Why Islam confounds America

Victory in the religious wars of the 17th century went to the author of learned theological texts, Cardinal Richelieu, and a self-immolating mystic, Joseph du Tremblay, the de facto chief of the French state and his principal diplomat and spy. By contrast, American strategists are children of the Enlightenment, for whom religion at best is a convenient civic myth (Leo Strauss), or an outmoded ideology to be manipulated. 

One pores through American government studies on Islam without finding as much as a sentence on the question: what is the spiritual experience of believing Muslims? Muslims fly airplanes into skyscrapers, or walk into supermarkets with bomb belts, or pull Kalashnikovs from under their wares in the Sadr City bazaar because the West confronts them with an existential threat. Of what does this existential threat consist? The Islamic specialists at American think-tanks stand baffled before such fervor. They are ideologues trained in analyzing structures of belief. But the vast majority of Muslims have no interest in ideology in the sense that the modern West understands the term. Religion for them is an existential matter, of one substance with the smallest details of their daily lives. Secular Americans press their noses against the window-glass, gazing at Islam from the outside in.

A horrible example is Cheryl Bernard's 2003 Rand Corporation study, entitled "Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources, Strategies". Professor Bernard provides cheerful advice on how to manage the different strains of Islam, which she chops up into "Traditionalists", "Fundamentalists", "Modernists", and "Secularists". According to Bernard, "Fundamentalists reject democratic values and contemporary Western culture. They want an authoritarian, puritanical state that will implement their extreme view of Islamic law and morality. They are willing to use innovation and modern technology to achieve that goal. Traditionalists want a conservative society. They are suspicious of modernity, innovation, and change. Modernists want the Islamic world to become part of global modernity. They want to modernize and reform Islam to bring it into line with the age. Secularists want the Islamic world to accept a division of church and state in the manner of Western industrial democracies, with religion relegated to the private sphere." 

Her formula is: 

  1. "Support the Modernists first."
  2. "Support the Traditionalists against the Fundamentalists."
  3. "Confront and oppose the Fundamentalists."
  4. "Selectively support Secularists." 

Saddam Hussein (unmentioned in Bernard's document) was a Modernist, but never mind that. Bernard assumes that the Traditionalists, who maintain their own websites, are sufficiently unfamiliar with Google so as not to notice that America supports their enemies the Modernists, let alone the Secularists. 

With Bernard's game plan in mind, consider the case of "Traditionalist" Iraqi Shi'ite leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Washington's hope for a peaceful transition to a democratic Iraqi state. Sistani's theological writing can be found categorized by subject on the Internet. 1

The ayatollah's concerns hardly overlap with those of the American occupation officials whom he refuses to address directly. On the contrary, what preoccupies him are the minutest issues of daily existence, most of all the question of ritual purity within traditional society. 

For Sistani, "theology" is an entirely different topic than it is to modern Christians or Jews, for whom theology addresses man's relation to God, and their dialogue in the form of prayer. That is why the experience of prayer is the subject of endless elaboration by Christian and Jewish theologians. Here is the Vatican's chief theologian, Josef Cardinal Ratzinger, in the first chapter of Feast of Faith: 

"The basic reason why man can speak with God arises from the fact that God himself is speech, word ... Through the Spirit of Christ, who is the Spirit of God, we can share in the human nature of Jesus Christ; and in sharing in his dialogue with God, we can share in the dialogue with God. This is prayer, which becomes a real exchange between God and man ... Christian prayer is addressed to a God who hears and answers ... Here the gift of God promised unconditionally to those who ask is joy, that 'full' joy which is the expression and the presence of a love which has become 'full'. The reality is the same in each case. Prayer, because of the transformation of being which it involves, means growing more and more into identity with the pneuma of Jesus, the Spirit of God (becoming an "anima ecclesiastica "); borne along by the very breath of his love, we have a joy which cannot be taken from us."

As Ratzinger observes, Christian (as well as Jewish) prayer is a dialogue among lovers. "The soul prayers in the words of the Psalms: let not my prayer and your love depart from me (Psalm 66:20). "It prays to be able to pray - and this is already given to the soul in the assurance of Divine Love," wrote the Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig, believing that Jews and Christians are infatuated with God, and prayer is their opportunity to exchange lovers' intimacies. They never tire of talking about talking to their beloved, that is, about the nature of prayer. One might compare Ratzinger's essay to Man in Search of God by Abraham Joshua Heschel, the best-read Jewish theologian of the postwar period. 

