Understanding Muslim Minds
November 2007 version

After the tragic September 11 occurred, there were varied reactions in the Muslim world. Palestinians danced in the streets for joy. Indonesians had demonstrations telling America where to go. Yet I worked with a number of Muslims when this happened, and their reaction was shock, sadness, and perhaps even embarrassment for their co-religionists. Obviously we need to realize that not all Muslims are of the same mind.

Muslims in America might be wondering about us right now. After these events showed significant numbers of Muslims hated America, and would fight and kill for Allah, even blowing people up, what do we think of Muslims? Are we going to hate all Muslims, for what some Muslims did? Are we going to hate at all?

No, Christians are to love everyone. In case we might not understand completely, Jesus specifically said we are to even love our enemies in Luke 6:27-28: "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." 1 Corinthians 13, 1 John, and many other places reiterate that we are to love everyone. So, Muslims who are peaceful are still welcome in America. Muslims should be free to practice the non-violent parts of their religion, and even free to try to convert others to their religion. However, do not hold it against us if we try to convert you to Christianity.

1 John 3:10b says, "Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; neither is anyone who does not love his brother."

So, given that we are supposed to show love to Muslims, and Muslims do not believe Jesus and His words, we should respond. As Jesus and John the Baptism did, we need to be critical and even rebuke at times. But we want you to know that we do it in love. I work around Muslim people and I like Muslim people; I would like for as many Muslims as possible to leave the deadly embrace of Islam, turn to the true God, and we can be together forever in Heaven, praising God.

"Though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God..." 2 Corinthians 10:3-5a.

Prior to September 11, it seems the most common question I was asked by non-Muslims is "is Islam and Muslim the same thing?" About 1/4 of the people of the world are Muslims, and their religion is Islam. It seems that Americans have lived sheltered lives, unexposed to the struggles of the world around them. Americans might not know much about Hinduism either. If you are a Christian, see if you can fill in the blank:

Jesus said in Matthew 28:19, "Therefore go and make disciples of ___ nations",

a) 5/8 b) all

Do you and your church want to be 5/8 obedient to the Great Commission of Jesus, or completely obedient? We need as lovingly as possible to tell Muslims that they are going to Hell if they do not come to Jesus.

If we are to fully obey, then Christians should want to understand more about how Muslims think. Like any large group of people, Muslims cannot be stereotyped, for they do not all think the same way. While we cannot discuss every strand of Muslim thinking, we hope to let you hear some of the varied voices of Muslims


Before we look at the strange and unique aspects of the Muslim world, for comparison let's look at some of the things a person outside of the European world would observe in researching how European culture reacted to, and reacted against the historic practice of Christianity.

· Greek Philosophy: Stoicism, Plato, Aristotle

· Mysticism, Rationalism & Humanism

· Scholasticism, Cosmological Argument

· Determinism vs. Free Will

· Veneration/Idolatry of saints

· Which tradition: Catholic vs. Orthodox vs. neither

· Papal succession vs. patriarchs vs. both unneeded

· Leaders cannot be questioned, even hypocrites

· Fake church documents to support a succession

· Catholic vs. Protestant issues

· Crusades and Civil wars

· Many reform movements, and inquisitions

· British vs. American Legal System

· "Modern" liberals who wear Christianity like a label, while denying the primary doctrines.

· So-called Christian cults extremely different from the Bible with little resemblance Jesus' teaching

A surprise we find is that for each element in this list, there is an analog in the Muslim world.

Thus the Muslim world is far from a simple thing. The rest of this paper is a collage of the mentality of various Muslims to show you some of the range of thinking. From pokemon to prayer, from war to women, many Muslims have a very different view of life and morality.

Jihad Includes Offensive War

Since September 11, the most common question I have been asked by non-Muslims is this: "Is Islam really a religion of peace?" Before answering, you have to agree on what is Islam. When I speak of Islam here, I have a very simple definition: that which Mohammed and the early Muslims taught. Rather than attempting to speak for Islam myself, I prefer to answer this question by letting Mohammed and the early Muslims speak for themselves.

Bukhari vol.1 book 1 ch.17 no.25 p.26-27 Narrated Abu Huraira : Allah's Apostle was asked, "What is the best deed?" He replied, "To believe in Allah and His Apostle." The questioner then asked, "What is the next (in goodness)?" He replied, "To participate in Jihad (religious fighting) in Allah's Cause." The questioner again asked, "What is the next (in goodness)?" He replied, "To perform Hajj (Pilgrimmage to Mecca) 'Mubrur, (which is accepted by Allah and is performed with the intention of seeking Allah's pleasure only and not to show off and without committing a sin and in according with the traditions of the Prophet)."

