Tilting at the Windmills of Jihad

Two weeks ago, on September 11th, The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece entitled “The War on Terror Shifts to ‘Brainistan’.” Written by Tawfik Hamid, an Egyptian medical doctor now living in the USA as an American citizen, the article claims that the war on Islamic terror continues because we have been treating only symptoms rather than underlying causes.

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Hamid knows something about the subject, revealing that as a young man in Egypt he was enthralled with the radical Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood and quickly joined the Jamaat Islamiyya movement founded by another medical doctor, Ayman Zawahiri, who of course later became the number 2 man of al-Qaeda under Osama bin Laden, and then its leader after bin Laden’s assassination. Within a few years, Hamid became disillusioned with the movement and began to speak out against what he now calls “the violent perversion of my faith.”

Based on his first-hand experience, Hamid asserts that the West is woefully ignorant of the Muslim militant mindset and so has failed completely to create and implement “…effective techniques to detect the jihadists and terrorists lurking among us.”

Likewise, we have failed to help Muslims eliminate the theological roots in their source materials out of which have grown the modern-day practices of jihadism. Hamid offers some suggestions as to how to get us on the right track.

Unfortunately, though what Hamid proposes looks impressive on paper, the devil is in the details, and once we look more deeply into his proposals we find them short on praxis and heavy on idealism.

For example, his first suggestion to make our country safe from terrorist attacks is: “Create and implement an impenetrable vetting process to detect terrorists….” Who could disagree with this? But the key word is “impenetrable”, and as Hamid himself notes, Muslim radicals embrace the practice of “taqiyya”, the use of lies and subterfuge for the protection and advancement of Islam in the world. Jihadists, he says, “…are as dedicated to lying as they are to dying.” While there is no doubt our immigrant vetting process needs stronger and more effective screening techniques, making it impenetrable is a pipedream. The bigger problem in this arena is not an effective process, but the will by our administration to employ it resolutely. The fear of being labelled “Islamophobic” squelches the smallest effort at detecting potential terrorists and forbidding them access to our shores. Until as a society we deal with the “Islamophobia” canard, even an “impenetrable vetting process” will prove useless since fearmongering will prevent its robust implementation.

Hamid’s second prescription is: “Initiate an education program for refugees to counter the root causes of Islamic radicalism, such as absolutism, judgmentalism and literalism.” He proposes utilizing various techniques of cognitive psychology supplant fundamental Muslim concepts and replace them with more moderate Western understandings. In essence, Hamid wants to “deprogram” Muslims from their orthodox beliefs so they are less likely to take the Qur’an, Hadiths and sunna so seriously. The Qur’an, however, is built upon a worldview of absolutism, judgmentalism and literalism. After all, Muslims are breastfed on the belief that the words of the Qur’an are the literal words of Allah – if this is no longer believed, then Islam’s raison d’etre comes into grave question, and Muhammad’s role as the perfect transmitter of Allah’s words is hates, and therefore for what the true Muslim is to love or hate. Worst of all human traits from Allah’s point of view is disbelief in him and his prophet. The Arabic root word in the Qur’an behind this concept of unbelief is kafara, from which the word kafir (disbeliever/infidel) and its plural kuffar derive. Kafara appears 525 times in fourteen derived forms throughout the Qur’an, a book slightly smaller than the New Testament. Such prominent usage underscores the judgment that those who refuse to believe in Islam are doomed to face the wrath of Allah and his followers. Indeed, Sura 98.6 declares, “Indeed, they who disbelieved [kafaru] among the People of the Scripture [Jews and Christians] and the polytheists will be in the fire of Hell, abiding eternally therein. Those are the worst of creatures.” The judgmentalism of the Qur’an against all who reject the message of Muhammad is impossible to erase from the hearts of those who enshrine it as the perfect and sublime words of Allah, impervious to change.

Perhaps Hamid’s reeducation idea would work with those Muslims less committed to the teachings of Islam. But for the fully-committed, hardened-in-their-faith radicals, such efforts prove fruitless, and indeed sometimes lead to even further radicalization. Back in 2004, the Saudi government began terrorist reeducation efforts, and in 2007 established the much-ballyhooed Mohammed bin Nayef Center for Counseling and Care (wryly labeled “the Betty Ford Center for Terrorists”), the kingdom’s vaunted extremist rehabilitation center. After years of efforts the government publicly acknowledges a 20% recidivism rate among “graduates”. Others, such as US intelligence agencies, put the failure rate much higher. In September 2014, for example, when Saudi police rounded up 88 suspected al-Qaeda operatives in the Kingdom, they discovered that 59 of them had completed their “rehabilitation” work at the bin Nayef center and been released back into society. Two months later, after an attack on Shi’ites in the village of al-Dalwah, authorities rounded up 77 members of the terrorist cell group behind the attack and discovered that 47 of them were alumni of the Saudi rehab center. The Obama administration, as well, released numerous Guantanamo terrorist detainees, after being reassured by countries willing to receive them that they would not return to battle, only to discover subsequently that such was not the case. Most recently, we saw that four of the five Afghan terrorists released to secure the freedom of US Army deserter Bowe Bergdahl have been chosen for senior positions in the new Taliban government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

This is not to say that all reeducation efforts are necessarily doomed to failure, only that they are not the panacea some wish to claim.

Hamid’s third recommendation is: “Support efforts already under way in the Middle East to fight radicalism.” This piggy-backs on the reeducation recommendation above, though expands that to include what religious moderates and secularists are doing through social media and internet sites to neuter mainstream Islamic teachings and make them harmless to non-believers. Though these efforts attract the attention of those who know little of the history of Islamic practice and theology, others who are much more familiar with the Qur’an and the life of Muhammad will not be persuaded by unorthodox approaches to sweeping reinterpretations of the message of Islam.

Lastly, Tawfik Hamid calls for a strategic plan to defeat radical Islam by “cutting out the religious underpinning of jihad,” (what he calls “Brainistan”), something I believe to be utterly impossible without neutering Islam into a completely different religion. Since a core tenet of Islam is that the Qur’an is inviolable and cannot be changed, the idea of excising the many commands to violence and subjugation will fall on deaf ears among Muslims, or even worse (as Hamid himself knows) will lead to Muslims considering him a heretic worthy of death. The Arabic root term (jahada) for the noun jihad occurs 41 times in the Qur’an, in five derived forms. Four times it appears as mujahideen (those who engage in jihad) and in each of these cases it refers to armed conflict against infidels (see 4.95 and 47.31). Though jihad itself has the generic meaning of “striving, effort”, when it is paired with the prepositional phrase fi sabil allah (“in the way of Allah”), it invariably refers to military attempts to conquer the enemy. Even more disconcerting is that fact that the concept of jihad is often paired in the Qur’an with the term qatala (“to fight with the intent of killing”). This term is found 170 times in the Muslim scriptures in eight derived forms. Both jahada and qatala appear as commands from Allah – Muhammad and his followers are to wage war and kill the infidel until there is no more opposition anywhere to the supremacy of Islam. Worst of all is the promise Allah makes to the faithful in the form of a bargain – if they will fight in the way of Allah, killing and being killed for his sake, he will guarantee them a place in paradise. This is what fills the minds and hearts of jihadis as they head off to do their mayhem – should they die as martyrs in the process of killing others they will expect their virgin sex dolls and pastoral delights and a cornucopia of comestibles.

In addition to this is the fact that the Hadith traditions and the early biographies of Muhammad are shot through with the celebrated savage exploits of the Arabian prophet and his cronies, which in turn inspired those Islamic jurisprudents who put together Shari’a (the perfect laws of Allah for human society) to include a major section on the subject of jihad. In the Shari’a manual known as Umdat al-Salik (“Reliance of the Traveller”) jihad is straightforwardly defined as “to war against non-Muslims…signifying warfare to establish Islam” and it is enjoined as an obligation for every Muslim.

For Hamid to excise “the underpinning of jihad” from Islam would mean a radical alteration of the “perfect” Qur’an, the rejection of massive amounts of the Hadith traditions as well as of the earliest Muslim biographies of their prophet, and the acknowledgement that the impeccable Shari’a of Allah is in fact flawed and needs to be corrected. In effect, to remove the underpinning of jihad from Islam leads to the destruction of Islam and its claims to be the perfect religion of Allah delivered by his angel flawlessly to his prophet, the excellent example given to mankind for emulation.

But if Tawfik Hamid is able to do this, I say, “More power to him!” Any efforts to neutralize the malignant influence of Islam on the world are more than welcome, and should he be able to bring about the religion’s demise, all the better.

See the source image

However, in my opinion, “Brainistan” would better be named “Vainistan”, for jihad is inherent to the Islam of Muhammad. Hamid’s dream is a fool’s errand, but then, everyone is entitled to choose his own windmills to tilt at.

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

In the 1980s the music group The Clash released one of their top hits, “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” If Joe Biden ever heard the song, its question didn’t remain unanswered in his mind. Concerning Afghanistan, he apparently concluded even before being elected, “Go.”

Was Joe Biden right to end the war on terror in Afghanistan?

Well, let’s be clear from the start. The pullout of all American troops may have ended our fighting on Afghani land (though for how long remains to be seen), but it has not ended the war on Islamic terror. Quite to the contrary, it has merely changed the frontlines from a concentrated focal point to a myriad of flashpoints around the world wherever Islamic terror organizations or lone wolves see an opportunity.

The Biden administration argues that the end of American military involvement in Afghanistan has resulted in these benefits: our troops are now out of harm’s way; we are saving money by not having to sustain a presence halfway around the world, we have rescued almost 125,000 people from the bloodthirsty rule of the Taliban, and President Biden looks good because he kept his campaign promise to get us out of an “endless war.”

But all of these benefits are short-sighted. Our troops are no longer in danger in Afghanistan, but has our ignominious defeat at the hands of the Taliban set us up for attacks by other militant Islamic groups emboldened by our retreat. To the Muslim world it looks like the Great Satan has retreated with our tail between our legs, like cowardly dogs. This is certainly how the militant propaganda is playing out in the Muslim street. If America really is a paper tiger, now is the time to strike and win our cause.

The calculations on saving money are always arcane. Yes, we are no longer pouring money into propping up an inept Afghan government and army, but we are taking in roughly 120,000 refugees (and maybe significantly more) at an average cost of $15,900 per person annually (totaling roughly $9.6 billion over the next five years). We are contemplating massive amounts of emergency humanitarian aid through international agencies since the UN has declared the people of Afghanistan to be in catastrophic danger if international aid is not immediately delivered. And, of course, it is impossible to calculate in advance what the cost to our country will be if another 9/11 attack is successfully carried out on our soil.

It is true we have removed 125,000 people from potential harm by the Taliban, but by our leaders’ cut-and-run strategy we have allowed the Taliban to take over the whole country, now subjecting some 38 million Afghanis to the brutal policies and practices of this violent terror operation.

By keeping his promise to stop the “endless war”, President Biden gains points from his sycophants, but very few others. The war against Islamic terror has not ended with our retreat from Afghanistan. Indeed, one could reasonably argue that our bungled departure has fueled the hopes of our self-proclaimed Muslim enemies. They increasingly believe we are weak and vulnerable, and are encouraged to take the battle to us, believing that Allah has put wind in their sails and more victories are at hand.

