As Far as the East Is from the West: Islam, Holy War, and the Possibility of Rapprochement -- By: Chad Owen Brand

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 08:1 (Spring 2004)
Article: As Far as the East Is from the West: Islam, Holy War, and the Possibility of Rapprochement
Author: Chad Owen Brand

As Far as the East Is from the West:
Islam, Holy War, and the Possibility of Rapprochement

Chad Owen Brand

Chad Owen Brand is Associate Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and at Boyce College. He is the author of numerous articles and reviews and has served as pastor or interim pastor in a number of churches. Dr. Brand also serves as an editor for the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Broadman and Holman, 2003).


Some religious traditions are extremely complex and defy attempts to dissect or analyze them. Hinduism, for instance, is extraordinarily convoluted, and the various schools and sects within that heritage seem virtually to be completely different religions. At its core, though, Islamic faith is fairly easy to grasp. This may be one of the reasons why it has had marked success in expanding to cultures foreign to its roots, such as Indonesia and West Africa. We will briefly examine the historical foundations of Islam, its basic doctrines, and the duties required of its devotees. From there we will attempt to determine the meaning of “holy war” in the Islamic heritage, and attempt to decide whether conflict between Islam and Western culture is inevitable and interminable.

Historical Foundations

Muhammed was born around A.D. 570 in Mecca. Orphaned at the age of six, he was raised by his uncle, Abu Talib. At the age of twenty five, while working as a caravan trader, Muhammed married a wealthy widow named Khadija. In the year 610, he began to receive what he interpreted to be prophetic messages from God, brought to him, as he claimed, by the angel Gabriel. These messages were a call to a monotheistic faith in the one god, Allah, and a new theology based on this belief.

Rejected by most Meccans, Muhammed fled with 150 followers on September 24, 622 (a date known as the Hijra, the Flight, now the beginning of the Muslim calendar), to the city of Medina, where he became the leader of the city and commanded a powerful army. After a series of battles against his enemies, Muhammed successfully invaded Mecca in 630 and instituted his faith by mandate on the city. Two years later he was dead, but the Islamic religion continued to flourish.

Basic Beliefs

The Muslim faith is built on the Five Pillars of Doctrine and the Five Pillars of Practice. The five doctrinal pillars are belief in the prophets, in the Qur’an, in God, in angels, and in salvation at the last day.

Muslims affirm many prophets, but five are preeminent: Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammed. Of these, Abraham and Muhammed are the most important, Muhammed himself being the crown of the prophets. Jesus is important to...

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