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Archive for November, 2012

Exploring Islam 03


Exploring Islam

2. Qur’an and Hadith

Muhammad’s miraculous sign as a prophet was not healing, or feeding of the five thousand, but instead the transmission of Allah’s message to the Arab people, the Qur’an. In this podcast we shall briefly look at this and the additional Islamic writings called the Hadith.

Origins and layout of the Qur’an

The Qur’an as we now read it was not written and collated until after Muhammad’s death. Whilst he was proclaiming his message from Allah to the people it was common for scribes to write down what he said, but most Islamic scholars agree that this was not systematic. Unlike the Christian Bible which spans many years, cultures and authors, the material found in the Qur’an originated from one person within their twenty year ministry. The nature of the text is very poetic in content and structure so much so that many native Arabic speaking peoples consider it a higher form of the language, as well as an older and now disused dialect. It is believed that Muhammad received the material for the Qur’an from Allah via His messenger the Angel Gabriel, otherwise known as the ‘the holy spirit’. These visions were intense affairs where the prophet was sometimes seen coming out of a trance like state.

After his death it is no surprise that there was some diversity in the form and detail of some of the written records of Muhammad’s message. The third Caliph, or leader of Islam, Caliph Uthman appointed in 644AD twelve years after Muhammad’s death set out to collate and establish a single version of the prophet’s message which remains today. The overall layout of the Qur’an is somewhat different to that of the Christian Bible. The Suras were ordered not chronologically but in size, the longest first running down to the shortest. The only exception is Sura 1 which is seen as a special opening prayer to the Qur’an. In a general sense this structure placed the later Suras, the ones received whilst Muhammad was living in Medina, first as they were the longest. Most English translations of the Qur’an have opening comments to each Sura which briefly describe its timing. The Suras themselves are not specific to a particular topic or event, but contain within them a variety of different subjects and exhortations. It may start by talking about the role of women, then move onto accounts of Abraham, and perhaps finish discussing heaven or Paradise. This shift within the Sura makes for difficult reading if unfamiliar with the Qur’an, and the change from one topic to the next does not necessarily mean they should be connected via a general principle or lesson.

Unlike the Christian Bible which is believed to be unified in its truth and content, passages in the Qur’an can come under abrogation. A later passage regarding a particular situation or topic can supersede an earlier instruction. An example might be the growth over time in the number of wives a Muslim may have. As a Muslim this facet of the text is not viewed as a negative drawback but simply as the way Allah has chosen to communicate.

Authority of the Qur’an

Despite the origins of the Qur’an, the words within the book were considered by Muhammad and are still by Muslims to be the actual words of Allah. Even though they were transmitted through a human prophet they contain no reflection or influence by him. In fact, the message contained within the Qur’an originated according to Hadith from an eternal tablet located in heaven. This everlasting tablet of Allah’s words was the source of all the previous books from previous Islamic prophets, Moses and the Torah, David and the Psalms, Jesus and the Gospel. Therefore, the Qur’an itself is handled with great respect. Unlike the Christian Bible it ceases to be the Qur’an when it is translated out of the original Arabic into say English, hence these are typically called ‘The Meaning of the Glorious Qu’ran’. The Qur’an is never placed on the floor, never held below waist height when being carried, can never have anything placed on top of it, and is certainly never written in.
All Muslims today consider their copy of the Qur’an to be one of their most precious possessions and as such any non-Muslim should display some level of respect even if they do not believe in its claims. However, it is this authority stemming from its eternal origins which, in my opinion, poses some food for thought for Muslims. Anything eternal can only be equated to Allah, and therefore what exactly is this heavenly tablet? Many everyday Muslims may not have considered this question and if presented with it may react with offense. Caution and sensitivity is needed or else we risk raising only more barriers.

What about the Hadith?