But here is a list of the many negative consequences of our pullout from Afghanistan:

  • The country is now under the full control of the Taliban, whose goal is to institute Shari’a as the law of the land (compare Pakistan and Saudi Arabia as countries which envisioned the same).
  • The Taliban now have tens of billions’ worth of military materiel we left behind or gave to the Afghan armed forces, which disintegrated and disappeared as the Taliban advanced. Wittingly or unwittingly, we have now surpassed Iran as the number one state sponsor of terrorism through this debacle. Reports are that the Taliban have already sent some of “our” military trucks stocked with weaponry by convoy to Iran in exchange for money and/or infrastructure expertise. Whatever we may have left containing advanced technology will undoubtedly be reverse-engineered by the Iranians, Chinese or Russians or used to develop effective countermeasures to our weaponry. In addition to military hardware, the Taliban have found pallet-loads of stacked US $100 bills totaling in the tens of millions if not more. Whatever it was originally meant for, this bonanza will now fuel the malign agenda of the Taliban.
  • Why are we seeing photos and videos of Taliban soldiers fully decked out in US military gear, posing in cockpits or driving Humvees? These acts are inspired by the supremacist worldview of the Qur’an which teaches Muslims that they are the best of all peoples, and that with Allah on their side they can defeat armies even with the odds stacked against them. Muslim combatants are guaranteed to share in the spoils of war, and so the brandishing of advanced US weaponry, the posturing in US military uniforms, the gathering around US Blackhawk helicopters and other military hardware are ways by which the Taliban are signaling to fellow Muslims and to the world at large that these spoils of war have come to them through Allah’s blessing of their efforts. The implication is that the same will be the case for Muslims around the world who remain true to Islam and fight the infidel.
  • The US embassy, which cost at least $85 million to build and secure, is now in the hands of the Taliban and anyone to whom they open its doors for inspection. Flying on its flagpole now is the standard of the Taliban. While this may seem like a minor thing to most Americans, it rivals the capture of the US embassy in Iran in terms of the public relations shot in the arm this picture provides for aspiring jihadis. America is shamed, Islam is advancing, in their minds.
  • In our hasty departure, we did not only leave equipment and embassy behind, we gave up our significant military bases of forward operation, Bagram in particular, and lost our networks of human intelligence and our capacity to gather signal intelligence. With Afghanistan being a neighbor to Iran, Pakistan and China, this surrender of a dedicated intelligence-gathering foothold in the region is a loss of incalculable proportions.
  • Our withdrawal means as well the loss of protection for all minorities and undesirables under Taliban rule.
    • Indigenous Hazara Shi’ites have already been targeted and executed by Taliban “soldiers” simply because they are not the right “flavor” of Islam. The same is true of other Muslims who are not pure enough for Deobandi Islamic standards.
    • Musicians are in hiding, after one folk artist was publicly executed for encouraging “forbidden” music among the people. Likewise, artists who paint the human form or create portraits are targets for legalized murder under Shari’a.
    • Taliban enforcers are going door to door looking for Christians, secularists, Afghani “collaborators” with the infidel West, and those committed to opposing Taliban rule. Those found are either arrested for future trial and execution or they are simply shot on the spot.
    • Shari’a demands death for homosexuals. We have already seen footage of the public hanging of an accused homosexual by means of a noose attached to the skids of an American helicopter flown by a Talibani pilot. Others are simply shot in the head, stoned to death or thrown off of a tall building.
    • The above categories of people constitute tens of thousands of humans, maybe more. The coming months of Taliban rule will produce a bloodbath of victims. One wonders whether the Biden administration calculated this human toll into its decision to cede Afghanistan to Shari’a-bound terrorists.
    • Perhaps worst of all is the fate of girls and young women. The Arabian prophet Muhammad, whom all orthodox Muslims consider to be the perfect example of conduct, bedded a nine-year-old girl as his third wife, and commanded his fighters that Allah permitted them to take captured girls and women as spoils of war to be kept as sex slaves, or married, or sold on the slave market. The Taliban consider the non-Taliban Afghanis they have “conquered” to fall under the category of spoils of war, and have ordered that any household containing unmarried females between the ages of 12 and 45 (child-bearing years) must put clear markings on the outside of their homes so that any Taliban soldier may enter and inspect the merchandise, so to speak. Should he wish one of the girls or women, the family is under obligation to surrender her to him, even as young as 12. One shudders to imagine the fate of a pre-teen or teen sex slave yoked to a ruthless barbarian who sees her not as an equal or as a human being with untold potential but only as an object upon which he can expend his sexual energies with no guilt or qualms, a body to impregnate or to use up and later divorce for a new object of desire. All this is in line with Shari’a.
    • Western liberals may crusade in America for gay rights, women’s rights, and minority rights all they want, but until they speak up publicly to oppose these inhuman Islamic practices which happen routinely around the Muslim world, and until they castigate the Biden administration for abandoning so many vulnerable Afghanis to the butchery and sadism of the Taliban, they themselves are dripping with hypocrisy.
  • Though the Taliban have always had significant amounts of money as an organization, they will need a lot more to run a country. The lion’s share of their income has come from controlling the opium market (Afghanistan produces 84% of the world’s heroin). As their need for further resources grows, it stands to reason that the Taliban will seek to increase the production of opium and its sale on the world market. America is the largest consumer of heroin and opiates, so presumably the Taliban will benefit by feeding our addiction. They will become richer; we will grow more addled and shackled by our compulsions.
  • Because of our desertion of Afghanistan, the world is now a more dangerous place. Having exited the country in the dead of night, with no advance word to our Afghani partners or to our NATO allies, we said to them essentially, “We’re saving our hide; you’re on your own.” In the world of diplomacy and foreign policy, where one’s word is sacrosanct among allies, America’s broken promises and irrational, short-sighted actions mean that our allies face uncertainty as to America’s promises toward and treaties with them. Taiwan, Ukraine, Armenia, the Kurdish people, Israel all rightly wonder whether should they come under attack the USA would have their back or not. Apparently the leadership of NATO countries have already been consulting together on these matters without American input. Our foolhardiness of action and our projection of weakness on the world stage have led to international instability and may encourage the reframing of alliances globally which do not favor democracy and freedom.
  • Lastly, and most dangerous of all, the rise of a newly-strengthened Taliban signals the establishment of an Islamic emirate which welcomes and gives sanctuary to other like-minded Muslim jihadi movements. A safe haven means that existing groups under threat can find shelter under the wings of the Taliban, and there grow strong while planning attacks on their enemies, principally the West. The continued existence of a Taliban-ruled Afghanistan becomes a powerful recruitment tool for young, idealistic jihadis who know they can go there for training and study in how to bring the world into submission to Islam. Whether they join existing terror organizations or opt to become lone wolf terrorists, the world has become a decidedly more dangerous place. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has created the seed of hope among faithful, Qur’anic Muslims that one day soon the Emirate will grow to become the Islamic State to which all Muslims will give their allegiance in the drive to bring all the world under Shari’a, willingly or not.

Was Biden right to pull all American armed forces out of Afghanistan? Given that we had a stabilizing presence in the country with only 2500 servicemen and women there, and that our forces had suffered no war-related deaths for the last 18 months (until our poorly-conceived withdrawal led to the deaths of 13 faithful troops), I would have to say no. One may say that Biden and his advisors did not know of some or many of the unintended consequences of his decision, but unintended consequences are still consequences, and we must all live, or die, with those consequences as they unfold.

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The New and Improved Taliban? Color Me a Skeptic.

The Taliban says they won the war in Afghanistan. They are not wrong

The Taliban of 2021 claim that they are not like the Taliban of the 1990s. And I believe them, in this one respect. Today’s Taliban have become skilled users of social media, and are able to project an image as a “kinder, gentler Muslim movement”, not at all like the brutal, backward terrorists of the turn of this century.

They claim that a blanket amnesty will be given to all Afghanis who worked with the US or NATO forces, that women’s rights will be protected, that children will receive modern education, that Afghanistan will join the international society of civilized nations as a beacon of goodness.

Of course, this is all image and no substance. The original Taliban claimed as authority for their policies and actions the unchanging Shari’a, the Law of Allah. Beheadings of apostates, stonings of adulteresses (but rarely adulterers), executions of homosexuals, forced marriage of child brides, the hiding of women in formless burqas and the prevention of education outside the home for young girls, the call to armed jihad against any groups who refused to conform to the strict version of Islam favored by them, all these and more atrocities found (and still find) their legitimacy in Shari’a.

The Taliban of 2021 still claim Shari’a as their governing authority. So, can they still style themselves as strict followers of Shari’a and yet jettison any of the practices from the past which they justified as commanded by Allah under his Law? The short and complete answer is no.

The Afghani people are all too aware of this. Those interviewed by Western media are not shy in sharing their certainty that Taliban leaders are just blowing smoke (opium-laced, no doubt) with their assertions of moderation and reform. As soon as world attention moves on to other cataclysms, the Taliban will ditch their West-pleasing image and return to their barbaric, Islamically-inspired ways. This is the true face of the Taliban, because they are still as convinced as they were 25 years ago that the commands of Allah do not change, and that strict enforcement of harsh Islamic justice will bring the blessings of Allah upon them.

How do we know this? In studying their actions even in the last week rather than relying on their words.

They claimed to offer amnesty to all “collaborators” who had assisted the “occupiers”, i.e., the US and NATO alliance working with the established Afghan government. Yet news reports consistently indicate that Taliban forces are going door to door in Kabul, Kandahar and Herat looking for names on lists put together from informants and from bank and biometric records the US government left behind in its hasty exit from the embassy site. These records identify locals employed by the US government all over the country, and now provide the Taliban a quick and easy way to identify and lethally “deal with” collaborators.

Of course, the Taliban have made no secret of the fact that any Americans or Europeans still physically present in Afghanistan will be subject to capture and imprisonment, or worse, after Western troops meet their August 31st pull-out deadline. The ring of Taliban “soldiers” around the Kabul airport while Western governments are trying to evacuate their own citizens as well as endangered Afghans has prevented or intimidated potential evacuees from exiting the country. There are no guarantees of safety to Westerners who remain in country after troop withdrawals scheduled for the end of this month.

Other targets of Taliban Islamic wrath include homosexuals – Taliban judge Gul Rahim confirmed that under Taliban rule, the Shari’a punishments for the crime of homosexuality will be reinstated, either death by stoning or by being crushed by the toppling of an 8-10 foot stone wall upon the convicted man.

Christians especially, but other religious minorities as well, when identified and refusing to abandon their faith in favor of Islam (Deobandi or Salafi Islam in particular) will be enslaved or executed. As the Taliban are going door to door, they are demanding to examine people’s cellphones. If they find a Bible or other decidedly Christian app on the phone, they immediately detain the cellphone owner or execute him/her on the spot.