Mohammed said Jihad is the greatest thing a Muslim can do after believing in Allah. It is mentioned even greater than the Hajj pilgrimage, and the other three pillars of Islam which are not mentioned. But what exactly is Jihad?

"By Him in Whose Hands my soul is but for Jihad (i.e. holy battles), Hajj, and my duty to serve my mother, I would have loved to die as a slave." (Abu Huraira is speaking in Bukhari vol.3 book 45 ch.16 no.724 p.435.) (Holy battles is in the text of the English translation.)

Hundreds of pages leave no mystery here: Around 926 hadiths in the Bukhari Hadiths and 181 hadiths in Sahih Muslim (that is over 710 pages in English and Arabic) leave no doubt that Jihad is fighting for Allah. The 69 pages in Sahih Muslim mention just military fighting and collecting booty (both after battle and what non-Muslims abandon voluntarily.) Many Muslims try to say Jihad includes words, prayer, etc., but they are not telling the truth if they deny that it was originally predominantly military fighting. Of course, whether a person is a Muslim or not, one should not necessarily believe what they say unless they can back it up with evidence. Here is just a small portion of the evidence and Jihad means military fighting.

Offensive, not just Defensive: Bukhari vol.4 book 52 no.196 p.124 "Narrated Abu Huraira : Allah's Apostle said, 'I have been ordered to fight with the people till they say, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,' and whoever says, 'None has the right to be worshipped but Allah,' his life and property will be saved by me except for Islamic laws and his accounts will be with Allah, (either to punish him or to forgive him.)'"

Attacks on unsuspecting, peaceful people: "Ibn 'Aun reported : I wrote to Nafi' inquiring from him whether it was necessary to extend (to the disbelievers) an invitation to accept (Islam) before engaging them in fight. He wrote (in reply) to me that it was necessary in the early days of Islam. The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) made a raid upon Banu Mustaliq while they were unaware and their cattle were having a drink at the water. He killed those who fought and imprisoned others." Sahih Muslim vol.3 book 17 (Jihad and Expedition) ch.704 no.4292 p.942.

To understand some of the context of this, here is the hadith after that: "Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from then and desist from fighting against them. Then invite them to migrate from their lands to the land of Muhajirs and inform them that, if they do so, they shall have all the privileges and obligations of the Muhajirs. If they refuse to migrate, tell them that they will have the status of Bedouin Muslims and will be subjected to the Commands of Allah like other Muslims, but they will not get any share from the spoils of war or Fai' [(property abandoned by fleeing non-Muslims] except when they actually fight with the Muslims (against the disbelievers.) If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from the Jizya [tax]. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah's help and fight them." Sahih Muslim vol.3 book 17 (Jihad and Expedition) ch.705 no.4294 p.943.

Violent: Sura 9:14 says, "Fight them, and Allah will torment them by your hands. He will humiliate them and give you victory over them..." The 29th saying in the An-Nawawi hadith also says that the peak of Islam's prominence is Holy War.

Deceptive assassination of Ka'b bin Ashraf the Jew Sahih Muslim vol.3 book 17 (Jihad and Expedition) ch.744 no.4436 p.990-991; Bukhari vol.3 book 45 ch.3 no.687 p.415

Abdullah bin 'Atik and some other Muslims were sent to assassinate Abu Rafi the Jew. He was attacked in the dark while he was sleeping. Bukhari vol.5 book 59 ch.15 no.371 p.251-252. The assassin broke his leg escaping, but Mohammed miraculously healed it.

Attack Christians and Jews who do not pay the Jizya tax: Sura 9:29: "Fight those who believe not... even if they be People of the book [Christians and Jews] until they have willingly agreed to pay the Jizya tribute in recognition of their submissive state."

On the other hand, "He who kills those who signed the accords and those who received our guarantees of safety will not smell the fragrance of paradise," the mufti Sheik Abdulaziz al-Sheik said in an interview published in the al-Riyadh newspaper. The Dallas Morning News 10/26/01 (p.9A) says he is the top religious leader in Saudi Arabia.

"The properties abandoned by Banu Nadir (after fighting) were the ones which Allah bestowed on His Apostle. These properties were particularly meant for the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him). He would meet the annual expedition of his family from the income thereof, and would spend what remained for purchasing horses and weapons as preparation for Jihad." Sahih Muslim vol.3 book 17 (Jihad and Expedition) ch.718 no.4347 p.954.