Along with the Qur’an, what Muhammad said and did outside of the specific proclamations from his Angelic visions have been collated and are called the Hadith. As a political and religious leader he was faced with many different and challenging situations and questions from his followers which he sought to answer. These sayings were recorded either during his ministry or afterwards and form the backbone for what was subsequently structured as Sharia law, the overall structure and guidance for all aspects of Islamic life. Unlike the Qur’an there are today different Hadiths written by different Islamic scholars and have different providence. The reliability of a Hadith is based upon the length and character of the witnesses who passed on the information before it was written down. Some which today are considered popular and reliable are authored by Bukhari, and separately by a scholar simply called Muslim. Many put a lot of unquestioned trust and authority into the teachings and principles found in the Hadith, sometimes equalling that given to the Qur’an. This is despite the orthodox position that it is only the Qur’an which can be considered the actual authoritative words of Allah. The status of Muhammad as the seal of all prophets has naturally led to this popular view of the Hadith, and many Muslims which I have met have raised the prophet, rightly or wrongly, onto the same ethical and moral pedestal as Christians do for Jesus.

Next time we shall look at the different expressions of Islam found today characterised in the divide between Sunni and Shia, but also in Sufism and Folk Islam.

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WOW Disciple – Module 11 Evangelism

If you are in the Bournemouth/Poole/New Forest area, why not come along! You can come for one session or stay for them all! We will be looking at: What, How, Why, Where, When; Our message; Enhancing your story; Exploring your identity; Enlarging your outlook…

If you need more information, or are thinking of coming, please do make contact! It would be great to see you there!

Where? Poulner Chapel

When? 10am to about 1pm,

Saturday 1st December 2012

Cost? Free of charge!

Come for just one session or stay for all 6!

New believer? Come and learn!

Mature believer? Come and share your experiences!

Map to Poulner Chapel (marked above as PBC),

Linford Road, Hangersley,

Ringwood, Hants BH24 1TX

Friday Prayers


Partakers Friday Prayers!

23rd November 2012

We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations – that reveals Church unity! Come! Let us pray together! Today we are praying an ancient prayer of Columba (521-597AD)…

A prayer of Columba 521 – 597AD

Be a bright flame before me, O God

a guiding star above me.


Be a smooth path below me,

a kindly shepherd behind me

today, tonight, and for ever.


Alone with none but you, my God,

I journey on my way.


What need I fear,

when you are near

O king of night and day?


More safe am I within your hand

Than if a host did round me stand.


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Exploring Islam 02


Exploring Islam

Origins of Islam

Today we shall unpack more of what Islam means to those who follow the faith, and how it relates to Christianity in similarity and difference. Our first step however will be to briefly appreciate its origins!

Society Muhammad was born into

The founder of Islam was the prophet Muhammad born in the city of Mecca (now in Saudi Arabia) around 570AD. The family he was born into was of some importance in the city however his father had died before he was born and soon after when he was six years old so did his mother. The conditions in Arabia and for the Arab people before Muhammad was a complex network of nomadic tribes who lived and moved around the desert regions. Loyalties were clear cut and rules for living were easy to understand as your duty and honour were simply bound to your clan. But it wasn’t long before these tribes began to congregate and towns and then a few cities were forged. Suddenly with a close community filled with a mixture of clans the established framework and social order was threatened. Orphans and the poor were increasingly ignored and as resources and power became sought after commodities the moral fabric of what was a simple nomadic life became vulnerable. It is important to realise that this is the social setting which Muhammad was born into and the problems which he witnessed.
The religious situation of the Arab people leading up to Muhammad was a cauldron of idol worship, spirit worship, and sun, moon and star worship. There was a community of Jews living in Mecca at the time, and nearby countries like Ethiopia were almost entirely Christian. In fact the Ka’aba, which is the large cubic structure in Mecca today and forms the focus of the Hajj pilgrimage, was already old by the time of the Islamic prophet. It was used to house hundreds of idols, but later in Muhammad’s life when he returned from Medina to Mecca he claimed the structure for Islam.

