Those of us raised as Christians will have some idea of the core values to which we believe. The Godhead is paramount: One God: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Mary was a virgin but gave birth to Jesus when the Holy Spirit came upon her. Jesus God the Son yet fully human lived without sin, was crucified and died on the Cross for our sin and was raised again the third day to life and this, the assurance of Salvation is for anyone who believes in Him.
The central focus of Christianity is love, repentance, forgiveness and compassion with a world view taught by Jesus and expounded in the New Testament that ultimately there will be a divine reckoning for those who reject this astonishing measure of Grace - the Cross.
But what of Islam - Origins
This series of seven articles discusses Islam. To initiate the series, let me say there is much confusion when trying to navigate our way between the two extremes of those who claim Islam is a religion of peace and the atrocities carried out in the name of Islam by groups such as ISIS.
So often discussion tends to become a sharing of ignorance with every party leaving slightly dissatisfied and unsure of what is fact or rumour.
In this series I hope to shed some light and give food for thought.
We all know that "Father Abraham had many sons..." Abraham's son Isaac from his wife, Sarah, is the forefather of the Jewish nation. Abraham's son Ishmael from Sarah's handmaiden, Hagar, and his grandson Esau are the forefathers of the Arab nations.
Abraham's son and grandson give an interesting snapshot into two elements within Islam. Understanding these two men can help us understand events in history, ancient and modern, as well as God's attitude to both elements today.
Muhammad is usually claimed to be a direct descendent from Ishmael (recorded in the official history of Mohammad – Sirat Rasul Allah, written by Ibn Ishaq around 770 AD).
Ishmael was cast out by Abraham and Sarah and finally by his mother, losing his father, his identity, his inheritance, but not abandoned by God (read the whole story in Genesis, chapters 16, 17 and 21).
The cry of Ishmael's heart is to be a son and have a father.
Abraham's grandson Esau threw away his birthright (Genesis chapter 25, verses 19 to 34). Then when his father Isaac was on his deathbed, his brother Jacob deceived him by taking the blessing that was rightfully Esau's.
The cry of Esau's heart is that for revenge and it is a spirit of hatred and violence. The reader needs to get a handle on this as this is the "spiritual lineage".
Miss this - and you've missed everything.
This is one of the commands of the Quran: Al-Anfaal (8):60, "against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies, of Allah and your enemies and others besides whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know".
Religious and political leader
Muhammad was a religious leader as well as a political ruler and warlord. The source of Islam was in the Hejaz, the western shores of the Red Sea in what is today Saudi Arabia. The main cities were Mecca and Medina. It was an area of vast deserts, with towns growing up around oases. The people of the region were Bedouin – inhabitants of the desert. They were animistic polytheists and also believed in jinn, fiery spirits that troubled them. Mecca was the religious centre, housing a black box called the Kaabah which was known to be 360 gods.
Muhammad was born in 570AD of the tribe of Quraish who ruled the Kaabah. His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was 6 years old. He was brought up by a grandfather and then an uncle. In 595 AD he married Khadijah, a wealthy trader, 15 years older than him.
In 610AD when Muhammad was 40 years old, in the month of Ramadan, he was fasting and meditating in a cave in the mountains. Suddenly the angel Gabriel came to him, shook him violently and told him to "Recite".
He ran home to Khadijah, thinking he was demon possessed but Khadijah convinced him it was truly the angel Gabriel. From that time Muhammad believed he was commissioned to preach the One God to the Arabs. Muhammad continued to receive revelations for the rest of his life – about 22 years.
The Quran is intended to be read as if it is Allah speaking directly. The words he spoke were memorized and written down by his companions on pieces of sheep or goat skin or leaves, bones or stones. However they were not gathered together into one book until after his death.
In 613 Muhammad started preaching and proclaiming the verses he had received. He proclaimed the One God (Allah) and called to submission (Islam). Most of the Meccans rejected him. He fled to Medina where he was accepted as a leader. He led many raiding parties to collect booty and spread terror to establish his political and economic power.
He was also involved in many battles. The long series of assassinations, raids and battles had produced such terror that there was little resistance to him and he was able to secure control of Mecca.
Islam was founded with assassinations as part of Islamic politicial strategy to extend their control, terrify unbelievers and expand their territory. Muhammad was also willing to sacrifice his family for the sake of Islam. When he returned to Mecca he swept all the idols out of the Kaabah, leaving only the sacred Black Stone.
Muhammad was considered a prophet who created a new religion, Islam, which today is the second largest religion on earth in terms of the number of adherants. He brought a revelation, verses, that have been collected to form the "holy book" called the Quran.
Mohammad had been a political ruler who established a government based on sharia law, the Caliphate, a model that inspires millions of Muslims around the world today.
He was a military leader who left behind an army and a way of waging warfare, the jihad, that is still being emulated today.
His teachings and his example have changed the world and brought an untimely violence, war and as a result death to many people down through the ages.
To conclude this first article in the series of 7, even now looking at the initial history, it is not too difficult to recognise the amazonian doctrinal differences between Christianity and Islam.
This you have read is the first – 10 February
The Qur'an and Hadith – Thursday 11 February
Five Pillars – Monday 15 February
Beliefs – Wednesday 17 February
Jihad and Salvation – Thursday 18 February
Response by followers of Jesus – Monday 22 February
Dhimmitude, Sharia Law, Persecution – Wednesday 24 February
Aira Chilcott B.Sc (Hons), M. Contemp Sci, Cert IV in Christian Ministry and Theology, Cert IV in Training and Evaluation, Grad Dip Ed., began her working life at the John Curtin School of Medical Research, investigating characteristics of cancer cells. Turning to teaching in the Christian school system provided opportunities to learn theology, more science, mission trips and explore the outdoors through bushwalking and other exploits. Now retired, Aira is a panelist for Young Writers and volunteers at a nature park. Aira is married to Bill and they have three adult sons.
Aira Chilcott's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/aira-chilcott.html