Shi’ite Muslims are regarded as false believers (hypocrites or infidels, depending on Qur’anic passages utilized to anathematize them). They also are subject to immediate execution. The Hazara tribe located in the mountainous central region of the country are the most obvious target of the Taliban. Back in 1995, their leader Abdul Ali Mazari was executed by Taliban forces. Since then a statue of him was erected in Bamiyan (the same location where the Taliban used two giant sculptures of the Buddha for target practice and destruction). One week ago, after they had retaken control of the region, the new “kinder, gentler” Taliban beheaded the statue and then proceeded to blow it up for further dramatic effect.


Amnesty International reported that in early July 2021 when Taliban fighters overran Ghazni province in central Afghanistan, they executed 9 Hazara men they captured, 6 by bullets and three by torture.

One does not have to be Shi’ite, however, to face Taliban judgment. Even Sunni Muslims who fail to measure up to the religious standards of their old and now new overlords are subject to harassment, incarceration or worse. Secular Muslims must pretend to be observant, not knowing who might become an informant against them.

Those with most to lost under Taliban rule, however, are without doubt girls and women. The oppressive dress code is once more being enforced, though Taliban spokesmen are saying burqas will no longer be mandatory but full face and body covering is still required. Last week a young Afghani woman was shot dead because a fighter did not approve of her outfit. Girls and women of marriageable age are no longer allowed to travel alone or with other women but must have a male guardian accompany them anytime they wish to leave their homes. Parents with single girls/women in the home must now place an identifying marker on their home’s exterior so that Taliban fighters can come in and assess whether they are interested in taking an eligible female (from ages 12-45) as a wife or sex slave. These practices are justified on the basis of specific Qur’an verses (see 4.34 and 33.50) where Allah gives his fighters those whom they conquer as booty, and specifically permits them to take young girls and women as sex slaves. Education of girls is frowned upon or forbidden. The latter stance was the position of the Taliban 1.0. Taliban 2.0 has said they will allow girls to be educated, but only by a female teacher. Their first fatwa since retaking power was a ban on coeducation. No mingling of the sexes will be permitted. We will see in coming months whether education for girls is encouraged or throttled. Needless to say, if girls are being forced into marriages at age 12, the likeliness of their being permitted to attend school drops to near zero.

One might console oneself here in the West by noting that all these horrors remain contained within the borders of Afghanistan. We are not endangered by the barbarity of the Taliban in its implementation of Shari’a. That is true. But there are two ways in which the flourishing of the Taliban spells trouble for the rest of the world.

First, it is estimated that roughly one quarter of the Taliban’s yearly budget is funded by opium production and trafficking. Afghanistan accounts for 84% of the world’s opium, and the Taliban control every aspect of its production, refinement and sale, bringing them over $400 million annually. It stands to reason that as their budgetary needs increase with their new role as the governing force of the Afghani nation, they will seek to increase the amount of opium they can dump on the world market. Since America is one of the biggest consumers of opioids, licit and illicit, the increased availability of opium and its derivatives can only have a deleterious effect on our society. For the Taliban, this outcome would be a “twofer”: they increase their income while at the same time inflicting harm of the “Great Satan”. That’s a no-brainer.

Secondly, the Taliban have already said that they intend to welcome back al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorists who share their religious outlook. Their primary spokesman has already affirmed that the Taliban are becoming much more world-focused than they were in the 90s. They are prioritizing the spread of Islam in conquest of the whole world. To this end, they will be happy to serve as a haven for Muslim terror groups to hone their skills and plan their attacks. Unless the non-Muslim world takes serious action to dissuade the Taliban from this course, the world will become an even more dangerous place in the near future.

Is there any possibility the Taliban could moderate, throwing off their hardcore obedience to their prophet Muhammad and his Shari’a pronouncements? I’m reminded of the words of the Jewish prophet Jeremiah: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23).

But where there is no natural hope of true transformation among those committed to their evil course of action, there is supernatural hope. I’m reminded of another biblical passage, this one in the New Testament, relating to a character who might rightly be called a member of the Taliban of first century Israel. He saw his role as upholding the Law of God against all who blasphemed against the God of Israel. He was the chief antagonist against the fledgling Christian movement, seeking to incarcerate or kill any who followed the Way of Jesus. He was known then as Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee of Pharisees, convinced of his righteousness in persecuting “renegade Jews” who believed Jesus to be the Messiah. In Acts 9.1 and 2 we are told that “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Sounds very Talibanish.

Just like the Taliban, Pharisees as a group were characterized by a belief that their strict obedience to the Law of God was mandatory for them to please God and to merit His favor. Saul believed that in persecuting Christians, he was doing God’s work. It took a supernatural encounter with the risen Lord Jesus to transform the Pharisee Saul into the man who would become the apostle Paul, whose mission to the Gentile world (formerly enemies of Israel) would bring them the message of the reconciling love of God in Jesus Christ.

For Saul the proto-Talibani, only a supernatural encounter with the Prince of Peace could eradicate the religious hatred in his heart toward those not like him and replace it with love. I imagine it will take the same kind of spiritual transformation for the devotees of the Taliban. C. S. Lewis once said, “Of all bad men, religious bad men are the worst.” Undoubtedly this is because they believe their evil works are commissioned by God and so they have no pangs of conscience which might otherwise temper their evil. It demands the personal intervention of the true God to convince them they have been on the wrong track and need to change direction.

I grant that this scenario of the Taliban experiencing a Damascus Road conversion in great numbers seems an exercise in fantasy. But God has turned the courses of nations in the past, and no doubt will again in the future. Nothing is impossible with Him. For those who are Christians, the most powerful thing we can do in this regard is pray – few of us have direct access to reaching Afghanis, even fewer to influencing Taliban members. But God works within the heart, where we cannot reach. Let me encourage you to lift up the people of Afghanistan to God’s mercy. The vast majority of them are helpless pawns in brutal, ruthless chess game. They need the gracious, forgiving love of God, as do those moving the pieces on the board. And only Jesus can break through such lost and hardened hearts.

And please think about supporting the work of those who are toiling hard to get the gospel into the hands of the Afghani people so that they can read for themselves about the true Jesus, the one they could never learn about through the misinformation of the Qur’an and hadith.

Lord Jesus, rescue the people of Afghanistan!

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Therapeutic Beatings, Anyone?

Evil ideologies employ evil justifications. They endure, not because people believe the justifications but because they are enforced by brutality and terror. Religious evil ideologies are the worst of all, for they claim divine sanction, which cannot be questioned for fear of ultimate eternal punishment.

Those who champion some evil system find themselves willing to defend all manner of wickedness in order to justify positions which ordinary mortals, armed with common sense, quickly recognize as evil.

A case in point is the treatment of women in Islam. Recently an “expert” in Islamic law, Dr. Ziyad Miqdad, was interviewed on Al-Aqsa TV in Gaza (you can watch the video here). Employed as a “scholar” at the Islamic University of Gaza, Miqdad serves as the head of the Fatwa Committee at the university, and presumably sits on the “faculty of Law and Sharia.” (It’s impossible to verify this on the university’s dated and incomplete official website.)

WATCH Head Of Fatwa Committee At The Islamic University Of Gaza: 'Like A Father Beats His Son ...

In the televised interview on July 8th, Miqdad is asked to justify wife-beating, which he does with conviction. He has to, you see, because wife-beating is sanctioned in the Qur’an and Islamic holy tradition teaches that Muhammad both engaged in it and recommended it to his close companions. Wife-beating is actually a good thing, the Muslim expert contends.

Before we dissect his argument, let me remind you of what the Qur’an has to say about wives in particular, and women in general.

The key chapter, entitled “The Women,” grants men the right to marry up to four wives at any one time (4:3), and grants men authority over women (the Hilali-Khan translation among others renders this “men are in charge of women”) for two reasons: first, men excel women [though we are not told precisely how]; and second, men spend from their property to maintain them (4:34). Hence, “virtuous” women show themselves to be obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah has commanded them to guard (this somewhat cryptic statement applies primarily to a wife’s private parts, which she is to guard chastely for her husband alone). The rest of this problematic verse contains the permission granted husbands to beat their wives. Let me quote it in full:

“And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against them; God is All-high, All-great.” (Arberry translation).

The first thing to note here is that Muslim husbands can take action against their wives if they fear rebellion (this word is capable of numerous related meanings: ill-conduct, arrogance, disloyalty, disobedience, desertion). There doesn’t have to be objective evidence of a wife’s rebellion against her husband, only the husband’s fear that this might be the case.

The actions prescribed in this verse are seen by most Muslim commentators as steps of escalation until the wife submits in obedience once again. First, the husband is to warn his wife of the consequences of her willfulness; should that admonition be unsuccessful, he then escalates her punishment by refusing to share the marital bed with her (i.e., cutting off any physical intimacy and favored status among other wives, if any); should that still fail to bring her to willing submission, he is to beat her until she is ready to obey.

The Arabic text does not give any qualifiers to the verb, variously translated as “beat, strike, smite.” To lessen the barbarity, translators aware of Western sensibilities have added the adverb “lightly” though the text does not justify this interpolation.

Let us return to the interview with Miqdad, who must offer justification for this inhumane and chauvinistic divine command. The goal of beating (which is always a last resort, he says) is to “correct the wife and warn her that she did something wrong.” She is to blame, and if her behavior is not amended, she will be the cause of the destruction of the family and of the adverse futures for the children and the marriage itself. “”The purpose of [wife] beating is to warn the wife that the life of the family is in danger, and that the martial relations are in danger, and that she should be cautious and not let the family be destroyed….” She must mend her ways so as to protect family life.

It never enters Miqdad’s mind that the husband might have acted in ways that destroy the harmony of the family; if there is any familial discord, the wife is at fault and she must change her ways or face her husband’s displeasure. This is the will of Allah.

Of course, according to Miqdad and many other Islamic apologists, the wife is not supposed to become the husband’s punching bag (though nothing in the Qur’an prevents this). According to Islamic tradition, wife-beating comes with certain caveats: husbands “… should avoid hitting sensitive parts like the face or vital organs;” “it should not be a hard and vindictive beating;” in fact, the Islamic scholar says, “it should be a therapeutic beating rather than a vindictive one.” After all, he remarks, “we are talking about your wife.” Quoting an old Egyptian saying, “The beloved’s fist is as sweet as raisins,” Miqdad implies that wives actually appreciate being beaten by the husbands, because it is a sign of love. It shows them how much they are valued by their men.

I’ll let these final words speak for themselves:

“The husband’s beating of his wife – if it happens at all – should be like a guy beating his sweetheart. Join me in picturing what beating someone you love should look like. It is like when a father beats his son, or when a mother beats her daughter for doing something wrong.”

Like a guy beating his sweetheart, like when a father beats his son, when a mother beats her daughter – these are all therapeutic beatings, though. Nothing vindictive is allowed.

In Miqdad’s world, in the world prescribed by Allah, there’s “a whole lotta beatin’ goin’ on.”

Only therapeutic beatings, however.

How is it possible that such evil can be justified in the name of God? Well, the god in question, or course, is Allah, and the prophet through which such “revelation” has come to the world is Muhammad, who not only condoned but practiced and commended such behaviors. Ziyad Miqdad is only being true to his master. As the Qur’an says, “It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair” (33.36).