The beginnings and growth of Islam

Around 610AD Muhammad received the first of what was to be seven visions of revelation from Allah delivered through the messenger Angel Gabriel and would form the Qur’an after his death. The first one was famously in a desert cave which he commonly used as a retreat. From here on Muhammad began proclaiming his message from Allah to the Arab people. It was one which called them to abandon their idol worship and commit to monotheism. But it wasn’t limited to being only a religious message but also a political and social structure which would alleviate the injustices Muhammad perceived and one which would please Allah. He found he had only some followers of this new faith and eventually in 622AD in fearing for his life he fled to the nearby city of Medina who welcomed him with open arms. Very quickly he established a political leadership in Medina, his followers grew, but the opposition in Mecca remained. After eight years of petty killings between the two cities, this is where jihad has its roots, Muhammad with his men went to Mecca desiring a peaceful pilgrimage, but instead the officials surrendered in fear of their safety and the city became Islamic.
During 632AD Muhammad died whilst living in Medina and had left in his wake a large political empire as well as a new religion. However, he had failed to declare a successor. He was the final prophet, the seal of the prophets, and so another one was not sought, but instead a political leader. There was much struggle within the Islamic believers in Medina and despite a successor being appointed a division was formed which was to remain under the surface and come out later through much blood shed in the creation of Sunni and Shi’a Muslims. The Islamic empire expanded exponentially over subsequent years and it is important to remember that this all began with the twenty year prophetic service of one man Muhammad. The growth was achieved primarily through plundering neighbouring towns and cities and when control was achieved the Islamic faith was a prerequisite for the indigenous people to stay. The only exception at the start were for Jews and Christians who were tolerated as second rate citizens, but later on even this faded. However, more peaceful conversions were happening at the same time through Muslims sharing their faith whilst working the trade routes across the continent and into Asia. What Muhammad had achieved was a first for the Arab people, a sense of unity and loyalty to more than just their individual clan. Now it was to the one god Allah and his prophet, and this provided the opportunity for growth and prosperity.

Islam before Muhammad

What we have just discussed paints a very quick picture of the beginnings of Islam as we currently would know it. However, from a Muslim’s perspective we must appreciate that Islam existed before Muhammad. Islam when translated simply means one who voluntarily submits to Allah, which is simply the Arabic word for God. Muhammad was the last prophet, the one sent to the Arabs. Previous prophets from Allah went to the Jews in the form of Abraham, Moses, David and many more. For the Greek people Jesus was Allah’s prophet. All of these familiar names were in fact Muslims as declared in the Qur’an and their revelations to their respective peoples were of a similar type to that of the Qur’an. Moses brought the Torah, David the Psalms, and Jesus the Gospel.

However, the respective peoples corrupted these books and didn’t live as Allah would have wanted; hence the current versions of these holy books, are not considered by Muslims as original. This explains how a Muslim views a Christian. They have corrupted the sacred revelation given by Jesus to include things like the Trinity and divinity of him, and so are in need of repentance. For a Muslim, Christianity was born out of this dishonest process and therefore, did not exist before or because of, the prophet Jesus.

Next time we shall consider in more detail the nature, design, and layout of the Qur’an and Hadith, Muhammad’s great religious legacy.

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Partakers Friday Prayers 16th November 2012


Partakers Friday Prayers!

16th November 2012

We pray together and when Christians pray together, from different nations, different churches and different denominations – that reveals Church unity! Come! Let us pray together! Today we are praying an ancient prayer of Julian of Norwich… On the video and the MP3 audio download, before the prayer, there is a short biography and a thought from her, about prayer and praying. Our pray-er today is Sammy…

A prayer of Julian of Norwich

In you, Father Almighty,

we have our preservation and our bliss.

In you, Christ,

we have our restoring and our saving.

You are our brother, and Saviour.


In you, our Lord the Holy Spirit,

is marvellous and plenteous grace.

You are our clothing;

for love you wrap us and embrace us./span>

You are our maker, our lover, our keeper.


Teach us to believe that by your grace

all shall be well, and all shall be well,

and all manner of things shall be well.


O God, of your goodness,

give us yourself,

for only in you do we have all.


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