Sistani's interest in prayer is an entirely different matter. In all the mass of his writings available on the Internet, he has nothing more to say about the content of prayer than the following: 

"Prayer is an audience with the Creator, convened at prescribed daily times. Allah has outlined the times at which prayers are said and the manner which they must be conducted. During this audience you be fully absorbed in the experience. You talk to Him and invoke His Mercy. You come out of this encounter with clear conscience and serene heart. It is quite natural that you may feel the presence of Allah while you say your prayer. Above all, prayer is a manifestation of inner feeling that we all belong to Allah, the Most High, who has overall control over everything. And when you utter the phrase, 'Allahu Akbar' at the start of every prayer, all material things should become insignificant because you are in the presence of the Lord of the universe who controls every aspect of it. He is greater than everything. As you recite the chapter of 'al-Fatiha', you say, 'You do we worship, and You do we ask for help'. Thus, you rid yourself of dependency on any mortal. With that exquisite feeling of submission to Him, you enrich your spirit five times a day." 

Less important than the differences in content - "audience" rather than "dialogue", "submission" rather than "love" - is the difference in emphasis. With this perfunctory preface, Sistani begins a lengthy treatise on when, where, with what clothing, and in what bodily positions prayers may be said. His concern is not the spiritual experience of prayer, but establishing communal norms for prayer. Where the Christians and Jews gush with loquacity on the subject, Muslims have remarkably little to say about the experience of prayer. Reading through Muslim sources, I am at loss to find anything remotely resembling Ratzinger's quite typical discourse on prayer. 

In fact, virtually all of Sistani's writings address communal norms for behavior, including the most intimate. Ritual impurity (janabat) is a central concern, especially in the case of sexual relations. He writes, for example: 


"If movement of seminal fluid is felt but not emitted, or if a person doubts whether or not semen has been ejaculated, ghusl will not be obligatory upon him. 

"It is obligatory to conceal one's private parts in the toilet and at all times from adult persons, even if they are one's near relatives (like mother, sister etc.) 

"It is not necessary for a person to conceal the private parts with any definite thing, it is sufficient, if, for example, he conceals them with his hand. 

"While using the toilet for relieving oneself, the front or the back part of one's body should not face the holy Ka'bah [shrine in the Great Mosque, Mecca.] 

In calling attention to these portions of Sistani's theology I do not mean to deprecate him. On the contrary, he addresses the inhabitants of traditional society for whom spiritual experience means submission, that is, submission to communal norms, whence the individual derives a lasting sense of identity. In the most intimate details of daily life, culture and religion become inseparable. For traditional society it is the durability of communal norms that lends a sense of immortality to the individual, a life beyond mere physical existence. That is why prayer in the Judeo-Christian sense, the lovers' exchange between God and the individual soul, does not come into consideration within Muslim theology. Allah is the all-powerful sovereign of the world before whom the individual dissolves; the individual's submission to the ummah, the community of Islam, is a spiritual experience of an entirely different order. 

To this the Americans can only come as destroyers, not saviors. America by its nature disrupts traditional order. It is the usurper of the Old World, the agency of creative destruction, the Spirit that Denies, to whom "everything that arises goes rightly to its ruin" (Goethe) - in short, the " Great Satan". America is the existential threat to Islam.

The above considerations should serve as a response to a Muslim reader of my articles who contributed the delicious parody below: 

Dear Spengler,

I am Spengler writing to myself. Rereading some of my previous writings have awakened an important glitch in my learning process. I am writing this note to myself so that I won't forget it by the time I wake up tomorrow morning. Why do I claim to know much about Islam by making sweeping erroneous comments like, "The God of Mohammed is a creator who well might not have bothered to create. He displays his power like an Oriental potentate who rules by violence, not by acting according to necessity, not by authorizing the enactment of the law, but rather in his freedom to act arbitrarily," [from my article You love life, we love death], or "Not so Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. For Islam, the notion that man's failings more powerfully awake God's love than man's merits is an absurd, indeed an impossible thought. Allah has pity upon human weaknesses, but the idea that he loves weakness more than strength is a form of divine humility that is foreign to the God of Mohammed," wrote the Jewish theologian Franz Rosenzweig.

I seem to read only non-Muslim writers to forge my knowledge of Islam (who may have tremendous biases against Islam. Why would I ask someone who has never swum, but analyzed swimming with consummate abilities, watched swimmers swim, talked to many of them, etc etc - about how swimming is as an experience?). What should I do?