C. S. Lewis once wrote, “Of all bad men, religious bad men are the worst” (from Reflections on the Psalms). Dr. Miqdad is just the latest “Exhibit A” corroborating this sad fact Any religious system attributing evil to God and commanding it of his followers deserves to be pilloried and exposed until the light of truth fully dispels the darkness of malevolence. Islam must, and one day will, crumble. That day cannot come too soon.

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Heaven: Home Sweet Home or Vegas on Steroids?

The end of an era has stolen upon me. The generation of my parents and elderly friends is fast sweeping over the waterfalls of temporal life and into the mists of eternity. In the recent past I have been asked to speak at memorial services for a number of close friends. A few weekends ago I joined family and friends to celebrate the wonderful life of my dear father-in-law. I am now entering the “last generation” before death.

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The passing of loved ones has focused my thinking in new ways on life after death and what that looks like from a biblical perspective. A central theme arising from the New Testament is that of “heaven as home.” Key, of course, to this theme is the promise of unbroken relationship – the intimate love of God as Father (or more precisely, Abba = Papa), and the fellowship of the family of God, all those whom Christ has rescued and brought safely into the Kingdom of Heaven. The Bible affirms that heaven is the home for which we were originally created; it is the reality which we most deeply long for, even if we can’t recognize it clearly or put that longing into words. Revelation 21.3 emphasizes four times in this one verse the intimacy of God with redeemed humanity: “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men (and women); He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be with them.” God Almighty, the Sovereign King, Ruler of all the universe, does not stand aloof from His children, but chooses to make His home with us. Such love is beyond explanation. To drive this point home, the next verse declares, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” The picture of the Almighty as a tender Father, stooping to pick up blubbering children still licking our wounds and seat us on His lap one at a time to wipe away our tears and comfort us is a picture of intimate love beyond compare.

Perhaps the most compelling promise of heaven as home is found in John 14.1-6. The disciples are just beginning to wrap their minds around the unwelcome truth that Jesus will soon be taken from them by death. Despair clutches their hearts. Knowing this, Jesus turns their eyes toward the future and a reunion which will never again be broken.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.”

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus said to him, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

The main message of this teaching from Jesus is: “Breathe easy.” Take a breath – your future is bright. Heaven will be your home. Trust me.

He gives four reasons to support the imperative: “Let not your hearts be troubled.” I’ve put them in my own vernacular:

  1. God never switches on the “No Vacancy” sign outside His house. Don’t worry that there won’t be enough room for you, because in my Father’s house there are more than enough rooms to welcome you home. So breathe easy.

  2. Jesus says, “I have secured your reservation.” His statement, “I go to prepare a place for you” does not mean that he is measuring for drapes, or moving furniture around according to some celestial feng shui. Instead, it refers to his upcoming crucifixion which when accomplished will provide atonement for sinners and full welcome into the family of God. Jesus might as easily have said, “I go to erase your well-deserved death penalty – to die for you that you may gain eternal life.” So breathe easy.

  3. Jesus says, “I will pick you up and drive you myself to the door of my Father’s house and walk you to your room.” That’s a vernacular way of saying, “I will come again and take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Whatever hardships or afflictions you are facing now, they are transitory and won’t have the final say on your destiny. Jesus promises that he will usher you safely home to life eternal in heaven. So breathe easy.

  4. When Thomas, speaking for all the disciples, cries out, “We don’t know have a clue you are going, how can we know the way to find you?”, Jesus responds, “I have taken care of all the details. So breathe easy.” His breathtaking statement, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except by me,” is meant to reassure the disciples that everything needed by them to enjoy a blessed relationship with God as their Father is found in Jesus, and only in Jesus. Notice that Jesus doesn’t say to them, “I’m going to heaven, as if the location is of ultimate importance. Instead, he says, “I am going home to my Father.” His promise is, “If you want to know God as your own Abba (“Daddy” or “Papa” – see Romans 8.15-17 for more on God as Abba), I’m your avenue to Him. I’m the One who fully reveals Him to lost human beings; I’m the One who pours His life into you to make you fit for His presence.”

According to the Bible, the hope of heaven is the hope of finding the home for which we were originally created. God yearned to fill His eternal home with many children, so He sent His only-begotten Son into this world to become the Way, to reveal the Truth and to share the Life of heaven with a lost and troubled world. To those who hear his message and swear allegiance to him with all their heart he says, “Breathe easy. I’ve got you covered.”

While the Christian message is that heaven is home because of the unquenchable loving relationships we will share with God and with one another, Islam presents a wholly different message. Indeed, for Muslims heaven is not pictured in terms of love, but as an endless hedonic and epicurean orgy of pleasures – an eternal Las Vegas weekend where you are permitted to engage in all the provided delights to your heart’s content. Allah is not present with his rutting subjects in their dens of sensual pleasure, but remains remote and secure in his throne room above even the highest heaven.

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In the Qur’an, there are two Arabic words which can translate the concept of “home”: bayt and daar. The noun bayt occurs 65 times, and when used religiously it refers exclusively to the Kaaba (Mecca’s central shrine toward which Muslims bow five times daily in prayer) or to mosques. It is never used with reference to heaven as the home of Allah’s obedient slaves. The noun daar, on the other hand, is found 48 times in the Qur’an, and thirty of those references deal with one’s home (destination) in the afterlife. One of the Qur’an’s favorite phrases in this regard is “home of the hereafter,” followed by “home of peace” as a distant second. One might think that the term daar could connote images of a loving heavenly Father, and a sense of intimacy and spiritual joy, but in its Qur’anic context, any such suggestions are absent. Instead, the picture is animalistic hedonism. Heaven is a house of pleasure, whereas hell is a house of torture and pain. The fact that the Qur’an uses the same word daar to describe the destiny of the damned makes clear that the term carries no intrinsic relational warmth but merely indicates the abode or dwelling of the blessed or the reprobate. For the latter, hell is described as “the worst/evil home” (su’ul daari)

Through this simple word study, we confirm once again that Christianity and Islam convey two very different messages about who the true God is who promises heaven, and what kind of eternal life He promises His people. For Christians, the vision of heaven is that of the intimate home we have always yearned for where God is always with us as Father. For Muslims, heaven is the Vegas-style X-rated playground which satisfies all animal lusts but lacks any reference to the spiritual virtues of love, joy and holiness, and where Allah remains inaccessible.

Which heaven do you think is more worthy of God?

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Adding Injury to Insult — How Muhammad Dealt with Ridicule

mockery - definition, etymology and usage, examples and related words

No one likes to be mocked. For powerful leaders, disparagement comes with the territory because leaders have to step on toes when taking stands on controversial matters. This is perhaps even more true for religious leaders, for they are expected to always “do the right thing.”

Jesus and Muhammad were no exception to this. In fact, they faced many of the same insults from their detractors. This is not terribly surprising. What is surprising, however, and deeply instructive, is the disparate ways they responded to those verbal attacks.

Many of the early Muslim sources have a hagiographical glow about them, and so are loath to report anything they consider an affront to Muhammad’s reputation. The Qur’an, however, in defending Muhammad’s character and prophethood confronts the aspersions cast against Muhammad by contemporaneous disbelievers. For example, these opponents called Muhammad:

  • A liar – one who invented lies about God (34.8; 42.24), and who claims God brings new verses to cancel previous revelation: “When We substitute one revelation for another, they say, ‘Thou art but a forger [inventor/fabricator]’” (16.101)
  • A plagiarist – retelling fairy tales of the ancients (16.24), spinning mixed-up false dreams suitable to a disgraced poet or inventor of myths (21.5; 25.4-6)
  • A clear sorcerer – one whose bewitching speech misleads his listeners (10.2; 34.43; 38.4)
  • A soothsayer or possessed poet – (69.42; 52.29; 37.36)
  • A madman – the Arabic word majnun means literally “one who is under the influence of a jinni” (the jinn are mythological supernatural creatures who often seek to possess humans to do them harm). See 15.6; 23.70; 44.14; 34.46; 68.2, 51, for evidence that Muhammad’s opponents thought him not only to be mentally unbalanced but supernaturally possessed by an evil being.

While Muhammad’s career lasted for some 23 years, Jesus by contrast was in the public eye as a rabbi for only 3 years. Yet in that time, he also became the target of insults and accusations by his enemies. According to the New Testament, he was called:

  • A drunkard and glutton, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners (Matthew 11.19), because he enjoyed festive celebrations and spent time with the “riff-raff” of society. Interesting, the phrase “drunkard and glutton” may carry the implication that Jesus was seen as rebellious and dishonoring to his family, and thereby worthy of execution (see Deut. 21.20-21)
  • A Sabbath-breaker – and therefore disqualified from any rightful claims to represent God (Matthew 12.10; Mark 3.2; Luke 6.2; John 5.17-18; 9.14-16)
  • Demonpossessed – accused of being possessed by Beelzebu1, or a demon, or the devil; additionally, he is smeared with the ethnic slur “Samaritan” (Mark 3.22, 30; John 7.20; 8.48; 10.20).
  • An agent of Satan – Jesus is accused of casting out demons “by the prince of demons” (Mark 3.22)
  • False prophet, King of the Jews, impotent Messiah – after Jesus’ arrest, he is mocked by Roman soldiers, and on the cross he is derided by passersby for his humiliating execution (“He saved others, he cannot save himself” – Matthew 27.42).

Jesus’ response to mockery and insults is well-known. Typically, he removed himself from incendiary situations, such as when the residents of Nazareth scorned him after his claim to fulfill the messianic claim of Isaiah 61. They sought to run him off a cliff, but he eluded their grasp and departed. He never sent disciples back under the cloak of darkness to exact retribution on those who had smeared his name. Other times, such as when he was accused of being in league with Satan, he responded with reason, pointing out how often he cast out demons from helpless people and saying, “Satan cannot cast out Satan; a house divided against itself cannot stand.” When confronted with dangerous mobs, Jesus forbade his followers from engaging in violence – when Peter struck off the ear of the servant of the high priest, Malchus, during his master’s arrest, Jesus ordered him to put away his weapon, uttering what has become a famous anti-violence maxim: “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26.51-52). Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, in the midst of his crucifixion, while Jesus endured excruciating pain, his detractors, both Jews and Romans, heaped scorn upon him. Instead of lashing out at them in his pain, Jesus prayed for forgiveness for them. Peter, one of the disciples who knew Jesus best, would later write of his Master, “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2.23). Jesus lived the seemingly impossible moral imperative which he commanded his disciples, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5.44).

Muhammad, on the other hand, responded to insults and mockery in quite a different way. Early in his prophetic career, while he still remained in Mecca and his following was small, Muhammad often sought to de-escalate confrontations. As he gained more power, though, when insulted he would often reply in kind. After his move to Medina, where he became the undisputed political and military leader of a growing army, Muhammad was not so gracious to those who got under his skin.

Ka’b bin Ashraf was one of a group of Medinan Jews who despised Muhammad. He openly supported the Meccans against Muhammad, and he wrote poems mocking the prophet and some of the Muslim women. Gathered together with his inner circle, Muhammad sought a solution:

Allah’s Apostle said, “Who is willing to kill Ka’b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?” Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, “O Allah’s Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?” The Prophet said, “Yes,” Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab). “The Prophet said, “You may say it….” (Bukhari, 5.59.369).

