A native born Belgian was recently interviewed on CNN having returned from Syria where he had served in the army of the Islamic State. He had been asked why he had converted to Islam and he responded that it represented an improvement on Christianity. He went on to state his belief that more and more people would adopt Islam and that countries would increasingly come to use Sharia law. Few impartial observers would deny that forthcoming six centuries after Jesus, Mohammad was able to correct a number of the faults that had crept into Christianity, but should this be taken to imply that Islam is a religion suitable for universal application in the present day?
It has often been stated that Arabia in the time of Mohammad was in a turbulent and lawless condition. It was essential, therefore, that the new religion should enforce strict laws constraining human behaviour. At the same time, Islam simplified Christian belief by excluding idolatry and removing the mythologies surrounding the birth and death of Jesus that were hang-overs from the religions of pagan Rome.
Mohammad recognised that he came in a long succession of prophets stretching back through Jesus to Moses and outside, and that the teachings of those prophets were important previous phases in the development of monotheism. The message of Jesus was about individual human conduct: loving thy neighbour and turning the other cheek. The realisation of such a perfect life was hopeless without an ordered society and this is exactly what Mohammad brought. With every person protected within an Islamic state it became possible to live as Jesus decreed.
Mohammad brought the era of the nation state and provided a legal framework for its just government. It was an advance for its time but not a strategy for all time. The punishments under Sharia law are judged inhuman in a more enlightened age, refrigeration makes secure the eating of pork, and the long recognized equality of the genders precludes anything aside from one-to-one matrimonial relationships. Violent jihadism is a indication that Moslems are starting to doubt the permanence of their beliefs. So Islam cannot be considered the final stage in the development of religion, development being a process which may not end short of the death of the species.
The question remains: where can we find the next stage in religious progress? What is now needed is a new prophet to promote a worldwide identity and a world united under a single democratically-elected universal government. This is the spirit manifested in the United Nations and the European Union but these associations are under threat from nationalistic forces. A world government might appear a distant objective, but major religions have a dispensation of a thousand years or more. So for those of a religious disposition, a search must start for a faith in harmony with the aspirations of the contemporary world and fitting for international adoption.