There were 1.8 billion Muslims in the world as of 2015 — 24% of the global population — according to a Pew Research Center estimate. Islam is currently the world’s second-largest religion (after Christianity), but it is the fastest-growing major religion.
This may scare some people, but as Unificationists we should take this fact very seriously. True Mother proclaims that she will fulfill her mission before she goes to the spiritual world. That mission is to give the Blessing to all the people of the world. Islam comprises a quarter of the world’s population and is growing every day. Therefore, it is essential we find a way to reach the Muslim world as the filial children of our True Parents, Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon.
My husband and I have been working in the Middle East since 1996 and have found that most Muslims are very tolerant and open-minded. They have a deep love for God and believe that religion should play an important role in people’s lives. They follow God’s words and tradition and are deeply conservative.
Because of this, they have little respect for the Western world which has lost its religious values and is becoming more secular every day. They become deeply disturbed when they see how Western values are influencing their young people. Because of the lack of values of the West, some Muslims see the West as the enemy who is promoting a sinful lifestyle and should be stopped.
But the reality is that the Muslim world is more open to Unificationist values and principles than the Western world. They have a great deal in common with the world of Unificationists. They are desperate to preserve the family and family values. They honor purity and marriage. They understand the value of a relationship with God and religious tradition as a cornerstone for the community and society.
Sharing our values and principles with the Muslim world is not difficult on a personal level but because of the political and religious control we have to be sensitive and adjust our approach to meet the current situation of Islamic nations.
Concerning the task of approaching Muslims with the Divine Principe, it is important to understand the Muslim world, the religion and the culture, before we start to share our ideology. This is important especially if we are not from a Muslim background.
We may easily misrepresent our True Parents if we approach this task from a Judeo-Christian perspective, which non-Muslims tend to do. We must understand the Islamic religion, culture, values, and lifestyle in order to be qualified to share our principles with the Islamic world.
In reality, the only way we can truly embrace the Muslim world is through a heart of service, piety, sincerity, and love. This is the heart of a True Abel. Our approach must be one of humility. We have so much to learn from them and we have so many resources to share with them and this must be the foundation of our work. They must see us as an elder brother who is protecting and nurturing them to be prosperous and successful.
Another important point to consider is that in some interpretations of Islam it is forbidden to convert to another religion. There are a number of countries that expressly make apostasy a capital offense. However, only a small number of cases apply of capital punishment. Also, this belief is not held by moderate Muslims because this is not clearly supported from the Quran. Although the law is not enforced in this day and age, a Muslim converting to another religion would be completely and absolutely ostracized by their family, relatives and community.
Because of this cultural pressure it is important that when we do outreach in the Muslim world we do not do so as a religion. We cannot use religious terms such as “reverend” or “church.” Working in this part of the Islamic world it is necessary to work through the Family Federation for World Peace, Universal Peace Federation, Women’s Federation for World Peace, or Youth and Service for Peace. Any of these associations works well. We are not converting people to our understanding, but sharing with them how to live a good life, how to apply the Principles of God in their life, and how to become true believers. They must not feel we are trying to change them but only trying to enhance their own faith and helping them to fulfil their own desire to live with God and become a godly person.
Our goal in doing outreach in the Middle East — we believe should be a common point in all places — is to connect the people to our True Parents and eventually to support them to become true parents themselves. Of course, they need to learn and apply Divine Principle, which is the way to become true parents and receive the Blessing. In teaching Divine Principle, we need to revise our current format, because it has been written for a Christian audience. We need to make it acceptable to a Muslim audience. In order to make these proper adjustments it is necessary to know which parts of the Divine Principle can be acceptable in the Muslim world and be aware of what concepts are not acceptable.
Educating Palestinian youth in Jordan.
The Principle of Creation
As we examine the Divine Principle in relation to the Quran we will find that most of the content of the Principle of Creation is compatible. Passages of the Quran support the principles of resemblance, duality, and purpose of creation. Other parts are completely acceptable although there may not be clear evidence of support from the scriptures. Especially, Muslims have a clear belief in the spiritual world and our explanation is enlightening for them.