Why Are Synagogues and Churches Not Permitted in Saudi Arabia?

"It has been narrated by 'Umar bin al-Khattab that he heard the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) say : I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims." Sahih Muslim vol.3 book 17 (Jihad and Expedition) ch.723 no.4366 p.965. See also vol.3 book 17 (Jihad and Expedition) ch.723-724 no.4363,4364,4365,4367 p.963-967. See also Abu Dawud vol.2 book 13 ch.1111 no.2999 p.852; vol.2 book 13 ch.1116 :3023,3024,3026 p.860-861; al-Tabari vol.8 p.130

What Do Muslims Think of Christians?

Western Muslims might think of Christians as a mixture of hypocrites and genuine but misguided people. They may think Christians are often nice and loving, or think all Christians hate all Muslims. Regardless, they think we are following a religion that is corrupt, are more or less totally ignorant of Islam, and are not willing to look at what they consider the pure truth. They hope that perhaps some good, honest Christians will "come to their senses" and embrace Islam.

Muslims often think that if a Christian does not embrace Islam before he dies, Allah is fair to those who never heard. On the other hand, Christians who know of Islam and reject it will go to Hell as Mohammed taught.

Worship the Same God

Most Sunni Muslims (Malaysian Sunni Muslims excepted) claim that Christians, Jews, and Muslims all worship the same God. Now the Conservative Muslims who believe Muslim countries are right to shut down Christian churches (where Christians worship) do not practice what modern, liberal Muslims preach. But what about liberal Muslims themselves?

After hearing a number of them, I believe they are sincere in thinking Christians, Jews, and Muslims worship the same God. However, when a liberal Muslim says that, a Christian can respond: Great, let's worship Jesus together.

The Muslim will say that no, they do not worship Jesus, pray to Him, or call Him God.

The Christian can go on: OK, then we and the Jews worship the Father together?

The Muslims might say that they do not believe Allah is a Father, or that He has any children.

Christian: How about the Holy Spirit?

Muslim: The Holy Spirit is the angel Gabriel.

Christian: Then exactly which part of the Father, Son, and Spirit is the same God?

Muslim: Well, we both worship the Creator.

Christian: Zoroastrians worshipped what they thought was the Creator too, a god of fire. Simply quoting Bible verses and saying you believe the Bible was from God does not mean you worship the God of the Bible. Jesus said it was not the one who heard His words but the one who heard His words and did them. And one question I have: regardless of whether Christians and Muslims worshipped the same God, if Muslims themselves genuinely believed Christians and Muslims worshipped the same God, then why would they forbid the building of new churches in Turkmenistan, kill Christians in Indonesia, and jail Christian workers in Afghanistan?

If you worship the same God as all these other Muslims, how come their religious teaching is to persecute Christianity and kill Christians? How come when these things happen, you do not hear many American Muslim voices condemning the people who commit these attacks as infidels and hypocrites. Do liberal (non-Sharia) Muslims worship the same Allah as terrorists?

Actually, since September 11, a few Muslims have spoken up and said the terrorism against the World Trade Center was wrong. But what about the persecution of Christians in Sudan, Nigeria, eastern Indonesia, and other places? From the time that Idi Amin would have verses of the Qur'an blared out over radio while massacring people, Muslims are very reluctant to speak out against anyone else calling themselves a Muslim.

Inconsistent Skepticism

If a Muslim says he or she does not believe the Bible on Jonah and the fish, Noah's flood, earth created in only a few days, then he or she has a problem with Islam, for the Qur'an says the same.

Sunni Muslims believe the collections of Hadiths, or traditions of Mohammed, are reliable. The hadiths were compiled over two centuries after Mohammed. Preserved earliest copies of the Hadiths are substantially later. Yet, they do not believe the New Testament documents are reliable, even though Matthew, John, Peter, and others were eye witnesses who wrote within 50 years later. Today we have manuscripts from as early as 125 to 150 A.D., only about 100 years after Jesus died.

One reason Muslims say the Gospels are unreliable is that they record events with slightly different wording and emphasis. The Sahih Muslim Hadiths record the same events in Mohammed's life with many accounts of small differences.

Muslims, especially Sunni and Wahhabi Muslims, believe that Allah would preserve His Word, The Qur'an, from all corruption. They also believe that Abraham, Moses, and Jesus had the same message. Allah was unable/unwilling to preserve His word up to the time of Mohammed, but He was able/willing to preserve it with Mohammed.

