest of these is love" and understand that as Christians we must "love as he first loved us" (1 John 4:19).

Greg sheds light on parts of Islam that can help us to better understand our Muslim neighbors, especially when it is often difficult to comprehend their actions. However, he also points out in his closing that Christians have the Holy Spirit to guide us, which Islam lacks. How grateful we can be for a God who lives in our hearts and convicts us!   

Community Builder

Thank you for all your comments. I am surprised that there aren't more but it is the summer.

First, let me reply to Joe. I read a lot of current affairs that use CE. I do not mean to make any theological statements by that.

Now to Harry. I am deeply distressed by events in Nigeria and the Middle East. We do need to be in prayer for our Christian brothers and sisters who are persecuted, forced to flee from their homes, traumatized. I realize that is is nearly impossible for Christians to live under IS. But I continue to believe that we should not judge all Muslims by these extremist groups, and in fact many Muslim leaders have denounced IS, Boko Haram and other groups using violent tactics that target minorities. We have to remember that much of the current violence is Muslim vs Muslim, not Muslim vs Christian. Before the current events in Syria, Muslims and Christians co-existed well - I know that from a Syrian Christian. My intent in this post was to compare Christianity to Islam, to help us understand why Sharia is important to Muslims and to show that in Christianity we have gone a completely different route - looking to the guidance of a living God and his Spirit rather than a codified law to guide us. In this the Anabaptist missionary and scholar Dr. David Shenk is my guide. His peace building focus is one that I hope we can all adopt.

Thank you Greg for your exposition of Sharia law and the contrast with the law written on human hearts by the Holy Spirit and accomplished by His power.. Your points of explanation are helpful yet could be mis-interpreted quite easily.

For instance, it is important to stress that Muslims believe that they uniquely are "rightly guided." Yet the reality is that Biblically speaking, they are actually not. Biblically speaking they are in darkness.

The daily prayer called the al-Fatiah prayer prayed by Muslims asks that they stay on the right path--which is essentially what the Sharia is.  However, what you might easily have overlooked is that the assumption by Muslims is that theirs is the right path which insures blessings--and again Biblically speaking this is not so.

Rather the al-Fatiah prayer {Surah 1:6-7) reads اهدِنَــــا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ

Ihdinā ṣ-ṣirāṭa al-mustaqīm [English=Guide us to the Straight Path.
 صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّين Ṣirāṭa al-lathīna anʿamta ʿalayhim ġayri l-maġhḍūbi ʿalayhim walā ḍ-ḍāllīn [English =The path of those upon whom You have bestowed Your blessings, those whose (portion) is not wrath, nor of those who have gone astray.]

The classical Muslim exegete Ibn Kathir stated that those whose portion is wrath are the Jews, and those who have "gone astray" are the Christians. 

Thus the essential prayer which stands behind Sharia law, is a daily appeal not be be a Jew or a Christian.

Might it be an idea to look at the assumptions behind such Islamic ideas as the Sharia for the benefit of your readers?. Otherwise you might be saying far too little, and open yourself to the charge of being a witting or unwitting apologist for Islam.

Shalom

 

 

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