One aspect of the Principle of Creation not compatible with Islam is the concept of God as our Father and therefore Heavenly Parents. Actually, the Quran speaks against this concept strongly, scolding those who believe that God can have literal children: “What, has your Lord favored you with sons and taken to Himself from the angels females? Surely it is a monstrous thing you are saying.” (Quran 62:42) This attack is actually against those (such as many pre-Islamic Arabs) who believe that gods or God can literally have children. Although these words are in the Quran, some great Muslim leaders, such as the late Grand Mufti of Syria, taught that we are the children of God.
Muslims accept that humankind was created with the spirit of God, but the point they reject is that we are the physical children of God. Their concept of God is a god of power, might and mercy. If God was to be close to man, it would make Him weak and vulnerable, so the Quran tried to distance God and man as much as possible. But they accept that we were created from God’s spirit: “When I have shaped him and breathed My spirit in him.” (Quran 38:73).
However, in the Sufi interpretation, God is a very personal being and they relate to Him as a Loving God. They also teach a concept called fana, which is a process of gradually coming closer to God until becoming completely one with the beloved.
The Quran is not written chronologically but is organized by the lengths of the chapters. Therefore, the story of the Fall is not found all in the same chapter as in the Bible. But the story in the Quran about the Fall of Adam and Eve is very similar to the story we use in the Principle. The story contains Adam and Eve, Satan, and the Tree of Eternity. Also, after consuming the fruit, Adam and Eve cover their lower parts. Using this story, we can explain the Fall and it is very acceptable to the Muslim audience.
In addition, the Fall of the Angel was clearly explained as Iblis (Lucifer) refused to bow himself to Adam. Also, Adam and Eve admit their mistake and God sends them out of Paradise and creates enmity between them and the archangel. There is also support for the possibility of sexual intercourse with a spirit. Jinn refers to the spirits that stay on earth and disturb humans, different than angels, spiritual beings who were made from fire. Fornication is a major sin in most religions and especially in Islam. There is much evidence of how Satan (Shaytan) is influencing humans and how it is humans’ responsibility to resist the temptation of Satan and follow the word of God.
The only problem we have with the Fall and Islam is that they don’t have a concept of original sin. At the time of the Fall according to the Quran, God forgave Adam and Eve and the sin they committed was not passed down to the ancestors. The Quran says that Satan tempts all people according to their life. If they live an evil life then Satan can influence them; if they live a good life and follow the will of God then Satan has nocontrol over them. Also, there is no concept of inherited sin in the Quran.
Other sections of the Divine Principle are written for a Christian audience; therefore, some of it is not relevant to a Muslim audience, such as Christology. But predestination, eschatology and the last days are well documented in the Quran. For the Muslim, Resurrection is a concept having to do with that time period. Like the Bible, the Quran speaks of these times in symbols, so a clear interpretation is necessary which can be given through the view of the Principle. Also, the Mission of Jesus can be discussed effectively because they understand Jesus to be a special prophet; they even call him Messiah, prepared by God and also understand that the crucifixion was not necessary for salvation. Actually, they believe strongly that Jesus was not crucified.
A female MP in Afghanistan who has done numerous projects together with WFWP.
The Providence of Restoration
All aspects of the Divine Principle cannot be correlated to the Quran and should not be. The Divine Principle is a new expression of truth for our new age. We should not say revelation because the Muslims belief that the Quran is the last revelation. However, the Quran says:
“And if whatever trees upon the earth were pens and the sea [was ink], replenished thereafter by seven [more] seas, the words of Allah would not be exhausted. Indeed, Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.” (Quran 31:27)
So, there is the understanding that all the truth of God has not been revealed yet, since it is limitless and therefore they can accept the concept of new expression of truth.
All the stories of the Providence of Restoration are also mentioned in the Quran with little differences. The prophets Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus are all honored and recognized in the Quran. In sharing this part of the Principle, it is important to mention the providential significance of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and the history of Islam if possible.
Of course, the most important part of the Divine Principle is the announcement of the Second Coming of the Messiah, our True Parents. Islam does have a concept of Messiah, in the sense that they believe that Jesus was a Messiah and will return again in the Day of Judgment. When the Messiah comes again they also believe him to be of Muslim background. So, we have to approach this in a different way. Also, it is very sensitive if we introduce someone who has a higher position than the Prophet (PBUH).