Differences in Terminology

In discussions, what a Christian says is not necessarily what a Muslim hears. For example, when a knowledgeable Muslim hears the term "Holy Spirit", they think of Gabriel. When Muslims think of prayer, they usually think of an mandatory mechanical ritual that to be done five times a day.

Credibility of Information

The information some Muslims receive, and believe, may be different from the rest of the world. After the World Trade Center disaster for example, Pakistani and Arabic newspapers reported that it likely was done by Jews, because [allegedly] every Jew that worked at the World Trade Center called in sick that day. Even until now, many Muslims believe that Osama bin Laden was innocent of the World Trade Center bombing. They think all the videos were planted and doctored to frame him. Similarly, even when America sent aid after the Indonesian tsunami, some Muslims even the tsunami on a secret American weapon!

When Muslims read of historical information that they already agree with, they are certain it is true. This occurs even when the statements are totally unsupported, such as the Gospel of Barnabas (footnoted in Yusuf Ali's translation of the Qur'an, p.268,334). However, when they read historical facts that undermine Islam, like Bible manuscripts, they may think that it was so long ago, who can say what it was really like? This is why it is important to first share with them hard, detailed information they can check for themselves. Then, ask them to either agree, or else give you reasons why those facts were wrong.

The Saudi Arabia Fatwa on Pokemon

"Pokemon video games and cards have symbols that include the Star of David, which everyone knows is connected to International Zionism and is Israel's national emblem." (Associated Press)

"Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah said it [Pokemon] encouraged gambling as well as carrying religious symbols that he said represented Zionism, Christianity and Free Masonry. He said the concept of the Pokemon characters also appeared to be based on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, which Islam rejects." (BBC News) (from Watchman Fellowship Update Magazine. 4/2001)

The fatwas gives penalties of lashings, revoking trade licenses, stiff fines, and deportation.

What was Mohammed Really Like?

Some Muslims have very different views.

· A holy warrior who fought battles and was willing to die for Allah. He was well-described by the Hadiths. (conservatives)

· Very peaceful; a bit mysterious (modern Muslims)

· Along with 'Ali, was very ascetic (some Shi'ites)

· Worthy of worship alongside Allah (Ghulat sects)

· The primal light of the universe (some Sufis)

The Bottom Line

In business, there are many expenses and sources of income, but ultimately it is the profit that is made that counts. In religion, we can look at many details, but finally there is a bottom line. Here is the bottom line, which Muslims and Christians can agree on.

a) If Mohammed and the Qur'an are true, then Christians who have disbelieved in Mohammed, and never repented, will be tormented in Hell. The Son of God represented in the Bible today is so corrupt, that this Jesus leads people away from the true God.

b) If Jesus and the Bible today are true, then Muslims who have rejected Jesus as the Son of God, and never repented, will be tormented in Hell. Mohammed and the Qur'an are false revelations that lead people away from the true God.

They Cannot Both Be True

They cannot both be true. Do you think it is possible that the Bible today could be a more reliable revelation from God than the Qur'an?

"And in their [the prophets'] footsteps we sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Torah that had come before him: we sent him the gospel; therein was guidance and light. And confirmation of the Torah that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah" Sura 5:46

Do you think the Qur'an could be wrong here, saying Jesus confirmed the Torah that came before Him? What if we had copies of the Torah from the time of Jesus? Have you heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

Just as Ghulat groups twisted Mohammed's message, Christians claim that Mohammed twisted Jesus' message. But you could one determine the truthfulness of that, unless they had copies of the Scriptures from the time of Jesus? The Dead Sea scrolls are copies of the Old Testament from Jesus' time.

Listen to the Prophet Jesus

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." Jesus is speaking in Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33

"Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." John 14:23


Sahih Al-Bukhari. Translated by Muhammad Muhsin Khan published by al Maktabat Al Salafiat Al Madinato Al Monawart. (no date) (9 volumes)

Muslim, Imam. (rendered into English by 'Abdul Hamid Siddiqi) Sahih Muslim. International Islamic publishing House. (no date) (4 volumes)

Holy, QUR-AN, The. (Arabic and English) Revised and edited by the Presidency of Islamic Researches, IFTA, Call and Guidance. (The English translation by Abdullah Yusuf Ali) 1410 A.H.

Bible quotes are from The New International Version. Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985.

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