There are two major sects of Islam. There are also sub-sects found in different countries with unique teachings. Keeping in mind that to the Muslim the mosque and the state go together, the two major sects of Islam are the Sunni and the Shia. The Sunni make up about 90% of the Muslims and the Shia make up about 10%. The Shia stronghold is found in Iran, Iraq and Yemen with an influence in Syria and Lebanon. The dynamic in Iraq is an ongoing problem as the Shia make up about 60% of the population and the Sunni make up about 40%. These two groups have fought each other in various wars for dominance and continue to be hostile toward each other. The deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was the Sunni ruler over the majority Shia and was extremely prejudiced against them, seeing their common faith with Iran as a threat. Now in Iraq we have the Shia in charge. The tension between the Shia and the Sunni still exists as neither group wants to cooperate with the other. The Islamic State consists of militant Sunni’s who believe all Shia are apostates and need to be eliminated.
This gets very complex. The Shiites break their Ramadan fast at a slightly different time than the Sunnis and pray on a stone from the Iraqi city of Karbala, whereas the Sunni pray in Mecca at the Kaaba in their Hajj (pilgrimage) to a black stone. This division goes back to the seventh century in a disagreement as to who would succeed Muhammad. Shiites took a blood line relative of Muhammad named Ali and the Shiites are defined as “”party of Ali” Shiites have special feast days for their saints and shrines are found in cities like Damascus, Najaf, and Masshad. The Sunnis frown on the exaltation of other people other than Muhammad.
Wahabbism, a sub sect of the Sunnis, considers images of religious figures as idolatry. This vein of thought is evidenced in the Taliban of Afghanistan who blew up a representation of Buddha.
The senior clerics with the Shiites are called Ayatollahs, who can and do make decrees on contemporary issues. The Sunni clerics are more concerned with the interpretation of Quranic law and how it is interpreted.
In the news we hear of various militant kidnappings, and murdering sub sects who claim to represent the pure original faith of Muhammad, their role model who beheaded some 700 Jewish Qurayzah men in 627 A.D. for their opposition to what he was doing and teaching. If that is what does represent the original faith, then those who instill fear and terror in the hearts of others, be they Muslims or unbelievers, are following the example of their ultimate leader Muhammad. To further prejudice their own against Christians and our teaching, they remind each other of the brutality of so-called Christians who were involved in the Crusades. To this we should acknowledge that the Roman Catholic Church which was behind those Crusades certainly did not act in a Christ-like way, and in no way represents the Christ we serve and love. Our Christ teaches us to “love our enemies” (Mt. 5:44).
The Islamic State represents the terror of Muhammad, as do the other Sunni sub-groups like Hamas in Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhood which originated in Egypt. There are the Sunni Wahabi in Saudi Arabia; the Taliban in Afghanistan and in Nigeria there is Boco Haram. Muslim Somalia has been in a state of anarchy for years. Sudan has had fighting for years between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south and has finally divided into two nations Sudan and South Sudan in 2011.
There are terrorist groups within the Shiites represented by Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen. Shiites are part of the complex civil war in Syria.
All of this terror, uncertainty, and fear is supposed to get one or keep one in submission to their understanding of the Quran and Allah. There is no lasting joy in Islam. The problem for Islam today is that the majority of the Islamic people want to say Islam represents peace while intimidated and uncertain as to how to deal with these extremists. These are the ones we can talk to about Christ because they are reasonable.
“Pax Roma” (“Roman Peace”) meant to citizens of the Roman Empire, “IF you cooperate with Rome you will have peace.” The peace that some Muslims say Islam represents is the same type of peace. If you submit to Allah then you will have peace.
Christ offers us a peace which is not worldly (Jn. 14:27) between ourselves and a holy God. Repentant sinners can be in possession of peace with God (Rom. 5:1). This peace is awesome (Phil. 4:7). firstname.lastname@example.org
…May the Lord bless his people with peace! (Psalm 29:11)