This rather long hadith goes on to detail how Maslama and some fellow Muslims deceive Ka’b and murder him with no reservations. According to another account written in a famous early biography of Muhammad by Muslim scholar Ibn Sa’d, Maslama and his companions return victorious to Muhammad with Ka’b’s severed head and throw it before Muhammad’s feet. His response? Praise to Allah for the death of his enemy. (See Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, vol.1, p. 37).

Another Medinan Jew, Abu Rafi’, had been a supporter of Ka’b bin Ashraf against Muhammad. After Ka’b’s death, Muhammad ordered Abu Rafi’s assassination and sent a group of Medinan Muslims to murder him at night in his castle. The assassin was rather inept, and after numerous strikes from his sword, Abu Rafi was still quite alive. A hadith by Bukhari records the gory details:

“So again I aimed at him and hit him, but the blow proved futile again, and on that Abu Rafi cried loudly and his wife got up. I came again and changed my voice as if I were a helper, and found Abu Rafi lying straight on his back, so I drove the sword into his belly,” (Bukhari, 5.59.372) with the assassin reporting that he subsequently made it back to Muhammad and was able to convey “the good news”).

One of Muhammad’s Meccan enemies, ‘Uqba bin Abu Muait, who had regularly insulted him for his monotheistic preaching and who one day when Muhammad was bowing in prayer at the Kaaba threw some camel entrails on his back at the urging of some friends, was captured alive in the Muslims’ first major battle with the Meccans at a place called Badr. As Muhammad and his army were on the way home with their booty and prisoners, they paused to rest, and to execute some prisoners. Here ‘Uqba met his demise. According to the earliest biography of the life of Muhammad, written by Ibn ‘Ishaq, here is what happened:

“When the apostle [i.e., Muhammad] ordered him to be killed, ‘Uqba said, ‘But who will look after my children, O Muhammad?’ ‘Hell,’ he said, and ‘Asim…killed him…” (The Life of Muhammad, p. 308).

Nadir bin al-Harith also rubbed Muhammad the wrong way. He was a pagan physician in Mecca who had done his training in Persia, where he apparently learned many fables and religious tales of the Persians. According to Ibn ‘Ishaq:

“Now al-Nadr al-Harith was one of the satans of the Quraysh; he used to insult the apostle and show him enmity. He had been to al-Hira and learnt there the tales of the kings of Persia, the tales of Rustum and Isbandiyar. When the apostle had held a meeting in which he reminded them of God, and warned his people of what had happened to bygone generations as a result of God’s vengeance, al-Nadr got up when he sat down and said, ‘I can tell a better story than he, come to me.’ Then he began to tell them about the kings of Persia, Rustum and Isbandiyar, and then he would say, ‘In what respect is Muhammad a better story-teller than I?’” (The Life of Muhammad, p. 136).

Nadr was also captured during the Battle of Badr, and suffered the same fate as ‘Uqba, being beheaded for having questioned Muhammad’s prophetic credentials. The self-proclaimed prophet seemed to suffer from a thin skin, unable to forgive and forget when he was maligned. He also seemed to wrestle with an inferiority complex, which led him to ridicule those who dismissed his pronouncements. After the battle of Badr, Muhammad ordered that the bodies of his slaughtered Meccan enemies be thrown into a pit or well, after which he taunted them as losers. His followers were bemused by his behavior, reminding Muhammad that the dead couldn’t hear him, so he shouldn’t waste his time. On the contrary, Muhammad told them, these dead could hear him as easily as the living within earshot, but they were unable to respond. Here’s how Bukhari records the event:

“On the day of Badr, the Prophet ordered that the corpses of twenty-four leaders of Quraish should be thrown into one of the dirty dry wells of Badr. (It was a habit of the Prophet that whenever he conquered some people, he used to stay at the battle-field for three nights.) So, on the third day of the battle of Badr, he ordered that his she-camel be saddled, then he set out, and his companions followed him saying among themselves. ‘Definitely he (i.e. the Prophet) is proceeding for some great purpose.’ When he halted at the edge of the well, he addressed the corpses of the Quraish infidels by their names and their fathers’ names, ‘O so-and-so, son of so-and-so and O so-and-so, son of so-and-so! Would it have pleased you if you had obeyed Allah and His Apostle? We have found true what our Lord promised us. Have you too found true what your Lord promised you?’ ‘Umar said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! You are speaking to bodies that have no souls!’ Allah’s Apostle said, ‘By Him in Whose Hand Muhammad’s soul is, you do not hear what I say better than they do.’ (Qatada said, ‘Allah brought them to life (again) to let them hear him, to reprimand them and slight them and take revenge over them and caused them to feel remorseful and regretful’).” – Bukhari, 5.59.314.

Not long after his victory at Badr, while consolidating his power in Medina Muhammad was troubled by an aged Jewish man named Abu ‘Afak, reputedly 120 years old. From the time of Muhammad’s rise in Medina, Abu ‘Afak had made a practice of lampooning Islam’s prophet by composing satirical verses and urging the locals to reject Muhammad’s message and authority. Finally, Allah’s “perfect man” had had enough. According to biographer Ibn ‘Ishaq, Muhammad complained, “Who will deal with this rascal for me?” (Ibn ‘Ishaq, 675). Another biographer, Ibn Sa’d, records:

Salim Ibn Umayr…said, “I take a vow that I shall either kill Abu Afak or die before him.” He waited for an opportunity until a hot night came, and Abu Afak slept in an open place. Salim Ibn Umayr knew it, so he placed the sword on his liver and pressed it till it reached his bed. The enemy of Allah screamed and the people who were his followers, rushed to him, took him to his house and interred him.” – Ibn Sa’d, vol. 2, p. 32.

A pagan Medinan woman named ‘Asma bint Marwan was deeply troubled by Abu ‘Afak’s murder, and she composed a poem insulting Muhammad and urging native Medinans to rise up and seek his demise. Naturally, word got back to Muhammad, who familiarly asked the question, “Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?” A faithful follower, ‘Umayr bin ‘Adiy al-Khatami, volunteered. That evening he stole into her house as she was sleeping surrounded by her five children. Removing the youngest from beside her breast, he thrust his sword through her chest until it pierced her back. Ibn ‘Ishaq records:

“In the morning he came to the apostle [Muhammad] and told him what he had done, and he said, ‘You have helped God and his apostle, O ‘Umayr!’ When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences, the apostle said, ‘Two goats won’t butt their heads about her.’ So ‘Umayr went back to his people.” – Ibn ‘Ishaq, p. 676.

Muhammad, of course, did not kill all those who insulted him. Instead, he often returned insult for insult. He was fond of calling the Jews of Medina “brothers of monkeys” (see Ibn ‘Ishaq, p. 462), and in the Qur’an Allah declared that in the past he had turned recalcitrant Jews into apes and pigs (2.65; 5.60; 7.166), with the clear implication that he could easily do so again. When the Qurayza tribe in Medina was under siege by Muhammad’s army for the charge of sedition, they hurled insults at Muhammad from behind their castle walls. In response, Islam’s prophet hires a Muslim gifted with words to return fire with elegant invective. Bukhari records:

The Prophet said to Hassan, “Abuse them (with your poems), and Gabriel is with you (i.e, supports you)” – Bukhari, 5.59.449.

Apparently, when Muhammad was reviled, he reviled in return, and then some.

Even those who did not insult Muhammad directly bust who challenged his prophetic status by claiming their own oracular abilities were targets of his wrath. For example, al-Aswad had a following and was a threat to outlive Muhammad and perhaps draw Muslims away from the path. According to al-Tabari (History, vol. 9, p.167):

“The Messenger of God waged war against the false prophets by sending messengers. He sent a messenger to some of the descendants of the Persian soldiers in the Yemen, instructing them [to get rid of] al-Aswad by artful contrivance…. Al-Aswad was killed while the Messenger of God was [still] alive, a day or a night before the latter’s death.”

There is no need to belabor the point with further examples, though there are many. The contrast between Jesus and Muhammad when dealing with enemies could not be more stark. This is no surprise to those familiar with the character of each of these religious leaders. Sadly, however, Muslims are taught to believe that their prophet is Allah’s flawless exemplar of humanity, the “perfect man” whom all Muslims are to emulate as best they can. Their Qur’an reinforces this image by having Allah say to Muhammad, “And indeed, you are of a great moral character” (68.4), and to his hearers, “There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often” (33.21).

Imagine 1.8 billion Muslims seeking to respond to insults and criticism as their prophet did. Well, no need to imagine – just remember how many of Islam’s followers acted in response to cartoon caricatures of their leader – riots, mayhem, murders. The only saving grace in all this is that most Muslims are woefully ignorant of the dark side of their prophet, even though these accounts are all found in their “sacred sources.”

A valid criticism of the Christian Church is that Christians fall far short of emulating Jesus in how he treated those who disagreed with him. But the world can be grateful that Muslims for the most part fail to pattern themselves after Muhammad in his treatment of critics. I fully agree with the words of Wafa Sultan, a formerly Muslim Syrian physician now living in the United States, who perceptively remarked:

The problem with Christians is that they are not as good as Jesus. But thank God most Muslims are better than Muhammad.

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The Exhausted Defender of Islam

The attempt to be a thoughtful Muslim must be exhausting. There are so many mental landmines to avoid and crumbling foundations to shore up when trying to build a consistent and coherent Muslim worldview.

This is seen clearly though not by any means exclusively in the schizophrenic mindset that on the one hand boasts of the supremacy of Islam over all other powers or beliefs and on the other hand rushes to claim victim status whenever Islam proves to be weak or at fault in some moral evil committed by its followers in the name of Allah.

This supremacist attitude is woven throughout the Qur’an and Muslim writings. Allah assures his followers that they are at the top of the heap of humanity (“You are the best of all peoples evolved for mankind” — Qur’an 3:110). He informs them that Islam is the perfect faith (“Today I have perfected your religion for you” — Qur’an 5:3). Muhammad tells his denizens that the age of jahiliyyah (i.e., ignorance of Allah and his ways) is now over, and that unbelief is no longer going to be tolerated. Anything not in accord with Islam is to be eradicated (something the Taliban, ISIS and Salafi Muslims have taken to heart in destroying religious sculptures, shrines and museums of religious and cultural artifacts from bygone eras). Unbelievers (the kuffar) are to be won over to Islam or forced to kneel in submission to Islamic rule and pay the onerous yearly head tax known as jizya, or to face the sword of the Islamic state until they lose their heads (literally). Allah assures his jihadis that they will surely be victorious since he will send his angels to fight alongside them and they will overcome huge odds:

O Prophet! Urge the believers to fight. If there are twenty steadfast persons amongst you, they will overcome two hundred, and if there be a hundred steadfast persons they will overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are people who do not understand. (Qur’an 8:65)

Muhammad instructs his followers that they have the right to live off the wealth of the kuffar that they overcome in battle. The spoils of war are theirs to divide up and enjoy. Those captured in war are to become the property of the victors, or to be sold on the slave market. Girls and women of child-bearing age (whether already married or not) can be taken as sex-slaves by the Muslim soldiers. All of this is possible because Muslims are the best of all peoples, and the rest of humanity exists for their pleasure and profit. Muslims are the masters, the kuffar are their slaves (whether they know that fact yet or not).