Dear concerned Spengler,

As a first rule, you should pick up several translations of the Koran, some done by Muslims, some done by non-Muslims, and go from there. You can also read Muslim scholars who can communicate with the West in its own discourses, like S H Nasr or Guy Eaton.

By no means am I biased against Islam; I go directly to the most reputable Islamic sources. Rosenzweig's method, though, appeals to me. What interests Rosenzweig is not religious apologetics, but the experience of the individual believer in the daily practice of religion. One can find quotes from the Koran or the Hadith supporting any position one cares to support, but the obvious remains the obvious. Islam on the one hand, and Christianity and Judaism on the other, speak to different people about different things.


(1) http://www.sistani.org/html/eng/


Source: Asia Times

  Category: Americas, Faith & Spirituality
  Topics: Christianity, United States Of America
Views: 9168

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Older Comments:
Bruce, I don't think I want to bring down Bush. The people of USA elected him for the second term(for whatever reasons) and that's the voice of the people which was compared by the Romans to the voice of God: "vox populi vox Dei". Having said this, it is clear to me that only the American people can do a difference in the politics of USA. I pray to that, to the emancipation of the masses, to the return of the fundamentals that lay at the basis of the Human edifice that created America. It seems a long way, but change is overdue. 50 years ago we projected humans building solar houses on Mars. We forcast a week of 4 working days of 6 hours shifts and a social system that would cover everybody from birth to grave, health, education, etc. Where are we Bruce? Technologically speaking in the era of the capability of blowing the solar system to smitherings but spiritually and humanely we are yet in the mentality of the troglodyte. You and me trying to repair the world by taking the crap they feed us in the media and manipulate it to serve our mills? This is just entertainment, Bruce, at the expense of innocent people and US youths serving as troops in a place they should be vacationing not waring. I quiver at the idea of losing one of my loved ones either in a terrorist attack or battling a nation that dwells at the other end of the world.

You must realize, there is a political agenda going on, US can handle terrorism at any level, they are not for them in ME. If they wanted they could have combed Afghanistan like for lice and get OBL in no time.

Recorded in the Quran, God says to the believers:"I have caused you to be a balanced(or middle) nation." Both Christians and Jews can identify with and accept Islamic principles and values quite easily. It is like Islam was in the middle and Christianity and Judaism were the pans of this balance/scale. Extremism is not pertaining to a religion, it is a philosophical doctrine that could affect any system of thought. Peac

I was pleased to see you include an article on Chrsitian prayer that it is a convesation. we speak to God YAWEH and he answers us by his spirit adn through the scriptures. He answers us by revelation and empowers us through prayer. He loves us. God is love. Love is so much more desirable than an Allah controling and imperious. Loveless.

h who wants to control. allah is not in control over all it is the Lord God whose name is YAWEH who is spoke of in the BIble long before mohammed

who is sovereign.

First commandment is that you should have no other gods before you. He is the First and the
last. No amount of revisionary scholarship in the Koran or from Mecca can change it.

i pray that the spiirt of the Lord will gently lead those out of darkness to his light of truth
not wiht violence, not with political ambition, not with territorialism not with fear, not with bombs, not with suicide bombers causing fear, but with his love through christ. May his spirit work in the muslim world, in dreams, visions, by sacrifice, by mercy, and forgiveness, by the work of real chrsitians( note not nominal chrsitians) filled with hte Holy spirit- which was from god not from Allah.
i am sorry to write this in such terms but this is a spiritual war ( not a physical one) Dont politicise Iraq saying that chrsitains have invaded it does not come into it. If every Americam and British soldier was a non belivier he would still be called a christain by Islam. Besides i believe it ws invaded for the petrochemical reserves

l even islam as ther was not mention of love in that article. who would want a loveless tyrant who simply wants submission. As a XChrsitian submission is important but god wants our heart he wants us to do things in our free will not in a spirit of religion or abeyasance. Love conquers all and God is Love.

Hudd, I was pleased to see we have more common ground than I feared. Thank you for your comment. I especially agree with your last few lines. When America and thus Bush stops feeling threatened, we will not have the need to align ourselves with someone not overtly hostile (Israel) nor will we feel the need to intervene in ME affairs. If defeating Bush is your goal, the best way to accomplish it is to stop inflammatory rhetoric, reign in the terrorists who vow our total destruction, and expose the impostors who twist Islam to achieve political goals. I am not an expert in interpretation of the Quran, but I would suspect that Muhammad himself would approve. This accomplished, the political base which support Bush's policies would drop out and the policies would change.

