Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Islamic Studies

Final Essay
I thought that a study of Islam would be appropriate at this time considering the attacks of 9/11 and the war in Iraq. I really didn’t have an understanding of the Islam and the Islamic terrorists and what could possibly be on their minds to attack the very soil of the United States.

Muslims believe that Muhammad is the last prophet sent by God after Abraham, Jesus and others. Muhammad’s beginnings were simple and poor. He was born in 570 and was raised by his uncle Abu Talib who taught him to be a caravan trader. Muhammad was exposed to Jewish and Christian traditions on these caravan journeys. He eventually married his employer, Khadija, who would bare him many children one of which was a daughter, Fatima, who would marry Muhammad’s cousin Ali.

In the year 610, Muhammad began having visions from the angel Gabriel. These visions resulted in the Qur’an. The Qur’an is believed to be a correction of errors in scripture from the time of Abraham. Its message is that there is one true God; there is a Day of Doom coming; the wicked will perish and the Elect will live in paradise. Not much different from Christianity. Islam means “submission to God”. A Muslim is “one who submits”. They believe that the Qur’an is God in the form of words. It “is”, it is not “created”. Muslims believe in the Five Pillars of Islam: confession of faith, prayer, almsgiving, fasting and pilgrimage.

There are two main groups of Muslims that are in the news these days: the Shi’ites and the Sunnis. These are the groups that are at war with each other in the Middle East and the reason the US is there. The difference between these two groups is this: The Shi’ites believe that the successors to Muhammad should be from his family line through Ali and Fatima. They believe that Ali, Muhammad’s cousin and Fatima’s husband, was appointed by Muhammad on his deathbed and should have been the first successor or Caliph. He eventually became the fourth Caliph. But the Sunni’s believe that there should be an elected Caliph. The Shi’ites believe that because of all this confusion the Caliph or Hidden Iman, has been removed from the earth to return in the future. That certainly seems like something to go to war over. To put this into perspective, the Shi’ites could be compared to Catholics, and the Sunnis could be compared to Protestants. We are familiar with how well they get along in some countries.

This brings me to Osama bin Laden, a Sunni. Osama studied the writings of one Ibn Taymiyyah who taught “not a voluntary jihad or holy war to propagate the faith but an involuntary jihad or just war to defend the faith. Under such conditions, all under attack must fight and all others must help them…Government and religion must be intertwined, for religion cannot prosper without the coercive power of government, while government must be subject to Revelation if it is not to fall into error and tyranny…Right religion must have in it the Guiding Hand and the Helping Sword”. Osama says “Islam ceases to exist where the ruler is an infidel”. Is he referring to the United States? He also quotes Ibn Taymiyyah out of context to suit his own jihad because Ibn Taymiyyah also said “The consensus of the community, not the decisions of a militant minority, must be paramount” and that jihad must be fair and without animosity. It seems to me that that statement should be considered by the Whole World.

I’m still not sure that I completely understand what the fighting is all about. Perhaps it’s the innate arrogance of the People of the Book because they were the ones that the Book was given to of all the others in the world.

Rev. Judith Wolf


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