Yet this supremacist mentality runs violently aground on the reefs of reality.

If Muslims are the best of all peoples, then why do Muslim-majority countries consistently rank at the bottom of the scales when compared with countries run by the kuffar? Why do their citizens suffer significantly poorer quality of life, life expectancy, education, access to clean water and sufficient food, freedom of thought and expression, liberty and social mobility? Why is there such a dearth of scientific research and technological innovation among its learning centers? Why are so many Muslim citizens fleeing their home countries to resettle in the West?

Some apologists will reply that though they may lag behind the kuffar in such categories, they are the best in terms of religious and moral strength. After all, they have Shari’ah (the literal laws of Allah, they believe) and many of their countries enshrine some form of this as their national law, unlike the kuffar, who seem to revel in debauchery, murder and mayhem. Islam, after all, is the religion of peace, and those living under it enjoy the blessings of Allah.

But when one peels back the facade, the claim of moral superiority is lost in a sea of turpitude. The treatment of minorities, whether religious or racial, shows no love of neighbor. Muslims who step out of line are blackballed or, in cases of forbidden love, are targeted for executions in “honor killings.” Graft and corruption are par for the course among those in government or military leadership, and religious patriarchs can be found with large stashes of pornography. Pakistan, the one nation founded in 1947 to show the world what a truly Muslim society would look like, has consistently topped the list of annual downloads of pornography, and not just run-of-the-mill porn but child sex, bestiality and homosexuality. The claims of peace and blessing under the banner of Islam are belied by incessant bombings and slaughters engendered by internecine sectarian and cultural hatreds between Sunnis and Shiites, and among Persians, Kurds, Turks and Arabs. This doesn’t even take into account the bloodshed inaugurated by Muslims against unbelievers in their midst and across the borders of their countries.

Cosmopolitan Muslims have known these facts very well for a long time, and now through the wonders of the Internet, even provincial Muslims are fast becoming aware of the gargantuan gap between the triumphal claims of Islam’s proponents and the reality on the ground of its falsehoods and failures. Such cognitive dissonance is rightly shaking the faith of many in the Islamic world.

Trained to believe that Muhammad is the “perfect man” (al-insan al-kamil), and that Allah calls all human beings to emulate Islam’s prophet in every detail of life, those who learn more of Muhammad often find his reported behavior reprehensible. Should they marry a nine-year-old girl still playing with her dolls? Should they marry more than one wife, and use corporal punishment on them when they get out of line? Should they own slaves, buying and selling them and gifting them to friends? Should they practice and condone violence against those who refuse to submit to Islam? Is it okay to order the assassination of those impugning their reputation as Muslims? Should they employ sorcery to ward off evil spirits? Can they engage in treachery against the kuffar (after all, Muhammad said, “War is deceit”), and even break treaties/agreements when they no longer serve the advantage of Muslims? Do they have to treat Jews as their inveterate enemies, believing that they are the worst of all creatures and worthy of extermination? As the average Muslim learns more about Islam’s founder, it’s not surprising for there to arise a crisis of conscience.

Likewise, the foundations of faith are shaken as Muslims increasingly investigate the faith claims surrounding their “revealed book”, the Qur’an. The standard claim is that this book was sent down from heaven in piecemeal fashion as the angel Jibril (Gabriel) under the commission of Allah relayed portions of material from the “preserved tablets” in heaven. The process of receiving and gathering these revelations was superintended by Allah so that nothing was lost and no errors crept into the final product. As such, Muslims believe the Qur’an in their hands today to be a perfect copy of what Allah originally delivered to Muhammad. As modern scholarship has finally turned its attention to the early manuscripts of the Qur’an and to historical questions surrounding its appearance and description in early Muslim writings, it has become clear from the earliest manuscripts that there are significant variations in text between one manuscript and another, and that the earliest copies date to more than one hundred years after Muslim histories describe the first gathering the Qur’an as a book. Arab linguists studying the text of the Qur’an have noted hundreds of grammatical and syntactical errors as well as at least 118 foreign (i.e., non-Arabic words) in the Qur’an. This is all problematic for a book that claims to be written in pure Arabic sent down from an eternal master copy in heaven. Likewise, the Qur’an claims to be clear (mubeen), that is, easily understandable. Yet in recent years a prominent German Qur’anic linguist, Gerd Puin, has acknowledged that “every fifth sentence or so simply doesn’t make sense.” Much of the reason for this is that the meaning of many classical Arabic words used in the Qur’an have been lost to history. Even a cursory study of the formulation of the Qur’an historically demonstrates that there were many competing versions before the text became standardized. Even today, there are dozens of variations of the Qur’an in use among Muslims, but most Muslims don’t know this.

In terms of content, many of the stories found in the Qur’an have their origin in prior writings popular among Persians, Jews and Christians. The bulk of them come from apocryphal sources, even though they reference biblical characters. Jews and Christians recognized them as fables without historical weight, intended to teach moral lessons or answer ancillary questions. But in the Qur’an these stories have been copied and are presented as historical fact. Such borrowing from unreliable sources raises serious questions as to the divine source of the Qur’an. Was Allah not aware of the difference between his own prior revelation (the Bible) and the apocryphal writings concocted by well-meaning humans?

When Muslims begin to confront such anomalies in their prophet and sacred scripture, as well as their lesser stature among the nations of the earth, their world is upended. Their “perfect religion” crumbles before the truth. The foundation upon which they base their supremacy, Allah’s gift of the perfect man and the perfect revelation, disintegrates under scrutiny, and their world teeters on the brink of collapse.

How do Muslims respond to these realities?

Some, of course, refuse to let any of these hard realities register in their minds. They continue to live under the lie that nothing is wrong, that Islam is perfect and that it is moving from success to success as Allah confirms its superiority over all rivals.

Others, wanting to remain Muslim and yet recognize that all is not well in the world of Islam, adopt one of two postures. The first group looks inwardly and argues that the present-day foundering of Islam reveals Allah’s displeasure with the lukewarm obedience of his Muslim subjects as a whole and has withdrawn his blessing until things change. It is therefore up to Muslims to become serious once again about total allegiance to Shari’ah and to the conquest of unbelievers. This is the approach of the Muslim Brotherhood and all its daughter organizations across the world, as well as of al-Qaeda, ISIS, al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and most other “radical Muslim” terrorist groups. They are considered extremists by the non-Muslim world, but their conviction is that what they represent is true Islam, and Allah will bless their efforts to bring the Muslim majority back to the teachings and actions of the Arabian prophet. Their rallying cry might be summarized as: “The umma [worldwide community of Muslims] is not Muslim enough.”

The second group looks outwardly and blames what it sees as a plenitude of enemies whose all-consuming goal is the destruction of Islam. Even when one enemy recedes, there is a host of others lined up, clamoring to take its place in oppressing the vulnerable Muslim flock around the world. This group has created the “Islamophobia industry,” claiming victimhood status so as to gain societal and legal protection under which cover Islam can continue to strengthen its standing and advance its supremacist goals. Oddly enough, rarely do such Muslims confront the obvious incongruity between the omnipotent sovereignty of Allah and the setbacks of his people — otherwise, they would move into the first camp (accepting blame for not being Muslim enough to warrant Allah’s successful protection) or they would leave Islam altogether. It is this group in which conspiracy theories flourish. Why are bad things happening to the Muslim world? Because the Americans are spreading the coronavirus in Muslim-majority countries. Because the CIA engineered the 9/11 attack and blamed Muslims to paint Islam as evil in the eyes of the world. Because the Europeans are bigots and don’t want to share their wealth with others. Because Hollywood has profited for years by painting Muslims as terrorists to sell action thrillers. Because non-Muslims are inherently racists against the “race” of Islam. Even Marvel comics has been accused of seeking to undermine the pristine religion of Islam for creating Ms. Marvel, a teenage Muslim superhero whose alter-ego is Kamala Khan, a sixteen-year old female living with her Pakistani family in New Jersey as she fights evil in her spare time.

But far and away the greatest and most terrible enemy of Islam most prodigious in its evil and villainy, is of course “the Jews.” Muslim religious leaders regularly point to them as the source of all the world’s problems. As an example, in a sermon preached this year on January 15th from the pulpit of the Umayyad Mosque (Sunni Islam’s 4th most holy site), the Syrian Islamic “scholar” Tawfiq Ramadan al-Bouti declared:

If you study the Jews, you will find that they are behind two things: The first of these things is inciting strife and wars. The second thing is spreading moral depravity, debauchery and licentiousness.

These dastardly, powerful foes control the world’s banks as well as the publishing and entertainment industries. All their decisions and actions are intentionally taken so as to weaken or destroy the harmony and standing of Islam in the world. Once they are exterminated, the argument goes, the world will rise up in peace and prosperity. Almost every conspiracy theory that gains traction among Muslims ultimately involves the Jews, or the Zionists, who represent Israel, an ever-present thorn in the side, reminding the Muslim armies of their numerous and humiliating defeats at the hands of this small, but resilient and powerful nation comprised almost wholly of their mortal enemies.

But increasing numbers of cognizant Muslims are tired of farcical conspiracy theories. They find the call to unquestioned obedience to the example of Muhammad repulsive in so many respects. They see the evil of repression unleashed by Muslim governments against fellow Muslims, not to mention the kuffar. The cannot escape the reality of nearly 40,000 deadly terrorist attacks carried out by self-professed Muslims around the world in the twenty years since the tipping point of 9/11, when the ugliness of Islamic jihad could no longer be hidden.

Because of these realities, thoughtful Muslims are finding it increasingly difficult to toe the line. Many are “defecting in place,” opting for safety over defiance. Discretion concerning the loss of faith in one’s heart allows the keeping of one’s head on his shoulders. But for others, the private rejection of Islam is not sufficient. Such former Muslims are willing to wear the badge of a murtadd (apostate), defying Islamic punishment so as to display their conviction that Islam fails as a religious and political system. Their numbers are increasing dramatically as the ship of Allah continues to founder on the reefs of reality.

Ship Wreck

The attempt to be a thoughtful Muslim is indeed exhausting. There are too many holes in the hull to patch as the ship takes on water. Some still labor to keep it afloat, but many of the crew are heading for the gunwales to throw themselves overboard, hopefully to be rescued by others waiting to help those abandoning ship. For those exhausted Muslims looking to renounce their former allegiance, we praise their bravery and pursuit of truth. May their tribe increase! For those waiting in the lifeboats, we say, “Do not be weary in well-doing.” The rescue efforts are well worth the struggle.

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Does God Reveal Himself, or Only His Will?

Divine revelation means two different things for Muslims and Christians respectively. Christians believe the Bible to be principally divine self-revelation. That is, God is most interested in unveiling Himself to the human race, at first through His determined relationship with Israel through good times and bad, and then ultimately through Jesus Christ, the Eternal Word of God, who became flesh to draw near to us. The Mosaic Law and the prophetic writings are important, not simply because they elucidate laws that God intends human beings to obey, but also because they teach human beings about the nature and priorities of the One who established them from the beginning. The goal of biblical revelation is to draw lost human beings back into loving fellowship with the God who created them and from whom they have been separated by their sin.