In our experience in the Muslim world, we would introduce True Parents as the King and Queen of Peace. This was very effective especially through teaching the life course of our True Parents. Through their life course it is clear that there have been no other persons in human history who have done as much for peace as True Parents. They are obviously the King and Queen of Peace. We also give an overview of our movement and explain how True Parents are building the ideal world in this day and age.
We do not ask people to leave their religion, rather to join our organization and help to build the ideal world as a True Muslim or a Muslim-Unificationist. We encourage them to develop their own personal relationship with True Parents as their parents and follow their example as True Parents.
We need to proclaim the coming of our True Parents to the entire world, not just the Judeo-Christian world. In this day and age, the world consists of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. We cannot ignore this fact. We need to find a way to share this great news with all the people of the world and at the same time be sensitive to their belief system and culture.
As we approach Cheon Il Guk, I suggest we spend more time and resources on creating educational material with this goal in mind, to make the great teachings of our True Parents acceptable to all people of the world.♦
Marilyn Angelucci (UTS Class of 1990) was born and educated in the United States, earning a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in religious education from UTS. She and her husband, Umberto Angelucci, have worked for over 20 years in various organizations on three different continents and in seven different nations. She currently serves as Secretary General of the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification in the Middle East, educating young people and families, and strengthening family values. Marilyn and Umberto are the proud parents of two wonderful sons and three young grandchildren.
Photo at top: Rev. and Mrs. Moon with Sheikh Ahmed Kuftaro, the Grand Mufti of Syria, in 1989.
These academic and pastoral reflections of a person who spent many years in the mission field are important. Her approach is wise and tells us about the best practices when dealing with Muslims. It hides nothing of the challenges involved; it also reveals why it is worth trying and the benefits of a reasonable approach.
We should not forget the importance of the five pillars of Islam:
1. The profession of faith that there is only one God warns us against any temptation of idolatry. It is in common with Judaism and Protestantism. Never represent God.
2. The emphasis on prayer is interesting. First God speaks and reveals Himself. Second, Man should reply and speak to God. We must remember that Allah originally asks for 50 prayers a day, which are reduced to five with the intercession of Moses. This famous story of the ascension of the Prophet shows that there may be more freedom and sense of responsibility in this religion than we often want to admit. Some will argue otherwise, of course.
3. The practice of charity shows a concern for others in Islam, which should come from a heart of compassion.
4. The practice of fasting is very demanding and contains a great lesson of self-control. Some people will argue that this is not such a good practice.
5. The practice of the pilgrimage offers us a picture of human beings from all backgrounds who come to a holy site to reflect upon their lives. It can leave no one indifferent. Some people may be frightened by mass pilgrimage.
When I think of Islam, it is first of all these five pillars which make a strong impression on me. As a believer, I can learn from this. Of course, I also know that there are many issues with each point, and am sure that others will point at this. Some of these five points can be seen as too austere, severe and excessive, especially when one has a bad impression of Islam.
On thing that we should never forget is that Islam first gives the impression of a simple religion, for better and for worse. This simplicity goes with an absence of hierarchy. The holy aspect is presented in very simple terms. Sometimes, all other religions may appear as too sophisticated and complicated. The simplicity of Islam is wonderful in the Islam of the heart. It can be very frightening in Radical Islam, making radicals appear as some “green Khmers”. A literal reading of texts favors illiteracy, i.e., the contempt for any personal reflection or culture. Needless to say, I am very afraid of this tendency and temptation of certain branches of Islam.
And yet, we also know that, in the history of Islam, there has been room for very deep meditation, mysticism. One problem of radical Islam is a dangerous confusion between simplicity and some sort of fundamentalism. This leads to fanaticism. The true simplicity of spirituality should go with a very deep heart of love, a parental love. There have been great saints in Islam.
Throughout his life, Rev. Moon talked about God in rather simple terms (Absolute, Eternal, Unchanging, Unique), but Father expressed the deep, longing heart of God, His divine tears to save all humankind. In the beginning, our movement could attract people irrepressibly with this heart. Now, we have become more sophisticated, formal, complicated in our own way. If we return to a personal relationship with God, we shall be able to become irresistible again. Our message about God’s heart is exactly what all humankind needs now, urgently. If our movement fails to be radical in heart and love, with burning passion to save others, human beings will be tempted by other forms of radicalization. This is because humankind is tired with deconstruction, confusion, relativism, which make lives extremely uncertain and blurred. There is a demand for strong, unshakable pillars. Let us make them very clear.