In my opinion the author of the article is confused. Bruce brought about valid points in his comment. Indeed, what about American or Canadian Muslims for that matter, and I mean those that are physically and spiritually living in North America and not those that live physically in NA but their spirit still lingers in Middle East or South Asia.

I would like to remind everyone a narration from Muhammad, peace be upon him: "When you go amidst the nations(non-Muslim), accept that which is good and don't reject it on basis of not being of your tradition. Add it to your lore so that your culture may increase." I did that, I do that. My cooking is from Scottish to Japanese through ME, Indo-Pakistani, Malay, etc. My clothing is anything of trend in the Americas. My entertainment, although selective, consists of indigenious sports(hockey, basketball, baseball, etc.), Hollywood movies, and any kind of public entertainment facilities. Except those that promote alcohol drinking or pornography. Because of this and the fact that I speak only English and none of the "Muslim" languages, many of the brothers see me as a weaker Muslim. Is not only me, but my children, and an emerging grassroots number of people that don't find the Pakistani national dress very attractive or practicle for everyday use. It seems that for yet a great number of Muslims here in NA, long beards, funny clothes and peculiar accents are a measure of somebody's Islamness. I believe that in the long run, the Muslims that look like normal people are going to win and as we are marginalized now they will be. In India almost everybody wears a beard, and these funny clothes, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and Christians. How could these clothes be Islamic? Having said these, the time is drawing near when mutual discussians between neighbours will take place at a citizen level rather than Alien vs Yankee. The confusion will thus be dissipated, God willing. For now this strife is a fuel needed for Bush's war machine.

MS M FROM U.S. said:
I don't believe American people are "confounded' by
Islam. It's hard to ignore the differences in the overall
quality of life of people who live in Islamic countries as
opposed to people who live under other forms of
government. You have a hard time building a case that
women and children (and even men) have a better
quality of life in Afghanistan, Iran or most Islamic-
domintated African countries. This is what Americans
find "confounding." These abuses of basic human
rights make it very difficult for Americans to accept and
respect Islam, because this is what they see and hear.
Show me a man in an Islamic country who has been
arrested and convicted for beating up his wife (a
common occurence -- I worked for an agency that
rescued Islamic women from domestice violence) and
I'll change my mind. But until then, it's a big hurdle to
overcome. The religion is fine - no one has a problem
with that. It's the reality of the way of everyday life that
drives people to condemn Islam not the religious

How is this in any way helpful. the writer trys to score and acheives nothing.

If this article is representative of Muslim thought, (from the responses I can with some relief guess that it is not) I can see why Islam might confound America. I would suspect that this article would confound most Muslims. To conclude that America is an existential threat to Islam and that America is "The Great Satan" on the basis of the arguments presented in the article is an insult to Muslims and Non-Muslims alike. Ask an American Muslim if by living in the US they are the personification of Satan.

I believe Mr. Spengler inadvertently demonstrated why Islam confounds America. In spite of his insinuations to the contrary, most Americans believe in religious tolerance. This does not mean we have no beliefs but rather our neighbor has the right and the ability to form his or her beliefs without our coercion. If America threatens the existence of Islamic Fundamentalists, it is only because of the rhetoric of people like Spengler that try to make Islam and the rest of the world out as mutually exclusive. If he really has the faith he purports, convert the world by demonstration of faith, not spit.

I remain confounded.

As Salaamu Alaikum
My dear brothers and sisters, let's not allow ourselves to be confused..."SUBMISSIVE AND COMMUNAL NORMS" they say! When it is Allah and Allah alone whomn we submit to. For those who may visit this site who are not Muslim, the author of this article in my opinion writes this to purposly confuse you by using words and phrases that the author himself doesn't seem to comprehend. For example ther is no such word as "LOQUACITY" the proper grammatical use of the word is loquaciosness meaning fluency, chattiness or talkativeness. I would consider that a small matter but given the fact that our creator is free from all imperfections and has perfected this religion for all mankind He and this beautiful way of life that is Islam deserves at the very least to be referenced by someone who
has some basic knowledge of this faith.


There are three camps in this world as far as 'm concern, and the writer (conciously or otherwise) has define two namely;

There are those who takes God for granted, that He can change forms and come down to earth as a human being, or even a beast (Wa iyyazu billah) and that through prayers one will experience God overwhelming him (the individual) in the form of a spirit(?) to the extent of turning to craze (sometimes speaking in tongue). In fact these group believe an ordinary human can become god at a later part of his life (through prayers) and "spritual experience" (as they put it). Subuhana-llah.