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Muslims, on the other hand, believe that though the Qur’an is indeed divine revelation, it is not divine self-revelation. God is unknowable in his essence, and even if he were knowable, he is not interested in sharing himself with humanity. The Qur’an does not offer humans the opportunity to draw near to God in tender fellowship. Allah’s reward to obedient followers is not the promise of unending love and intimacy with him but rather a membership card to a heavenly brothel and epicurean club. God himself is not to be found in this sensual paradise. His throne is far above even the highest (seventh) level of heaven with which he rewards his most favored followers.

The Bible for Christians is not the be-all and end-all in terms of revelation, primarily because it is a written source, and in itself cannot wholly convey the relational nature of the God who seeks to know and be known by His creation. As such, the Bible serves best as a rich resource pointing its readers to the One who reveals God most fully in ways we can understand Him most clearly, Jesus. It is Jesus, God the Son (second member of the Trinity) who becomes incarnate as a human being in order to draw us into relationship with God through the agency of the Holy Spirit (third member of the Trinity). This is why the Gospel of John refers to Jesus as the eternal Word (who was with God and was God from before creation) made flesh to dwell among us. It is the living. breathing Jesus who shows us what it means to say that “God loves us.” He is, as the apostle Paul says, “the image of the invisible God,” or in Jesus’ own words, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” He is the apex of God’s revelation to the world, which is why Jesus could make this astounding claim to the Pharisees: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you possess eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (John 5:39-40).Or again, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (John 5:46). Luke records in his Gospel that when Jesus first appears to a gathering of most of his disciples post-resurrection, and they respond with fear and disbelief, he gently scolds them for their slowness in understanding the Scriptures, declaring, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms about me.” The phrase “the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” was a shorthand way in first Century Israel of summing up what we today would call the entire Old Testament.

So, Christians believe, the Word became flesh and fully incarnated truth and grace for us to experience. Muslims, on the other hand, believe that the Word became paper. That is, the eternal Word of God, which was inscribed from eternity on a tablet in heaven (the “mother of the book” according to Quran 13: 39 and 43:4, or a “well-guarded/preserved tablet” according to 85:22) and then “sent down” orally through the agency of the angel Jibril to Muhammad who repeated what he heard to his listeners. It was not until after Muhammad’s death that all this material, memorized or written in various formats, was gathered and put in codex (book) form. Muslims believe this process of transmission was flawless, and that the Qur’an they hold today is exactly as originally revealed. Since it was unveiled in Arabic, this divine book is only Allah’s true revelation in Arabic. Memorizations and recitations must be done in Arabic. To the objection that roughly three quarters of the Muslim world does not understand or speak Arabic, scholars reply that it is not necessary to understand the text. Divine blessing flows from simply memorizing and reciting the correct Arabic sounds, even if one remains oblivious of what he/she is saying. Of course, understanding what one reads or recites is even better, but it is not required. It is enough to possess the Qur’an, to revere it, to memorize and recite it, and to protect it from blasphemers.

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The average Muslim is not expected to study the Qur’an and make up his/her own mind as to the meaning of the text, but rather to accept the interpretations of past scholars whose stature has been affirmed by the majority over the centuries. Novel interpretations (known as bid’a, or innovation) are at the very least frowned upon, at the worst they may lead to banishment or execution. Hence most Muslims see the Qur’an as a revelation to which they do not have direct access, but whose message must be mediated to them through learned scholars. It is a book of laws to obey and of dictums to recite. It points not to the possibility of an eternity of loving fellowship with God but rather of the reward of eternal fleshly hedonism or of the endless torments in the flames of hell.

Whereas the God of the Bible extends His welcoming hands in love to a lost and wayward humanity through the life, death and resurrection of the Word made flesh, the god of the Qur’an issues his guidance for humanity, and then watches to judge the actions of human beings as to the level of their obedience. Obedient slaves are likely rewarded (though Allah reserves the right to exercise his sovereignty in any way he chooses); disobedient slaves are undoubtedly destined for the flames.

For Christians, then, God’s revelation stems from His love for the human race, and His desire to redeem. For Muslims, the revelation of Allah stems from his role as Judge, and becomes the main yardstick by which he rewards or condemns his slaves. And since no Muslim, or any other human being, can perfectly live out the commands of Islam (or any other religion worth its salt), the result is guilt and fear. One must hope that Allah grades on the curve, and that one scores above the curve’s cutoff point. There is no certainty of salvation, or of mercy.

For the Christian, on the other hand, God’s love is seen most fully in His actions undertaken to win salvation for human beings. The atoning work of Jesus Christ assures his followers of their reconciliation with the Heavenly Father, removing the guilt and sentence of sin and promising a transformed life of holiness and glory. Instead of guilt and fear, the Christian lives with freedom and joy, resting on the assurance of God’s unassailable and unending love.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Muslims know nothing substantive about this God of love, for they are taught of a distant divine Judge who will one day pronounce his verdict on slaves who cannot know him and whom he does not deign to embrace. It is the calling of Christians to share the good news of God’s love with those who have little hope, especially those trapped in a system of beliefs fraught with despair.

More than ever, in this Easter season, when through the resurrection of Jesus God has revealed His victory for humanity over sin, death and the devil, we have the privilege of serving as heralds of joy, issuing the invitation for one and all to run into the outstretched arms of their Heavenly Father, made possible by the Word made flesh, the light of life for all humanity. Let’s spread the word.

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Muhammad and Jesus — Kindred Spirits?

Unity is an ideal worth striving for, in most cases. People generally value family harmony; companies cherish unity of vision and purpose among employees; nations thrive with a united populace. Where possible, unity is to be preferred over division and opposition.

But there are times when unity is not worth the cost it demands. This is particularly true when it comes to matters of truth. If ideological opponents sacrifice some fundamental truth in order to gain a tenuous, pragmatic alliance with each other, their efforts will ultimately collapse like a house of cards. Matters of ultimate truth allow for no compromise with opposite notions. One does not try to mix oil and water, good and evil, light and darkness, innocence and sin. In the world of religions, this applies particularly to those who seek to unify worldviews that fundamentally disagree. We call such mooncalves syncretists, who seek to find the lowest common denominators in separate religions and then highlight them as the most important teachings/beliefs of the religions in question. In reality, orthodox practitioners of each religion in question reject the efforts of syncretizers, objecting that by reducing their faith to the least common denominator with another belief system, the unique beliefs of each religion are ignored, if not obliterated. What remains is not either religion, but an artificial, bloodless, colorless collection of uninspiring, moralistic pablum.

Nevertheless, in every generation there are simpletons who seek to unite religions by brushing aside their central truth claims and focusing on superficialities. With regard to Christianity and Islam, a recent movement (beginning in the 1980s) known as Chrislam has gained some notoriety for its attempt to fuse the two religions into an insipid hybrid. It has been roundly pilloried for failing to be reflect either religion accurately.

One ersatz academic in recent years has been making a name for himself by claiming that Jesus and Muhammad are “kindred spirits and brothers”, that “the Qur’an and New Testament are strikingly similar in many ways,” and that as monotheists, Christians and Muslims “…have more in common than we have differences.” See the source image

These trite generalizations by Craig Considine are so outrageous that it is hard to believe they could come from a serious academic. One could just at frivolously say that the Gospels and Aesop’s Fables are strikingly similar in many ways, or that Jesus and Genghis Khan are kindred spirits and brothers, or that “as people who believe in government, communists and supporters of democracy have more in common than we have differences.”

Considine is a lecturer in sociology on the faculty of Rice University, so perhaps we should cut him some slack for venturing boldly outside his chosen discipline and making a fool of himself. Unfortunately, he touts himself as an expert in Christian-Islamic historical and theological matters, and thereby infects the minds of naive listeners with his aberrant views delivered with self-assurance. Considine’s efforts epitomize the pursuit of unity at the expense of truth.

Of particular concern to me are his claims that Jesus and Muhammad share the brotherhood of kindred spirits. Raised Roman Catholic, Considine has asserted in interviews that he considers himself a Christian, but “…less so for big theological claims and more so for the kind of [moral] model that Jesus left.” Equivocating further, he admitted to not being “…necessarily a conventional, mainstream Christian in a lot of ways.” What does this mean? Considine has described himself as an “à la carte Catholic in many ways,” even a “bad Catholic” who is “probably un-churched permanently” because he takes issue with some of the Church’s “rules.” He claims that one does not need to believe in the Trinity to be a Christian, and as a corollary to this that Jesus was not always “considered divine” for Christians. Likewise, Considine believes Muhammad to be a true prophet, despite the Qur’an’s denial of Jesus’ divinity, as well as his crucifixion, atonement and resurrection. Further, he accepts the Qur’an’s claim that Jesus prophesied the coming of Muhammad, equating the Arabian leader with the Paraclete about whom Jesus spoke to his disciples in his Farewell Discourse (John 14-16).

Yet for all his slavering over Muhammad’s deep affinities with Jesus, Considine is considered by most Muslim scholars to be a useful idiot whose words forward the convenient false narrative that Islam and Christianity are sister faiths, thus keeping unsuspecting Westerners in the dark concerning the true teachings and motives of Islam.

Considine routinely ignores the vast Scriptural literature in both traditions that paints highly contrasting portraits of Jesus and Muhammad. Over the coming weeks I will highlight some of these divergences, beginning today with a comparison between how Jesus and Muhammad each handled the call for judgment of an adulteress brought before them.

In the biblical account located in John 8:1-11, a woman caught in adultery is brought by Jewish leaders to Jesus, who hope to catch him on the horns of a dilemma by forcing him either to pronounce capital judgment in accordance with Mosaic Law (and therefore appear heartless) or to order her released (thereby setting himself against the Law of God and opening himself to the charge of being a libertine). Jesus avoids this binary choice by drawing attention to the moral vulnerability of all those seeking “mob justice.” “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” The text tells us that one by one, beginning with the eldest, they drop their stones and depart. Soon, only Jesus and the accused woman are left. He asks her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she replies. And he continues, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and leave your sin behind.”

Earlier in his ministry, Jesus had asserted his authority over the Law in his teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). “You have heard that it was said, …, but I say to you ….” In some of these instances, Jesus is challenging Jewish traditions, but in others he is addressing specific OT laws. The upshot of these teachings is that Jesus interprets the Law as though he is its author, rendering its true meaning over against the faulty interpretations of his day. Now in his encounter with the adulterous woman, Jesus demonstrates that divine mercy eclipses legal justice. This lines up perfectly with what the Gospel of John has already revealed: “For God sent His Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:17).