I am glad to see Unificationists talking about other religions from the standpoint of understanding people by living with them. It is very hard to work towards one family under God if we do not understand other people. I think it is important to bring some of this type of discussion into our Sunday Schools. Our children should not only learn about Jesus and Reverend Moon, but all the major paths to God and truth. The five pillars of Islam, Buddhist understanding of consciousness, and the four theories of truth in philosophy are things that should be presented to teenagers if we seek to give them a good foundation in where the world is at.
“As we approach Cheon Il Guk, I suggest we spend more time and resources on creating educational material with this goal in mind, to make the great teachings of our True Parents acceptable to all people of the world.” Amen and aju.
The work Marilyn and her husband are doing in the Middle East is inspiring to me, on many levels. I laud their tireless efforts.
At the same time, I found myself troubled by her narrative.
Can we reasonably expect any religion that claims its sacred texts and set of beliefs must be adopted by all before peace can “come on earth” will lead to world peace? Absolutist claims invariable lead to various forms of violence and conflict.
Religious adherents –- of any stripe –- holding unquestioned confidence in a given book, ideology, worldview, or personage, while insisting there is no need for any evidence outside of their faith tradition to back up their claims, cannot be effective “peacemakers,” in my view.
We need not look far to verify the veracity of the above statement.
Wonderful, Marilyn. You and your husband are truly “new age saints” and we appreciate you! The work you are doing is precious and your understanding is beyond much challenge, because you have been in the trenches working with our Islamic brothers and sisters.
Please keep developing more on how to educate Muslims. Indeed, this is so important!
Thank you for opening up the conversation. Just a couple of comments.
You rightly point out the Principle of Creation is Muslim. In fact more Muslim and Jewish than it is Christian. The Muslim critique of God not being a Father was mostly directed at Christian theology and especially Trinitarianism where Jesus was variously the Son of God, God the Son and God. The doctrine is often crudely misunderstood as Jesus was the Son of God because his mother was a virgin and God was his Father as expressed in the teaching that Jesus was the ‘only begotten Son of God’, ‘begotten and not created.’ Muslims regard this as the very serious sin of shirk — to believe that God has a partner — and for this reason believe all Christians go to hell except Unitarians.
Muslims reject the Christian doctrine of original sin but so do we. The Principle says that due to the Fall people are born in the ‘midway position’:
“Immediately after the Fall, when Adam and Eve had the original sin but had not yet committed any subsequent good or evil deeds, they found themselves in the midway position — a position between God and Satan where they were relating with both. As a consequence, all their descendants are also in the midway position…. Therefore, a fallen person will go to God’s side if he makes good conditions and to Satan’s side if he makes evil conditions.”
This is not like the Christian doctrine where in the Anglican formulation because of original sin, ‘every person born into this world, deserveth God’s wrath and damnation,’ but more like the Jewish and Muslim idea that human beings are born with a good and evil inclination and depending on their actions strengthen the one or the other. So although Muslims, like Jews, believe Adam and Eve sinned, in that sense there was an original or first sin (which God forgave when they repented); neither believes in inherited sin.
Christology is a useful chapter as it clarifies that we do not accept Christian doctrines of the divinity of Jesus or the Christian formulation of the Trinity.
Nice way of introducing True Parents as king and queen of peace.
We were part of a small group for a while in our area that included a man from Pakistan, a Muslim, and a woman from Guatemala, a Catholic, and two Unificationists who are a blessed couple. The man was not really a practicing Muslim, but his worldview was. They are a very wonderful couple. We used World Scripture as our text and had many interesting discussions. He made a strong point about Jesus being mentioned a lot in the Quran. This Holy Text is very enlightening and useful to encourage discussion in a mixed religious environment which in many cases is the norm now.
He identified strongly with abstinence prior to marriage and fidelity within. Perhaps there will be more couples like this in the future.
In our area, the Muslims organization and worship center is known as the Muslim Association of the Lehigh Valley. A young woman writes in a space in our local paper about religious and social issues. Many members I know are active and visible in the local Chamber of Commerce. Our area has become home to many refugees from Syria and the “Association” as well as the local Council of Churches had helped them get a footing here when they arrived. In my experience, Muslims have worked hard to integrate into our local area, which has a rich religious and cultural background extending back to William Penn.
