Fear in Islam
By William Wagner
Many writers on Islam have tried to find one word that will best describe
the fastest growing religion in the world. In my reading I have found different
authors using numerous words such as "justice," "sacrifice," "submission," and
"community." The more I study the religion, the more I am convinced that the
one word that best describes Islam is "fear." The different actions of Muslims
today all seem to be a reflection of the fear that has built up within the
One Muslim Moroccan scholar, Fatima Mersissi, used fear as her main theme
when writing her book, Islam and Democracy: Fear of the Modern World, seven of
her ten chapter titles include the word fear. They are:
Chapter one "Fear of the Foreign West"
Chapter two "Fear of the Imam"
Chapter three "Fear of Democracy"
Chapter six "Fear of Freedom of Thought"
Chapter seven "Fear of Individualism"
Chapter eight "Fear of the Past"
Chapter nine "Fear of the Present"
In looking at several of these categories, it is plain that the average
Muslim lives in fear. This is especially true to those who now live in the
West. Here are six reasons why Islam is a religion of fear.
1. The Fear of Allah.
He is not the loving God that we find in Christianity but one who rules with
an iron fist. The Koran tells the readers that they should fear Allah. Not only
do they fear their God but they are deathly afraid of being eternally damned by
an angry Allah. Their religion does not give much assurance of salvation. The
only Muslims guaranteed a place in Heaven is those who die in a Jihad or those
who die while on a pilgrimage to Mecca. They hope they will be allowed into
Heaven, but there is no certainty. This is why Islam is the apex of a "works"
religion. They must do all that the Koran tells them to do if they are going to
have any chance of getting into Heaven.
2. The Fear of Hell.
In Islam, Hell is described in very graphic terms in both the Koran and the
Hadith. Their theology teaches that there are several levels of Hell. The first
level of Hell is reserved for Muslim sinners, the second is for idolaters who
were polytheists, the third level is for worshippers of fire, and the fourth
level is for atheists. By the time you get to the fifth and sixth levels you
find out who are the real enemies of Islam because the fifth is reserved for
Jews and the sixth for the Christians. The seventh and last is for hypocrites
which could include Muslims. All Muslims who have not pleased God will also
fall into one of the hells, but by the grace of Allah, they can be brought out.
It is true that as Christians, we have a fiery Hell as a part of our theology,
but we concentrate more on Heaven than on Hell. In the holy writings of Islam
there are very graphic descriptions of the pain and torment that will be
experience by those in Hell. Such graphic details as skin being slowly peeled
off the body only to grow back again and peeled off again and again, bloated
stomachs exploding because of the liquid they drink, and other painful
experiences are vividly described. Reading such descriptions only elevate the
fear level in believers.
3. The Fear of Apostasy.
One of the laws in their legal system (Shariah) is the penalty for apostasy.
This word describes a person who was either born a Muslim or who converted to
Islam and then decides to leave Islam for another belief. This means that
if a Muslim ever converts to another religion or belief they are to be killed.
They are given three days to change their minds. After this time of grace they
are to be killed. This is carried out today in many Muslim countries that
practice Shariah law. Thus too much contact with Christians might lead to their
leaving Islam and warrant death. At a recent conference for leading Islamic
clerics, this topic was discussed. Some moderate leaders said that it should be
God that punishes the ones leaving Islam and not man. They said that Allah can
send the person to Hell, saving man the responsibility of punishing the one who
turns their back on Islam. The final decision, however, was that the Koran,
which prescribes capital punishment for leaving Islam, cannot be changed thus
the rule still stands. It should be added that one reason those at the
conference did not want to change the law was their fear that there would be a
mass exodus from Islam if this fear of death were removed.
4. The Fear of their Life Situation.
Another type of fear that we in the West are not subjected to is the fear
that many immigrants have for their relatives and friends in their home
countries. They constantly read of wars, terrorists' attacks, and revolutions
taking place in their home country. Once I was at a conference in Cyprus with
many from the Middle East. I saw a group from Lebanon gathered in a circle
listening to the news on the radio. All of them were crying. I asked them why
they were crying and they answered that the city of Tyre was being bombed. I
repeated the question, "But why are you crying?" They answered, "Tyre is our
home." We in the West do not have to live with this constant fear of what will
happen to our loved ones at home.
5. The Fear of Democracy
"Democracy" is one of the few foreign words adopted into the Arabic
language. When Muslims hear the word, they feel that it is something against
their culture. The fact that today democratic principles are having some
success in Islamic countries is practically a miracle. Many of the more radical
Muslims know that the coming of democracy will blunt their favorite tool- "The
Sword," thus Muslims are constantly told to be afraid of democracy and are
constantly told that it is a tool of the devil.
6. The Fear of the West.
The word for the West in Arabic is Gharb. This is their word for a place of
darkness and the incomprehensible. They see our western world in a negative
light, thus they fear both the people of the West and their religion,
Christianity. In fact a dominant teaching in Islam has the whole world divided
into two camps. One is Dar al-Islam -and the other is Dar al-Harb. Either you
are a Muslim and belong to the house of Islam, or you are of the house of war
and to be rejected and feared. To exist outside of Islam puts you at odd with
your culture, your people, your values and even your God. They fear all who
live in this strange world that exists parallel to Islam but is in opposition
Almost all Muslims that I have met have a great amount of fear in
their lives once you get past the outer layer of piety. The often marvel at how
we in the West can be so positive about our religion and our relationship with
God. This gives us a great opportunity to tell them of our Lord Jesus Christ
and how we can be assured of our salvation through our faith in Him. Paul wrote
to Timothy "God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power,
love and sound judgment," 2 Timothy 1:7(HSCB)
Let us as Christians, do all we can to bring our Muslims brothers and
sisters out of the darkness of fear and into the light of love and hope.