Program: Understanding Islam

erismanRev. Daren Erisman, Ph.D., is the Senior Pastor of the House of Prayer Lutheran Church of Escondido. He has been studying Islam for the past 20 years, learning about the unity and diversity within Islam, as he earned his Masters Degree in the subject.

To begin, Christians, Jews, and Muslims all believe in one God, the Creator, and many prophets. And, while half the world believes in Jesus as God’s Son, the fastest growing religion today is Islam. There is a level of unity, of oneness, that brings Muslims together. There is unity in worshiping one God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.

Born in 570 AD, Muhammad, when he was about 40 yrs. old, began receiving revelations from the Angel Gabriel, which were later compiled into the Qur’an by his followers. Though Muhammad could neither read nor write, he was seen as a statesman and prophet, who called for the denunciation of paganism, focused on the existence of the one true God, and the need for repentance and the Day of Judgment. Muslims view Islam as being in continuity with Judaism and Christianity. Because Muhammad had no succession plan, struggles to determine the future leadership ensued following his death, resulting in today’s differentiation of 85% Sunni Muslims and 15% Shi’ah Muslims, with many sub-sets. Most Muslims are culturally Muslim, if not particularly religious.

The Sunni have a flat power structure with communal election of leaders, and a worship leader called an Imam, while the Shi’ah follow a hierarchy of clergy based on heredity and scholarship. Their leaders are the Ayatollahs and Grand Ayatollahs, following a line from Mohammad’s son-in-law, Ali.

Rev. Erisman provided attendees with a Primer on Islam and a copy of his detailed slides, which may be referred to for more detail of how Islam has evolved over the centuries. Since there are over a billion Muslims today, understanding how they think, live and worship becomes more critical each day. It was a fascinating presentation, but only scratched the surface due to time constraints.