Islam (الإِسْلاَمُ) is a stated ambition to Islamise all others into the influence of [the] Shari’ah (شريعة).

Islam (الإِسْلاَمُ) is a stated ambition to Islamise all others into the influence of [the] Shari’ah (شريعة).

What is today, termed, Islamic fundamentalism, can be more easily understood than many folks realise. It is not so difficult to understand the zeal of some Muslims, as defined by Islamic canonical texts. The term fundamentalism, however, is a meaningless expression unless the word is grounded in some way. Any attempt to explain belief, doctrine, actions and other religious observances and ordinances is a futile exercise without a way of defining terminology. If we begin to use terms such as fundamentalism to describe what adherents of a given faith regard to be a religious duty, when that duty is a spirit of murder, then it becomes apparent that at least in some people’s minds all religious orthodoxy becomes suspicious. For that reason, the term fundamentalism is unhelpful, albeit that it is a valid expression.

All religious belief systems have at their heart an orthodoxy. That is to say; all religious belief systems have a written record, a point of origin, and a prophetic voice. In the case of Islam, this means the early seventh century in the Arabian Peninsula with Muhammed and his prophetic recitation. In the case of Christianity that would mean Christ, in Judea two thousand years ago and the New Testament record of His life and ministry. All religious belief systems have written accounts that set down their views. In the case of Islam, this would mean the recitation of Muhammed, including the canonical biography of Muhammed and the Prophetic Hadith. In the case of Christianity, this would mean the Greek New Testament.

The term fundamentalism ought to mean that which pertains to the central orthodoxy of a given faith. Moreover, belief is primarily defined through the written account. It stands to reason, therefore, that a knowledge of the written account is the only accurate way of establishing what a fundamental view of any given belief system is.

There are several ways to go about answering that enquiry. For example, we could take a political position. That would more than likely mean asking how a given belief system views others. If we know how Islam or Christianity sees others, according to their books, then we may have a primary political position from which to establish what Islam or Christianity is. The difficulty with taking a political stance is that to do so has the effect of excluding the most fundamental aspect of religious orthodoxy  – which is obedience to God. Those core beliefs that explain what obedience to God means are called prophetic doctrine and are grounded in the words and actions of a prophetic character. Doctrine, therefore, could also be defined theologically, as teachings.

It must be self-evident that to exclude theological ideas in any examination of Islam or Christianity necessarily means excluding the religious motives of Muslims or Christians in understanding their actions and practises.

The second way of seeking to understand religious orthodoxy or fundamentalism would be to look at doctrinal ideas. These doctrines must of necessity be grounded in time, place and person. They must have a written verifiable source. The difficulty with taking this approach is that unless you have a point of reference, (in this case a theological point of reference), how will you explain religious orthodoxy, regardless as to which religion you examine? In other words, if you do not hold a religious belief how will you know that what you have heard or read about Islam, for example, either makes sense or else has any truth in it? One way that this problem is overcome, rationally, is to make a comparative theological examination between several belief systems.

There is a third way of addressing the same question, and that is to look beyond the visible attributes of religious belief, both ideologically and physically, to discern spiritual substance. Indeed, Islam is very easy to understand for the born again Christian because Islam is first and foremost a religious enterprise. For the born again Christian, acts of religious duty, in whatever form they take, cannot of themselves define what religious belief is. In rather the same way outward ordinances such as ceremonies and religious rites cannot of themselves prove spiritual substance. Nevertheless, there is a spiritual element in Islam, and it is that substance that I am expressly asked to define and make sense of. I will be doing that as a born again Christian. My language will be clear and unapologetic. The conclusion will be disturbing and at the same instant, present a meaning that makes room for a balanced view of Muslims themselves. Whilst individuals may be entirely sincere, spiritual reality is always particular, directed and informed by a mind of determination, even when it is knowingly wicked. It is for that reason we must be clear in our presentations. Otherwise we will simply stir emotions, and a real understanding will be lost. 

Robert Chisholm

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