In Islamic traditions, we find the story of a woman who comes to Muhammad and confesses her sin of adultery (Sahih Muslim 17:2406):

There came to him (Muhammad) a woman from Ghamid and said: “Allah’s Messenger, I have committed adultery, so purify me.” He turned her away. On the following day she said: Allah’s Messenger, “Why do you turn me away? Perhaps, you turn me away as you turned away Ma’iz”. By Allah, I have become pregnant.” He said: “Well, if you insist upon it, then go away until you give birth to (the child).” When she was delivered she came with the child (wrapped) in a rag and said: “Here is the child whom I have given birth to.” He said: “Go away and suckle him until you wean him”. When she had weaned him, she came to him with the child who was holding a piece of bread in his hand. She said: “Allah’s Apostle, here is he as I have weaned him and he eats food.” He entrusted the child to one of the Muslims and then pronounced punishment. And she was put in a ditch up to her chest and he commanded people and they stoned her. Khalid bin Walid came forward with a stone which he flung at her head and there spurted blood on the face of Khalid and so he abused her. Allah’s Apostle heard his (Khalid’s) curse that he had hurled upon her. Thereupon he said: “Khalid, be gentle. By Him in Whose Hand is my life, she has made such a repentance that even if a wrongful tax-collector were to repent, he would have been forgiven.” Then giving command regarding her, he prayed over her and she was buried.

See the source image

Here Muhammad appears as a reluctant servant of the Law. It seems he seeks to avoid pronouncing judgment upon this self-confessed adulteress who apparently believes that the only way to atone for her sin is to be stoned to death by the men of the community. Yet every time he dismisses her with a task to accomplish, she returns after fulfilling it, ready for her death sentence. Finally, Muhammad has no further recourse, and he orders her stoning. Islam’s prophet is a slave to Allah’s law.

Khalid bin Walid, one of Muhammad’s most fierce generals (whom Muhammad had nicknamed the “Sword of Allah,” relishes his role in this stoning process. He draws close to the woman (probably buried up to her chest in the ground to prevent defense or escape) and with his large stone he targets her head — successfully. The blow is so savage that blood immediatley spurts from the wound and lands on his face, leading him to curse her loudly and vehemently. Muhammad, we are told, counsels Khalid to be gentle in his language (now that he has caved in the skull of the woman), because the woman’s death has paid the price for her sin. After her death is confirmed, Muhammad prays over her corpse and allows her to be buried.

Looking at these two accounts, would anyone think objectively that Jesus and Muhammad were “kindred spirits and brothers”? Could anyone not see the difference in authority between Jesus and Muhammad when it came to the law of stoning for the sin of adultery? Muhammad, the obedient slave of Allah, executes his inflexible death sentence. Jesus, who stands in authority over the written Law, demonstrates His Father’s heart of mercy, extending the second chance of grace, which is His divine prerogative.

This one simple comparison, capable of being multiplied a hundred times over with radical contrasts, shows that Jesus and Muhammad were not cut from the same cloth. They are not equals in terms of their teachings, their relationships, their activities, and their sacrifices. Their fruit, in terms of the disciples they produced, demonstrates the difference in their visions. Jesus’ followers conquer the Roman Empire peacefully, through their message of love and redemption. Muhammad’s armies overwhelm the world with the sword and the threat of death.

Please do not fall for charlatans who in the name of unity seek to mix oil and water, or better yet, light and darkness. As we will see in future posts, Jesus and Muhammad offer two decidedly different visions of God and His will for humanity. They are two very different individuals, whose claims clash inexorably with each other.

Stay tuned to learn more.

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Coronavirus: Soldier of Allah or Western Conspiracy?

See the source image

Around the word, most human beings are longing for the eradication of the coronavirus. Most, but not all. For nefarious reasons, certain groups see the pandemic as a means to further their goals. Prominent among them are radical Muslims. (Radical here defines Muslims who give their full allegiance to the Qur’an and authoritative traditions of Muhammad as distilled in Shari’a, the “divine” law of Allah.)

Jihadis in particular (those committed Muslims willing to engage in violence against all who stand in the way of Islam’s plans of world-dominance) see COVID-19 as a “tiny soldier of Allah” divinely sent to wreak havoc among the disbelievers. As Western governments shift resources and attention to battle the pandemic within their countries, ISIS and al-Qaeda and their many copycats use the internet and social media to encourage their followers to probe for fissures or cracks in national security caused by monetary cutbacks or healthcare crisis distractions in order to launch new terror attacks. Suggestions range from use of masks to shield identification of terrorist as they cross borders to intentional self-infection with the virus to become super-spreaders in as many public gatherings as possible to infecting/poisoning free masks before handing them out to the public to spreading conspiracy theories dissuading people from getting vaccines (e.g., their implementation is a deadly plot against Muslims to cull the world’s Islamic population).

While many Muslim leaders (e.g., Adbo al-Laqis, a Lebanese international affairs expert) see the virus as a concoction of Western governments (primarily the USA or Israel) as a biological weapon sent to China and the larger world designed to kill off those over 65 who are deemed unproductive or as an “ethnic weapon” targeting the genome of Iranians and Chinese (this according to “experts” on Ofogh TV (an Iranian network) or as an atheistic plot to move religious societies down the road to secularism by shutting down mosques and shrines (see Iranian “scholar” Abbas Mousavi Motlagh for more on that), a host of other Islamic professors and preachers guarantee that the coronavirus is the handiwork of Allah to humble and/or destroy his enemies. Which ones, you may ask? That depends on the preacher:

On March 20th, Hamas sheikh Jamil al-Mutawa in a Friday sermon televised by al-Aqsa TV gloated that Allah had sent just one soldier (coronavirus) to all 50 states (meaning the USA) and that it was wreaking divine vengeance. “An hour ago, they said on TV that in California… They said that they expect 58% of California to be infected within two months. They talk about 25 million infected people in just one of the 50 states. Allah be praised. Look how anyone who schemes against the Al-Aqsa Mosque is being shattered to smithereens by the soldiers of Allah.” He went on to make the risible claim that “The Muslims are the people who are least infected.”

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official, declared in August that countries supporting Israel have been hardest hit, while not a single case has appeared in Gaza. COVID was divinely wrought to punish Israelophiles.

Much of Muslim social media agreed with Tunisian cleric Bashir bin Hassan that Allah targeted China with the virus because of the foul treatment of Uighur Muslims, confining over a million in “re-education camps” and forcing them to eat pork.

In Falls Church, Virginia, imam Shaker Elsayed of the Dar al-Hijrah mosque declared in a Friday sermon on April 3rd that COVID is a divine wake-up call punishing the West for usury, abortion and homosexuality. On the same day, Ibrahim al-Ubeidi, a Houthi scholar, resolutely announced that Allah brought the virus upon the West and China as punishment for legislation against the wearing of hijabs. Now, he noted sarcastically, Allah was forcing even non-Muslims to cover their faces with masks.

Jordanian professor of Islamic law, Ahmad Nofal, in a television interview on May 15th, mocked “modern people” (i.e., the West and those who emulate its self-advancement and autonomy), saying that Allah has sent “his tiniest creature” to inflict his wrath on those who “refused to subdue (sic) [submit] to the Lord of the universe.” Jeering at the non-Muslim West, he declared, “You may laugh a little, but you shall cry a great deal.”

In late January, Syrian cleric ‘Abd al-Razzaq al-Mahdi responded publicly to this question from one of his followers — “Is it permissible that we express our joy for what China is experiencing – the coronavirus and the death of the Chinese people?” He replied, “Yes, yes we should express our joy and pray for their annihilation.” After all, their treatment of the Uighurs confirms that they are “enemies of Allah.” ISIS concurred with this assessment in the weekly magazine al-Naba. Using his televised Telegram channel Firebrand Jordanian cleric Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi on March 31st pronounced, “There is nothing wrong with a Muslim praying for the deaths of infidels and wishing that they contract coronavirus or any similar fatal disease.”

There are, to be sure, voices among Muslims that offer some sanity amidst this conspiracy-laced, vindictive mindset. Notable is that of sheikh Hussein Halawa, Secretary-General of the European Council for Fatwa and Research. In an interview broadcast on Hiwar-TV (in the UK), he refused to endorse any global conspiracy regarding the coronavirus, noting that it infects Muslims and non-Muslims alike, spreads through all nations, not sparing Saudi Arabia or America or Russia….His final words were a breath of fresh air: “Allah has blessed me with senses and I must use them. I cannot let people drag me from truth to fantasy.”

Unfortunately, such voices are few and far between among Muslim thought-shapers. Instead we find influential leaders urging celebration over the virus’ horrible impact on the West, and imploring prayer for widespread deaths. Every time a Western leader is infected (e.g., Boris Johnson, Trump, Netanyahu), social media networks among Muslims are delirious with joy. Jihadis blindly declare that the virus is a blessing for Muslims, proving Islam’s superiority over the rest of the world, which should prompt Muslims to become more observant, including of course the call to jihad in order to exact Allah’s vengeance against the filthy unbelievers wherever they may be found.

Most non-Muslims in the West have a hard time processing such vitriol from the Muslim world. Why is there such hatred, such mocking, such a thirst for vengeance? Why wish evil on those who show no interest in Islam, who are glad to embrace a live and let live approach to Muslims? Why don’t “moderate Muslims” rise up en masse, if they really are the massive majority of the Muslim world, and put these “radicals” in their place? Why don’t they demonstrate from Islamic holy sources that these hateful voices coming from their own house are a perversion of Islam and are to be ignored, or better, to be extinguished?

The answer is simple, though difficult to swallow. These voices cannot be eradicated because they are inherent in the earliest Muslim sources. The Qur’an and Sunna (authoritative traditions concerning the life and teachings of their prophet Muhammad) inculcate a hatred for all those who refuse to submit to Islam. Muslims are taught from the Scripture to show harshness to unbelievers, to not befriend any but Muslims, to engage in warfare unto death against those who refuse to surrender to the advance of Islam, to believe that they are superior to people of all other belief systems.

If Muhammad’s earliest and most authoritative biography (Ibn Hisham’s recension of Ibn Ishaq’s Life of the Prophet) is to be believed, one would have to admit that were Muhammad alive today, he would be working to unite al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab, the Islamic State and all other militant-terrorist groups motivated by the Qur’an and Sunna. He would be recognized as their rightful leader, and he would marshal them as his vanguard to continue his conquest of the non-Muslim world. Far from condemning them as un-Islamic for their bloodthirsty ways, he would praise them for their faithfulness to his teachings.

During the COVID19 pandemic hate messages like this one by jihadi terrorist groups are said to have flooded the internet.

Why do Muslims today praise the coronavirus as a “soldier of Allah”? Because any force that weakens the “enemies of Allah/Islam” is an ally in their quest to conquer the world and impose Shari’a on the human race. If the virus destroys Islam’s biggest hindrance to global dominance, you will hear thunderous cries of “Allahu akbar!” (Allah is greater) and Hamdulillah! (Praise be to Allah) from the Muslim masses.

Those raised in the West, even if not Christian, still hear the echoes in their culture of Jesus’ teachings: the Golden Rule (“Do to others as you would wish them to do to you”); “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”; perhaps most astonishingly, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Even if they do not personally believe in God, they know the God that Jesus revealed is a God of love and grace. The god of Islam, by contrast is one of force. If he loves at all, it is only those who have proven their loyalty and obedience to him by executing his rage against those with the temerity to ignore or oppose him. It is hard for Westerners to accept that Qur’an-believing Muslims could actually maintain such a hateful worldview. But, such are the teachings in the “noble” Qur’an, and terrorists, jihadis and Muslim “scholars” such as those mentioned above are simply the foul fruit naturally produced by the poisoned tree of Islamic orthodoxy.

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