by Dr. Mark Gabriel
Dr. Mark Gabriel, former professor of Islamic history at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, the most prestigious Islamic Univer-sity in the world, was able to quote the entire Quran by the time he was twelve years old. Raised in Egypt, in the midst of a breeding ground of Islamic terrorists, he spent his formative years deep inside the confines of Muslim influence.  His own family disowned him after he converted to Christianity, and angry Muslims tried to kill him several times.  He escaped his homeland and now resides in the United States.  As a reflection of his new life in Christ, he chose a Christian name to replace his Muslim name.

Since September 11, Western leaders and the media have told us that Islam is a peaceful religion.  We have been badly misin-formed says Gabriel.  He grew up in an upstanding family in Cairo and knew the Quran verse by verse by age 12, but no matter how much he knew about Islamic teaching, he could not reconcile the teachings with what he saw fanatical Muslims doing in the name of Islam.  Such questioning led to a devastating result - he was fired from the university, hunted down by the Egyptian secret police, dragged from his family's home in the middle of the night, and thrown into prison where he was tortured, still bearing the scars today.  Through the intervention of a politically high-ranking family member he was released from prison.

Gabriel was so traumatized by this treatment that for one year he refused - could not - have faith in G-D.  "For one year I lived without any faith," he says.  Finally, a pharmacist gave him a Bible.  At home he opened the Bible to Matthew 5:38 and read, "You have heard it said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth... . If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other
also" (NIV).

He had never heard words as inspiring as this in the Quran.  "I had come face to face with the L-RD Jesus Christ," he says.  As
he continued to read, comparing the Bible to what he knew of the Quran, Gabriel knew he was finally encountering the true G-D, and by dawn he surrendered his life to Christ.  Gabriel's father was angry to learn of his son's new faith and also of a gift of a
cross he received from a Christian couple on a 1994 family business trip to South Africa.  He pulled a gun and threatened to kill him.  To escape this threat and the routine persecution Christians face, he fled to South Africa where he grew in the Christian faith and in his relationship with Jesus Christ.

As a freshman college student, Gabriel says one of the most popular lecturers was a blind Sheik.  Gabriel asked why he never talked about the love, peace and forgiveness in Islam.  Angered, the sheik said, "Jihad and killing are the head of Islam.  If you
take them out, you cut off the head of Islam."
That blind man was Omar Abdel Rahman who was convicted of masterminding the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.  Before he came to America, he was the spiritual leader of the radical Egyptian group al-Jihad, which killed President Anwar Sadat.

Westerners have a hard time understanding terrorists, especially since a deceptively sanitized version is presented to the West.  But Gabriel says these people are not crazy but are following a philosophy.  Islam means "submission" and the word Muslim means "one who submits to Allah."  The Quran was started in A.D. 610 when Muhammad said the angel Gabriel spoke to him while he was meditating in a cave near Mecca.

Muhammad wrote down these words as they were received - they were supposed to be the direct words of Allah.  It is significant that the revelations came over a period of 22 years.  The books of 'Hadith' are another set of holy writings that record a verified account of what Muhammad did and said during his life.

Muhammad's life and teachings have served to establish principles of warfare and coersion that are practiced today.  The revela-tions he received are dictated by periods in his life.  When there is a contradiction in Quranic verses (which Gabriel questions), Islamic scholars had to determine which verses to follow.  "This was accomplished by the principle of naskh," which means that the new revelations would override previous revelations.

There are at least 114 verses in the Quran that speak of love, peace, and forgiveness ("The Heifer" Surah 2:62, 109).  "But when Surah 9:5 was revealed later, it canceled out those previous verses," Gabriel says. 
"This Surah is known as the 'verse of the sword," and it explains that Muslims must fight anyone who chooses not to convert to Islam, whether they are inside or outside
of Arabia.  It is considered to be the final development of jihad in Islam."

Jihad (holy war) is a command to all Muslims enforced by the Quran.  The focus is to overcome people who do not accept Islam.  Islam is a religion of works.  Dying in jihad is a great honor, and it is the only way a Muslim is assured of entering Paradise at all.  This is why you see Muslims leaving their own nations to fight jihad in other countries.  "Their motivation is religious, which is much more dangerous than a political motivation," Gabriel says.  Jihad is the motivation behind almost every act of terrorism
done in the name of Islam.  After the death of Muhammad, different factions rose up to carry on the faith - which became the Sunni and Shiite Muslims.  Gabriel cites many reasons why Islam became such a dominant force so quickly, one being that violence was a ubiquitous part of the culture at the time and this type of religious conquest fit easily into the regional character.
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