Thank you for your thoughtful article!
Great to know we have a central figure for the mission in the Middle East with the Angeluccis.
True Father certainly gave evidence on the importance on the peace process in the Middle East when he initiated MEPI. I had the privilege to participate in three of them between 2003 and 2005. This after having spent 160 days in Israel from 1970 to 1971. Due to this experience of True Parents’ providence, this is important to me.
It would be interesting therefore to also get some insights from Marilyn Angelucci about how to bridge the divide between Jews and Muslims. It’s a very sensitive issue, but according to True Father, world peace can only come about when the three Abrahamic faiths will find some degree of harmony.
Recently, I had a deep conversation with a local American Black Imam. Like most American Muslims, they are converts with Christian roots. We talked about God and man and the purpose of life. It quickly became apparent how Muslim views of man’s relationship to God differ from ours. Yes, they feel like protecting God’s greatness and sovereignty by keeping a distance of great reverence. They say God does not need us — but we need God and that we need to maintain a feeling of utmost respect and obedience. A bit more of such sentiment would actually be good for us too.
Still I prefer to see God as a loving Father or Parent with whom we all eventually will become one in heart. Glad that the Sufis like such a view too.
The conversation taught me to be a good listener and to just present our views without expecting agreement. I had a similar experience with an elder of our local Bahai Community, who was full of appreciation for our DP views. Clearly, sharing with Muslims our different understanding and offering respect for theirs may build over time a consensus based on which we can work together for peace.
Mrs. Angelucci’s article prompts us to see beyond the case of Islam. In the beginning of her article, she says, “There were 1.8 billion Muslims in the world as of 2015 — 24% of the global population.” And her article ends with this reflection: “We need to proclaim the coming of our True Parents to the entire world, not just the Judeo-Christian world. In this day and age, the world consists of Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. We cannot ignore this fact.”
Indeed, Hinduism is the world’s third-largest religion; its followers, Hindus, constitute about 1.15 billion, or 15–16% of the global population.
A huge number of the disciples of Buddha and Confucius live in China, that is 1.3 billion people, about 17% of the world population.
The Muslim world, China and India combined will soon represent 60% of the world population, a population which I would call “captive”, but we surely can find a better word.
In 2020, the world will enter the 100th year of the period called “the second Advent”, already. In 1920, Christianity was still very triumphant and was evangelizing many new countries. In 1945, the Christian cultural sphere had hegemony in every aspect, spiritually, politically, from the cultural and economic viewpoint.
Now, China is seeking a special path toward global power. China was often tempted to embrace Christianity, including with Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek, but current continental China is entering the 21st century with a completely different system of values. India is about to overcome poverty and enter the 21st century as another major power which is indifferent to our way of life. They are not interested in our values and are more confident in their own set of beliefs.
The Principle says that four major cultural spheres will emerge in the Last Days, but will be more or less absorbed by the Christian cultural sphere. That may remain true, but then we have to reconsider our strategy. The Muslim sphere, Hindu sphere and the Asian religious sphere remain what I would call three fortresses. The spiritual preparation of Islam for the Second Coming remains captive of a spiritual power which has not been easy to penetrate. The spiritual preparation of Hinduism for the Second Coming remains captive of a cultural power. The spiritual preparation of China for the Second Coming remains captive of the political power of communism. As we approach 2020, this is something to consider very seriously.
Our movement is thriving in Taiwan; and its greatest achievements have always been in Japan, even more than in Korea. Japan and Taiwan show what the Buddhist-Confucian background can do with Unificationism. But how much have we really learned from our movement in Japan, where the Christian population is 0.5%.
Our movement is also thriving in Nepal, where 90% of the population is Hindu. Actually, some of the best practices of Unificationism can be observed in Taiwan and Nepal, two nations I visited recently. Our Unificationist scholars should take more time to study and understand why Unificationism can be so successful in Taiwan and Nepal. Especially Nepal has so much to teach. This nation is now sending missionaries to several countries, and they will gradually implement these excellent practices which I could see.
I believe that we can do something to enter the three fortresses. But we really need time to reflect seriously on theses issues. This article of Mrs. Angelucci may contain a divine calling.