My purpose in this brief article is to look at a single aspect of Islam as that body of beliefs by which Muslims are bound. Specifically, it is about the root of the Muslim fear of death inherent in the message of Islam. This is a bash neither on Islam nor on Muslims. It is not a study of Islam. It is on the delivery from the fear of death and the call to life in the Jesus, the Son of God.
The presence of fear in Islam is as evident as in how it fills the Muslim’s life. The fear response to death is not unique to Islam. This response is just as common among nonbelievers. What is unique about the Muslim message is that unlike any other believers and adherents of Judaism, Hinduism including the faith that is in Christ Jesus and other beliefs, Muslims unleash their fear of death on the unbelieving. Yes, to be truthful adherents of various beliefs may fear death, but the fear of Islam is more deeply rooted than a personal, superficial or casual fear as we will see. I want to look at 1) the origin of death, 2) the significance of the death of Jesus, and 3) freedom from death. All are welcome to contribute your comments which are subject to my approval (on my blog) before publication.
the origin of death
Whether or not you believe the Quran or the Bible account in the book of Genesis is immaterial. What it records is the origin of death. Death, like life, has a beginning of its own. You may wish to euphemize that reality to dismiss or deride the biblical account, but that has no bearing on the reality of death nor your fear. Every human being has an appointed time with death. This is a portion of the dialog between the serpent, also called Satan, and Eve in Genesis.
The serpent said to the woman, “You won’t really die, 5 for God knows that in the day you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 2)
The record of this exchange between the serpent and Eve reveals Satan’s denial of death _ before it even began. Death, in addition to being a physical end, is described in the scriptures as a spiritual separation from God. Neither of these two realities had been experienced by Adam and Eve prior to the above dialog with the serpent. Their reaction towards God after the inception of death before they had any realization or comprehension of death was that they were afraid the very next time they heard the voice of God calling out to them. Although they were cast out of the garden it is probable they had no conception or realization of the physical and spiritual change which had occurred in their lives and their relationship with God. Something of that change was made stark and painfully clear when their son Cain murdered his younger brother Abel. Any uncertainty Adam and Eve might have had about death up to that point were now made quite graphically clear for them.
Although Muslims reject the biblical account of creation and death in the garden it does not change, as previously stated, the reality of death which had its beginning. The reason for that beginning of death, which is sin and which is quite a relevant part of this discussion, is really not in the scope of this article.
the significance of the death of Jesus
Jesus is a stumbling block for Muslims. Yes, the claim by Muslims is that they believe in Jesus. However, just what does it mean to claim to belief in Jesus while at the same time denying, as Muslims do, his death and resurrection? These claims were made by Jesus repeatedly and which were heard by his disciples as well as his adversaries. The death and resurrection of Jesus are inseparable realities. One does not believe one and reject the other. One does not discuss the death of Jesus without resurrection nor discuss the resurrection without his death.
The reason primary reason for the Muslim’s denial and rejection of the death and resurrection of Jesus is because of the implications of these events on the identity of Jesus. The implications of his deity in these events are a secondary reason, though of greater importance and significance, in the Muslim denial concerning Jesus.
The Muslim objection is that neither the death nor resurrection of Jesus makes him God. Their mistaken reasoning is that there were prophets before Jesus who raised the dead, too. This is quite true. However, they are as totally and completely correct as they are badly mistaken because the death and resurrection claims of Jesus were by Jesus and it is Jesus who fulfilled those claims.
There is no such claim made in the New Testament (NT) that the death or the resurrection anymore than the miracles Jesus performed made him God. Furthermore, the Muslim objection that God is not a man is as mistaken because, again, there is no such claim made in the NT. The claim in the scriptures is that God took on the form of man.
5 Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men.
The death of Jesus which is denied by Muslims so vehemently makes for some significant implications. The reason for these implication is that Jesus 1) declared in the hearing of friends and adversaries his death, repeatedly, 2) his adversaries revealed their knowledge of these claims by Jesus when they took measures after his death to secure the tomb and prevent his disciples from stealing the body, and 3) the only momentary unbelief of the resurrection of Jesus recorded in the NT it was by his own disciples, not his adversaries. There was no denying his death or his resurrection.
This is the question which the significance of Jesus’ death provokes in the mind of the examiner:
Just who is this Jesus?
What does it mean that he can declare he will lay down his life and take it up again?
The implication speaks to a reasonable expectation, namely, that the giver and sustainer of life should have power over death and be able to demonstrate that power. Effectively, God took on human form, said he would died, died and then took up his life again to demonstrate death is in the palm of his hand. Death has no power over the One who gives and sustains life.
freedom from death
This power over death is what Jesus demonstrated for all to see, to examine and to make their determination as to the significance of who Jesus is and the implications of who he is with respect to their own destiny beyond death. This is the crucible which compels one either towards belief and obedience or towards understanding, but which the decision to reject those things they have examined for themselves. The question, and the fear, of death remains with them.
The fear of Islam is often thought of as that which instills terror in all who are not of the faith of Islam. Indeed, there are Americans, Christians and many others who live with that fear as their reality. It is not my point here to argue that Muslims seek to instill fear in others. Yes, we know that is in fact a reality among some Muslims.
My point is that Muslims, both those who do not as well as those who do instill fear are in the same grip of a common fear of death. The quickness to take a life rather than lay down one’s life either for anyone who has walked away from Islam or for anyone who is not a believer of Islam is the evident fear of death deeply rooted in Islam.
Do not mistake empty boasts and acts of murder either as courage or as the absence of the fear of death. Osama bin Laden boasted, “Americans hate death, but we love death.” The gross ignorance and arrogance in bin Laden’s words was made quite evident in his eagerness to send others to kill and to be killed while he remained safe. The now bizarre, common acts of terror by suicide bombing to murder as many as possible are yet another display of the grip of fear perpetrated by Islam on believers and nonbelievers alike who are not of like-mind as Muslims.
This is the delivery from the fear of death which Jesus accomplished through his death, burial and resurrection.
Since then the children have shared in flesh and blood, he also himself in the same way partook of the same, that through death he might bring to nothing him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might deliver all of them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Hebrews 2
Anyone who comes to commit or submit their live to Jesus as Lord and Savior must confront the very real specter of death. It is no less real or gripping because it is virtual (or the euphemism of “spiritual” as preferred by some so as to mistakenly minimize its reality and impact) than physical death. It can be even more daunting than physical because while physical death can overtake one in a flash moment of unawareness, the significance of spiritual death by crucifixion to self is contemplated by the believer.
Jesus delivers all who come to him in faith from the fear of death into a freedom from death and to ABUNDANT LIFE!