The other group (which I belong) believes that Allah (God) exist aside and compeletely independent of all other creations. He is the supreme and all other creatures are created by Him. He is UP THERE while we (including the Universe) the weaklings, are down here. He asks us to submit to his will and we say yes we have submitted. He gives us the way to lead our lives, conserve nature to our benefits and essentially guide and protect us. When we stand to pray, we know that we pray in obedience to Him the almighty, our prayers and good actions are all to our benefits, He does not stand to gain anything from these. His is the compelete dominion He begets not nor was He begotten and there is none comparable to Him. Allah created us (including the Universe) for sole purpose of worhip. This is the religion of Islam which all prophets came one after the other to teach. And this is the religion of truth.

The third group need not be mentioned. I pray the writer wiill seek out the truth (in the proper way) so as to find peace with the Creator.

Quran emphasize again and again to learn, to observe and to implement. We ought to learn more and more about the truth to seek the truth. Things have been made crystal clear so that there is no room for confusion and disarray.
But to learn or to obtain wisdom we need a teacher who in the real sense is a teacher internally and externally.
To learn from a teacher one has to go to the teacher like a beggar who has an empty bowl and the bowl facing upwards. But if you go to the teacher with a full bowl all what a teacher will pour will fall out of the bowl and nothing will go inside it.
Books are there to give you knowledge but not wisdom, wisdom only comes when we have an honest teacher who teaches to unfold the secrets of knowledge.


Dear Author,
I would recommend reading Rumi, Coleman Barks translations are very accessible. Then please re-read or may be re-write your article.

As explained in the Sahih Muslim, "Iman (faith) has two aspects ... cognitive and volitional. It is at once an affirmation of truth from the depth of one's heart and surrender to the truth affirmed. When the volitional aspect is emphasised, we have the notion commonly denoted by the word 'trust'; when the cognitive aspect is stressed, we have belief. The word Iman signifies originally conviction of the heart, while Islam signifies originally submission and hence primarily action"

The reason I quoted above from Sahih Muslim is that Iman is something that can not be forced into someone. It has to come from the very depth of the heart of the truth seeker.

The west is not keen in seeking truth, they only tirelessly seek to create arnarchy in the name of freedom & give fancy names to their mischiefs suchs as 'democracy' (a concept of putting two or more groups in to confrontation with each other while a handful few can loot the society & become rich), then comes 'tolerlance' (of sins) in the name of human rights etc., etc.

Because the Iman is totally absent in the heart of these western aranchist, they just see Islam just another 'culture' or a group who belives in something different.

They talk about 'love of God' while the concept of God itself is totally absent in their heart. They remain so hopelessly poor in their heart.

The realisation, that in hereafter Almighty Allah will judge us all based on the law given by Him (and not by the law of some militarily strong nation) , remains totally absent in their hearts. And therefore they come up with all kinds of wrong assesment of this true religion, Islam.

Thanks to some of the deviants within our own muslim community, the west had been succesful in dividing us & to some extent confuse the weaker of us about our own religion.

Ultimately these western anarchists will a heavy price. The can not hide the truth forever.

Semantics aside, this article offers nothing substantive. At best, the writer is trying to impress his readers with his mastery of words--whether they are making sense or not. For your information, there are basically two categories of Muslims: the fundamentalists and the deviants. During his farewell speech, the Holy Prophet told all Muslims--and, by extension, the whole world that he was bequeathing to them two things to which they must hold fast: The Holy Qur'an and his sunnah (ways). Those who maintain these two treasures in tact are fortunately the fundamentlists. But there are those who try to distort some aspects of these treasures; and they are, regrettably, the deviants. Fortunately for the world, the sunnah of the Prophet are compiled in volumes of books comprising of thousands of haditha. And more besides, the Holy Qur'an and these haditha have been translated in so many languages that one is left with no excuse for being ignorant, because even if you cannot read, there are scholars who are willing to clear your doubts on any issue free of charge. If this writer is an honest seeker of truth, I will like to advise him or her to take advantage of these resources instead of dabbling in what have been written by detractors of Islam. As his analogy on swimming suggests, it is sheer tomfoolery to ask a neophyte of a particular discipline for instruction when the master of that discipline is very much present. Thank you very much and I hope you will seek out the right fountain to quench your thirst for knowledge on Islam.

