There is an important article in this month’s issue of The Atlantic magazine, entitled What ISIS Really Wants. I found myself pausing often as I read to underline or highlight particular passages, as the author seems to have done a very good job of identifying the motivations of this radical Islamic group which has established a “Caliphate” that stretches across Syria and into Iraq.
In a sea of media talking heads and government officials that tend to minimize or even deny the Islamic theological motivations of Islamic State fighters, writer Graeme Wood declares with refreshing candor:
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
I would encourage you to take the time to read the entire article, because it is enlightening. One of the things I found most fascinating is the importance of the Caliphate, and the obligation (not suggestion) that believing Muslims have to support and join a valid Caliphate:
The caliphate, Cerantonio told me, is not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation. Islamic State propaganda regularly reports the pledges of baya’a (allegiance) rolling in from jihadist groups across the Muslim world. Cerantonio quoted a Prophetic saying, that to die without pledging allegiance is to die jahil (ignorant) and therefore die a “death of disbelief.” Consider how Muslims (or, for that matter, Christians) imagine God deals with the souls of people who die without learning about the one true religion. They are neither obviously saved nor definitively condemned. Similarly, Cerantonio said, the Muslim who acknowledges one omnipotent god and prays, but who dies without pledging himself to a valid caliph and incurring the obligations of that oath, has failed to live a fully Islamic life.
This is part of the reason why Muslims from around the world are flocking to Iraq and Syria to join. They see it as both their duty and as their path to salvation.
Without realizing it, Mr. Wood also points toward something I discussed with Cole Richards on VOMRadio two weeks ago:
Muslims can say that slavery is not legitimate now, and that crucifixion is wrong at this historical juncture. Many say precisely this. But they cannot condemn slavery or crucifixion outright without contradicting the Koran and the example of the Prophet. “The only principled ground that the Islamic State’s opponents could take is to say that certain core texts and traditional teachings of Islam are no longer valid,” Bernard Haykel says. That really would be an act of apostasy.
As Cole and I discussed, in the violent advance of ISIS moderate Muslims are seeing the true face of Islam. The ugly picture they see is inspiring many of them to seek some other faith or philosophy, and many are finding true peace in Christ.
ISIS is our enemy, both as Americans and as Christians. But Jesus' call to His followers is a radical one: “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).
It is difficult to love what you don’t know; I challenge you to read and ponder Mr. Wood’s article, to begin to know better the enemies Jesus is calling us to love.
Todd Nettleton has served with The Voice of the Martyrs for 16 years. He’s travelled to more than 20 restricted and hostile nations and interviewed hundreds of believers who’ve faced persecution for their Christian witness. As VOM’s principle media spokesperson, Todd has done more than 2,000 interviews with media outlets ranging from Moody Radio to the BBC and Los Angeles Times. He is the host of VOM’s weekly radio show, VOMRadio. He is the principle author of Restricted Nations: North Korea and was part of the writing team for four other VOM books.
Padina was ready to kill herself on live TV to earn Allah's favor and prove the God of the Christians was powerless. Instead, she met Jesus Christ and saw Him heal her mother from sickness. She became passionate to introduce her countrymen to the Savior. Today she leads a house church network inside Iran, including training church leaders to be ready to face arrest, harassment and persecution. She'll tell us how they prepare to face persecution, and describe the ways that VOM is helping and strengthening the church in Iran today. Finally, we'll talk about specific ways to pray for Christians inside Iran.
You can see a video that VOM produced sharing Padina's testimony here.