As an American, I can speculate on why Islam confounds America. I really think that the American ideal of freedom of worship has been swamped by the notion of recent years of the "separation of church and state" which is being interpreted and imposed by the practice of separating God from Society. Muslims who practice Islam know that it is impossible to observe Islam and separate God from our daily routines, while Christians and to a lesser extent Jews, have perfected this to an art form. Our observance of our religious duties in the course of daily life seems to shame them, and so they want us to compartementalize God in the same way that they do, so as not to feel uncomfortable.

If they really studied the Scriptures, they would find that Declaration of faith, daily prayers, fasting, and charity are assigned to all of us, that Jew, Muslim and Christian are commanded to surrender our will to that of the Most High, not in ignorance and by coercion, but in devotion and worship. This is what they would take from us, in their effort to water down our religion as they have done to their own. THAT is the threat we face.

If America returns, or rather I should say, establishes the ideal of a true freedom of worship, where all may bow before their creator free from fear of persecution and bigotry, as was the dream of the founding fathers, I believe that this threat would be abated, but I do not see this on the horizon. It is ironic that most christians believe that the 'believers' will be persecuted in the last days. I wonder if they ever stop to realize that it is they who have become the persecuters. sigh.

Thanks for listening.
L. Alahem

One more clarification. To a muslim prayer means the 5 daily prescribed prayer. Preayer as Christians know it perhaps can be referred to as Dua to a muslim, that is supplication which is not mandatory but to a true believer it forms a direct relationship with God. There are many books written on such prayers or Dua. So, it may be misleading to just compare Christian prayer with the daily muslim prayer without taking a look at other islamic supplications which froms a large part of a believers ritual. Peace.

Dear Spengler,

Muslim doesnt believe that WISDOM comes from experience, exposure,knolwedge and preaching rather we believe it comes from Submission. Mother of all truth,absolute truth,eternal truth is non other than GOD. Identifying GOD as He is the best of knowledge.

If you have to be lover, you have to stand on the same foot.How can you turn your face against GOD in mock anger? How can you instigate him for not delivering what you have asked for ? Well, if u can't do this, certainly you are not lovers.If you are not lovers, then it is blasphemy to say so , especially when it has GOD at the other end.

Ironically, you choose to identify communication between GOD and man as 'prayer', while you have deemed the both as lovers.

No complete information on the experience of prayer is the only criteria by which Islam or muslim will be categorized as a people,who will not get along with others, merely imply your lack of ken. Possible, muslims wouldn't like to narrate their individual experiences in the presence of OMNIPOTENT GOD.

Or you couldnt decode the experience of self in prayers explained by scholars(not jus Mr.Sistani).Having noted that your standard for muslim is inappropriate, i would like to wind up this with little observation.

AMerica is gr8 satan, not bcoz it spoils the cobweb of community,but its adamant nature in not acknowledging the GOD as HE is and disobeying His will.

To understand Islam please read the Quran in any existing translation. You will see that it comes from the same God. There is only One God who can come up with such wisdom. The various prophets He sent was to serve their communities at the time, thus all such prophets/mesengers of God spoke the language of their folk, otherwise how could they communicate the message to their folk? Yet all the prophets were not accepted by their folk at first and some even persecuted to death - Christ was crucified accoring to Bible. In all 3 books (Torah, Bible and Quran) God creates man in His likeness and asks man to share His kingdom, yet man sways and is then given time to toil on this earth - in all 3 scriptues man can only gain God's favour if he obeys God through prayer and being good whilst accepting his final abode to be with God - yet again in all 3 scriptures the shortest way to God's Kingdom or Heaven is through utter submission to His will. How can one do so without giving one's heart to God. Only then we can win His favour. Muslims carry out the 5 times daily obligatory prayers so as not to forget God, since man get involved in daily toil. Perhaps it is the only religion that has such a routine today, yet Christ and all other Judaism prophets prescribed the same daily prayers - it is a way to remind the masses of The One Creator - as for HIS lovers, it only falls on few ears for it requires total abandonment of worldly matters and living in God with every breath. Total Submission is not an easy path for anyone, yet anyone has the ability to make such a commitment to God and when he/she does so, they go beyond being a muslim, jew, christian, budist or anything else. Like you said, you ought to learn swimming from a swimming pro. Anything else is speculation and to form hard opinion on Islam thro reading material written by non-muslims is far from being intelligent.